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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on Review of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner
Date:
September 15, 2017

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This memorandum provides an update on the review of the 2003 Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework since the last update in June. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education launched the review in July 2016 with the goal of completing the process in June 2018, and developing a statewide assessment of the learning standards contained in the framework, by June 2020.

The review process consists of six phases:

  • Phase 1 (July 2016-June 2017): Engage stakeholders and gather recommendations for the vision and structure of the framework;
  • Phase 2 (July-December 2017): Draft and review proposed revisions;
  • Phase 3 (January-June 2018): Bring drafts of proposed revisions to the Board for discussion and a vote to release revisions for public comment; conduct public comment period, synthesize public comment; make final revisions and present to the Board for discussion and a vote to adopt them;
  • Phase 4 (September 2018-June 2020): Disseminate updated framework and support implementation;
  • Phase 5 (June 2018-Spring 2020): Develop state History and Social Science assessment and administer first assessment;
  • Phase 6 (TBD): Incorporate History and Social Science assessment into the Competency Determination.

The History and Social Science Review Panel

The Department has been working with a panel of 44 educators with expertise in this content area to gain recommendations directly from practitioners. The History and Social Science Review Panel consists of K-12 teachers, department heads and curriculum coordinators, K-12 administrators, and higher education faculty with deep knowledge of the content. The members bring expertise in teaching various ages and populations of students, including those with disabilities and English learners. Panel members are broadly representative of various geographic regions across the Commonwealth, types of district (e.g. urban, suburban, rural), types of schools (including charter and vocational-technical schools), and professional organizations (e.g., MA Council for the Social Studies).

Since January 2017, the panel has met four times to: 1.) draft revised learning standards that describe the content and skills at each grade level and form a central part of the framework, and 2.) make recommendations on the overall structure and additional features of the framework that are included to support educators in teaching these standards. The main priorities for the revision process are to improve support for: 1.) civic engagement and learning and 2.) higher order teaching and learning. Over the summer, a number of panel members joined Department staff to continue the work of defining the main topics of study and revising learning standards at each grade level.

Public Survey

In addition to engaging stakeholder feedback through the Review Panel, the Department has gained additional input from an online survey. The survey provided an opportunity for respondents to share feedback on a variety of issues, including the usefulness of the framework in supporting curriculum and instruction, appropriateness of the number and level of detail of the standards, and the rigor of the standards.

Some main findings from the public survey are:

  • Approximately half of the survey respondents consider the 2003 Framework to be useful in supporting curriculum and instruction, while the other half of respondents consider the 2003 Framework to be only somewhat useful or not useful at all.
  • More than half of the survey respondents (61%) believe the organization of the 2003 Framework to be useful.
  • Half of the survey respondents (52%) indicated that the 2003 Framework includes about the right level of detail to support effective curriculum and instruction.
  • In general, survey respondents reported that the following topics are sufficiently emphasized in the 2003 Framework to support instruction:
    • Chronological ordering of standards (61%),
    • US history (59%), and
    • European history (47%).
  • Survey respondents indicated that they believe the following topics are only somewhat or insufficiently emphasized in the 2003 Framework to support instruction:
    • Conceptual framing (46%);
    • Disciplines of history and geography, civics and government, and economics, integrated into the learning standards across grades (46%);
    • Asian history (40%);
    • Middle Eastern (41%);
    • African history (44%); and
    • Latin American history (44%).

Recent Updates

Guided by input from the panel and the findings from the public survey, the Department has developed a model for a revised format of the Framework. While the aspects of the revised framework are subject to change, the model consists of a proposed scope and sequence, to outline the main content across the grades, as well as additional features.

The proposed scope and sequence includes a few recent adjustments in an effort to best accommodate a new full year civics course in the middle school grades while minimizing impact on existing curricula. The scope and sequence:

  • Emphasizes civics as a major focus for the standards across the grades;
  • Establishes a full year study of the philosophical foundations of United States democratic government, its institutions, and political system, and Massachusetts government at grade 8;
  • Promotes coherence for civics, government and U.S. history at grades Pre-K-3, 5, 8 and through the courses in the high school grades;
  • Promotes coherence for world geography and world history at grades 2, 4, 6, 7, and through the courses in the high school grades;
  • Establishes a two-year sequence of world geography and world history at grades 6 and 7 that incorporates content currently taught in these grades with the addition of some content from World History I;
  • Establishes the course "Modern World History, 1500-Present;"
  • Preserves and updates the current elective options at grade 12, most notably American Government and Economics.

In addition to content standards, the framework also includes:

  • Standards for History and Social Science Practice designed to emphasize the importance of civic learning and the research process in history, geography, civics, and economics and to align with those in the 2017 Massachusetts Mathematics Curriculum Framework and the 2016 Massachusetts Science, Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework;
  • Guiding Principles, similar to those found in other Massachusetts frameworks;
  • Standards for Reading, Writing, and Speaking and Listening in History/Social Science, aligned with the standards of the 2017 Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy.

Next Steps

As the Department completes Phase 2 of the review process, two final meetings of the review panel will take place, on September 28 and November 8, 2017. Over the course of these meetings, panel members will provide feedback on revised learning standards, examining the content and skills at each grade level, in addition to reviewing other aspects of the framework.

The Department plans to present a draft of the framework, including the revised standards, to the Board for initial consideration at the December 19, 2017 meeting, with an opportunity for the Board to vote in January 2018 to invite public comment. The current timeline calls for the Board to discuss and vote on the final revised standards at the June 26, 2018 meeting.

As the work progresses, the Department remains committed to ensuring that the revised Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework includes learning standards and supporting materials that are clear, academically rigorous, coherent from grade to grade, and provide effective preparation for civic life for all students in the Commonwealth. The Department thanks the panel for their continued partnership in revising the framework.



Last Updated: September 22, 2017
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