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Framework—Not Common Standards—for Social Studies

The project to develop shared social studies standards inched forward last weekend, in part by clarifying that it is not developing social studies standards. Instead, it is creating a framework to guide states as they rework their own standards in that subject.

Release of a framework for common standards in social studies had been anticipated at this past weekend's annual meeting of the National Council for the Social Studies, in Seattle.

As we reported last month, the NCSS, other professional organizations, and nearly two dozen states, through the Council of Chief State School Officers, had been writing a draft framework for public feedback. The NCSS, in its own statements, referred to the document interchangeably as standards and as a framework.

Whatever descriptor best applies to it, however, CCSSO officials involved in the state work on the project decided it was not yet ready for release. What was released instead was an eight-page statement, the "Vision for the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3)Framework for Inquiry in Social Studies State Standards." It lays out out the "four dimensions of informed inquiry" that will shape the upcoming framework: developing questions and planning investigations; applying disciplinary concepts and tools; gathering, evaluating, and using evidence; and working collaboratively and communicating conclusions.

Introductory language notes that the forthcoming framework "will focus primarily on inquiry and concepts, and will guide—not prescribe—the content necessary for a rigorous social studies program."

In an email to states last Friday, the CCSSO's executive director, Gene Wilhoit, made it clear that the organization is not developing standards, but rather a document to guide states as they work to revise their own social studies standards. The email says:

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have been working together through CCSSO's Social Studies Assessment, Curriculum, and Instruction (SSACI) state collaborative to develop a common resource to help them update and upgrade their individual state social studies standards and enhance the rigor in civics, economics, geography, and history in K-12 schools.

CCSSO is currently working with these states in the SSACI state collaborative on a framework to be made available to all states. The intent of this framework is to assist you and your staff when you are ready to upgrade your respective state standards in social studies.

To be clear, CSSSO is not developing a set of social studies standards for mass adoption or adaption. We are creating a framework that we hope will serve as a resource for you.

Wilhoit told states in the email that it hoped to have that resource available "sometime next year."

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