Social Studies Standards

This report is based on a review of the fifty state social studies standards, the curriculum framework promulgated for the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) history and economics curricula and standards developed by the Council for Economic Education. In particular, we looked at:

·     the scope of topics covered in the curriculum related to economics,

·     the presence of key concepts for the UFR project (i.e., budget, deficit and debt), and

·     the specification of skills required to both use and understand key economic concepts

·     the expectation for civic engagement or decision making in response to the above.

Our review yields one major conclusion: almost universally, state standards pay little or no attention to the federal budget, the budget deficit, the trade deficit or the national debt. As one might expect for the AP and IB curricula, which spend at least one year on economics, marginally more attention is paid to this content, but not much more. The results are discouraging. There is little call for deep understanding of economic concepts or emphasis on what are called in the educational literature “higher order thinking skills” (analysis, synthesis and evaluation) related to this content. The emphasis—almost exclusively—is on the assimilation and regurgitation of facts. Verbs used to describe the educational objectives related to this content are typically “to identify, describe and explain” but not to evaluate or take action.

Nevertheless, opportunities do exist for incorporation of lessons related to these topics. We are confident that an inquiry-based curriculum that teaches students to explore and debate complex but critical economic issues and to make reasoned judgments about those issues can be successfully aligned with state social studies standards. The good news is that—save for all else that needs to be covered—there is little in the state standards that actively precludes teaching this material.

Marri, A., Crocco, M., Shuttleworth, J., Gaudelli, W., & Grolnick, M. (2012). Analyzing social issues related to teaching about the federal budget, federal debt, and budget deficit in 50 state high school social studies standards. The Social Studies, 103, 133-139.