Iowa Council for the Social Studies

Advocating for Social Studies Education in Iowa

Department of Education press release regarding new statewide assessments in IA

Dear Social Studies Colleague letter relating to new assessments in IA

The Iowa Council for the Social Studies officially endorses the Iowa History Advisory Council Report: Recommendations to Create a Systemic Approach to Improving the Teaching and Learning of Iowa History in Iowa’s K-12 Schoolsil report to Improve Teaching and Learning of Iowa History in Iowa's K-12 Schools. Read the full report here.


The ICSS is continuing advocacy efforts during the 2017 legilative session. Please see below for our legislative focus and specific requests we are making of our legislators, the Department of Education and our AEAs. A printed version can be created of our priorities here.The full pamphlet can be accessed hereContact Advocacy Director Jack Vanderflught at jrv@mchsi.com or jvanderflught@dc-grimes.k12.ia.us with questions or requests.

HF 220: Civics Examination:

A proposal has been offered that require all students pass a civics exam as a condition for graduation. According to the current bill, a sixty-percent threshold would be set, using the questions from the most recent civics exam currently given by the United States citizenship and immigration services. Alternative assessment for special education and limited language students are permitted under guidance by the Department of Education. The exam would be given at least once a year beginning in seventh grade. Each student will be provided the opportunity to take the exam at least once per year beginning in seventh grade. The student must only pass it once, and no longer take the exam once it has been passed. So, passing the exam in seventh grade means the student has met the requirement for graduation. Please see House File 220 for access to the current bill and a list of the bill sponsors. Please pass along your thoughts and opinions on this bill to your legislators. 

LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES 


The Iowa Legislature, the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Area Education Agencies, and local Iowa school districts all must work together to ensure that a high quality social studies education is provided to all students. With the development of new state standards for the social studies and the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the ICSS, who represents social studies educators from throughout the state, call on policymakers and stakeholders to ensure that social studies education is included in a well-rounded education that prepares students for college and career readiness as engaged citizens. 

Positions 
The social studies should be given the same priority as other core content areas. 

  • The ICSS calls for additional support for teaching social studies courses at all grade levels through a redistribution of funding currently provided for core area education.  The ICSS calls for the creation of a social studies consult in each Iowa AEA with appropriate training for the position. 
  • The ICSS calls for access to professional development for all teachers of the social studies in every AEA in Iowa. 
  • The ICSS calls for accountability that students in grades K through 8 and high school students in content courses (such as US History or Government) are taught social studies skills and content through annual reporting by districts to their constituents. 

Justification Social studies education creates informed and engaged citizens. Democracy requires active citizens; social studies education is the guardian of democracy. Social studies education is critical for a competent and responsible citizenry. Only twenty-three percent of students scored at or above proficient on the most recent NAEP (The Nation’s Report Card) exam. [NAEP, The Nation's Report Card

Additional reasons for concern were also found in an Annenberg Public Policy Center surveys elicited from national samples of the U.S. population in the past decade. Findings included that 

  • A little more than a third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, just as many (35 percent) could not name a single one. 
  • Just over a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto. 
  • One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration. 
  • Almost a third mistakenly believed that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling could be appealed. 
  • Just under half of Americans (47%) knew that a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court carries the same legal weight as a 9-0 ruling. 
  • Just over a third thought that it was the intention of the Founding Fathers to have each branch hold a lot of power, but the president has the final say. [Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools] 

The Iowa Department of Education study entitled, Social Studies: A Call to Action, found that Iowa elementary teachers are only spending about one hundred minutes per week on social studies education, or about five percent of the instructional week. Whereas they are required to spend ninety minutes per day on literacy. [Social Studies: A Call to Action, Iowa Department of Education

According to the guidance regarding SSAE grants and civic instruction: “An LEA may use funds to promote the development, implementation, and strengthening of instructional programs in civics. Civics is generally understood to mean the content of what citizens should know about politics and government, including the foundations of the American political system. Schools can provide civics instruction through both formal and informal education beginning in the early years of the education process.” (ESEA section 4104(b)(3)(A)(i)(V)) 

On April 13, 2016, the US Department of Education in a Dear Colleague Letter stated that the use of ESSA funds can include “humanities education.” Humanities education would include the social studies: history, civics, government, economics and geography. This provides opportunity and incentive for the Iowa Legislature to redistribute funding to social studies education. ESSA requires that students receive a well-balanced education. 

The Iowa Department of Education study entitled Social Studies: A Call to Action shows that fifty-nine percent of Iowa social studies teachers reported no access to professional learning in the social studies in the last two years. 

  • Social studies education teaches twenty-first century skills. 
  • Social studies education prepares students to access and understand the tools of democracy; engage in public debate; learn and apply critical thinking; to understand the past and connects between different regions and cultures; to read beyond comprehension to the evaluation, synthesis, analysis and interpretation levels. 
  • Social studies education prepares students for college. Social studies education combines the disciplinary components of civics, geography, economics and history. 
  • Social studies education prepares students for career. Social studies education provides a critical foundation of attitudes, knowledge and skills that are most adaptable to new circumstances. Employers today want more emphasis on critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communications, cultural understanding, and applied knowledge in a real-world setting. Employers are also looking to hire those who demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity, intercultural skills, and the capacity for continuing education. 

For more information contact
Jack Vanderflught 
Iowa Council for the Social Studies Government Liaison and Advocacy Director
jrv@mchsi.com 
jvanderflught@dc-grimes.k12.ia.us
641-202-1004

Contact Your Iowa Legislators


Contact Your Federal Legislators


Senator Chuck Grassley

Capitol Office
United States Senate
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-1501
Phone: 202-224-3744
Fax: 202-224-6020

Des Moines Office 
210 Walnut St
Des Moines, IA 50309-2115
Phone: 515-288-1145
Fax: 515-288-5097

Tweet Senator Grassley: @chuckgrassley
Leave Comments:
https://www.grassley.senate.gov/constituents/questions-and-comments



Senator Joni Ernst

Capitol Office
U
nited States Senate
111 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-3254
Fax: 202-224-9369

Des Moines Office
210 Walnut St
Des Moines, IA 50309-2115
Phone: 515-284-4574
Fax: 515-284-4937

Tweet Senator Ernst: @SenJoniErnst

Leave Comments:  http://www.ernst.senate.gov/content/contact-joni



House of Representatives

District 1:  Rod Blum
Phone:  202-225-2911   
US House of Representatives
213 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1501  

District 2:  David Loebsack
Phone: 202-225-6576
US House of Representatives    
1527 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1502  

District 3:  David Young
Phone:  202-225-5476
US House of Representatives  
515 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1503

District 4:  Steve King
Phone: 202-225-4426
US House of Representatives                  
2210 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1504


The Iowa Council for the Social Studies is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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