The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

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

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

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:

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:

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:

In addition to content standards, the framework also includes:

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.