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Chiefs Group Terminates Role in Social Studies Framework

The Council of Chief State School Officers has bowed out of its role as the convenor of a group of states and organizations writing a shared social studies framework.

The move means that the National Council for the Social Studies, which had been leading the work, will continue to do so but without the organizational support of the CCSSO. The latest draft of "The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards" is currently being circulated among reviewers from the 15 groups and 20 states that have been working on it. It is expected to be final this summer, said NCSS Executive Director Susan Griffin.

CCSSO Executive Director Chris Minnich told me that the chiefs group wants and needs to focus its energy on helping states implement the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and math, especially as they fight back against opponents who are raising questions about the standards.

In addition, the CCSSO became uneasy with being perceived as helping to develop the social studies standards, said Minnich. The CCSSO, as you recall, was a leading organizer of the 2009 initiative that produced the common math and ELA standards.

This time, for the social studies project, the CCSSO took care to emphasize that it was serving only as a "living room" in which others could do the work. But there was persistent confusion about "who is hosting and who is writing," he said. As a result, the CCSSO decided it was best to withdraw from any role in the project, he said.

In an email sent to project participants this week, Minnich said that the CCSSO acknowledges "the importance of other content areas," but decided to concentrate its resources on helping states with the common-core math and ELA standards. To keep that focus sharp, he wrote, "we have promised to our board of directors that we will not engage in the development of any additional content standards in the foreseeable future."

"I wanted to first applaud your efforts in thinking through how you update and upgrade your individual state social studies standards and enhance the rigor in civics, economics, geography, and history in K-12 schools," he wrote. "I know you have utilized these collaborative state meetings to think about and share resources you need to upgrade your state social studies standards.

"CCSSO entered into this work hoping to facilitate a robust dialogue about how states can improve upon their social studies standards but never intended to publish a document that could be inaccurately considered as standards development."

The CCSSO will not publish the so-called "C3" framework as it had planned, leaving that to the NCSS, Minnich wrote.

When the work first began two and a half years ago, those involved were referring to it as a project to create shared social studies standards. But as it proceeded, the goal was revised to a framework that could guide states as they designed their own standards. The groups released an eight-page vision statement last fall.

Since then, Griffin said, drafts of the framework itself have undergone rounds of review by more than 3,000 people in the organizations and states participating. Kathy Swan, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Kentucky's college of education, has co-led the discussions with NCSS.

Once it's final, it will be available from NCSS in print, for a fee, and online for free.

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