Fred Jones, CCSS Legislative Analyst
As many of you are aware, the State Board of Education has been in the process of updating our History/Social Science (HSS) Frameworks for over 4 years … this recent NY Times article helps illustrate why this process can be laborious and time consuming. Because Social Studies covers a lot of time, space and sensitive issues, our discipline can trigger many controversies among various special interests.

CCSS continues to engage Sacramento on a number of fronts — including the HSS Frameworks revision process — to ensure the teaching of Social Studies is grounded in fact, is sensitive to various angles of every controversial topic, and helps prepare students to engage information and others critically and responsibly. These are issues that should be taught in a constructive and meaningful way to every student and at all grade levels in California schools … for the benefit of each child and the health of our state’s body politic. (Posted May 11, 2016)


Time To Squeeze-Back Social Studies      

During this stubborn recession, national, state and district-level education budgets are significantly contracting. This is why policymakers must re-evaluate the fundamental purposes of taxpayer-funded compulsory education, including many recent education reforms and high-stakes programs. With accountability assessments, course mandates, college admissions criteria, and funding mechanisms all fixated on a narrow bandwidth of English language arts and mathematics, broader curricular offerings, such as art, music, vocational education and even the core disciplines of science and our beloved social studies, have been significantly scaled back in the instructional day of most K-12 students. For kids who struggle in either English or math, their entire instructional day can be devoured by those two disciplines at the expense of all other curricula. Due to mandatory remediation programs, this narrowing of the curriculum phenomenon is particularly pronounced in schools at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, where middle and high school dropout rates have reached epidemic proportions.

I am pleased to inform the Sunburst readers that CCSS is standing-up to these narrowing pressures, not just for the sake of our discipline, but for the future of our fragile Republic.  The CCSS President has recently called upon the State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) Torlakson to adjust their current remediation plans for schools which have fallen into “Program Improvement” status (a fate awaiting a majority of schools unless the current No Child Left Behind [NCLB] dictates are reformed by Congress and the President).  In this endeavor, we are joined by our colleagues with the California Science Teachers Association, whose curriculum is also being squeezed-out of the instructional day at such Program Improvement (PI) schools, due to the explicit marching orders given by Department of Education remediation teams.  This is simply a “more of less” approach to education that has devastating consequences for our communities.

I am also pleased to report that CCSS is helping generate a significant movement of like-minded associations and noteworthy individuals committed to prioritizing civic education in California schools. Your CCSS leaders are forming close alliances with a range of such interest groups, spanning not only the education arena, but all three branches of government (e.g., last year our CCSS Policy award was given to an Appellate Court Judge, and this year we honored a Presidential Library executive). But civic engagement is only part of the equation.

Every time I emphasize the importance of civic participation by all citizens, politicians and education officials, alike, all favorably react.  But fostering such dispositions depends in large measure on the knowledge and tools that robust social studies courses and programs provide their students.  Civic engagement cannot be separated from content-rich instruction in history, government, economics and geography. That would be like attempting to train a swimmer for competition without a pool.

So our struggle to squeeze our curriculum back into the instructional day of all students is a multi-front battle, spanning all levels and branches of government and all social studies disciplines. Unfortunately, with all of the state and national mandates and budgetary incentives that have been foisted upon schools the past three decades, we are swimming against the political and legal currents.  That is why this effort will likely be a long struggle, requiring us to wisely expend our finite time and resources in the most effective means and at the most crucial moments.  But for the sake of our society, it is a battle we must fight and win; and CCSS is leading the charge!

Who Sets Policy Regarding H-SS Curriculum and Instruction in Public Schools?
Who does set policy when it comes to history-social science education? Inquiring minds want to know and the Governmental Relations committee has been working diligently to ensure we are updated on new developments in the field. These appear on the website in the tab Legislative News, without significant  background knowledge about who the key players in policy setting are and how they work, it is almost impossible for educators to be effective in influencing the decisions and outcomes that so impact classrooms, teachers and students. We invite you to watch as CCSS Governmental Relations Committee Chair, Jim Hill, engages in a discussion with CCSS Legislative Analyst, Fred Jones about the various government agencies and policymakers to learn more about how they work and their subsequent impact on Social Studies education. Though recorded some months ago, the process is the same and the issues are still incredibly relevant.

The Legislative Sausage Mill
Legislative Analyst Interview - Part I

California Council for the Social Studies
Serving K-16 Educators Statewide
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