Iowa Council for the Social Studies

Day on the Hill..... January 30, 2023

Advocacy Update (April 21,2023) per Jack Vanderflught

SF 496 is now passed and will be signed by the Governor. Social studies the big change is the inclusion of a civics exam based upon the most recent year’s Citizenship Exam. The students will have to pass the exam with 70% accuracy—which should not be a large task. They are also able to take it “as many times as needed.” IEP students will be able to receive appropriate accommodations. 

Advocacy Update (March 16,2023) per Jack Vanderflught

I believe we are in a holding pattern for anything directly related to social studies. There does continue to be a strong interest in a civics exam requirement with multiple retakes with a 70% required for graduation. And, there is also some discussion of a few social studies content requirements—such as a comparable teaching requirement concerning economic/political consequences of nations who experimented with communism/socialistic systems. Most teachers have commented it is already done in most classrooms that teach gov/history. With the final funnel for bills to move forward on March 31, I expect things to pick up over the next two weeks. This week the focus was on passing a foster care bill involving the DHS, a students privacy rights bill concerning dressing and restrooms and transgender students and the large infrastructure bill that combined departments in the executive branch down to sixteen.

Advocating for Social Studies Education in Iowa

The Iowa Council for the Social Studies would like to use this opportunity to advocate on behalf of social studies issues and we need your help. We are working to get the support needed to ensure social studies content and skills are taught to all Iowa students. Specifically, we are advocating that all Iowa Area Education Agencies have at least one full time social studies consultant with a background in the social studies. As schools work on creating their local social studies scope and sequence plans, it is highly vital that dedicated and knowledgeable support be available in all areas of the state. Currently, most AEAs only have a part-time contact for the social studies. In many cases this person has no background in the social studies, or is not provided the time within their duties to assist with social studies matters. We believe this can be addressed. There are many ways you can help. The best way is to meet and/or contact your legislator about the need for a social studies consultant in every AEA. Contact information for all legislators can be found here.

The Iowa Council for the Social Studies officially endorses the Iowa History Advisory Council Report: Recommendations to Create a Systemic Approach to Improving the Teaching and Learning of Iowa History in Iowa’s K-12 Schools. Read the full report here.

Legislative priorities

The Iowa Legislature, the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Area Education Agencies, and local Iowa school districts all must work together to ensure that a high-quality social studies education is provided to all students. With the development of new state standards for the social studies and the implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the ICSS, who represents social studies educators from throughout the state, call on policymakers and stakeholders to ensure that social studies education is included in a well-rounded education that prepares students for college and career readiness as engaged citizens.

The social studies should be given the same priority as other core content areas.


The social studies should be given the same priority as other core content areas. 

  • The ICSS calls for continued appropriate teacher preparation and opposes BOEE reductions in required college credit hours that provide endorsements in non-history government social studies courses with only two or three courses as preparation.

  • The ICSS calls for additional support for teaching social studies courses at all grade levels k-12.

  • The ICSS calls for the creation of a social studies consult in each Iowa AEA with appropriate training for the position.

  • The ICSS calls for access to professional development for all teachers of the social studies in every AEA in Iowa.

  • The ICSS calls for accountability that all grade levels are teaching the social studies through annual reporting by districts to their constituents. 


Social studies education creates informed and engaged citizens. Democracy requires active citizens; social studies education is the guardian of democracy. Social studies education is critical for a competent and responsible citizenry. Only twenty-three percent of students scored at or above proficient on the most recent NAEP (The Nation’s Report Card) exam.  [NAEP, The Nation's Report Card

Additional reasons for concern were also found in an Annenberg Public Policy Center surveys elicited from national samples of the U.S. population in the past decade. Findings included that

  • A little more than a third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, just as many (35 percent) could not name a single one.

  • Just over a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto. 

  • One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration. 

  • Almost a third mistakenly believed that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling could be appealed.

  • Just under half of Americans (47%) knew that a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court carries the same legal weight as a 9-0 ruling.

  • Just over a third thought that it was the intention of the Founding Fathers to have each branch hold a lot of power, but the president has the final say. [Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools]

The Iowa Department of Education study entitled, Social Studies: A Call to Action, found that Iowa elementary teachers are only spending about one hundred minutes per week on social studies education, or about five percent of the instructional week. Whereas they are required to spend ninety minutes per day on literacy. [Social Studies: A Call to Action, Iowa Department of Education]

According to the guidance regarding SSAE grants and civic instruction: “An LEA may use funds to promote the development, implementation, and strengthening of instructional programs in civics. Civics is generally understood to mean the content of what citizens should know about politics and government, including the foundations of the American political system. Schools can provide civics instruction through both formal and informal education beginning in the early years of the education process.” (ESEA section 4104(b)(3)(A)(i)(V))

On April 13, 2016, the US Department of Education in a Dear Colleague Letter ( stated that the use of ESSA funds can include “humanities education.” Humanities education would include the social studies: history, civics, government, economics and geography. This provides opportunity and incentive for the Iowa Legislature to redistribute funding to social studies education. ESSA requires that students receive a well-balanced education.

The Iowa Department of Education study entitled Social Studies: A Call to Action shows that fifty-nine percent of Iowa social studies teachers reported no access to professional learning in the social studies in the last two years. [Social Studies: A Call to Action, Iowa Department of Education]

Social studies education teaches twenty-first century skills.

  • Social studies education prepares students to access and understand the tools of democracy; engage in public debate; learn and apply critical thinking; to understand the past and connects between different regions and cultures; to read beyond comprehension to the evaluation, synthesis, analysis and interpretation levels.

  • Social studies education prepares students for college. Social studies education combines the disciplinary components of civics, geography, economics and history.

  • Social studies education prepares students for career. Social studies education provides a critical foundation of attitudes, knowledge and skills that are most adaptable to new circumstances. Employers today want more emphasis on critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communications, cultural understanding, and applied knowledge in a real-world setting. Employers are also looking to hire those who demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity, intercultural skills, and the capacity for continuing education.

Creating a Partnership

The Iowa Council for the Social Studies would like to be a resource and partner with the Iowa Legislature in improving social studies education. For more information on our priorities, or to discuss any social studies related matter, please contact:

Jack Vanderflught
Iowa Council for the Social Studies
Government Liaison and Advocacy Director

Contact Your Federal Legislators

Senator Chuck Grassley

Capitol Office
United States Senate
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-1501
Phone: 202-224-3744
Fax: 202-224-6020

Des Moines Office 
210 Walnut St
Des Moines, IA 50309-2115
Phone: 515-288-1145
Fax: 515-288-5097

Tweet Senator Grassley: @chuckgrassley
Leave Comments:

Senator Joni Ernst

Capitol Office
nited States Senate
111 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-3254
Fax: 202-224-9369

Des Moines Office
210 Walnut St
Des Moines, IA 50309-2115
Phone: 515-284-4574
Fax: 515-284-4937

Tweet Senator Ernst: @SenJoniErnst

Leave Comments:

House of Representatives

District 1:  Mariannette Miller-Meeks
Phone: 202-225-6576
US House of Representatives    
1716 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1502  

District 2:  Ashley Hinson
Phone:  202-255-2911  
US House of Representatives
1429 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1502  

District 3:  Zach Nunn
US House of Representatives  
1232 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1502  

District 4:  Randy Feenstra
Phone: 202-225-4426
US House of Representatives  
1440 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1502  

The Iowa Council for the Social Studies is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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