How Do We Provide Equity and Access in Social Studies Education?

Article excerpt

This particular journal is an exciting one because it embarks on an extraordinary journey that provides new perspectives for addressing a persistent problem in American schools. Much to the dismay of educators dedicated to helping all students be successful learners, students of color, students who are poor, and students who have learning disabilities have, throughout history, performed at academic levels disproportionately lower than their counterparts.

Today we call it the Achievement Gap and though we have made great progress in providing educational access to underrepresented groups, we have failed, as a nation to adequately address the inequities in American schools, which still manifest in learning opportunity and achievement gaps. Many have resigned themselves to believe this phenomena as an inevitable condition of a stratified society or that there are too many factors beyond our control to remedy the problem. Inattention to this situation has led to lowered expectations and opportunity gaps. As a result, academic and social success is not realized for too many of our students and achievement gaps turn into gaps in employment, earnings, health care, and housing. The targets of educational gaps become targets of broader societal gaps. But there is hope if educators as first responders to these gaps develop an equity pedagogy, which will be explored in many of the articles in this journal.

The authors of this journal challenge us to adopt the paradigm that students who are failing are not underperforming but, instead, are under-served. In adopting this paradigm, we can begin to examine the content, pedagogy, and attitudes needed to educate all students. This approach is based on the premise that the synergy needed to close the achievement gap needs to be exercised by teachers across all disciplines, school administrators at all levels, and policymakers at local, state, and national levels. And because this work is grounded in the virtues of equity, justice, and the ideals of American democracy, it should be especially important to HistorySocial Science educators at all levels.

The contributors of this issue provide us with compelling arguments for addressing equity gaps in History-Social Science. Their research, work, and experience are intended to challenge and provoke our thinking answers about complex issues. Randall B. Lindsey, Professor Emeritus at California State University, Los Angeles and author of many books is a leader in the field of cultural competence.

Stephanie Graham is the Consultant for Equity and Student Achievement at the Los Angeles County Office of Education. She works with school districts and agencies to close racial and educational gaps. Graham and Lindsey have recently co-authored Culturally Proficient inquiry: A Lens for Identifying and Examining Educational Gaps (2008 Corwin Press), which is referenced in their article in this journal.

Lindsey and Graham's work has inspired my colleague Barbara Vallejo-Doten and I to develop a Cultural Proficiency Continuum for History-Social Science. It is designed to provide classroom teachers and administrators with a useful tool to further the discussion of access and equity specifically in History-Social Science courses and programs. It focuses on three essential program elements to examine practices that either help or hinder the progress of underperforming diverse student groups: a) Curriculum Content and Resources: what we teach, b) Instructional Methods: how we teach, and c) Assessment: how we assess for mastery and use data to make instructional decisions.

This continuum along with a continuum for Science Education was presented at the 2008 Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee (CISC) of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) Asilomar Conference in Pacific Grove, California. It was also presented at the 2008 California Council For History Education Annual Conference and the National Council for the Social Studies. …