Shifts and Trends in Social Studies Education: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?

Article excerpt

Maggie Beddow, Ph.D., Guest Editor

Dr. Beddow earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis, in Education with an emphasis in Language, Literacy, and Culture. She is an Assistant Professor in the Bilingual/Multicultural Education Department at California State University, Sacramento, where she primarily teaches multiple and single subject social studies methods, and a survey course in bilingual education. She is President of the Sacramento Area Council for the Social Studies, and is a board member for CATESOL, serving as the Elementary Chair. She was a K- 12 professional development trainer in international studies/history-social science. Additionally, she was an elementary and middle school bilingual classroom teacher, who taught social studies to English learners. She was a middle school vice principal and bilingual department chair. Dr. Beddow is a member of the CCSS Publications Committee, and Guest Editor of this issue. Email:

Where Have We Been in Social Studies? The Current State of Affairs

In a June 14, 2011 article in Education Week entitled "NAEP History Repeats Itself: Flat Scores Except 8th Grade" (Robelen), historian Diane Ravitch declared, "It should concern us all that 12th graders' knowledge of history has barely changed since 200 1 . All of these students will be voters in a year, and almost 40 percent were already eligible to vote when they took the assessment. ... They should be well informed and capable of weighing the contending claims of candidates, especially when the candidates rest their arguments on historical precedent."

In the ever-evolving world of social studies education, Ravitch's assertions are alarming, but quite frankly, not so surprising to this author, given the state of social studies over this past decade. Educators continue to stumble upon further hurdles and opportunities which actually inspired this issue of the Social Studies Review. It marks another phase in the quest to understand and learn from the shifts and trends in history-social science education - a phenomenon that has prevailed for years. When the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) passed in 2001 , one of its primary purposes was to close the academic achievement gap of ???efeG&>Gp?^ students in language arts and math. However, as we have learned, this reform effort has shown that those gaps have not been narrowed according to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, and in fact, the overall incremental growth of improvement over the past decade under NCLB has been incidental and without a clear indication of the causes of those gains, meaning was it NCLB or was it other accountability measurements that were enacted that resulted in some gains in achievement? Just this week, Ravitch also remarked that the slight gains in the NAEP scores may actually only reflect improvement in reading skills, and not necessarily an improvement in history knowledge (Robelen, June 2011). What is known is that a high number of public schools have not adequately made the annual yearly progress (AYP) in raising student achievement as of 20 1 0 (Center on Education Policy, April 20 1 1 ) . On the eve of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), it is evident that NCLB 's goal to attain 100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014 is unattainable as it is a moving target. In February 2008, the Center on Education Policy reported that social studies instruction has been narrowed primarily for minority and disadvantaged students, with local and federal governments having invested very little in social studies education. Corroborating that claim, NAGB Board Member Steven L. Paine, a former State Superintendent in West Virginia, stated in 2011 that, "For every NAEP U.S. history assessment since 1994, over half of 12th graders scored below basic." Further, he claimed that NAEP survey statistics show that only 45% of elementary students are receiving more than two hours of social studies instruction per week. …


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