Advocating for Social Studies Education in Iowa
Social Studies Education Day Announced
On Wednesday, February 13th at 1:50 p.m., Governor Kim Reynolds will conduct a signing ceremony recognizing the importance of social studies education in Iowa. This is a great time for social studies educators to email their local legislators and let them know your opinions on the current state of social studies education in Iowa. Your personal testimonies have the most impact with legislators.
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.
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 the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the ICSS, who represents social studies educators from throughout the state, calls 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 ICSS calls for additional support for teaching social studies courses at all grade levels through a redistribution of funding currently provided for core area education.
The ICSS calls for the creation of a social studies consultant 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.
Final Thoughts on Justification: ICSS Survey
In the fall of 2018, a survey of Iowa administrators was conducted by the ICSS with all superintendents, principals and curriculum directors emailed and invited to take part. Of those who responded, seventy-two percent had requested information and/or support regarding the new social studies standards from their AEA. Thirty percent of the time, the request was referred or in twenty percent of the cases, no answer was provided. In addition, only forty-three percent of those responding said they had all needs met. Fifty-three percent did not think their teachers were receiving enough support from their AEA regarding social studies matters.
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:
Iowa Council for the Social Studies
Government Liaison and Advocacy Director
Contact Your Federal Legislators
Tweet Senator Grassley: @chuckgrassley
Tweet Senator Ernst: @SenJoniErnst
Leave Comments: http://www.ernst.senate.gov/content/contact-joni
House of Representatives
District 1: Abby Finkenauer