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Social studies is the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence. Within the school program, social studies provides coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and natural sciences. The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.

Definition of Social Studies
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

What's New

The Iowa Department of Education has released a report on the status of social studies in Iowa. The report, called Social Studies: A Call to Action, was put together by the Center for Social and Behavioral Research at the University of Northern Iowa. They surveyed over 1,500 Iowa social studies teachers, superintendents and AEA personnel to put together a comprehensive look at social studies in the state. The report sought to examine four main areas. They are:

  • Teacher knowledge of social studies standards and curriculum
  • Current instructional practices in social studies classrooms
  • Professional development in social studies
  • Needs identified by teachers to strengthen social studies education

Some key findings from the report include:

  • While 81% of the high school teachers surveyed indicated their curriculum was somewhat aligned or in complete alignment with the Iowa Core in Social Studies, only 42.9% of the elementary teachers reported that their curriculum was fully aligned or somewhat aligned with the Iowa Core in Social Studies.
  • When surveyed about instructional practices, high school teachers said they most frequently used whole-class discussion and technology-based applications to enhance learning. Used less frequently were analysis of primary source documents and writing assignments such as essays and reflections.
  • Only 12.9% of the elementary teachers surveyed said that social studies professional learning opportunities were available to them within the last three years, while 75% of high school teachers reported access to professional development within the last three years. Also, 32.5% of the superintendents surveyed reported that there had been no social studies professional development within their districts in the last three years.
  • In addition to the survey questions, teacher respondents were also given the opportunity to respond to some open-ended questions and provide any additional comments. Three common themes arose in these responses:
    • A frustration that social studies was not deemed a priority.
    • A need for more social studies resources and professional development.
    • The need for better standards in social studies

Read the full report, Social Studies: A Call to Action.

Laws and Regulations

281--Iowa Administrative Code 12.5(3) describes social studies instruction at grade levels 1-12.

Requirements for Teaching Endorsements in Social Studies

In Iowa teacher licensure is handled by the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners.

The Iowa Core in Social Studies

The Iowa Core provides local school districts and nonpublic schools a guide to delivering instruction based on consistent, challenging and meaningful content to students.

Statewide Social Studies Leadership Team

Constitution Day

United States Constitution Day is September 17 of each year. Congress enacted legislation requiring all public schools to set aside one day during the week of September 17 to teach all students about the U.S. Constitution and about citizenship.

Consult these resources for ideas:

Constitute Project

United States Senate Youth Program

A program, sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, designed to give young Americans a working knowledge of American political life.

Social Studies Update Newsletter

The Social Studies Update is a monthly newsletter for Social Studies educators.

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Other Social Studies Resources

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on October 23, 2016 at 7:43am.