David Bosso, John Tully, Steve Armstrong, Gene Stec, and Carolyn Ivanoff worked with a core of social studies teachers to organize political action prioritizing the teaching of social studies in Connecticut.
Source: National Council for the Social Studies
Education should not be political football. Yet, for a variety of reasons, social studies education in Connecticut has become increasingly marginalized over the past several years. Greatly concerned about this trend and its impact on our students, several members of the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies determined that we needed to intensify our political activism. The Connecticut Social Studies Framework had remained unapproved and in draft form for several years. And the state-level social studies consultant position had been eliminated, so educators were limited in their ability to advocate for the importance of teaching social studies and preparing students for citizenship. Accordingly, our advocacy efforts focused on three main items:
- Revising the state Social Studies Framework,
- Re-creating the consultant position at the Connecticut Department of Education, and
- Constructing a position statement for adoption by the state board of education.
After several strategy meetings, a core group began developing specific solution-oriented elements for our action plan. Members of our team contacted various statewide political and educational leaders to hold meetings, explain our issues and concerns, develop stronger ties, and ensure movement toward our goals. In addition, a Public Affairs Committee was created within the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies, with specific goals of outreach and advocacy. Significantly, we presented to the state board of education, describing the pressing needs and concerns of the state’s social studies community and emphasizing the moral responsibility of educators to nurture lifelong learning, global citizenship, and civic engagement. This generated momentum which empowered us to take further steps toward our goals.
As a result of our advocacy efforts, we now meet regularly with members of the state department of education, and they have been extremely supportive of our work toward revising the Social Studies Framework. Many social studies educators throughout the state, from the elementary to higher education levels, have joined the writing, editing, and review teams involved in the process of framework adoption. Furthermore, the state social studies consultant position was revived, and our policy statement will be adopted. We fully expect approval of the revised frameworks, and held summer workshops to help teachers, administrators, and curriculum advisors to utilize the frameworks more intimately to inform their specific curricular work. Members of our team have also been meeting with teachers across the state to share the successes of previous months and to introduce the impending frameworks. Several of us will be presenting at the National Council for the Social Studies annual conference in Boston so that we can share our goals, strategies, and experiences with those facing similar issues in other states. While the anticipated results on student and teacher learning outcomes will be enhanced after a full academic year, many teachers have already begun using an inquiry approach to curriculum design and lesson implementation on a more frequent basis. It is an exciting and opportune time for this transition, and the emphasis on inquiry and civic participation will unquestionably improve student academic performance and social development. Connecticut has emerged as a national leader and example for the empowerment of teachers and students in our social studies classrooms.