Experts Say Social Sciences Are ‘Left Behind’

As the majority of states implement common-core content standards, some experts are arguing that that the focus on mathematics and language arts leaves out the social and economic studies that can help students connect content to their daily lives.

Researchers at a National Research Council forum on social sciences in Washington last month suggested that the expansion of testing in math and reading under the No Child Left Behind Act has led to a piecemeal approach to teaching social and behavioral science subjects in the states. While all but four states have adopted the common-core standards in mathematics and language arts and the NRC has proposed a framework for voluntary national science standards, social and behavioral sciences have failed to gain a significant presence in either set of guidance, despite protests last year from the field.

“No Child Left Behind frankly left us behind, and the common core gave us a footnote,” said S.G. Grant, the education dean at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y.

The discussion caps a year of dismal news on the social studies front for U.S. students: National Assessment of Educational Progress reports out this year found mostly mediocre performance for students in geography, civics, and history.

The NRC meeting was intended to help policymakers and school officials discuss ways to use social and behavioral studies to tie together content in the common core. The forum mirrors a separate conversation launched last May by state school chiefs over the development of social studies standards, but experts at the NRC forum argued that social sciences should not be taught only within a stand-alone subject course.

“It is the integration of sciences, not the separation, that moves science forward,” said Martha Zaslow, the policy and communications director for the Society for Research in Child Development, in Washington, arguing that schools should begin teaching students from the elementary grades on up to use an “integrated approach” to content.

Incorporating perspectives from social sciences can help students connect otherwise-separated core subjects, like reading and science, to the interdisciplinary uses of those lessons in real life, according to Mr. Grant. <Read more.>

Via Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week.