Q & A: Revising the HSS Framework--And New Textbooks

12/26/2014 3:16 PM | James E. Hill

Question: So when can we expect updated history social science textbooks in California, books that include events after about 1989…including the implosion of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Tiananmen Square protests and suppression in 1989; the Sept 11 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in New York and Washington DC; the resulting US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the election of the first African American US President….and the list goes on and on.

Answer: Not anytime real soon. Textbook publishers traditionally have up to 30 months after the adoption of a subject matter framework by the California State Board of Education (SBE)  to submit new texts, based on the new framework, for review and adoption by the SBE and/or local districts. The current History Social Science Framework is going through the revision and update process right now.

Question: So. what is taking so long? Didn’t this Framework review begin a number of years ago?

Answer:  Yes, it did, and the then Governor and Legislature froze the process in 2009 due to the decline in the state budget. Because this’freezing’ was legislated, new legislation had to be passed to restart the process. Recent legislation put the process back on track to finish the review and update process.

The framework revision process is defined mostly by legislation and also policies set by the SBE. Framework development comes midway between standards development and textbook adoption. For a detailed explanation of the framework process alone, see

To summarize: The process begins with the California State Content Standards. These are the statements of what students are to learn and be able to do, in each grade, in the various subject matter areas. Because the History Social Science State Standards are not being changed, revised, or replaced at the present time, for History Social Science, its revised Framework will be based on and come out of the current HSS state content standards, adding some specific content required by various pieces of legislation.

Legislation now empowers the SBE to move the revision forward. The SBE in turn has directed the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), which replaced the state Curriculum Commission (actually: Curriculum Development and Supplemental  Materials Commission) several years ago, to create a History Social Science Sub Committee that in turn contracts with writers and organizations to actually do the work of  revision. The current IQC Sub Committee is co chaired by Bill Honig, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction in California, and Nancy McTygue, the Director of the California State History Subject Matter Project.

The Sub Committee meetings are public, and public comment and input is requested as the revision process is underway. There are several time periods of more than a month each when anyone can send recommendations to the subcommittee. For its most recent meeting on December 18, 671 comments and an additional several hundred emails were received. Some of these are quite lengthy; a summary of the comments alone ran to 255 pages on the Sub Committee agenda.

The Department of Education (CDE) also submits recommendation to the Sub Committee, and these include suggestions about inclusion of specific legislative requirements (For two examples: Recent legislation requires the inclusion in the Framework discussion of the Filipino role in World War II. Other legislation requires that achievements and issues faced by LGBT persons be included in the Framework; LGBT was added as a category to the list of those groups; specific ethnic minorities, women, disadvantaged) who were already defined as needing specific mention in the Framework.

More on the current status of all this later. To finish with the process: once the Sub Committee finishes its work and has a draft Framework revision, the draft is submitted to the full IQC for adoption (and any further revision). This step includes another time period for public comment and input. Once the IQC has finished the Draft, the IQC submits the Draft to the SBE for adoption. Again, public comment is taken and the SBE can make further revisions, or instruct the IQC to make them. Once the final revisions are made, the SBE adopts the Framework. At this point the 30 month time period for textbook development begins.

Question: OK, so where are we now in this process?

Answer: The Sub Committee met on December 18, discussed the public comments, the new draft introduction to the Framework submitted by Nancy McTygue as she had been tasked by the subcommittee, and the CDE recommendations.

The subcommittee met for roughly a half day on December 18, and heard public comments and also discussed some of the 671 comments already submitted.
Many of these comments were from specific groups, often opposing each other, who want more of their history, according to their particular perspective, included in the Framework. More comments included also intense, often emotional, and very opposing views on inclusion--or not--of LGBT issues. The challenge facing the subcommittee, and later the IQC, and still later the SBE, is how to accommodate these public comments, which the process requires to some degree. To fully grasp the breadth, depth, and intensity of the public comments received so far, please look at the 255 page summary of the comments,  attachment (#4) to the subcommittee agenda, which is posted  at As the process moves forward, there will be more and more opportunities for public comment and input.

Question: The History Social Science Standards themselves are out of date. How would a process work that would revise and update these standards?

Answer: Currently there is no process to update or revise any of the existing content standards. Such would require specific legislation empowering the SBE to create and begin a process, which in the past has been pretty much the same as the Framework revision process described above: SBE would create a special task force, which would in turn appoint members, who would meet and write new standards.  Depending on the starting point of standards development, writing new standards can take more than a year, possibly two. This process would include public comments both to the standards writing task force, the IQC,  and later to the SBE. Once the SBE were to adopt new standards, then the entire Framework writing process would begin, again with the committees, the IQC, and of course several sessions of public comments. Once the new framework is adopted, the 30 month textbook development process would begin.

So…in the meantime…what do I do as a practical matter in my classroom?

The whole internet revolution…which is really another post 1989 world changing set of events… opens opportunities to go to original source documents (for one example: The Library of Congress. For another: The Yale History project). A host of websites have posted free lessons, most of which include source materials, for all grade levels in all social science discipline areas. Many of these are very much up to date, include recent events, and include various social science discipline perspectives. As students do many of these lessons, they are also practicing and improving their ‘common core’ English language arts skills, in content. The teacher will need to provide context and perspective, and can have students get far more into the real world of social studies than has ever been possible by reliance totally or even mainly on textbooks.

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