114 Winter 2010
Theory and Research in Social Education
Winter 2010, Volume 38, Number 1 pp. 114-130
© College and University Faculty Assembly
of National Council for the Social Studies
A National Perspective on the Eects of High-Stakes
Testing and Standardization on Elementary Social
Paul G. Fitche
Tina L. Heafner
University of North Carolina at Charloe
The purpose of this study was to explore the nationwide historic trend of
elementary social studies marginalization compared to math, science, and
language arts. Incorporating 17 years of data from the National Center for
Educational Statistics (NCES) Schools and Stang Survey, the authors
conducted comparative analyses to investigate dierences in instructional
time between elementary social studies and other core subject areas. In
addition, variance of social studies instructional time was examined across
grade levels and survey years. The results indicate that social studies
instruction has remained a subsidiary part of K-5 curriculum over the last two
decades. Moreover, between grade-level analyses shows a trend toward greater
aention to social studies in intermediate grades (3-5) compared to primary
grades (K-2). A signicant decline in social studies instruction coincided
with educational policy that places greater importance on mathematics and
language arts. The authors conclude that while No Child Le Behind
legislation has magnied trends in decreased instructional time for social
studies, this federal mandate is not the sole reason for the decline of social
studies within elementary curriculum. They argue that the marginalization
of social studies is an enduring trend over the last two decades, a byproduct
of an educational policy shi toward national standardization.
In the late 1980s, a taskforce of the National Council for the Social
Studies (NCSS) forewarned against the continued marginalization
of social studies disciplines in elementary school classrooms. The
taskforce reported that practitioners spent approximately 20% of their
weekly instructional time on social studies instruction (NCSS, 1989).
The Council argued that continued neglect of the subject maer would
impair the civic literacy, democratic understanding, and character
education of young learners.
As the rst decade of the 21
century closes, studies have
conrmed that marginalization of social studies at the elementary
Winter 2010 115
school level continues unabated (Heafner et al., 2007; Leming,
Ellington, & Schug, 2006a; VanFossen, 2005). No Child Le Behind
mandates compounded this trend by placing greater emphasis on
reading and mathematics (Center on Educational Policy, 2007; Manzo,
2005). Although researchers have explored the marginalization of
social studies from a state or regional perspective (see Burroughs,
Groce, & Webeck, 2005; Heafner, Libscomb, & Rock, 2006; Lintner,
2005; Rock et al., 2006; VanFossen, 2005; Wills, 2007), limited research
exists on a national level. In this study, we examined national datasets
to determine how much instructional time is devoted to elementary
social studies instruction across core subject areas (language arts,
math, and science) and grade levels. We also evaluated the relationship
between the inception of No Child Le Behind legislation and time spent
on elementary social studies instruction.
A Context for the Trivialization of Elementary Social Studies
The marginalization of social studies at the elementary school
level is not a recent trend. In the 1980s, state and regional reports
indicated that K-5 teachers spent (on average) as low as 21 minutes a day
on social studies instruction compared to approximately 95 minutes
a day for language arts (Shaver, 1989). Researchers have suggested
that practitioners view social studies as less important than English/
language arts (ELA) and mathematics (Heafner et al., 2006; Leming et
al., 2006a; Rock et al., 2006; Thornton & Houser, 1996). Consequently,
social studies has been perceived as a trivial and irrelevant subject
in comparison to other core content (Barton & Levstik, 2004; Brophy,
Alleman, & Knighton, 2009; McGuire, 2007). Shaver (1989) posited that
the lack of aention to social studies is due in part to external pressures
to focus on literacy and mathematics. These external pressures were
commonly identied with standardization and high-stakes testing
(Crocco & Costigan, 2007; Wills, 2007). Elementary school teachers
found themselves compromising social studies instructional time in
order to meet the demands of a restrictive curriculum (Boyle-Baise,
Hsu, Johnson, Serriere, & Stewart, 2008; Thornton & Houser, 1996). In
addition, teachers developed negative aitudes toward social studies
due to its perceived lack of value (Houser, 1995; Leming, Ellington,
& Schug, 2006b). Several factors, including grade level disparity
(i.e., less time spent on social studies in primary as opposed to
upper elementary grades), standardization policies, and high stakes
testing, have contributed to the diminishing role of social studies in
elementary education—reinforcing the notion that social studies is a
116 Winter 2010
Grade Level Disparity
Results from elementary school-level studies indicate that
primary grades teachers (K-2) spend as lile as 12 minutes a day on
social studies instruction compared to 24 minutes a day for intermediate
grades teachers (3-5) (Leming et al., 2006a; Shaver, 1989; VanFossen,
2005). Social studies educators speculated that increased aention to
social studies in the intermediate grades was driven by the expanding
environments curriculum prevalent in elementary school curriculum
(Martorella, Beal, & Bolick, 2005; Thornton & Houser, 1996). Primary
grade teachers were more concerned with the socialization of the
learner, whereas more content-specic instruction was common in the
A study of Indiana elementary school teachers revealed that
intermediate grade practitioners identied with content-driven aims
(VanFossen, 2005). Conversely, the majority of primary grade teachers
were concerned with using social studies as a tool for developing
language arts and reading skills. These ndings were also supported
by Rock et al.’s (2006) research in North Carolina in which dierences
were found in curricular emphases related to grade-level social studies
instruction, but the researchers also found that teachers allocated
substantially less social studies instructional time in grades 3 and
4 as a result of end-of-grade tests and test preparation for English/
language arts and mathematics.
In its diminished capacity, social studies fails to stand alone as
an important, time-worthy subject within the elementary curriculum,
instead falling to a subsidiary role of a topic for promoting literacy-
acquisition or other forms of subject integration (Boyle-Baise et al.,
2008; McGuire, 2007). Many teachers, administrators, and policy-
makers acknowledge, without question, this new ancillary role of
social studies. Independent research conducted by Leming and his
colleagues (2006b) and Rock et al. (2006)
indicated that over half of
all elementary-school social studies instruction was taught through
integration. Yet, integration is not the panacea for social studies
marginalization. Social studies scholars (Alleman & Brophy, 1993;
Barton & Levstik, 2004; Brophy et al., 2009; McGuire, 2007; Parker &
Jarolimek, 1997; Yon & Passe, 1993) have questioned the quality of
integrated social studies instruction, indicating that oen social studies
goals are compromised and devalued. It is important for elementary
school teachers to spend specic time developing the big ideas that
underscore powerful social studies instruction (Barton & Levstik,
2004; Brophy et al., 2009; Levstik & Barton, 2005; McGuire, 2007).
Winter 2010 117
A Dispensable Subject?
Lynchpins of the standardization movement, the No Child
Le Behind (NCLB) mandate (2002) and the preceding Goals 2000
legislation, emphasized high-stakes testing primarily in language
arts and mathematics at the elementary school level (Evans, 2004;
Manzo, 2005; Risinger, 2006; VanFossen, 2005). Enacted into law
under the Clinton administration in 1993, Goals 2000 was a revision
of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that pushed for greater
emphasis on state-mandated curricula and standardized tests (Evans,
2004). NCLB further perpetuated the testing culture by using federal
funds to reward measured success. Social studies continues to be
trivialized--a dispensable subject that has not been clearly established
as valuable among educational policy-making circles. As such, NCLB
endorses the separation of social science disciplines (i.e., the legislation
recognizes American History, civics, economics, and geography)
while ignoring the integrated discipline of social studies (No Child
Le Behind Act, 2002). Wording for the Teaching American History Grant
Program suggested an aempt to subvert social studies altogether: “…
carry out activities to promote the teaching of traditional American
history in elementary schools and secondary schools as a separate
academic subject (not as a component of social studies)…”( No Child
Le Behind Act, 2002, Sec. 2351.1). By encouraging the dismantling of
social studies, federal legislators have been complicit in trivializing
content such as civic and economic literacy, historical thinking, and
geographic understanding, thus discouraging critical inquiry.
Pressured by the assessment protocols of policy makers, teachers
compromise social studies instructional time for test preparation
(Crocco & Costigan, 2007; Heafner et al., 2007; Huon & Burstein, 2008;
Wills, 2007). In a national study, Leming and colleagues (2006a) found
that 23% of elementary school teachers reported spending less time
on social studies since the inception of No Child Le Behind. Moreover,
according to recent data collected by Education Week (Executive
Summary, 2009), the number of states that test elementary social studies
declined from 30 to 12 over the last 10 years. A nationwide study from
Brown University’s Center on Education Policy (CEP) (2008) suggested
that between 1999 and 2004, elementary reading instruction gained
approximately 40 minutes a week while social studies instruction
lost 17 minutes (Wallis, 2007). The CEP report (2008) on instructional
time in social studies emphasized the ramications of test-centered
legislation by documenting a 32% decrease in instructional time for
social studies due to district-based decisions to increase instructional
time for English language arts and mathematics. These ndings
reinforced perceptions that NCLB has increased the marginalization
of social studies in elementary schools.
118 Winter 2010
Yet, some researchers suggest that the role of high-stakes testing
policy on social studies instructional time is insignicant. Anderson
(2009) makes this claim based on published research studies before
(1970-80s) and aer accountability (1990s to present) that instructional
time and instructional methods have not changed. She concludes that
“the curriculum has not narrowed as a result of accountability” (p. 415),
but has remained proportionally segmented based on the consistent
hierarchy of subjects where social studies and science have always
had to scramble for extra time—staying relatively inconsequential
with 5% of the instructional time preceding accountability and 5.7%
post-accountability. Anderson also contends that teacher-centered,
factually-driven, memorization-based instruction is not a result of
the accountability movement, but has continued to be the preferred
mode and focus of instruction for at least a century. Anderson claims
that accountability is educators’ scapegoat for the failure to progress,
the continuation of longtime, entrenched educational practices, and
an unwillingness to adopt or implement research-based best practices
for eectively helping elementary students to “learn well and be
academically successful in the long term” (2008, p. 415).
Exploring the Impact of Educational Policy on Elementary Social Studies
Despite social studies researchers’ eorts to change elementary
curriculum, to promote pedagogical best practices, and to experiment
with testing, elementary social studies has been continually neglected,
thus oering credibility to Anderson’s (2009) claims. Although some
researchers question the impact of accountability and standardization
policies, most researchers assert that these high-stakes testing policies
have intensied trivialization eects for social studies, and propose
that NCLB has made the situation more ominous. Social studies
researchers and educators continue to promote ideas of change within
a political and educational environment that continues to dismiss the
subject as insignicant. Lack of generalizability on a national scale
may have hampered the inuence of previous research to challenge
the existing accountability system. To press for urgency in shaping
educational policy, a data-based, national understanding of the state
of social studies in contrast to other core subjects is needed.
Thus, we sought to expand the scope of earlier studies and
explore instructional time comparisons between social studies and
other core subjects from a national perspective. Additionally, we
wanted to evaluate the national state of elementary social studies pre
and post accountability and standardization. Unlike previous national
research on social studies marginalization (see Center on Educational
Policy, 2007, 2008), we used large-scale national sampling from the
National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). Moreover, the
Winter 2010 119
research design included comparisons of social studies instructional
time over ve periods of time: 1987/88, 1990/91, 1993/94, 1999/00, and
We focused on four specic research questions:
Between the years 1987 to 2004, to what extent was social 1.
studies instruction aorded less instructional time in K-5
classrooms compared to language arts, mathematics, and
To what extent were there signicant dierences in 2.
reported instructional time across grade levels and by
Was there a statistically signicant dierence in the a.
amount of reported instructional time devoted to
social studies in primary grades (K-2) as compared to
intermediate grades (3-5)?
Was there a statistically signicant dierence in b.
reported instructional time between grade levels for
language arts, mathematics, and science?
To what extent did reported instructional time in 3.
elementary social studies change since the inception of
To what extent did the variability of reported social studies 4.
instructional time change since the inception of NCLB?
Few previous studies of elementary school marginalization have
incorporated a nationally representative dataset (see Leming et al.
2006a, 2006b for exceptions).
In this study, we used data from the National Center for
Educational Statistics (NCES) Schools and Public School Teacher
Stang Survey (SASS). It is the most comprehensive source of teacher
data in the nation (NCES, 2007).
Teachers were selected from a national, stratied sample of
schools. Stratication levels included number of minority teachers at
the school, urbanicity, and region. An inverse-probability equation
was devised to select and weight teachers within a given school.
Weighting was dependent on location of schooling institution. This
protocol prevents overrepresentation from a particular region or state
and increases generalizability. For example California’s 357 sampled
120 Winter 2010
schools are only weighted as 4.10 % of the sampling frame, whereas,
South Carolina’s 173 sampled schools are weighted as 15.31 % of the
sampling frame. In accordance with our research design, self-contained
elementary school teacher data were extracted from the last ve survey
By excluding departmental, pull-out (enrichment), and team-
teaching, we were able to control for subject area specialists.
Analyzing ve specic time points permied analysis of trends
in the standardization movement and the eects of NCLB policy on
social studies instructional time. Of central interest to us were survey
years 1993/94, 1999/2000, and 2003/04. The 1993/94 survey year
represents the commencement of Goals 2000. The 2003/04 survey year
represents one year aer NCLB was codied into law. Interpretations
of statistical results at these data points helped to determine whether
and to what extent the burgeoning standardization movement aected
elementary social studies instructional time.
Identical items were selected for analysis from each of the ve
survey instruments. Each observation within a survey year represented
one “self-contained” elementary (K-5) public school practitioner.
Grade labels (kindergarten through h grade) were assigned to
The criterion (dependent) variable, instructional time, was
assessed across each of the four core subject areas (math, ELA, science,
and social studies) by a SASS survey open-ended question, “During
the most recent FULL WEEK of teaching, approximately how many
hours did you spend teaching each of the following subjects at THIS
school?” (NCES, 2007).
Analyses of instructional time were conducted
across subject area, grade level, and survey year.
To measure the item response variance (reliability), NCES (2007)
employed re-interviews to test variance levels among categorical and
ordinal data items. For public school teachers, 763 re-interviews were
conducted (NCES, 2007). Bowker’s Test for Symmetry and t-tests
were utilized to compare respondents’ matched SASS item scores
with re-interview scores. SASS documentation of item reliability for
the 2003/2004 Public School Teacher Survey (NCES, 2007) indicated
that both the criterion and indicator variables yielded non-signicant
results (p > .05), thereby inferring low variance (high reliability).
Design and Data Analysis
Four steps of data analysis were conducted in this study. Each
step corresponded to the aforementioned research questions:
Step 1. To answer question one, instructional time descriptive
Winter 2010 121
statistics (mean and variance) were analyzed across subject area for
each survey year. One-way ANOVA was conducted for subject area
by instructional time. Post hoc comparisons
(Dunnet’s C) allowed
for between-group analyses. Dunnet’s C was employed because it
provides comparisons of dierent categories to a reference group (i.e.,
Step 2. To address question two, instructional time descriptive
statistics for each subject area were analyzed by grade level across
survey years. One-way ANOVA was employed to compare grade
level dierences per subject area in a given survey year. Post hoc
comparisons discerned grade level discrepancies in instructional
Step 3. For question three, descriptive statistics were calculated
for social studies instructional time across survey years. One-
way ANOVA was utilized to examine dierences in instructional
across years. Post hoc analysis provided insight into social studies
instructional time dierences over time.
When conducting inferential statistics with large sample sizes,
even the most minimal dierences between means can be identied
as statistically signicant. Therefore, we calculated eect sizes to
determine the strength of the association between the indicator
and criterion variable (see Cohen, 1994; Thompson, 1998; Trusty,
Thompson, & Petrocelli, 2004). We estimated partial eta-squared for
each of the one-way ANOVAs in order to illustrate the eect sizes of
the overall models. Cohen’s d was calculated to analyze eect size
between two groups.
Step 4. For the nal question, standard deviations were
examined across each of the 5 survey years. Homogeneity of variance
was analyzed across groups (Levene’s Test) to determine whether
variability signicantly changed between data points. Levene’s Test for
Equality of Variances is a commonly employed statistic for measuring
shared variance between populations (see Glass, 1966; Schultz, 1985).
To compare pre-NCLB with post-NCLB variance, the 2003/2004 dataset
was established as a reference category. In addition, we calculated
ratios to interpret the eect sizes of the comparison models.
Research Question 1
In accordance with previous research (see Heafner et al., 2007;
VanFossen, 2005) related to instructional time allocated to academic content
areas, our ndings indicate that time for elementary social studies
remains minimal in comparison to English/language arts (ELA) and
mathematics instruction while slightly outpacing science instruction.
122 Winter 2010
Figure 1 illustrates that over the last 17 years, elementary teachers
have averaged approximately 11 hours of ELA instruction and 5
hours of mathematics instruction each week. In comparison, teachers
incorporated social studies instruction approximately 2.9 hours each
week and science approximately 2.75 hours per week. Furthermore,
the results indicate that ELA and math instruction levels increased
following the inception of Goals 2000. There were slight gains in math
instructional time with a more substantial increase in ELA instruction
beginning in the 1993/1994 survey year. Conversely, social studies and
science instructional time remained consistently lower than the other
core subjects, dropping to their lowest levels at the 2003/2004 survey
year. Descriptive statistics illustrate that social studies instructional
time slightly outpaced science instructional time at each interval.
Analysis of Variance indicated that mean subject instructional time
signicantly varied during each survey year (see Table 1). Consistently
across data points, post hoc comparisons using Dunnet’s C show that
social studies received signicantly less mean instructional time than
either ELA or math. Post hoc analyses also signify that social studies
mean instructional time was signicantly greater than science mean
instructional time at each survey year. Moreover, the results indicate
medium to large eect sizes for instructional time across subject areas.
Approximately 50 to 67% of the variance in instructional time was
associated with subject area. Social studies and ELA mean comparisons
showed large eect sizes at each survey year (d = 2.00 to d = 2.83).
Social studies and math mean comparisons indicated medium to large
eect sizes (d = .70 to d = 1.56). Comparisons of the means for social
studies and science instruction yielded moderate to small eect sizes
(d = .08 to d =.12). The ndings suggest an ongoing trend of social
studies marginalization compared to ELA and math; however, social
studies had minimally greater instructional time than science.
*Note. Intervals between survey years are not equal.
Figure 1. Average instructional time per week by subject area.
Winter 2010 123
Analysis of Dierences in Instructional Time Across Subject Areas
Survey year df F Partial eta- squared
1987/88 3/29560 9731.83** .497
1990/91 3/28047 7273.27** .438
1993/94 3/25428 8552.24** .502
1999/2000 3/25096 10978.98** .568
2003/2004 3/25408 117739.49** .667
** p <.001
Research Question 2
Our analyses illustrate dierences in instructional time across
grade levels by content areas. Figure 2 indicates that intermediate grade
teachers (3-5) spend more subject-specic instructional time on
social studies than lower grade teachers (K-2). Over the last 17 years,
intermediate grade teachers have averaged approximately 39 minutes
of instructional time on social studies compared to 24 minutes for
primary grade teachers. ANOVA indicates dierences in grade level
instruction were statistically signicant (see Table 2). Using Dunnet’s
C as a post hoc comparison, we found intermediate grade teachers
spent signicantly greater instructional time on social studies than
primary grade teachers during each survey year.
While statistically signicant, comparisons of primary and
intermediate grade means yielded small to medium eect sizes
(see Table 2). Interestingly, analysis of other core subject areas and
subsequent post hoc examinations did not show statistically signicant
trends in instructional time across grade level. From these ndings,
we infer that grade level disparities in instructional time are unique
to the social studies. Moreover, the results indicate that grade-level
instructional time disparities are not a recent trend.
*Note. Intervals between survey years are not equal.
Figure 2. Comparison of K-2 and 3-5 average social studies instructional time.
124 Winter 2010
Analysis of Differences Between K-2 and 3-5 Average Social Studies Instructional Time
Survey year df F
1987/88 1/7389 222.89**
1990/91 1/7011 121.74**
1993/94 1/6356 155.56**
1999/2000 1/6273 215.01**
2003/2004 1/6351 252.08**
** p < .001
Research Question 3
Figure 3 indicates that instructional time in social studies
decreased signicantly following the inception of No Child Le
Behind. The results from this study signify that No Child Le Behind
and high-stakes testing had a more damaging impact on elementary
social studies instruction than prior national policies. Following the
inception of NCLB (2003/2004), the mean instructional time decreased
by approximately 30 minutes a week. One-way ANOVA [F(4, 33385) =
12.63, p < .001, partial eta-squared = .01] results indicated a small, but
signicant eect size over time (approximately 1% variance in mean
social studies instructional time associated with year). Between group
comparisons using Dunnet’s C indicated that the social studies mean
instructional time reported in 2003/2004 (M = 2.46, SD = 1.62) was
signicantly lower than in each of the previous survey years. Between
year comparisons show that mean dierences between 2003/2004 and
previous years had a small to moderate eect (d = .22 to d = .33). These
ndings support researchers’ allegations of neglect within elementary
social studies instruction following the adoption of No Child Le
Behind policy (see Heafner et al., 2007; Rock et al., 2006). Moreover,
the minimal eect size that indicates association of survey years
with social studies instructional variance should not be dismissed.
Results from previous studies have indicated that small eect sizes
can have important implications when taking into account the overall
context of the study (Cohen, 1994; Trusty et al., 2004). Average social
studies instructional time decreased by 30 minutes between 1999/2000
and 2003/2004. Over the course of a nine-month school year, that
discrepancy amounts to approximately 18 hours of social studies time
Winter 2010 125
*Note. Intervals between survey years are not equal.
Figure 3. Average social studies instructional time per week across years.
Research Question 4
Our nal analysis addressed the variability of reported social studies
instructional time change since the passage of NCLB. Intuitively, larger
standard deviations would suggest greater individual teacher control
of instructional time whereas smaller standard deviations would imply
restrictive forces on instructional time. Figure 4 shows a decrease in
the variability of social studies instructional time beginning with the
1993/1993 survey year (coinciding with the inception of Goals 2000). By
2003/2004, the NCLB era had been mandated and instructional time in
social studies had decreased by a full standard deviation compared to
previous survey years. Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances indicates
that the standard deviations for reported instructional time variance
diered signicantly across survey years [F (4, 33385) = 7.66, p <.05].
Table 3 shows that the dierences in variability of reported social studies
instructional time is signicantly dierent between 2003/2004 and
the earliest survey years (1987/1988 and 1990/1991). Eect size ratios
indicate that instructional time variability was over 2.5 times greater
in both 1987/1988 and 1990/1991 compared to 2003/2004. However, by
the 1993/1994 survey year and subsequent years, variability did not
signicantly dier from post-NCLB levels, thereby leading us to infer
that restrictive forces have limited instructional autonomy since early
standardization eorts (Crocco & Costigan, 2007; McGuire, 2007).
126 Winter 2010
*Note. Intervals between survey years are not equal.
Figure 4. Standard deviations for social studies instructional time per week across
Comparison of Variance in Social Studies Instructional Time by Survey Year
Survey year (compared to
df Levene’s F Eect Size Ratio
1987/88 1/13742 12.87** 2.52
1990/91 1/13364 23.73** 2.69
1993/94 1/12709 3.30 1.83
1999/2000 1/12626 3.60 1.24
** p < .001
The Center on Educational Policy’s (2007) study of elementary
instructional time post-NCLB inception indicated that math and
literacy instruction is increasing an average of 141 additional minutes
of class time per week, whereas social studies and science instruction
is declining an average 75 to 90 minutes. Results from our analysis of
over 17 years of national survey data conrm that the neglect of social
studies is not new, but an accelerating trend. Across grade levels,
reported primary grade social studies instructional time remained far
lower as compared to the intermediate grades. Although analysis did
not include subject area integration instruction, our ndings indicate
that social studies curriculum in the study years was not a primary
focus of elementary school instruction, falling considerably below
the recommendations set forth by the National Council for the Social
Studies (NCSS, 1989).
Winter 2010 127
Moreover, contrary to Anderson’s (2009) conclusions, curriculum
standardization and NCLB have created a rippling and crippling eect
on social studies instruction. It is reasonable to infer from the results
of our analyses that early curriculum standardization eorts have
minimized the variability of social studies instruction, thereby limiting
teachers’ professional autonomy to teach the content. The contraction
of the national elementary curriculum has had degenerating eects
on the amount of social studies instructional time provided to K-5
learners, arming ndings of previous state level studies (see Crocco
& Costigan, 2007; Heafner et al., 2006; Rock et al., 2006; VanFossen,
2005) and compounding issues raised by other researchers concerning
the inequitable access to social studies instruction (McGuire, 2007;
Data from this study indicate that social studies teachers have
managed to maintain a foothold on supplemental instructional time
by giving their subject signicantly greater classroom aention than
science over the last 17 years. No Child Le Behind policy has recently
mandated science testing for 3
grade students at least
once during the span of these three academic years (Marx & Harris,
2006). Placed into eect in 2007, these policy revisions could aggravate
the marginalization trend as perceived science instruction takes
additional time away from social studies teaching. Future research
will need to explore the eects of this legislation on elementary social
Consistent with previous studies (Leming et al., 2006a; VanFossen,
2005), our ndings indicate that primary grade teachers (K-2) report
spending less time on social studies than their intermediate grade
counterparts (3-5). Interestingly, this trend is not subject-wide. Math,
ELA, and science instruction did not exhibit similar paerns to that of
social studies instructional time in post hoc analyses. Moreover, while
previous studies have explored the association of elementary grade
level with instructional time allocations (see Leming et al., 2006a;
Rock et al., 2006; VanFossen, 2005), our research suggests that grade
level has a minimal association with reported instructional time.
Researchers should investigate the nature and structure of elementary
social studies instruction and delve into curricular dierences in
time allocations for social studies across grade levels. Moreover,
researchers should explore how reported inconsistencies in grade
level instructional time (primary as compared to upper elementary
grades), as documented in our analysis, impact student learning of
social studies in comparison to other content areas.
In conclusion, we believe that the national movement toward
increased standardization and high-stakes testing has led to a
decline in social studies instructional time in elementary schools. The
standardization movement of the 1990s began a trend of substantially
128 Winter 2010
lowering the amount of instructional time devoted to elementary social
studies. More signicantly, the inception of No Child Le Behind has
been associated with a diminished role for social studies instruction.
Across grade levels, younger learners receive less social studies-specic
instruction than intermediate elementary students. We conclude that
instructional autonomy (as documented by variability) has steadily
decreased since the push for national standardization in the mid-1990s.
Trends in the reduction of instructional time have been augmented by
NCLB and federal testing mandates. While it is accurate to note the
considerable eect of NCLB on the marginalization of social studies,
high-stakes testing is part of the problem but is not the root of the
current crisis in elementary social studies. Addressing the enduring
trends of marginalization and decreased instructional autonomy
necessitates additional research to explore and develop strategies for
challenging the promulgated and widely accepted diminished role of
social studies within the elementary curriculum.
SASS survey years: 1987/1988 (N =7391), 1990/1991 (N=7013), 1993/1994 (N
=6358), 1999/2000 (N =6275), and 2003/2004 (N =6353)
This item description remained consistent across survey years.
Because variances were unequal (p < .05) in each of the statistical models of this
study, Dunnet’s C was utilized as the appropriate post hoc comparison.
Variance ratio = variance of social studies instructional time for a given survey
year (1987/1987, 1990/1991, 1993/1994, 1999/2000)/ variance of social studies instructional
time for comparison year (2003/2004).
Standard deviation is a commonly used statistic for reporting variability.
Standard deviation is the square root of variance.
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PAUL G. FITCHETT is Assistant Professor of Social Studies Education
in the Department of Middle, Secondary, and K-12 Education in the
College of Education at the University of North Carolina at Charloe,
Charloe, NC 28223. He can be contacted at Paul.Fitche@uncc.edu.
TINA L. HEAFNER is Associate Professor of Social Studies Education
in the Department of Middle, Secondary, and K-12 Education in the
College of Education at the University of North Carolina at Charloe,
Charloe, NC 28223. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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