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Iowa review team recommends new social studies standards

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Team’s report, draft standards will go to the State Board of Education for consideration

DES MOINES - A state team charged with reviewing a draft of proposed statewide standards for social studies today released its final report, which recommends that the draft standards become Iowa’s new social studies standards. The Social Studies Standards Review Team’s report, as well as the draft social studies standards, will go to the State Board of Education for consideration next month.

The draft standards outline what students should know and be able to do in social studies from kindergarten through 12th grade. They were developed in 2016 by an Iowa writing team and modified by the Social Studies Standards Review Team based on broad public input.

The new draft social studies standards:

Go beyond content that students should master, emphasizing the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that students need to be successful in postsecondary education and training and to compete for today’s most rewarding jobs.

Weave in Iowa history and financial literacy, which are not reflected in the current social studies standards.

Outline what students should know and be able to do at each grade level from kindergarten through eighth grade, rather than being organized by spans of grades. In grades 9 through 12, the draft standards are organized by content area within social studies.

Amber Davison, a member of the Social Studies Standards Review Team, said the writing and review teams shared a vision of providing all Iowa students with equal access to rigorous expectations and providing support to teachers.

“Our hope is these standards provide students at all grade levels the opportunity to move beyond understanding content and to begin engaging with and thinking like historians, economists, psychologists, sociologists, geographers, and political scientists,” said Davison, an instructional coach in the Des Moines Public Schools. “The goal is that students take what they have learned and support their communities as active and informed citizens.”

The draft represents the first statewide effort to update Iowa’s social studies standards, which were adopted in 2008. A recent survey showed many Iowa teachers want clearer, more specific expectations than those outlined in the current social studies standards.

The Social Studies Standards Review Team collected public feedback on the draft standards this year through an online survey, public forums and teacher focus groups. Modifications made by the review team were based largely on providing clarity. For example, when public input indicated confusion about the inclusion of financial literacy in the draft social studies standards, the review team decided to clearly mark civic and financial literacy standards so that teachers would know these standards also show up in Iowa’s standards for 21st century skills (employability skills, civic literacy, financial literacy, health literacy, and technology literacy).

The team’s final report also included recommendations to ensure successful implementation of social studies standards, such as establishing a social studies position at each of Iowa’s area education agencies, providing teachers with ongoing access to professional development in social studies, and increasing statewide accountability for social studies education.

The review was part of an ongoing state process for reviewing Iowa’s academic standards, which also cover science, mathematics, literacy and 21st century skills. The process was prompted by Gov. Branstad’s Executive Order 83, which called for a regular, transparent review of Iowa’s academic standards to identify areas for improvement.

Recommendations stemming from the review process are directed to the State Board of Education, which has the legal authority to determine the content of Iowa’s academic standards. The board’s next meeting is May 11.

For more information about the Social Studies Standards Review Team and its recommendations, visit the Iowa Department of Education’s website.

For more information about Iowa’s academic standards, visit

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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on May 20, 2018 at 9:57pm.