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Social Studies Teachers and the Common Core: A Study of Instructional Practices, Teaching Conditions, and Professional Development


The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects lays out a role for history/social studies in the teaching of disciplinary literacy, writing, and speaking and listening. While the effects of the Standards on the teaching of English/Language Arts and Math has been a source of discussion, the impact on social studies instruction has not been studied. Through surveys (n= 217) and interviews (n=20), this explanatory sequential mixed methods study examines the practice of social studies teachers as it relates to the Standards approach to critical reading, historical inquiry, and argumentation. I also investigate the conditions that support or hinder these practices as well as access to professional development. Differences among schools in low-income communities and more affluent neighborhoods are considered as part of these lines of inquiry. My findings show that teachers in low- income schools are concerned about the academic preparedness of students to engage in Common Core activities. This is in spite of a finding that teachers in less affluent schools have a strong repertoire of literacy practices. Second, teachers are making changes to their practice. The most commonly cited change was a depth over breadth approach to the California History-Social Science Standards. Third, only a small percentage of teachers report that the Common Core Standards are integrated into the practices of teachers in their department. Thus, this study sheds light on the current practices of social studies teachers in California and the supports needed to enact the Common Core Standards.

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