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History and Social Science
Curriculum Framework


In accordance with the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, this History and Social Science curriculum framework presents the academic content and skills in the four areas of History, Geography, Economics, and Civics and Government that are essential to the study of human experience past and present, and to the development of educated and responsible citizens. It draws in part on the work of others, including the Bradley Commission, the several national standards documents, and frameworks from California, Virginia, and other states. It incorporates research suggestions, and ideas of educators, parents, and other concerned citizens from across the state.

In conjunction with frameworks for curricula in other disciplines, the History and Social Science framework is designed to provide guidance for the reform of public education in Massachusetts by raising the standards and expectations of our schools and students. The framework is intended to help all schools ensure that they promote a high level of academic rigor and provide sound opportunities for all students to learn.

The framework comprises ten sections and three appendices:

The first section, the Core Concept, states the fundamental purposes of a curriculum in history and social science: to enable students to acquire knowledge, skills, and judgment so as to continue to learn for themselves, participate intelligently in civic life, and avail themselves of historical and cultural resourceshistoric sites, museums, parks, libraries, multimedia information sourceswherever they may live or travel.
The second section, Guiding Principles, enumerates the principles on which this framework is based. Foremost among these principles is the need for schools to include history and social science in their curricula every year, from Pre-Kindergarten to grade 12. The Guiding Principles also emphasize the importance of learning both content and skills as complementary elements of history and social science; the study of the United States and world history; the integration of history study with studies in other fields; and the study of current events in the perspective of history. The Guiding Principles emphasize the need for teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools to be allowed time to work together to frame coherent curricula and instruction across all grade spans.
The third section, Reasoning, Reflection, Research, and Content in History and Social Science, discusses the application of intellectual skills to the study of subject matter content in History and Social Science. The practice of reason and reflection, together with the basic skills of study, writing, and speaking, is not to be separated from specific events, ideas, institutions, or people under consideration at the several grade levels.
The fourth section, Core Knowledge in United States and World History, Geography, Economics, and Civics and Government, presents the core of major topics around which the study of history and social science is to be organized throughout the elementary, middle, and high school years. This overview of the main eras, events, and ideas of human experience in the United States and the world represents the collective memory of educated citizens, a body of knowledge that all students should be expected to learn.
The fifth section, Commonly Taught Subtopics Related to Core Knowledge in United States and World History, Geography, Economics, and Civics and Government, offers, for the convenience of teachers and curriculum planners, a selection of additional and commonly taught particulars related to the Core Knowledge topics presented above, and aligned with the PreK-12 order of instruction. These will suggest important specific events, issues, ideas, and personalities that may be chosen to engage students in reaching the desired Learning Standards.
The sixth section, PreK-12 Scope and Sequence of History and Social Science Instruction, sets forth the order in which the Core Knowledge topics are expected to be introduced, presented, and revisited across the grades. The order of instruction is described in two ways: 1) the content as it is to be presented within the grade spans PreK-4, 5-8, 9-10, and 11-12, to prepare students for the statewide assessments called for by the Education Reform Act of 1993 and for any additional statewide assessments; 2) the content as it appears in a recommended grade-by-grade order of instruction reflecting common practices in the Commonwealth and other states, and aligned with available teaching materials.
The seventh section discusses the special character of History and Social Science in PreK and Elementary Grades. This framework sets the expectation that PreK-4 teachers will integrate substantive concepts, events, ideas, and personalities from history, geography, civics and government, and economics into every student's education each year. This foundation will prepare students for the more formal work to follow in later grades and for successful performance in the post-grade 4 assessment of their learning.
The eighth section is Study Strands and Learning Standards: History, Geography, Economics, and Civics and Government Overview. This portion of the framework presents the four strands, or areas, of study required for student competence in the fields of History, Geography, Economics, and Civics and Government, together with the twenty Learning Standards expressing general knowledge and skills students should acquire from their study of these subjects.
The ninth section, Learning Standards and Examples, PreK-12, applies Learning Standard components by grade spans, includes Core Knowledge and Skills in Geography, Economics, and Civics and Government, and provides examples of specific questions, exercises, and assignments suited to students at the several grade levels.
The tenth section, Using the History and Social Science Curriculum Framework in Schools, offers suggestions for design of curriculum and courses, use of textbooks and other materials, assessment, and variation of pedagogical approaches.

The following vignettes suggest how this curriculum framework can be applied to teaching and learning in history and social science in various grade spans and grade levels:

Four-year-old Matthew eagerly anticipates his first day of school, and coaxes his older sister Amanda to tell him how soon it will come. She patiently explains to him that it will be five days from now, on Tuesday, after the weekend. Together they make a calendar of those five days, so that Matthew can check off one each day until the beginning of school.

Matthew is learning to understand time, lengths of time, and order of events. Sequencing activities in early childhood can provide the foundation for a later understanding of past, present, and future as they relate to history and social science. Throughout the preschool, kindergarten, and elementary grades, Matthew's sense of time and space will expand as he studies people and events in the distant and more recent past and in the present. His understanding will be enriched as he learns to plan activities for tomorrow's school day and to look forward to events scheduled for the future.

Mitra, a fourth grader, is fascinated when her teacher asks her to draw from memory a map showing the route from her home to school. She makes a sketch, but she knows that she has left lots of things out. "That's OK," says her teacher, "this is just a beginning of the project our maps will get more detailed as we make more observations." As she rides the bus home that day, Mitra starts to notice the street signs at the corners. When she gets home and talks to her father about her project, he helps Mitra orient herself to the locations of their house and the school on a local street map. On the weekend, they walk parts of the route together, and Mitra records where they turn left and right, where the traffic lights are, and the locations of elements such as her friends' houses, favorite stores, a historic church, and a playground. In school, she and the other children learn about mapping techniques, and develop their maps from initial sketches into final accurate versions, drawn to scale and lavishly annotated and illustrated. When her parents visit school for a conference, Mitra proudly shows them the stages of her maps, and her teacher explains how Mitra has learned how to do geography, reading, writing, mathematics, history, and visual art through this project.

Mitra's teacher and her parents have worked together to help her learn basic skills in an interesting project and become reflective about how to apply her learning as she acquires geographic and historical knowledge of her community.

As Mrs. Markham's middle school class (a well-designed course, or unit, or elective in civics and government) studies the electoral process in the United States, and several other countries, she draws to her students' attention a bond issue on school funding to be decided in a coming election. She composes three groups of students to study and report to the class on 1) past and 2) current patterns of public funding of schools, and 3) the substance of the bond issue as presented in media accounts. Each group of students drafts a letter to a public official, asking for an explanation of the official's stance on the bond issue. After discussing the reports of the three groups, students appraise the evidence in the replies of public officials to their letters, in newspaper articles and editorials, and in fliers distributed by supporters and opponents of the bond issue. The class then conducts a mock election on the bond issue. After the results of the actual election are known, students compare and contrast the two electionsin terms of voter turnout and percentages of voters for and against. They consider together plausible consequences of the public election's results for their own school and its students.

Mrs. Markham's students are learning about participation in civic affairs and responsibilities of citizenship at the same time that they learn about economic issues in public funding that bear directly on their own school. They conduct relevant research, assess evidence, learn the benefits of dividing the labor among the three groups of students, and grasp connections between present and past.

Today, in Mr. Hewey's American history class, eleventh grade students Betsy and Bruce are giving an oral presentation on Dorothea Dix and her involvement in the mental health and prison reform movement during the antebellum period. The two students have spent a week researching their topic, concentrating on Dix's own accounts and other contemporary and secondary accounts of her work. Their classmates have also worked in teams, investigating such reforms as temperance, antislavery and abolition, utopianism, religious sects and communes, women's rights, public education, and the peace crusade. During that week, Mr. Hewey has delivered to the class several carefully prepared lectures on the second Great Awakening, social and demographic shifts in the United States, immigration, and the rise of nativism during this period.

As they organized the results of their investigation, Betsy and Bruce were careful to ask themselves the questions Mr. Hewey and the class had decided were important:

When and where did these reforms take place?
Who were involved in these reforms?
Why did these reforms happen at this time and place?
What were the outcomes?
Were the effects of their reform efforts what the reformers intended?

When all groups have presented their research on the different movements, the students begin to synthesize what they have learned. In addition to presenting their work orally, students must write an outline of the presentation and a list of primary and secondary sources used. They must also write an essay which explains the emergence of so many reform movements in this period, and connect this question to their studies of democratic reform and the impact of the Industrial Revolution, topics covered in the previous unit. Next week they will read selections from Transcendentalist authors, and discuss them in the context of the reform movements they have just finished investigating.

In organizing this section, Mr. Hewey has employed a rich array of teaching and learning methods and sources of relevant informationreadings in primary and secondary sources, student collaboration on research and oral reports, his lectures, class discussion, and the writing of individual essays. He has drawn into the project subject matter and questions from politics; civics; economics; social, cultural, and religious historywhile helping his students learn to apply their skills of reading, organizing, writing, memorizing, speaking, listening, and conducting detailed factual research. This kind of teaching brings vitality to an effective curriculum in history and social science.

Last Updated: September 1, 1997
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