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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Review of the Draft Revised Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Jeffrey C. Riley, Commissioner
Date:
May 11, 2018

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This memorandum provides an overview of the proposed revisions to the 2003 Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework in preparation for further discussion of this topic at the meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) on May 22, 2018. The framework includes learning standards that outline the expectations for what students should know and be able to do, as well as other material such as the vision and guiding principles designed to support effective instruction. The presentation of the revised framework at the May meeting will serve as preparation for the anticipated vote by the Board on adoption of the final revised standards contained in the framework at the June 26, 2018 meeting.

At the Board meeting of November 28, 2017, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) presented an abbreviated draft of the revised framework for the Board's review. At the January 23, 2018 meeting, the Department provided an overview of the full draft of the revised framework and the Board voted to invite public comment on it.

Enclosed with this memorandum are: Highlights of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework, a summary of the main changes from the January public comment draft and the latest May draft, and the scope and sequence in the revised framework. In the week before the May 22 discussion, I will send you the May 2018 Working Draft of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework, as revised in response to comments we received during the public comment period, and the Resources for History and Social Science, a supplemental document with resources to support instruction.

I. Framework Review Process

The Department launched the review in July 2016 with the goal of completing the process in June 2018, following which the Department would disseminate the updated framework to schools, support its implementation, and develop a statewide assessment of the learning standards contained in the framework. The review is now in Phase 3 of the six-phase process, as outlined in an attachment to this memo.

Phases 1-2: Soliciting recommendations and making revisions

The Department initiated the review process by soliciting public input on the 2003 framework through an online survey, inviting respondents to comment on 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.

The Department also convened the History and Social Science Curriculum Framework Review Panel consisting of K-12 teachers, department heads and curriculum coordinators, K-12 administrators, and higher education faculty to make recommendations for the revision of the framework. The members of the panel provided content knowledge and expertise in teaching various ages and populations of students, including those with disabilities and English learners. They also represented the regions of the Commonwealth, types of districts (e.g. urban, suburban, rural), types of schools (including charter and vocational-technical schools), and professional organizations. The panel met six times from January to November 2017. A list of these Panel Review Members is included in introduction to the May 2018 Draft of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework as well as an attachment with this memorandum.

The Department also engaged a group of 21 higher education faculty and others with content expertise to review the accuracy of the content in the revised framework. A list of these Content Advisors is included in the introduction to the May 2018 Draft of the framework as well as an attachment with this memorandum.

Phase 3: Gathering public comment and making further revisions

Following the Board vote in January to invite public comment on the revised framework, the Department set up a survey to gather comments. Additional input came through conference calls, video conferences, and in-person presentations and discussions with stakeholders that took place on a regional basis in coordination with the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies. A summary of the results of the public comment period follows later in this memorandum.

II. Priorities

As discussed at the January 23, 2018 Board meeting, input from the History and Social Science Curriculum Framework Review Panel and the results of the initial public survey and other sources established two key priorities for the revision of the 2003 framework:

  • Emphasize civics education
  • Deepen understanding of history, civics, geography, and economics

The intent of the revision is to address these priorities while minimizing disruption to existing curricula and improving the rigor, clarity and coherence of the framework. The Highlights of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework, one of the attachments with this memorandum, provides a detailed view of how the framework addresses these priorities. Here is a brief summary.

The framework provides greater emphasis on civics education as follows:

  • A new full year course at Grade 8 provides a thorough study of civics.
  • The framework emphasizes civics content throughout the Introduction and Vision statements as well as the Guiding Principles, the Standards for History and Social Science Practice, Pre-K-12, Appendices, and other features.
  • The standards at each grade level and high school course integrate civics content.

The framework supports students in deepening their understanding of history, civics, geography, and economics and strengthening their conceptual understanding through the following features:

  • Edited Content Standards reflect current scholarship, require deeper analysis and evaluation of concepts, and provide additional context for clarity.
  • Standards for History/Social Science Practice, Pre-K-12 encompass the elements of the research process, and encourage analysis, comparison, and evaluation of sources.
  • Sample questions at each grade support conceptual learning and inquiry.
  • Instructional examples and references to primary sources at each grade set clear and challenging expectations for teaching and learning.
  • Standards for Literacy in History and Social Science, by grade band, make explicit connections to expectations for reading, writing, speaking, and listening in history and social science.
  • Guiding Principles address the development of the ability to reason well, the importance of historical thinking, the role of history and social science in improving reading comprehension, and other important skills.
  • The Appendices support the expectation that all students will explore history and social science in depth. They include, for example, sections that address the applicability of the standards for English Learners and Students with Disabilities (Appendix A) and present updated and annotated primary sources aligned to the standards for United States and World History, setting the expectation that students will read and view challenging materials and encounter divergent perspectives on historical events (Appendices D and E).

III. Public Comment

The Department invited and received public comment on the draft from January 23–April 2, 2018. The table below provides a summary of the major themes during public comment, followed by an overview of the actions the Department took in response to the comments received.

Summary of Findings
Public Comment: Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework
Dates of Public Comment: January 23, 2018 – April 2, 2018
Public Comment Survey-Background
  • Number of responses: 728
  • Respondents: 78 percent teachers, 29 percent elementary/47 percent middle school/42 percent high school
  • Response rate: Just over half of respondents chose to comment on specific standards, most focused on middle and high school grade standards
Adding new sections/features: The following features in the Public Comment Draft of the framework are an improvement on the 2003 framework:Total Percent Who: Agree or Somewhat Agree
  • Guiding Principles, Practices, Literacy Standards, Guiding and Supporting Questions, Clarification Statements, Instructional Examples and Primary Sources
  • Grade 8 civics course
80 – 90 percent
Content standards and other features:
Overall, the Public Comment Draft of the framework is an improvement on the 2003 framework in terms of:
  • Providing a strong emphasis on civics
85 percent
  • Challenging students to deepen their understanding of the content
73 percent
  • Including historical thinking skills
79 percent
  • Providing greater emphasis on traditionally marginalized groups
74 percent
  • Improving the rigor of the 2003 Framework
75 percent
  • Improving the clarity of the 2003 Framework
69 percent
  • Improving the coherence of the 2003 Framework
70 percent

Public comment — some key findings and responses

The Department took the steps described below to address the comments submitted on the following issues:

Assessment
  • Comments: Approximately 75 percent of respondents stated that the lack of clarity about the grade, content and design of the assessment in history and social science may mean many districts wait to implement the new standards.
  • Response: The Department is working to establish funding and to hire the staff needed to move forward on planning for the assessment.
Amount of content
  • Comments: Some respondents expressed concern about the amount of content.
  • Response: Removed content at some grade levels (see "Highlights" document for grade-by-grade description). This concern is commonly raised during standards revisions. We considered the issue of content volume at each grade level and overall. We also asked the review panel to weigh in on the amount of content (whether it was too much or too little). In the end, we removed some content from some grades and decided other grades did not warrant adjustment.
High school courses
  • Comments: Some respondents expressed concern that the new grade 8 civics course has displaced existing content, creating concern about impact on electives.
  • Response: Included a statement explicitly stating that districts may reconfigure the standards to establish courses that differ from those outlined in the framework.
The history of women, African-Americans and other under-represented groups
  • Comments: About half of respondents noted concern that some groups are under-represented in the framework.
  • Response: Added standards that address the role of slavery in the economies of North and South, important historical figures, the roots of racial issues seen in contemporary society; added content and more primary sources on the history of Native Peoples, Latinos, women and other groups.
World history
  • Comments: Approximately 40–50 percent of respondents expressed concern that the framework promotes a US/Euro-centric perspective, not providing equal treatment of certain regions of the world relative to the US and Europe.
  • Response: Adjusted the balance to provide more content and more primary sources for under-represented regions in grades 6 and 7 and World History I; reorganized World History I by theme, drawing examples from regions around the world to address each theme; provided guidance on alternative models for teaching world history.

Other changes made in response to public comment and input from Content Advisors

Overall, Pre-K–12
  • Added content and primary sources (including visual sources, such as art, artifacts, and videos) to address African and African-American history, Native Peoples, women, and the perspectives of other groups and world cultures; clarified the extent and number of references to "research" in many standards; revised guiding and supporting questions.
Introduction
  • Drafted a new introduction to address concerns that the previous introduction was dated and lacked recognition of the diversity of contemporary U.S. society.
Guiding Principles
  • Revised some Guiding Principles to better address Pre-K (#3), media literacy (#8), use of digital tools (#9), and social-emotional learning (#10).
News/Media Literacy
  • Drafted a new set of standards that are designed to address concerns about a gap in literacy in this area and its impact on civic life. They are presented here.
Appendices
  • Updated primary sources and other teaching resources to include many new additions, especially on topics such as African/African American History, Native Peoples of the Americas, Women's History, World History.
Resources
  • Created a separate Supplement to facilitate updating resources over time; reorganized and substantially expanded the resources to include new links to websites on a range of topics including African/African American History, Native Peoples of the Americas, Women's History, and News/Media Literacy to address the call for a greater diversity of cultural backgrounds and to address other topics of concern.

Anticipated Next Steps

At the Board meeting on May 22, 2018, Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske and other members of the staff will present an overview of the revised framework and respond to your questions. Information regarding the revision of the framework is available on the Department's website.

Over the next several weeks, the Department will make additional refinements to the framework based on Board feedback and prepare to present the updated version to the Board on June 26, 2018 for further discussion and a vote on whether to adopt it.

The Department thanks the members of the History and Social Science Review Panel, the Content Advisors, and educators and members of the public for their recommendations. We are on track to produce a revised Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework that supports effective teaching and learning and provides effective preparation for civic life for all students in the Commonwealth.

Attachments:

Download PDF Document
History and Social Science Framework Draft for BESE Meeting May 2018
Download PDF Document
Supplement to the History and Social Science Curriculum Framework May 2018
Download Word Document
Plan and Timeline for Review of 2003 MA History and Social Science Curriculum Framework
Download Word Document
List of Content Advisors
Download Word Document
List of Panel Review Members
Download Word Document
Highlights of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework


Last Updated: May 14, 2018
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