How Social Studies Education Is Changing Across the U.S.

While Common Core and NGSS have been filling up Twitter feeds, the C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards has quietly been a guiding force for the revamping of dozens of states' and districts' social studies standards since its release in June 2013. From increasing the rigor around college- and career-readiness to establishing guidelines for global citizenship, the new framework for social studies standards has important implications for educational product developers. Here Susan Griffin, Executive Director, National Council for the Social Studies and a panelist on the PreK-12 Learning Group Master Class webinar on the Framework, shares what she sees happening in social studies education around the United States.

What is the biggest change publishers should be aware of in how the C3 Framework approaches teaching social studies?

Inquiry, inquiry, inquiry--as [co-presenter] Alice [Reilly] points out [in her responses], the inquiry at the center of C3 shifts the focus from teacher to the student. The C3 Framework lays out a map, beginning with the compelling question; moving to selection of sources in the discipline(s) that will help find the answer; evaluating the sources--which are most effective at supporting the answer?; and communicating conclusions--including explaining how and why your sources reinforce that conclusion--and, as appropriate, take informed action. This is about the application of knowledge, not reciting or reporting back the content. 

Even if not all states are formally adopting the C3, why should publishers be paying attention to the new framework?

This move toward developing skills that require students to apply what they are learn is part of the current reform culture, the rationale for which is based on research on effective teaching and learning. Critical thinking and analysis is a necessity for all jobs and most certainly for exercising the responsibilities of civic life. Articulate communication of what students understand, both verbally and in writing, characterizes the Common Core ELA and the C3 Framework, as does the ability to listen. This effective communication is a requirement of nearly every career path.  

The C3 Framework, fortunately, is not part of a national adoption process, but a guide to states and districts who wish to increase the rigor of K-12 social studies. It is being used in a variety of ways in various regions around the country. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts provided an update this past spring:

  • Arkansas recently revised its social studies curriculum frameworks, which will be implemented in August 2015. The revision committee used the C3 Framework, among other sources, and the revised documents are all aligned to the C3 Framework.
  • Connecticut’s Board of Education adopted new social studies frameworks in February 2015, based on the C3.
  • The District of Columbia has revised its Scope and Sequence for K-12 social studies to incorporate indicators from the C3 Framework, has provided professional development aligned with the C3, is developing assessments that incorporate C3 outcomes, and has adjusted its Building Literacy in Social Studies (BLISS) program to explicitly incorporate elements of the C3 Framework.
  • Hawaii’s Department of Education is formally considering adopting the C3.
  • Illinois State Superintendent Christopher Koch began a process of updating the state’s history and social science standards in 2014 and asked for the social sciences to be guided by the C3. As Tom Chorneau reports, ”A big part of the revision in Illinois will focus on civics learning, as the standards task force organized by the superintendent will be led by the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition.”
  • In Kentucky, a writing team has been drafting Social Studies Standards for the Next Generation. They are drawing on the the C3 Framework, the Global Competence Matrix, and 21st Century Skills for Teaching and Learning, among other documents. They hope to present the results to the Kentucky Board of Education in April for consideration of implementation next school year.
  • Maryland has begun writing a new Maryland Social Studies Framework for pre-k-12 based on the C3 Framework.  Maryland is also using C3 in professional development.
  • New York State’s Board of Regents has adopted a new K-12 Social Studies Framework that draws explicitly on C3. New York also provides a C3 Toolkit helpful for people implementing at any level, from their classroom to a state.
  • North Carolina will not begin its regular revision of social studies standards until 2015-2016, but the state is using the C3 as a curriculum framework and has conducted professional development to help teachers use it.
Educational Standards