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Social Studies in Action

In November 2018, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released an infographic on The Marginalization of Social Studies, calling the limited instructional time devoted to social studies “an issue of equity for all students.” I could not agree more! I highly encourage you to download this free resource. Share it with everyone you know. Start a conversation and share a personal story about how social studies matters to every student, every day.

We will address these four recommendations over time. To prepare for the summer, two in particular struck me as actions all educators and schools can take right now:

  • Support social studies professional learning.
  • Use high-quality social studies curriculum and materials.

Why summer? It’s only February, but many of us are already looking ahead to the next school year for planning: What should I do over the summer to continue my own learning or training? What am I going to need to know for teaching next year? (Especially timely if you think your grade or course assignment may be changing.) If we are responsible for budgeting and purchasing instructional resources, we may also be asking: What do I want to buy and use in my classroom or department next year? How can I get that approved in the budget?

Whether you are a teacher, administrator, scholar, or friend of social studies, I encourage you to make a plan to support social studies professional learning. There are many ways to do this. I always encourage everyone to join our Annual Conference—the official convening of our nationwide social studies community, where best and promising practices, research, and policies come together. Your professional learning goals can also be achieved right now, by joining any one of our spring webinars and summer teaching institutes. Many of us find the process of applying for awards and grants—when we document our accomplishments and outline our future needs (including funding to meet those needs!)—to be a strong form of professional learning in itself, allowing us to reflect on our own core values as educators.

You can access these and other opportunities to support social studies professional learning in one place in our latest TSSP e-newsletter. If you are reading this message but are not an educator or in need of social studies professional learning this year, please do one small thing: share the links above with someone who is. Tell them that you support social studies professional learning; show them that you found a few resources to know about.

Many people talk about the steady—often overwhelming—flow of information and resources online as a boon (or concern?) for educators. We have access to more content, pedagogical strategies, and networks than ever before. Yet “information overload” can make it difficult to sort high-quality from low-quality; materials aligned to my district or state curriculum versus materials that are not appropriate. What is a mark of high-quality?

NCSS is defining what “high-quality social studies” looks like today. In Fall 2018, we established a new vision for our future: A world in which all students are educated and inspired for lifelong inquiry and informed civic action.

This vision is taking shape through our communications, programs, and overall ethos in the coming year. Through our vision, NCSS affirms that all social studies disciplines are spaces of inquiry—spaces where learners ask and answer questions about the world around them, use multiple disciplinary tools and concepts, and draw and communicate conclusions based on evidence from multiple sources. The fourth dimension of inquiry described in the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards—Communicating Conclusions and Taking Informed Action—is also the anchor to this vision.

Last year, the C3 Framework celebrated its fifth birthday. Our new vision is an affirmation of the C3 Framework’s dimensions of learning as the approach for social studies in the 21st century; it positions our future work around the C3 Framework’s inquiry arc in social studies standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessment. NCSS has renewed its commitment to the C3 Framework to advance our profession and provide the best learning environments and opportunities for our students.

Of course, with every strong vision comes a mission. If a vision represents our aspiration or goal, then the mission is the way in which we achieve it. Our revised mission is: to advocate and build capacity for high-quality social studies by providing leadership, services, and support to educators.

Our new mission clarifies that lifelong inquiry and informed civic action are achieved through advocacy and capacity to grow in our profession. This mission will foster an expanded investment in new resources and collaboration with more partners. We broadened our mission from its original definition to encompass all educators. We know we must reach and serve all educators—from within and around the social studies disciplines, to all others supporting social studies as the foundation of a well-rounded education (including principals and superintendents, professional developers and curriculum specialists, communities and parents). Together, all educators can provide the most solid foundation possible at every grade level.

Our complete set of standards guidance—the C3 Framework, the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, and the National Standards for the Preparation of Social Studies Teachers—together form the basis for defining “high-quality.” They were collectively developed by the leaders in our profession.

Through our current resources, NCSS can support you in social studies professional learning. Through our new vision and mission, NCSS can help you select and use high-quality social studies curriculum and materials. We are here for you!