Iowa's Social Studies Day: What It Is and Why It Matters

Iowa social studies professionals know how to model informed action.

Iowa is declaring a day for social studies on February 1st, 2018. The governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, will give a proclamation discussing how important social studies education is. Members of the Iowa Council for Social Studies (ICSS) will attend the ceremony, which will take place in the Governor’s office.

According to ICSS, the goal of the day is to advocate for more support for social studies educators, specificially in the form of more full-time social studies consultants who have backgrounds in the subject. The problem they hope to correct is that many Area Education Agencies (AEAs) in the state only have part time social studies consultants.  Even when these professionals are present in AEAs, they don’t always have backgrounds in the subject, and they may not alwayhave enough time to support social studies educators. In short, the ICSS is taking informed action to the next level. They’re asking for support in contacting their state legislators to discuss this lack of support and advocate for social studies consultants in each AEA. More details can be found on their website.

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Iowa’s Social Studies Day is just the start of it. The ICSS website provides a longer list of their positions, including “access to professional development for teachers of the social studies in every AEA in Iowa” and “accountability that students in grades K through 8 and high school...are taught social studies skills and content through annual reporting by districts to their constituents.”

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This idea of creating accountability is taken a step further by one of their most interesting recommendations—which is the introduction of a civics examination as a condition for graduation. The proposed exam would be given once a year and students could begin attempting to pass it starting in seventh grade. The need for this is described in more depth on the ICSS websiteThe advocacy director of ICSS, Jack Vanderflught, makes a few points which are pretty illuminating in what they reveal about how little social studies content students retain by the time they become adults.

Here's an infographic detailing a few of the points that are made, which come from a studyby the Annenberg Public Policy Center and which were printed in the Civic Mission for schools: 

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While playing second (or third) fiddle to math and English has been a given for social studies for a long time, the energy of the Iowa campaign is pretty exciting, and surprisingly simple. Declaring a Social Studies Day highlights the importance of social studies education, and certainly necessitates an opportunity to discuss the larger issues of whether support is happening for our subject or not. However, the most amazing thing is that the day lets social studies professionals set a perfect example for young people of what informed action truly looks like. 

What do you think about this Civics exam? Do you have enough support for social studies in your district? Are you inspired to start a social studies day in your state? Let me know in the comments!


Are you an Iowan social studies professional? 

Click here to meet your Iowa curriculum specialist and find out about excellent resources for Iowa

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