Preserving the Social Studies as Core Curricula in an Era of Common Core Reform

David W. Denton, Cindy Sink


Education reform over the last two decades has changed perceptions of core curricula. Although social studies has traditionally been part of the core, emphasis on standards-based teaching and learning, along with elaborate accountability schemes, is causing unbalanced treatment of subjects. While the research literature indicates teachers are spending less time on social studies, perceptions about the subject are more complicated. Some educators accept the value of social studies knowledge and skills, while others see it as an auxiliary subject for supporting test achievement. Integration is one way primary school teachers reconcile the need to focus on tested disciplines, while holding to traditional notions of the core curricula. Results from a case study involving primary teachers show integration as the preferred method for teaching social studies. However, participants also indicated they were unable to achieve effective integration due to time constraints, limited training, and inadequate curricular resources. The trajectory of standards-based reform suggests educators will continue to encounter obstacles that impede integration. Systematic improvements that preserve the place of social studies as part of the core curricula are unlikely. However, adoption of Common Core standards presents a practical opportunity for educators to reexamine the merits of integration.


integration; social studies; Common Core; core curricula; case study

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