C&I

Curriculum and Instruction

Social Studies

Overview of the New York State Social Studies Prekindergarten–Grade 12 Program

Overview | Initiative | Part 100 Regulations of the Commissioner of Education | Education Law | Leadership and Learning | P - 16 Education: A Plan for Action

OVERVIEW OF SOCIAL STUDIES IN THE UNITED STATES AND IN NEW YORK STATE

This overview is an outgrowth of a series of workshops that were presented by the Bureau of Social Studies in the mid 1980s and a presentation at the Council of State Social Studies Specialists [CS4] at the November 2004 National Council of the Social Studies. Headings printed in purple refer to New York State social studies developments; headings printed in blue refer to national social studies developments.

1880: First State Syllabus published

  • Statement of content areas to be tested on various Regents examinations
  • The social studies section consisted of a four-page outline of six courses: American history, English history, Greek history, Roman history, civics, and economics
  • By 1892, this section became a 182-page document outlining several courses in history, geography, civics, and economics
  • These first syllabi were guides for preparing students for Regents examinations
  • 1884: The National Historical Association promoted professional history among university historians

    1892: Annual Report: Five-Page Course of Study for Grades 1–8

    • Grade 3: Natural Features of Local Community
    • Grade 4: Natural Divisions of Land and Water
    • Grade 5: Continents
    • Grade 6: Geography of New York State and North America
    • Grade 7: United States History (1492–1783)
    • Grade 8: United States History (1793–1892)

    1896: The American Historical Association Committee of Seven proposed a high school four-block curriculum

    1905: Syllabus in History and Social Science

    • Courses in history (ancient, English, world, and American), civics, and economics
    • Senior year: ancient, world, or American history only
    • American history = study of seven topics, not chronological

    1915: The Child and the Curriculum published by John Dewey

    1916: The National Education Association published a report on the social studies

    1920: Civics and Patriotism Syllabus

    • Outlined material for grades 1–8
    • Began with a study of the home in grade 1 and expanded to a study of national government in grade 6

    1928: History Syllabus

    • Grade 4: Ancient History
    • Grade 5: European History
    • Grade 6: United States History (1607–1763)
    • Grade 7: United States History (1763–1865)
    • Grade 8: United States History (1865–1920)
    • Geography (1931) syllabus also published for grade 7

    1930s: The Depression Years: Various groups advocated a social studies core and an issues-centered approach to social studies education

    1934: Board of Regents requires all students to take one unit of American History and a second unit of social studies in grades 9–12

    • Grade 7: History and Geography
    • Grade 8: U.S. History
    • Grade 9: World Geography and Economic Citizenship (required)
    • Grade 10: Ancient History or Modern World History
    • Grade 11: American History (required)
    • Grade 12: Problems of American Life

    1940s: Curriculum reformation

    • Shift from distinct courses in history, geography, economics, and civics
    • Establishment of a social studies program, with history and geography as major parts
    • Curriculum writing and revision by teachers, administrators, and New York State Education Department staff

    1940s: New York State’s issues reflected national issues: The issue of teaching patriotism in American history was widely debated

    1942: Board of Regents requires all high school students (grades 9–12) to complete three units of social studies (four recommended)

    1951: Citizenship education: During the McCarthy Era, a conservative view that did not broaden scope but emphasized traditional values prevailed

    • Grade 7: Our Community and State
    • Grade 8: United States History
    • Grade 9: Our Economic World
    • Grade 10: World History
    • Grades 11 and 12: American History (one- or two-year course)

    1950s: The return to academic study: This time period witnessed a shift away from social problems; it was the period of the Citizenship Education Project (CEP) at Teachers College, Columbia University

    1960: Board of Regents changes name back to social studies: No real change in program

    1960s: The "New Social Studies" Era: During this period, the intent of social studies education was to make students junior historians

    1965: Major revision of State Syllabus

    • Kindergarten: Local Environment Studies (family and school)
    • Grade 1: Local Environment Studies (family, school, and neighborhood)
    • Grade 2: Community Studies (local and other parts of the nation)
    • Grade 3: Community Study (communities in other lands and places)
    • Grade 4: American People and Leaders (leaders during various periods of American history)
    • Grade 5: Major Culture Regions (Western Hemisphere)
    • Grade 6: Major Culture Regions (Middle East and Europe)
    • Grade 7: Our Cultural Heritage (New York State)
    • Grade 8: United States History
    • Grade 9: Asian and African Studies
    • Grade 10: European Culture Studies
    • Grade 11: American Studies
    • Grade 12: Electives
    • Grades K–6 changed little (exception: Grade 4 changed from "a study of living in our community in Indian times and ways of living in our community in early days" to "a study of American People and Leaders")
    • Grades 7–12 switched from topical to chronological studies of history

    1982: Kindergarten–6 revisions

    1983: A Nation at Risk was published by the National Commission on Excellence in Education

    1987: Grades 7–12 revisions

    1987: What Every American Needs to Know, published by E. D. Hirsch, raised the cultural literacy issue

    1988: James A Banks published Multiethnic Education: Theory and Practice

    1988: Bradley Commission on History in the Schools

    1989: Regents exam changes

    • Comprehensive Regents examinations (one examination for all three years of high school were phased out
    • New Regents examinations and Regents competency tests in Global Studies and United States History and Government are introduced
    • Program Evaluation Tests in kindergarten–grade 6 and grades 7–8 are introduced

    1989: Charting a Course: Social Studies for the 21st Century published by the National Commission on Social Studies in the Schools

    December 1995: The New York State Board of Regents develops an overall plan for raising standards for all students. This plan consists of the following three strategies:

    1. Set higher learning standards and revise the assessment system
    2. Build the capacity of schools to support student learning.
    3. Develop an institutional accountability system with public reporting

    1996: The New York State Board of Regents approves learning standards in seven content areas

    June 1996: Social Studies learning standards approved

    April 1996: The New York State Board of Regents approves a policy to phase out Regents Competency Tests and require Regents examinations beginning with students who enter grade 9 in September 1996

    1999: Publication of Social Studies Resource Guide with Core Curriculum

    2000 ON: New State Assessment program

    • Global History and Geography Regents replaces Global Studies Regents (2000)
    • Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Social Studies Test, United States History and Government Regents, and Grade 5 Elementary-Level Social Studies Test are introduced (2001)

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    THE NEW YORK STATE SOCIAL STUDIES INITIATIVE
    May 2004

    The New York State Social Studies Initiative reflects a plan to raise student achievement in standards-based prekindergarten–grade 12 social studies programs.

    What is the New York State Social Studies Initiative?

    A plan designed to raise student achievement in standards-based prekindergarten–grade 12 social studies programs. The initiative provides curriculum guidance and resources that will

    • increase collaboration between students, teachers, administrators, parents, community members, professional associations, and higher education professionals;
    • promote standards-based curriculum planning that will incorporate best practices and support the uses of technology;
    • enhance professional development for teachers;
    • close the performance gap in social studies between high- and low-need schools.

    Why is the New York State Social Studies Initiative necessary?

    In recent years, data gathered from international, national, and state assessments and studies have indicated a need for strengthening student performance in social studies, particularly for students in high-need districts. However, even low-need districts often see significant achievement gaps in social studies.

    The Congressional Conference on Civic Education, the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Citizenship: A Challenge for All Generations ( 1.45 MB), and the Carnegie Corporation’s The Civic Mission of Schools have all emphasized the need for strengthening student performance in the social studies, particularly civics; these national studies have found that there are generational gaps in civic knowledge, attitudes, and participation, and that these gaps are greater than they have ever been. These studies also show that students who have taken social studies courses in civics are two to three times more likely to vote, keep up with local, state, and national news about government, and contact a public official about issues that concern them.

    The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) examined 28 countries in a large-scale international study of both civics content and civics skills. American students are doing well when compared to their peers in other countries, but students from low-income families and/or communities, and African-American and Hispanic students, do not do as well on a civics knowledge test.

    On the National Geographic - Roper 2002 Global Geographic Literacy Survey that assessed 3,250 young adults (ages 18 - 24) in nine countries, including the United States, roughly 85 percent of these Americans could not find Afghanistan, Iraq, or Israel on a map. One conclusion from the survey was that American students struggle with basic geography facts. Of the young adults who were surveyed, Americans ranked next to last. Out of the 56 questions that were asked, the average young American answered only 23 questions correctly. Lack of geographical information is more than an embarrassment; it has a direct impact on U.S. foreign policy decisions, on our ability to evaluate such public policies as the North American Free Trade Agreement, and on how we as a nation make a broad range of domestic and foreign policy issues.

    In the fall of 2002, the National Council of Economic Education surveyed all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine the extent to which economics and personal finance were taught. Their conclusion was that, as a result of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, fewer states address economic and financial competency in their educational programs.  

    Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in civics, geography, and United States history, provide a measurement of what students know and can do by regularly assessing students in grades 4, 8, and 12.

    On the 1998 NAEP Civics Assessment, 70 percent of students in grades 4, 8, and 12 were at the "basic" level in civics performance; female students had lower scale scores than male students in grades 8 and 12; and higher percentages of white and Asian/Pacific Islanders were at or above the "proficient" level than black, Hispanic, or Native American Indian students.

    NAEP is in the process of developing a 2006 Economics Assessment. Their framework states that “the purpose of economic education is to enable individuals to function effectively both in their own personal lives and as citizens and participants in an increasingly connected world economy.” A 2010 World History Assessment is planned, and a framework is in development.

    On the 2001 NAEP Geography Assessment, students in grades 4, 8, and 12 who live in rural and urban fringe areas achieved higher average scores than central city students. Since the 1994 NAEP assessment of geography, achievement has gone up in both grades 4 and 8, and all of the significant gains have been made by the lower-performing groups of students, and the number of students in grades 4 and 8 reaching the "basic" achievement level has increased significantly. In grade 12, however, there has been no significant change either in the average score or in the proportion of students reaching any of the higher achievement levels. A conclusion that can be drawn by comparing the 1994 and 2001 assessments is that the achievement gaps are still substantial.

    When comparing the results of the 2001 NAEP United States History Assessment with the 1994 assessment, students in grades 4 and 8 improved their performance, but grade 12 students did not improve at all. Fifty-seven percent of the high school seniors scored "below basic.” In no other subject tested by NAEP are there so many students "below basic.”  How can students read a newspaper, go to the movies, or watch a television show if they do not understand any of the historical references they encounter?

    New York State social studies assessments at the elementary, intermediate, and commencement levels indicate that all New York State students need to raise their level of achievement in the social studies, and gaps between high-need and low-need schools need to be narrowed.

    In the era of NCLB, when there is an increased emphasis on teaching and testing mathematics and reading, it is important for the education community to acknowledge the spectrum of key subjects, including the social studies, that are needed to develop well-rounded students and adult citizens. 

    What are the goals of the New York State Social Studies Initiative?

    • Sharpen the focus on standards-based social studies instruction and provide resources for raising student achievement
    • Enable all districts to strengthen their local curriculum’s alignment to the Learning Standards for Social Studies and the Social Studies Resource Guide with Core Curriculum
    • Improve professional development opportunities for social studies educators
    • Decrease the achievement gap between high- and low-performing schools on the State’s social studies assessments

    What benefits will result from the New York State Social Studies Initiative? 

    • Students will have engaging, standards-based activities for the in-depth investigation and study of subjects in the social studies
    • Teachers will have sustained professional development and the ability to create and access resources for enhancing classroom instruction
    • Administrators will have a clear understanding of the pathways to higher student achievement in the social studies with data-driven results
    • Parents/guardians and other family members will become partners in their child’s social studies education
    • Community members will have a clear understanding of the need for a social studies education and the ability to access information and resources to promote it
    • Professional associations will be focused on activities that support high standards, best practices, and an increase in student performance
    • Higher education professionals will prepare teachers to develop instructional programs that reflect the Learning Standards in Social Studies and the Social Studies Resource Guide with Core Curriculum; this preparation includes accessing resources and information, incorporating changes in historical scholarship over time into their instructional practice, and investing in continued professional development in the social studies to become lifelong learners

    How can people get more information on the New York State Social Studies Initiative?

    Please visit the New York State Education Department’s social studies Web site at: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/ciai/socst/

    How can I get involved in the New York State Social Studies Initiative?

    The Education Department has issued a Call for Expertise in social studies to support the initiative. You can apply to work in various capacities (e.g., curriculum projects, test development committees) with the State Education Department in social studies.

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    REGULATIONS OF THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION
    for General Education and Diploma Requirements
    (FOR SOCIAL STUDIES)
    April 2001

    This summary of social studies provisions in the Part 100 of the Commissioner’s Regulations is intended to provide a concise overview of social studies requirements in the Part 100 of the Commissioner’s Regulations. The full Regulations of the Commissioner of Education can be accessed online.

    NYSED Part 100 Regulations of the Commissioner of Education (for Social Studies) ( 61 KB)

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    NEW YORK STATE EDUCATION LAW (For Social Studies)

    Periodically, the New York State Legislature passes laws that have a direct impact on social studies curriculum and instruction. When supervisors and teachers ask “how would we know?” about various laws, the material below provides direct information about such laws.

    SUMMARY OF ARTICLE 17, SECTION 801-802a OF THE EDUCATION LAW

    ARTICLE 17–INSTRUCTION IN CERTAIN SUBJECTS

    Section

    • 801: Courses of instruction in patriotism and citizenship and in certain historic documents.
    • 801-a: Instruction in civility, citizenship and character education.
    • 802: Instruction relating to the flag; holidays.
    • 802-a: Instruction relating to general elections.

    § 801. Courses of instruction in patriotism and citizenship and in certain historic documents. 

    1. In order to promote a spirit of patriotic and civic service and obligation and to foster in the children of the state moral and intellectual qualities which are essential in preparing to meet the obligations of citizenship in peace or in war, the regents of The University of the State of New York shall prescribe courses of instruction in patriotism, citizenship, and human rights issues, with particular attention to the study of the inhumanity of genocide, slavery (including the freedom trail and underground railroad), the Holocaust, and the mass starvation in Ireland from 1845 to 1850, to be maintained and followed in all the schools of the state. The boards of education and trustees of the several cities and school districts of the state shall require instruction to be given in such courses, by the teachers employed in the schools therein. All pupils attending such schools, over the age of eight years, shall attend upon such instruction.

      Similar courses of instruction shall be prescribed and maintained in private schools in the state, and all pupils in such schools over eight years of age shall attend upon such courses. If such courses are not so established and maintained in a private school, attendance upon instruction in such school shall not be deemed substantially equivalent to instruction given to pupils of like age in the public schools of the city or district in which such pupils reside.

    2. The regents shall prescribe courses of instruction in the history, meaning, significance and effect of the provisions of the constitution of the United States, the amendments thereto, the declaration of independence, the constitution of the state of New York and the amendments thereto, to be maintained and followed in all of the schools of the state. The boards of education and trustees of the several cities and school districts of the state shall require instruction to be given in such courses, by the teachers employed in the schools therein. All pupils attending such schools, in the eighth and higher grades, shall attend upon such instruction.

      Similar courses of instruction shall be prescribed and maintained in private schools in the state, and all pupils in such schools in grades or classes corresponding to the instruction in the eighth and higher grades of the public schools shall attend upon such courses. If such courses are not so established and maintained in a private school, attendance upon instruction in such school shall not be deemed substantially equivalent to instruction given to pupils in the public schools of the city or district in which such pupils reside.

    3. The regents shall determine the subjects to be included in such courses of instruction in patriotism, citizenship, and human rights issues, with particular attention to the study of the inhumanity of genocide, slavery (including the freedom trail and underground railroad), the Holocaust, and the mass starvation in Ireland from 1845 to 1850, and in the history, meaning, significance and effect of the provisions of the constitution of the United States, the amendments thereto, the declaration of independence, the constitution of the state of New York and the amendments thereto, and the period of instruction in each of the grades in such subjects. They shall adopt rules providing for attendance upon such instruction and for such other matters as are required for carrying into effect the objects and purposes of this section. The commissioner shall be responsible for the enforcement of such section and shall cause to be inspected and supervise the instruction to be given in such subjects. The commissioner may, in his discretion, cause all or a portion of the public school money to be apportioned to a district or city to be withheld for failure of the school authorities of such district or city to provide instruction in such courses and to compel attendance upon such instruction, as herein prescribed, and for a non-compliance with the rules of the regents adopted as herein provided.
    4. The regents shall designate a week during each year and prescribe a uniform course of exercises in the public schools of the state suitable for pupils of various ages to instill into the minds of such pupils the purpose, meaning and importance of the bill of rights articles in the federal and state constitutions. Such exercises shall be in addition to any prescribed courses of study in the schools.
    5. The regents shall make available to all elementary schools in the state suitable curriculum materials to aid in the instruction of pupils in grades kindergarten through six in the understanding and acceptance of children with disabilities as defined in section forty-four hundred one of this chapter.

    § 801-a. Instruction in civility, citizenship and character education.

    The regents shall ensure that the course of instruction in grades kindergarten through twelve includes a component on civility, citizenship and character education. Such component shall instruct students on the principles of honesty, tolerance, personal responsibility, respect for others, observance of laws and rules, courtesy, dignity and other traits which will enhance the quality of their experiences in, and contributions to, the community. The regents shall determine how to incorporate such component in existing curricula and the commissioner shall promulgate any regulations needed to carry out such determination of the regents.

    § 802. Instruction relating to the flag; holidays.

    1. 1. It shall be the duty of the commissioner to prepare, for the use of the public schools of the state, a program providing for a salute to the flag and a daily pledge of allegiance to the flag, and instruction in its correct use and display which shall include, as a minimum, specific instruction regarding respect for the flag of the United States of America, its display and use as provided by federal statute and regulation and such other patriotic exercises as may be deemed by him to be expedient, under such regulations and instructions as may best meet the varied requirements of the different grades in such schools. However, such instruction shall include, as a minimum, the provisions of sections one hundred seventy through one hundred seventy-seven of title thirty-six of the United States Code.
    2. 2. It shall also be his duty to make special provision for the observance in the public schools of Lincoln's birthday, Washington's birthday, Memorial day and Flag day, and such other legal holidays of like character as may be hereafter designated by law when the legislature makes an appropriation therefore.
    3. 3. Nothing herein contained shall be construed to authorize military instruction or drill in the public schools during school hours, except that the board of education of any school district may offer during school hours a junior reserve officer training program in conjunction with the United States Department of Defense to those students in grades nine through twelve who are at least fourteen years of age provided that enrollment and participation in such program is voluntary on the part of the student and written consent of a parent or guardian is submitted by such student and further provided, that the conduct of instruction on or the presence within any school of any type of current or future weaponry as part of such program is prohibited.

    § 802-a. Instruction relating to general elections.

    Every school and teacher or instructor shall utilize a sample or facsimile ballot, provided by the appropriate board of elections pursuant to section 7-118 of the election law, when providing instruction in the electoral process relating to an ongoing general election, for which a sample or facsimile ballot has been created, or when holding mock elections

    Article 57b of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law: STATE OF NEW YORK

    Legislation was signed into law in early August 2005  establishing the Amistad Commission that will research and survey the extent to which the African slave trade and Slavery in America is included in the curriculum of New York State schools and make recommendations to the legislature and Executive. It also defines the terms of commission members, how they are to be selected, and their responsibilities.

    AN ACT to amend the arts and cultural affairs law, in relation to establishing the Amistad commission and providing for the members, duties and responsibilities thereof 

    THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND  ASSEMBLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

    Section Title U of the arts and cultural affairs law is amended by adding a new article 57-B to read as follows:

    • ARTICLE 57-B.
    • THE AMISTAD COMMISSION.
    • SECTION 57.51: LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS.
    • SECTION 57.52: AMISTAD COMMISSION; ESTABLISHED.
    • SECTION 57.53: THE AMISTAD COMMISSION; DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES.
    • SECTION 57.54: AUTHORIZATION.
    • SECTION 57.51: LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS.

    SUMMARY OF SECTION 1 SUBDIVISION 3 OF SECTION 168-a OF THE EXECUTIVE LAW

    Sets Shirley Chisholm's birthday , November 30th, as a day of commemoration.

    An act to amend the executive law, in relation to designating November 30th as Shirley Chisholm Day in New York to commemorate the life of Shirley Chisholm.

    SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: Section 168-a (3) of the executive law is amended by adding November thirtieth to be known as Shirley Chisholm Day.

    To find additional information on days of commemoration, go to http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menuf.cgi . From there choose Laws of New York. Click on EXC (Executive) under Consolidated Laws. Then click on Article 7 (Miscellaneous Provisions). Then choose 168-A - Designation of days of commemoration.

    Did you know?

    The dates listed below are designated as days of commemoration in Executive Law and U.S. Code Updated 5/09

    PDF Printable Version (pdf document 15.90 KB)

    Days Commemoration
    January 6 Haym Salomon Day
    February 4th Rosa Parks Day
    February 15th Susan B. Anthony Day
    February 16th Lithuanian Independence Day
    March 4th Pulaski Day
    March 10th Harriet Tubman Day
    March 29th Vietnam Veteran's Day
    April 9th POW Recognition Day
    April 28th Workers’ Memorial Day
    May 1st Law Day
    The first Tuesday in May New York State Teacher's Day
    The first Sunday in June Children’s Day
    June 12th Women Veterans Recognition Day
    June 19th Juneteenth Freedom Day or Freedom Day or Emancipation Day
    June 25th Korean War Veterans Day
    August 24th Ukrainian Independence Day
    September 11th September 11th Memorial Day
    Battle of Plattsburgh Day
    September 13th John Barry Day, also Uncle Sam Day
    September 17th Friedrich Wilhelm Von Steuben Memorial Day
    September 17th Constitution Day
    The last Saturday of September War of 1812 Day
    The fourth Saturday of September Native American Day
    The last Sunday of September Gold Star Mother's Day
    October 5th Raoul Wallenberg Day
    October 11th New Netherlands Day
    October 27th Theodore Roosevelt Day
    November 9th Witness for Tolerance Day
    November 12th Elizabeth Cady Stanton Day
    November 30th Shirley Chisholm Day
    December 7th Pearl Harbor Day
    December 16th Bastogne Day and Asian New Year

    An amendment to Education Law in relation to instruction in the display, use, and proper respect for the flag ( 44 KB)

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    Leadership and Learning

    Leadership and Learning is sometimes referred to as the Regents Strategic Plan. It includes: The Challenge; The Mission; The Vision; and Goals. This online publication articulates the educational challenges facing New York and the nation. It also states the mission and vision of the New York State Board of Regents and the State education Department.

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    Last Updated: May 5, 2010