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Utilizing data from the National Center for Education Statistics Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), a multilevel model (Hierarchical Linear Model) was developed to examine the association of teacher/classroom and state level indicators on reported elementary social studies instructional time. Findings indicated that state testing policy was a significant predictor of elementary teachers' reported time spent on social studies instruction. Teachers' perceptions of workplace autonomy and grade level were also associated with increased time on social studies. Conversely, teacher credentials, classroom socioeconomic contexts, and test design were not substantially associated with social studies instructional time. This study suggests that state policy mandates, grade-specific curricular organization, and teacher disposition have a substantial impact on the prioritization of social studies in US elementary schools.
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Educational Policy
2014, Vol 28(1) 40 –68
© The Author(s) 2012
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DOI: 10.1177/0895904812453998
2453998Fitchett et al.Educational Policy
© The Author(s) 2012
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1University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC, USA
Corresponding Author:
Paul G. Fitchett, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina Charlotte, 9201 University
City Blvd., 28223, NC, Charlotte, USA.
Examining Elementary
Social Studies
Marginalization: A
Multilevel Model
Paul G. Fitchett1, Tina L. Heafner1,
and Richard G. Lambert1
Utilizing data from the National Center for Education Statistics Schools and
Staffing Survey (SASS), a multilevel model (Hierarchical Linear Model) was
developed to examine the association of teacher/classroom and state level
indicators on reported elementary social studies instructional time. Findings
indicated that state testing policy was a significant predictor of elementary
teachers’ reported time spent on social studies instruction. Teachers’ per-
ceptions of workplace autonomy and grade level were also associated with
increased time on social studies. Conversely, teacher credentials, classroom
socioeconomic contexts, and test design were not substantially associated
with social studies instructional time. This study suggests that state policy
mandates, grade-specific curricular organization, and teacher disposition
have a substantial impact on the prioritization of social studies in US
elementary schools.
social studies, elementary education, educational policy, accountability
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Fitchett et al. 41
With No Child Left Behind legislation entering its second decade and recent
government rhetoric placing greater emphasis on intellectual capital in the
world market, US education has entered a 21st century renaissance. In
response, states have begun to develop core common standards to tackle the
growing globalization phenomenon. Legislation at the state and federal level
has increasingly mandated standardized accountability measures to assess
students, and their teachers, in meeting these desired goals. Among elemen-
tary schoolteachers, this renewed emphasis in high-stakes testing creates an
instructional-decision-making dilemma—what to teach and what not to
teach? Research suggests (Center on Educational Policy, 2007, 2008; Fitchett
& Heafner, 2010; Wills, 2007) that practitioners spend more time on tested
subject matter than non-tested subject matter. Consequently, testing pres-
sures, and their subsequent use for evaluating teacher performance, influence
how often and in what context practitioners teach specific content (Au, 2007;
Crocco & Costigan, 2007; Hargreaves, 1994). These issues of instructional
time allocation affect not only the traditional “specials” of elementary educa-
tion (music, art, foreign language, etc.), but also the core subject material
English/language arts, math, social studies, and science; Levine, Lopez, &
Marcelo, 2008; Wills & Sandholtz, 2009). Social studies, in particular, has
been traditionally cast aside in many elementary classrooms in the reprioriti-
zation of tested curriculum (Brophy, Alleman, & Knighton, 2009; Houser,
1995; Thornton & Houser, 1996; VanFossen, 2005).
The marginalization of social studies within elementary school curriculum
has been examined and analyzed from numerous quantitative (Fitchett &
Heafner, 2010; Heafner, Libscomb, & Rock, 2006; Leming, Ellington, &
Schug, 2006b; Rock et al., 2006; VanFossen, 2005) and qualitative (Au, 2009;
Boyle-Baise, Hsu, Johnnson, Sierrere, & Stewart, 2008; Wills, 2007) dimen-
sions. In the majority of these studies, the curricular prioritization of elemen-
tary social studies remains bleak. One thread of social studies marginalization
research suggests that teachers who work in states where the subject is tested at
the elementary level are more likely to teach it (Gradwell, 2006; Grant, 2003;
Heafner et al., 2006; Lintner, 2006). However, many social educators argue that
the quality of instruction within a high-stakes testing environment suffers as a
result of the narrow content and pedagogical autonomy (Au, 2007, 2009;
Crocco & Costigan, 2007; Rock et al., 2006). Regardless of implications and
interpretations, social educators agree that elementary social studies is impor-
tant for establishing a foundational understanding of one’s place and purpose
within a democratic society (Alleman & Brophy, 2001; Zhao & Hoge, 2005).
Given the variability of states’ testing programs and curricula (Au, 2009),
little research has analyzed the influence of teacher/school ecology factors
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42 Educational Policy 28(1)
and state policy on how much instructional time is allocated to social stud-
ies. Utilizing data from the National Center for Education Statistics Schools
and Staffing Survey (SASS), we developed a multilevel model (Hierarchical
Linear Model) to examine the association of teacher/classroom and state
level indicators on reported elementary social studies instructional time.
Three research questions guided our research design: What elementary
(Grades 3-5) teacher traits are associated with a reported social studies
instructional time? What classroom/school/curriculum characteristics are
associated with reported elementary social studies time? Is there a signifi-
cant difference in reported social studies time between elementary teachers
in states that test compared to states that do not test?
The Role of Teachers in the Prioritization
of Elementary Social Studies
Previous qualitative studies have documented the challenges faced by ele-
mentary teachers in their attempt to include social studies content in an
ever-constrained curricular environment (Boyle-Baise et al., 2008; Costigan
& Crocco, 2004; Pace, 2011; Wills, 2007; Zhao & Hoge, 2005). In this
research, numerous factors were found to influence the amount of emphasis
that elementary teachers spend teaching social studies. In the subsequent
section, we outline three specific mechanisms that contribute to time spent
on social studies: teacher preparation, curricular intensification and profes-
sional autonomy.
Teacher Preparation
Content expertise. One common theme that emerges from research of
social studies marginalization is the lack of preparation many elementary
school teachers possess in teaching the content associated with the multiple
disciplines that comprise the social studies. Wineburg (2005) argues that it
is an impossible task for preservice teachers to become experts in all disci-
plines that fall under the umbrella of social studies as defined by licensure
standards. This formidable undertaking is realized in both the limited con-
tent efficacy of elementary teachers and continued reliance upon text-oriented
curriculum (Crocco & Costigan, 2007; Passe, 2006; VanSledright, 2002;
Zhao & Hoge, 2005). Even when they attempt to find time for social studies
through creative, subject negotiation, teachers’ lack of understanding of
social studies pedagogical content knowledge accounted for perfunctory
instruction and limited time spent exploring concepts in depth (Wills, 2007).
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Fitchett et al. 43
Marginalization mindset. Preparation deficiencies have been attributed to a
general apathy toward social studies because it is not regularly part of the
tested curriculum (Bolick, Adams, & Willox, 2010; Owens, 1997). In their
analysis of social studies preservice education, Bolick, Adams and Willox
(2010, p. 17) noted that the marginalization mindset “infiltrated (teacher
preparation) from preconceived subject bias to limited amounts of content
exposure.” This mentality carried over into field experiences. Research indi-
cates that it is common for preservice teachers to have almost no exposure to
social studies lesson planning and instruction in student teaching (Bolick et al.,
2010; Good et al., 2010; Lanahan & Yeager, 2008). To counter this phenom-
enon, social studies educators contend that elementary teacher preparation
should place greater value on social studies content and skill development
(Passe, 2006; Thornton, 2001; Yon & Passe, 1990; Zhao & Hoge, 2005).
They rationalize that increased social studies pedagogy would enhance its
perceived importance among current practitioners and encourage more time
spent on its instruction. Promoting depth and breadth, social educators argue,
teachers might be able to bridge the pedagogical divide between the expecta-
tions of teacher education and the realities of the high-stakes elementary
classroom (Grant, 2006).
Integration. Given the barriers toward effective social studies preparation,
the de-facto rationale for teaching social studies in many elementary class-
rooms is subject integration (Bolick et al., 2010; Boyle-Baise et al., 2008;
Hinde, 2005; Leming et al., 2006b; McGuire, 2007; Rock et al., 2006). A few
social studies educators (Holloway & Chiodo, 2009) suggest that subject area
integration provides evidence that social studies is being taught in earlier
grades. However, this claim is countered by others who suggest that integra-
tion dilutes social studies instruction (Brophy et al., 2009; Parker & Jaro-
limek, 1997; Thornton & Houser, 1996) and fails to consider discipline-specific
skills such as historical investigation (Brophy & Alleman, 2008; Levstik &
Barton, 2010; VanSledright, 2004, 2011). Consequently, analyzing how much
specific, stand alone time social studies receives compared to other core sub-
ject areas is an important indicator of how it is prioritized in elementary class-
rooms (Levstik, 2008).
Intensification and Autonomy
Intensification of teacher work and inequitable prioritization of instructional
time are re-occurring themes of elementary teachers’ pedagogical decision-
making. Hargreaves (1994, p. 108) defines intensification as “bureaucrati-
cally driven escalation of pressures, expectations and controls concerning
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44 Educational Policy 28(1)
what teachers do and how much they should do within a school day.”
Intensification is not new (Apple, 2004; Duplass, 2007; Fitchett & Heafner,
2010), but an increasing phenomenon. Given the current political and cul-
tural atmosphere of US education, elementary school teachers are under
stress to teach a rigid and prescribed curriculum. High-stakes testing and
standardization rhetoric only magnify teachers’ perception of narrowing cur-
ricular options (Crocco & Costigan, 2007; Wills & Sandholtz, 2009). As
control over content and instructional methods dissipate in favor of state-
sanctioned mandates, teachers are more likely to perceive less autonomy in
their instructional decision-making. In their qualitative analysis of two social
studies classrooms, Gerwin and Visone (2006) noted that high-stakes
accountability substantially influenced teachers’ content selection and peda-
gogy. Au (2007, 2009) points out in his meta-analyses of social studies
instruction and high-stakes testing that teachers’ perception of control over
content and instructional time is consistently linked to testing pressures.
Conversely, elementary school teachers who perceive greater work auton-
omy are more inclined to resist intensification and make independent, class-
room responsive decisions on how to meet the needs of learners (Gerwin,
2004; Gerwin & Visone, 2006; Pace, 2011; Wills & Sandholtz, 2009).
Maverick teaching. In an effort to inspire and enact autonomous teaching,
social studies research has pointed to examples of what Grant (2007) refers
to as ambitious teaching—suggesting that “. . . teaching is nuanced, com-
plex, and contextualized both because of and in spite of state social studies
tests and the consequences they hold” (p.253). In his analysis of two U.S.
history teachers, Grant (2003) infers that testing does not predetermine how
and what social studies is taught. Subsequent research of social studies
teachers employing innovative, student-centered practices in the midst of a
tested curriculum offer similar findings (Gradwell, 2006; van Hover, 2006;
Yeager & van Hover, 2006). Though the examples provided tend to focus on
middle and high school classrooms, this line of social studies research pro-
vides illustrative models for elementary teachers to subvert testing con-
straints in order to teach higher-order, engaged instruction. Furthermore, the
concept of ambitious teaching finds its roots in Brophy’s (1993) research on
elementary teachers who exhibited autonomous social studies pedagogical
practices. Brophy coined the exemplary praxis of these elementary teachers
as maverick tendencies since the exhibited traits were unique and personally
associated. Brophy suggested that the autonomous nature of elementary
classroom structures and curriculum flexibility enabled teachers to display
maverick instructional methods. Thus, maverick teaching is indicative of
ambitious and autonomous teachers.
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Fitchett et al. 45
Organizational Factors Influencing Elementary
Social Studies Instructional Time
Intensification of instructional time is often mitigated by various factors
beyond teachers’ perceptions (Pace, 2008; Segall, 2006). School and class-
room contexts along with content and conceptual differences of the tradi-
tional elementary school curriculum influence how teachers prioritize social
studies time.
School and Classroom Contexts
Socioeconomic environments. Labor characteristics and workplace demogra-
phy shape the quality and quantity of elementary social studies instruction
(Grant, 2007; Pace, 2011; Vogler, 2006; Wills & Sandholtz, 2009). In a nation-
ally representative examination of teacher characteristics, Fitchett (2010) noted
that the least qualified social studies teachers (as determined by academic
degree in social studies-related fields and licensure) taught in significantly
lower socio-economic environments than more qualified teachers. Conse-
quently, the most at-risk learners are often receiving inadequate instruction
compared to more affluent students (Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2005).
These levels of disparity are further exacerbated by what Grumet (2010) refers
to as the “audit culture” of American schooling—whereby the onus of students’
learning is becoming exceedingly tied to teacher performance. With these
external pressures, teachers allocate instructional preparation and class time to
content directly tied to their performance evaluation. Under this premise, teach-
ers working in low socioeconomic schools and classrooms spend minimal time
on social studies; fearing that their students need greater remediation time in
tested subjects like math and ELA (Levine, et al., 2008; Pace, 2008, 2011; Wills
& Sandholtz, 2009). Segall (2006, p. 113) reported in an interview with social
studies practitioners of a predominately working class school in Michigan that
the “push, pull…” of testing was inordinately stronger in a lower socioeco-
nomic setting. Conversely, teachers in more affluent environments felt more
comfortable exploring in-depth social studies instruction due to a perceived
inevitability of high scores on tested subjects (Pace, 2011). Furthermore, differ-
ences in instructional time distributions are associated with ethnicity and school
poverty ratings, whereby students of color receive more remedial time on tested
subjects and significantly less time studying non-tested content (Roth, Brooks-
Gunn, Linver, & Hoffereth, 2003).
Individualized student learning within classrooms. Within the often heteroge-
neously grouped environment of elementary classrooms, practitioners are
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46 Educational Policy 28(1)
responsible for enacting curriculum that meets the diverse learning styles of
learners. According to recent data from the National Center for Education
Statistics (2008), approximately 12.3% of K-12 students have an Individual
Education Plan (IEP). Recent federal mandates (“No Child Left Behind Act of
2001,” 2002) inclusion of exceptional children in high-stakes accountability
places additional demands on school personnel to allot instructional time to
tested subjects. At the elementary school level, research suggests that student
achievement of exceptional children is associated with the amount of instruc-
tional time allotted by subject area (Jenkins & Jenkins, 1981). In classrooms
with numerous exceptional children, social studies instruction is often trun-
cated due to accountability pressures (Mastropieri, et al., 2005; Lintner &
Schweder, 2008). In their analysis of North Carolina principal survey data on
the state’s accountability policies, Lyons and Algozzine (2006) suggest that
principals perceive their role of protecting instructional time for tested sub-
jects essential while viewing the inclusion of special needs students in high-
stakes testing unfavorably. These “cross-currents” (Grant, 1996) of school
leadership and classroom organization compiled with state-level curricular
policy suggest that elementary school teachers’ decision whether or not to
teach social studies is further influenced by the diverse learning styles and
individual needs of the learners.
Curricular Organization
Expanding communities. Traditional curricular organization of elementary
social studies is built upon the “expanding communities” design whereby in
primary grades (PK-3) content and instruction focuses on the role of self,
family, and neighborhood and in intermediate grades (4-5) emphasizes state,
nation, and world histories (Alleman & Brophy, 2001; Brophy & Alleman,
2008; Hanna, 1937; Levstik, 2008; Martorella, Beal, & Bolick, 2005).
Though little research supports its implementation (Brophy & Alleman,
2008; Henke, Chen, & Goldman, 1999), it remains a staple of social studies
curricular organization across states (Brophy & Alleman, 2008; Levstik,
2008; Thornton, 2005).
Grade-level differences. Research in marginalization indicates that grade-
level curricular distinctions are associated with significant differences in
social studies instructional time (Leming, Ellington, & Schug, 2006a; Shaver,
1989). Contemporary research in elementary social studies posits greater
emphasis on discipline-based content as a way of improving the quality and
frequency of social studies in elementary schools (Brophy & Alleman, 2008;
Levstik & Barton, 2010; VanSledright, 2011). Previous findings support this
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Fitchett et al. 47
claim—indicating that social studies teachers in grades 4-5 spend (on average)
greater time on social studies instruction than practitioners in earlier elemen-
tary grades (Fitchett & Heafner, 2010; VanFossen, 2005). Houser (1995) and
VanFossen (2005) posited that the specific content-driven aims of intermedi-
ate curriculum offers practitioners a more explicit pedagogical anchoring than
the more nebulous concept-driven curriculum of primary education, thereby
resulting in more specific appropriation of instructional time. In commenting
on the organization of elementary social studies, Duplass (2007) noted that
grade-specific curricular traditions are further compounded by the increased
standardization and prioritization of NCLB-related policies. He cautions that
the traditional elementary curriculum, with its lack of focus on “information
knowledge” in the primary grades, contributes to a significant lack of social
studies-appropriated instructional time. The pressure for students to perform
in content-driven high-stakes tests in math, English/language arts (ELA) and
most recently science has led teachers to explicitly re-prioritize instruction
time away from social studies (Heafner & Fitchett, 2012).
State Policy Factors Influencing
Social Studies Instructional Time
Interstate policy landscape. The re-authorization of the Elementary and Sec-
ondary Education Act (“No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,”) was signed into
law in 2002. In alignment with previous federal policy regarding standardiza-
tion (Evans, 2004; Manzo, 2005), social studies was excluded from testing
and standardization mandates. Consequently, the interstate policy landscape
for social studies is quite varied (Au, 2009). Standardized tests assessing
elementary students’ social studies knowledge and skills have been imple-
mented in twelve states (“Executive summary: 50-state Report Card,” 2009).
However, the impact of these tests on the quality and quantity of social stud-
ies instruction has produced substantial debate.
NCLB testing effects for social studies. Numerous research studies (i.e., Au,
2007, 2009; Fitchett & Heafner, 2010; Leming et al., 2006a; Wills, 2007)
offer not-so-subtle findings that No Child Left Behind and related testing
accountability polices have a negative impact on how much time elementary
teachers spend on social studies instruction. Researchers point out that social
studies continues to lose ground to other core content (ELA, math and sci-
ence) at alarming rates—approximately 30 minutes (0.5 hours) a week
between 1993 and 2003 (Fitchett & Heafner, 2010; Leming et al., 2006b;
Levine et al., 2008). A study conducted at the Center on Educational Policy
(2008) found that social studies instruction decreased by approximately 17
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48 Educational Policy 28(1)
minutes while reading instruction (mandatory testing under NCLB) increased
by approximately 40 minutes a week. In addition, school district policies
mandated a 32% decrease (on average) of social studies time to make room
for tested subject matter. Findings expose a disproportionate amount of
instructional time allotted to social studies compared to requisite-tested sub-
ject matter (Heafner & Fitchett, 2012).
Testing social studies? While the loss of instructional time in elementary
social studies under the NCLB-era is hardly refuted, discussion revolving
around whether or not to test the elementary social studies offers substan-
tially mixed findings (Au, 2007, 2009) As previously stated, social studies
is tested at the elementary level in 12 states—down from 30 a decade ago
(O’Connor, Heafner, & Groce, 2007). In a comparative analysis of elemen-
tary teachers’ instructional perceptions and attitudes of two states (one tests
social studies, the other not), Heafner and colleagues (2006) indicated that
teachers of the tested state spent substantial more time on social studies
instruction than teachers of the non-tested state. These findings mirror addi-
tional studies suggesting social studies is being taught frequently in the
states that it is tested (Grant, 2006; Holloway & Chiodo, 2009). Yet, as Au
(2007, 2009) points out, there is substantial variability in the research sur-
rounding teachers’ instructional response to mandated assessment. Citing
pressures of accountability, one strand of research reports that social stud-
ies practitioners’ teaching with a high-stakes test are more likely to incor-
porate mechanical, instructor-centered, teach-to-the test methodology
(Crocco & Costigan, 2007; Gerwin & Visone, 2006; Rock et al., 2006;
Segall, 2006; Vogler, 2006). Vogler (2006) notes that testing preparation is
significantly associated with textbook and lecture-based instruction. Heaf-
ner and colleagues (2006) acknowledge similar findings—social studies
instruction substantially increased in a tested-state, but the quality and
rational for teaching social studies was narrowly driven by curriculum
Testing contexts and structures. The nature of the qualitative research on
high-stake social studies instruction is highly subjective and can only be
attributed to the specific context of the given study (Au, 2007, 2009). Even in
states that use effective testing practices, there is no guarantee that quality
social studies teaching and learning will occur. Due to the nature of social
studies knowledge and skills (i.e., Horn, 2006; VanSledright, 2004), the
extraordinary variability of social studies assessment policies among states
and the substantial differences in the assessments themselves as well as
regional curricular differences, a national policy analysis of high-stakes test-
ing in social studies is difficult from a qualitative standpoint.
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Fitchett et al. 49
The Influence of Instructional Time Allocation
on Social Studies Instruction
Hargreaves (1994, p. 95) refers to time as a “Faustian bargain” that cripples
practitioners’ instructional decision-making. Specifically, curriculum stan-
dardization and high-stakes testing have contributed to a climate of intensi-
fication (Apple, 2004; Hargreaves, 1994) in elementary classrooms whereby
the priorities and accountabilities of teaching time shift. As a result, teach-
ers’ perception of subject matter importance changes—class time defers to
tested subject matter. Numerous research studies indicate that increased
standardization efforts indicative of NCLB are associated with a decrease of
instructional time in elementary social studies (Center on Educational
Policy, 2008; Fitchett, 2010; Heafner & Fitchett, 2012; Leming et al.,
2006b). Yet, what does quantity suggest about the quality of social studies
instruction in the classroom? Numerous exemplars of ambitious and maver-
ick teaching (Brophy, 1993; Gerwin, 2004; Gradwell, 2006; Grant, 2003,
2007; Holloway & Chiodo, 2009; van Hover, 2006) would indicate that
some teachers counteract the implicit prescriptive demands of state curri-
cula to enact dynamic instruction in their classrooms. Au (2007, 2009) notes
that the context of many of these studies is problematic—given that they are
often situated in states that explicitly test social studies and/or analyze a
small sample of participants in a very limited context.
Referring back to Hargreaves (1994), Time compounds the problem of
innovation and confounds the implementation of change.” (p. 95). Research
on social studies teaching (Costigan & Crocco, 2004; VanSledright, 2004,
2011; Wills, 2007) suggests that engaging, inquiry-based instruction takes
time. In states where social studies is not taught, pressure is placed on ele-
mentary teachers to proportion greater instructional time based upon implicit
curricular importance (Costigan & Crocco, 2004; VanSledright, 2004, 2011;
Wills, 2007) noted that due to curriculum prescription and testing anxiety
social studies is relegated to “specials” status; supplanting recess time and
coordinated by specific fixed intervals. The lack of time implicitly encour-
ages many elementary practitioners to regress into teacher-centered, textbook
oriented instruction that offers very little substantive reflection or critical
thinking. Thus, the proportion of instructional time is a substantial indicator
of both the quantity and quality of social studies teaching.
In this study, we examined the association of teacher, classroom, and state
policy characteristics on intermediate (Grades 3-5) social studies teachers’
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50 Educational Policy 28(1)
reported instructional time. Incorporating a nationally representative data
(SASS), we disentangled the variability of testing and policy context among
and within states (Au, 2009; Grant, 2006; Wills, 2007) by developing a
Hierarchical Linear Model for our analysis. Our research design was guided
by three research questions:
1. What elementary (Grades 3-5) teacher traits are associated with
reported social studies instructional time?
2. What classroom/school/curriculum characteristics are associated
with reported elementary social studies time?
3. Is there a significant difference in reported social studies time
between elementary teachers in states that test compared to states
that do not test?
We utilized data from the National Center for Education Statistics Schools
and Staffing (SASS) public school teacher 2007-2008 school year data set1.
SASS data is the United States’ most representative measure of public
school teacher quality, demography and professional perceptions (National
Center for Education Statistics, 2007). We selected for grade 3-5, elemen-
tary school teachers (n = 1,540)2. Social studies research and theory indi-
cates a shift in curricular prioritization and content emphasis in later grades
(Fitchett & Heafner, 2010; Hanna, 1937; Thornton, 2005; VanFossen,
2005). Therefore, we chose to examine grades 3 to 5 because they represent
a transition in the expanding communities curriculum from concept-based
(Grade 3) toward content-based (Grades 4 and 5; Brophy & Alleman, 2008;
Thornton, 2005; Thornton & Houser, 1996; VanFossen, 2005). Data were
additionally filtered for full-time employment, elementary licensure and
teaching in “self-contained” environment to avoid the organizational con-
founds such as subject area specialization and special education licensure,
which might influence reported social studies instructional beyond the
scope of this study. The resulting subsample included third grade (n = 690,
45.0%), fourth grade (n = 530, 34.4%), and fifth-grade teachers (n = 380,
24.5%) who were the singular representative from their school. However,
some schools within each state were contributing multiple teachers per
school. In the circumstance of teachers nested within schools, the number
never exceeded five. Therefore, we did not consider it appropriate to con-
struct a three level model that tested building-level effects at level two.
Thus, we randomly selected one teacher from each school in which there
was more than one respondent per building.
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Fitchett et al. 51
Research Design
A Hierarchical Linear Model (HLM) was utilized to study both classroom
and statewide policy factors associated with reported social studies time in
elementary grades. This model was developed to avoid both ecological fal-
lacies and atomistic fallacies in examining marginalization theory (Hox,
2010). As put forth in the preceding theoretical framework, large-scale stud-
ies have examined social studies across time while reporting mean social
studies time regardless of the individual classroom and statewide predictors
such as professional attitudes, socioeconomic context of the classroom, and
state testing policies (i.e., ecological fallacy). Qualitative studies have
offered specific classroom context of social studies teaching in a limited
environment with small sampling frames and an inability to generalize find-
ings (i.e., atomistic fallacy). HLM, as a multilevel model, allows for more
specific interpretation of how both classroom and statewide variables predict
reported social studies time.
In examining teachers’ characteristics that prior research associated with
elementary practitioner’s incorporation of social studies, we selected demo-
graphic, teacher quality, and school climate variables from the SASS dataset
(see Table 1). To analyze teacher preparation in social studies (Bolick et al.,
2010; Passe, 2006; Wills, 2007; Zhao & Hoge, 2005), we incorporated vari-
ables of social studies background in their bachelor’s and master’s degree, the
number of methods courses they completed during teacher training, years
experience, licensure pathway, credentials, and status as a “highly qualified
teacher” as determined by NCLB (Yeager & van Hover, 2006). Characteristics
also included teacher stressors associated with intensification (Apple, 2004;
Hargreaves, 1994; Werner, 1988) and ambitious/maverick teaching. Autonomy
was a construct of four single item response questions from the SASS (2007-
2008 public school teacher survey) related to teacher control over the assign-
ment of homework, manipulation of content, development of assessment, and
teaching techniques—characteristics shared in various ambitious and maver-
ick teaching literature (Brophy, 1993; Gradwell, 2006; Grant, 2003, 2007).
Cronbach’s alpha analysis suggests this construct to be moderately reliable (α
= .722). To analyze classroom and school level context associated with social
studies instructional time (Segall, 2006; Vogler, 2006; Wills & Sandholtz,
2009), we included variables emphasizing classroom and school demography,
curriculum structure (i.e., grade level taught), and whether the school achieved
district level distinction for adequate yearly progress (see Table 1). Due to
constraints of the data, we randomly selected one teacher for each school.
Therefore, teacher and classroom/school variables were included at the level I
of the multilevel analysis as contextual variables (Hox, 2010).
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52 Educational Policy 28(1)
Table 1. Indicator Variable Description.
Level of analysis Context Variable name Description
Level I Teacher
Yrs teaching (total) Years teaching over career
Yrs teaching (in
Years teaching in school
Certification Fully licensed
Social Studies
Certified to teach in a social studies-
related field
Masters Masters Degree in Education
Alternative Alternative licensure
HQT Highly qualified teacher as determined by
NBTS National Board Certified Teacher
SS Bachelors Bachelors major/minor in a social studies
related field
Methods # of methods courses in teacher
Autonomy SASS item construct measuring teachers’
sense of autonomy
IEP_CLS # of students with individual education
plans in class
LEP_CLS # of limited English proficiency students
in class
Class size # of student in class
Free/reduced % of students eligible for free/reduced
lunch at the school
AYP Did the school make annual yearly
progress (as reported by the school
Grade level Grades 3-5 (reference variable grade 3)
Level II State Policy
Social studies test3State policy on testing social studies
No test
All test (Elementary, Middle, High School)
Multiple Test (at least two levels)
High School Test
(reference no state test)
Extended response4State social studies test has extended
response items
Science test State tests science in grades 3-5
Textbook selection Local or state adoption (reference local)
Specific social studies
State has specific standards for social
studies instruction as determined by the
Quality Counts Report of 2007
Quality counts grade Grade for standardized curriculum as
determined by Quality Counts Report
of 2007
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Fitchett et al. 53
In order to explore the policy level and assessment variation among states
(Au, 2007, 2009; Grant, 2006), we coded states in respect to their testing of
social studies at three grade level categories: elementary, middle, and second-
ary. Education Week’s Quality Counts report offers the most comprehensive
state-by-state comparisons of specific standardization policies during a given
academic year (Levstik, 2008). Using results from the 2007 report (“Executive
summary: 50-state Report Card,” 2009), we examined the type of test items
included as a measure of state-by-state assessment variance. We included
whether the state has established a test in science, positing that science testing
would have an inverse effect on the amount of time spent on social studies
instruction (Heafner & Fitchett, 2012). We also incorporated the overall stan-
dardization grade as determined by Education Week’s Quality Counts 2007-
2008 report. Finally, we included textbook adoption protocol (state or local) as
an indicator of state’s control over the curriculum resources (Mathis & Boyd,
2009). Aligning the 2007-2008 data with state testing policy of that academic
year, we coded states in which teachers were nested as testing social studies at
all grade level points (n = 13, 25.5%), multiple grade levels (n = 5, 9.8%), or
high school testing only (n = 4, 7.8%). The baseline comparison group was no
standardized testing in social studies (n = 29, 56.9%). These variables repre-
sent level II independent variables in which teachers within schools are nested
in particular states. For a dependent (criterion) variable, we assessed a single-
item, opened ended question, “During the most recent FULL WEEK, approxi-
mately how many hours did you spend teaching (history/social studies) at
THIS school?” (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007).
As noted in teacher responses, participants spent an average of 2.520 hours
of social studies instructional time per week (SD = 1.600). Weekly reported
instructional time totals ranged from 0 to 15 hours per week. For the
Autonomy scale scores, teachers in this sample reported an average of
11.400 (SD = 2.319), with a minimum of 4 and a maximum score of 16. This
score represents a total sum score across the four items, each of which was
measured on a 4 point scale. Higher scores indicate higher teacher perceived
autonomy over instructional issues in the classroom. Teachers in this sample
also reported an average of 2.811 children with IEPs in their classrooms (SD
= 2.528). Teachers reported as few as 0 and as many as 28 children with an
IEP in their classrooms. Descriptive statistics were examined and no substan-
tial outliers were uncovered. Table 2 lists the median and quartiles boundar-
ies for each of these variables.
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54 Educational Policy 28(1)
The first step in testing our hypothesis was to fit the unconditional model.
This model contained no predictor variables and was used to examine the
Intraclass Correlation Coefficient (ICC), a measure of the proportion of vari-
ance in teacher reported social studies instructional hours that is between
teachers within states and the proportion that is between states. The ICC was
.060, indicating that approximately 6% of the variance was found to be
between states and 94% between teachers within states.
Multilevel modeling produces statistical estimates of the proportion of the
variance in the outcome variables that can be attributed to associations with
the predictor variables at each level in the model. These values can be com-
pared to the unconditional model (model without predictor variables) in order
to estimate the variance accounted for by the predictors. These statistics are
conceptually similar to r2 statistics in single level regression models. We ini-
tially tested a model that included, based on theory, all of the level 1 and level
2 variables believed to have a potential association with our outcome vari-
able. The initial level 1 model accounted for 3.4% of the within state variance
in reported instruction time and the initial level 2 model accounted for 0.0%
of the between state variance. We then examined the correlations between all
variables at each level and found both multicollinearity between predictors
and variables that were not related to the outcome measure. We then ran a
second reduced model, retaining only those variables related to the outcome,
and found that the level 1 model accounted for 3.6% of the within state vari-
ance in reported instructional time and the level 2 model accounted for 11.8%
of the between state variance. Therefore, we chose to report only the most
Table 2. Descriptive Statistics for Instructional Time, Autonomy, and Children With
IEPS as Reported by Grades 3-5 Elementary Teachers (n = 1,540).
Weekly social studies
instructional time (hours) Autonomy
Children in the
classroom with an IEP
Mean 2.520 11.400 2.811
SD 1.600 2.319 2.528
Minimum 0 4 0
Q11 10 1
Median 2 12 2
Q33 13 4
Maximum 15 16 28
Note: Q1 = 25th percentile or 1st quartile boundary, Q3 = 75th percentile or 3rd quartile
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Fitchett et al. 55
parsimonious model containing only the variables that were found to be sta-
tistically significantly associated with teacher reported social studies instruc-
tional hours. This model is reported in Table 3.
The intercept in this model can be interpreted as the reported weekly num-
ber of hours of social studies instructional time for third grade teachers with
no children with an IEP in their classrooms and who work in states that do not
test social studies. Autonomy was a statistically significant predictor of
instructional hours and the model coefficient indicates that for every increase
of one point on the autonomy scale score, we expect an increase of .064 hours
of instructional time. The number of children with an IEP in the classroom
was also a statistically significant predictor of instructional hours and the
model coefficient indicates that for every increase of one child with an IEP,
we expect a decrease of .033 hours of instructional time per week. Grade
level was also a statistically significant predictor of instructional hours. Third
grade was used as the baseline. The model coefficients indicate that 4th grade
teachers report .408 hours (24 minutes) more weekly instructional time than
third grade teachers and 5th grade teachers report .585 hours (35minutes)
Table 3. Results From Final Multilevel Model.
Model Predictor B (SE)
I (df=1,539) Intercept 2.093**
Autonomy .064**
Children with IEPs -.033*
4th Grade .408**
5th Grade .585**
II (df=47) All grades tested .495*
Multiple grades tested .355
High school only .095
Note. **- p < .001, * - p < .05.
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56 Educational Policy 28(1)
more instructional time per week than third grade teachers. State testing of
social studies was the only state level statistically significant predictor of
instructional hours and the model coefficient indicates that in states that test
in every grade level, we expect .495 more hours of instructional time. This
model accounted for approximately 11.80% of the between teacher variance
and 9.35% of the between state variance.
In order to make these multilevel modeling results more accessible and to
facilitate direct comparisons of the expected instructional time for teachers
in different conditions, an expectancy table was created that includes model
estimates of instructional time for teachers across the grade levels, auton-
omy levels, and state testing conditions (see Table 4). We chose to report
these values by rounding to the nearest weekly instructional minutes as
opposed to hours to make direct comparisons easier to understand. This
table does not include every possible combination of teacher conditions, but
does provide a general sense of the expected range of instructional minutes
across teachers like those in our sample. For every cell in the table, we kept
the number of children with IEPs in the classroom constant at our sample
median value of 2. It is important to note that all values in the table are
expected to decrease by approximately 2 minutes for each additional child
with an IEP in the classroom. Therefore, these values are likely to be over-
estimating the amount of instructional time in classrooms with high concen-
trations of children with special needs. As indicated by the model coefficients,
Table 4. Model Estimates for Weekly Social Studies Instructional Time by Grade,
Autonomy Score, and Testing Status, in Minutes.
Grade Autonomy
No state social
studies test
State tests
social studies
3 Q1122 152
Median 129 159
Q3133 163
4 Q1146 176
Median 154 184
Q3158 188
5 Q1157 187
Median 165 194
Q3168 198
Note: Q1 = 25th percentile or 1st quartile boundary, Q3 = 75th percentile or 3rd quartile
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Fitchett et al. 57
instructional time increases from 3rd to 5th grade, is higher in states that test
social studies in all grades, and increases with teacher autonomy. The values
range from a low of 122 minutes per week for a 3rd grade teacher with low
autonomy working in a state that does not test, to a high of 198 minutes per
week for a 5th grade teacher with high autonomy working in a state that tests
social studies at every grade level.
We inferred four specific implications from these findings. First, results
from this study confirm earlier studies that suggest testing and standardiza-
tion influence the amount of time elementary teachers spend on social stud-
ies. Second, findings indicate that autonomous teachers spend more time on
social studies instruction. Third, classroom level variables such as grade
level and the proportion of special needs students significantly affected how
teachers’ prioritize social studies. Finally, when controlling for these fac-
tors, teacher credentials and socioeconomic characteristics of the school
were not associated with variability in time spent teaching social studies.
Implication #1: Teachers in States that Test Social Studies, Teach Social
Results from this multilevel analysis corroborate previous research (Au,
2009; Heafner et al., 2006) that suggests time allocated to social studies
instruction is related to the testing policy within a given state. Grades 3-5
participants were more likely to teach social studies and commit more instruc-
tional time in states that tested social studies at the elementary level. Using
model estimates for weekly social studies instructional time by grade, auton-
omy score, and testing status, 5th grade teachers in states which test social
studies devote as much as 76 more minutes per week for social studies
instruction than 3rd grade teachers in states that do not test social studies. At
each grade level, an estimated difference of 30 minutes per week of instruc-
tional time was associated with testing practices. However, taking into
account states’ direct assessment of social studies instruction, other policy
indicators were not significantly associated with reported social studies time.
Moreover, the variability of tested social studies items per state, as measured
by the inclusion of extended response items, was not associated with social
studies instructional time.
Given that current accountability pressures often draw teachers to tested
content as opposed to non-tested subjects, these findings offer a large-scale
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58 Educational Policy 28(1)
national picture of the depth and breadth of this phenomenon. Social studies,
often maligned by political forces (Evans, 2004; Leming, Porter-Magee, &
Ellington, 2003), has only timidly established itself in the era of No Child
Left Behind. In the elementary classroom, it has frequently fallen to the way-
side in competition for teachers’ attention and time as a valuable subject.
However, while testing seemingly increases the amount of time spent on
elementary social studies compared to non-testing, results suggest that the
types of test items are not associated with more instructional time. In
response to state-wide studies of elementary history/social studies teaching
(Gradwell, 2006; Grant, 2006) which intimate that a particular testing proto-
col of open-ended questions (i.e., NY regents exam) improves the quantity
and quality of instruction, our nationally-focused study suggests the inclu-
sion of free-response items is not significantly associated with increased
social studies time. Further research is needed to explore in greater context
how these open-ended items improve (or fail to improve) the quality and
substance of social studies instruction (Gerwin, 2004).
While our results suggest that when mandatorily assessed, social studies
is more frequently taught, we caution against the notion that testing is a sin-
gular solution to marginalization issues. Numerous studies (Heafner et al.,
2006; Vogler, 2006) point to a climate of rote social studies instruction in
tested states. Moreover, as Au (2009, p. 53) warns, “(high-stakes testing)
raises significant issues for social justice education because tests systemati-
cally push multicultural subject matter out of the school curriculum . . .”
However, simply ignoring testing or wishing it away is neither proactive nor
realistic. We argue that the current dialogue on statewide assessment has
become an “either-or” false dichotomy (Dewey, 1938). Instead, social edu-
cators at various dimensions (practitioner, policymaker, teacher educator,
and content specialist) should strive to develop and advocate sufficient
assessment instruments that measure an individual learners’ competency of
a state-mandated curriculum while also attempting to address the multifac-
eted nature of social studies knowledge.
Implication #2: Autonomous Elementary Practitioners Teach Social
As Table 4 illustrates, even within non-tested states, differences between
the first and third quartiles of autonomy account for approximately 11 min-
utes of social studies instruction per week on average. Given the average
36-week school year, differences in autonomy may account for over six
hours of annual reported social studies time. This finding substantiates a
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Fitchett et al. 59
recurring research theme (Brophy, 1993, Gradwell, 2006; Grant, 2003,
2006; van Hover, 2006) of ambitious or maverick social studies practitioners
who believe they have the pedagogical freedom to teach in spite of, not
because of, a mandated test.
Though ambitious teaching is most often evidenced in secondary class-
rooms, our findings suggest that a similar pedagogical ideal is possible among
grade 3 to 5 teachers based on the premise that ambitious and maverick teach-
ing are analogous. Therefore, we encourage elementary socials studies meth-
ods instructors to not only champion greater content area competence, but also
a gatekeeping disposition (Thornton, 2001, 2005) in order to counteract cur-
ricular intensification that undermines and/or dictates social studies teaching.
Thornton’s (2005) concept of gatekeeping suggests that social studies practi-
tioners and elementary educators have creative control over how to enact the
curriculum (Brophy, 1993; Pace, 2011). This teaching epistemology requires
critical inquiry, reflection, and pedagogical content knowledge of the teacher
(Thornton, 2001). Teachers who incorporate a gatekeeping ethos and exhibit
maverick tendencies are more likely to design meaningful, engaged social
studies instruction regardless of the curriculum’s testing requirements.
Practitioners both survive and subvert schooling institutionalization (Apple,
2004; Crocco & Costigan, 2007; Hargreaves, 1994) by exposing learners to
interactive, effective pedagogy that navigates the standard course of study
without falling into rote instructional practices (Grant, 2003).
Implication #3: Grade Level and Classroom Contexts Effect Time
Spent on Social Studies
In addition to teachers’ reported professional autonomy and state testing
policy, grade level was significantly related to elementary social studies
instruction. Similar to previous findings (Fitchett & Heafner, 2010; Houser,
1995; VanFossen, 2005), elementary teachers in later grades (Grades 4 and 5)
reported greater social studies time than in earlier grades (Grade 3), a differ-
ence of 30 to 40 minutes per week. Given the size of the coefficients (see Table
3), differences in grade level were the most substantial level 1 predictor of
reported social studies time. We posit that these findings reflect differences
between 3rd grade and 4-5th grade curriculum traditions. Teachers at the pri-
mary level either lack explicit pedagogical direction in which to teach social
studies (Brophy et al., 2009; Duplass, 2007) or fall back upon curriculum inte-
gration that dilutes social studies instruction (Alleman & Brophy, 1993;
Brohpy & Alleman, 2008; Boyle-Baise et al., 2008; Hinde, 2005; Thornton &
Houser, 1996). Conversely, 4th and 5th grade teachers’ decision to report
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60 Educational Policy 28(1)
greater time in social studies might be symptomatic of greater content empha-
sis in later grades (Brohpy & Alleman, 2008; Brophy et al., 2009; Evans,
2004). Findings also call into question the utilization of the traditional expand-
ing communities curriculum (Brophy & Allen, 2008; Hanna, 1937). We sug-
gest social studies professionals advocate for greater specificity in how the
subject is included in the primary grades and consider emphasizing content-
based, discipline-specific curriculum in social studies standards.
Social studies instructional time was inversely related to the number of
students with IEPs in a respondent’s class. This finding illustrates a signifi-
cant inequality in social studies instruction. As noted earlier, for each addi-
tional child with an IEP in the classroom, teachers at all grade levels spend up
to two minutes per week less on social studies instruction. From the findings,
we conclude that the clustering of students with IEPs is detrimental to overall
student access to content. Moreover, social studies’ perceived lack of impor-
tance is a common theme within social studies marginalization studies
(Heafner et al., 2006; Rock et al., 2006); whereby, instruction is neglected or
co-opted for designated pullout time. Given the overall paucity of research on
special education within the field, future research is suggested to investigate
the context of social studies practice within elementary classrooms.
Implication #4: School Demography and Teacher Credentials Have a
Minimal Effect on Time Spent on Social Studies
Numerous studies have explored the marginalized role of social studies
not only at the elementary school level, but also in teacher education (Bolick
et al., 2010; Good et al., 2010; Mathis & Boyd, 2009; Meuwissen, 2005;
Passe, 2006; Zhao & Hoge, 2005). Our findings indicate that when taking
into account state testing policy, teacher credentials were not significantly
associated with change in reported social studies instructional time. Results
from our large-scale study also diverge from qualitative and quantitative
studies that suggest social studies instruction is marginalized in low socio-
economic, high-risk school settings (Pace, 2008, 2011; Roth et al., 2003). We
inferred from these results that testing is so pervasive that accountability
pressures overshadow a teacher’s official licensure, social studies pedigree,
and various building level demographics.
We recognize that our model is limited in analyzing the amount of time ele-
mentary teachers report on social studies instruction. We are unable to explicitly
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Fitchett et al. 61
investigate how teachers interact with the subject matter as demonstrated in
numerous qualitative studies (Au, 2007, 2009; Gradwell, 2006; Grant, 2003,
2006; Pace, 2011; van Hover, 2006; Yeager & van Hover, 2006). Yet, these
previous studies have provided a substantial framework and context for ele-
mentary social studies research at the micro-level and a rationale for explor-
ing marginalization at a macro-level. Richardson (2006) in acknowledging the
importance of surveys in social studies research suggests:
Social studies educators may find that they gravitate toward qualitative
research because such methods provide a descriptive glimpse of class-
room practices about which educators have personal experience and
might offer more direct advice about how to improve instruction.
However, survey methodology is likely to remain valuable because it
is an efficient way of collecting information . . . and offer(s) greater
generalizability to large populations than non-representative samples
(p. 159).
In an effort to inform large-scale policy initiatives regarding social studies
education, our study offers a national view of how elementary school teach-
ers prioritize social studies instruction given their workplace disposition, cur-
riculum, and state testing policies. Furthermore, we believe that macro-level
studies are necessary to address large-scale educational policy decisions that
affect social studies.
In this study, we examined to what degree accountability measures between
states and classroom level indicators are associated with reported instruc-
tional time in social studies. Results suggest that a confluence of testing
policies, grade level differences, and teachers’ perceptions of autonomy
increase the emphasis of social studies teaching among 3 to 5 grade elemen-
tary teachers. Perhaps just as substantial, our findings indicate that the
effects of testing policy overshadow various teaching credentials and school
level socioeconomic factors. While this analysis cannot fully account for the
complex mechanisms contributing to social studies prioritization, we con-
tend that our model offers policy and pedagogical implications for elemen-
tary social studies. Namely, state testing policies that include elementary
social studies are associated with greater time in social studies. In order to
preserve its place at the curricular table, social studies professionals should
consider advocating for a greater presence on state-wide assessment measures.
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62 Educational Policy 28(1)
In addition, increased time spent on social studies in later grades questions
the purpose and development of elementary social studies in earlier grades
and deserves further analysis at the classroom and curricular level. Lastly,
teacher autonomy, as a significant predictor, suggests that elementary prac-
titioners who are provided training and opportunity to explore their profes-
sion without the constraints of intensification are more likely to teach social
studies. Therefore, a balance of promoting autonomy, redefining curricular
organization, examining classroom milieu, and maintaining a foothold in a
test-driven environment is necessary to improve the prioritization of social
studies in elementary classrooms.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by a University
of North Carolina Charlotte Faculty Research Grant (fund number 1-11196).
1. A copy of the survey instrument can be obtained at
2. All reported data has been rounded to the nearest ten in keeping with National
Center for Education Statistics protocol for non-disclosure.
3. State that do not test social studies: AK, AZ, AR, CO, CT, DC, FL, HI, ID, IL,
WA and WY. States that test social studies at only high school level: AL, MD,
MS, and NC. States that test social studies at more than two levels (middle and
high school): CA, KS, MI, and TX. WV (middle and elementary). States that test
social studies at all three levels (elementary, middle, and high school): DE, GA,
KY, LA, MA, NY, OH, OK, SC, TN, VA, and WI.
4. Of the states that test elementary social studies, LA, WV, NY, OH, MA, DE, and
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Author Biographies
Paul G. Fitchett is assistant professor of education in the Department of Middle,
Secondary, and K12 Education at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. His
research interests include social studies education, educational policy, and teacher
Tina L. Heafner is associate professor of education in the Department of Middle,
Secondary, and K12 Education at the University North Carolina Charlotte. Her
research interests include social studies education, content-specific literacy, and edu-
cational technology
Richard G. Lambert is professor of education in the Department of Educational
Leadership at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. His research interests
include teacher stress and coping, applied statistics, and research methods.
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... While secondary classrooms may deliberate public policy issues that inform this question (e.g., Hess & McAvoy, 2015), early childhood classrooms afford spaces for young children to negotiate this question through their embodied, everyday experiences. This question is at the heart of social studies education, yet social studies has been increasingly marginalized or pushed out of elementary and early childhood curricula (e.g., Fitchett, Heafner, & Lambert, 2014;Heafner & Fitchett, 2012). As social studies is pushed out, concurrently schools have readily adopted curricula for "social-emotional learning" (SEL). ...
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... These factors could affect TPACK in both PU and PEOU. Finally, research suggests that state policy mandates, grade-specific curricular organization, and teacher disposition have a substantial impact on the prioritization of social studies in elementary schools in the United States (Fitchett et al., 2014). Currently, the subject of social studies is not required to be tested in elementary grades (Florida Department of Education, 2019). ...
This study examines the role that technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) plays in elementary teachers' adoption of 1:1 computing for instruction across the subject areas of mathematics, science, English language arts, and social studies. In particular, the research explored whether teachers' self-reported TPACK moderated the relationship between teachers' perceived ease of use (PEOU) and perceived usefulness (PU) of 1:1 computing for instruction in each of the subject areas. The results indicated that TPACK was a significant moderator of the relationships between PEOU of 1:1 and whole-class science instruction, individualized science instruction, and individualized mathematics instruction. TPACK was also a significant moderator of the relationship between PU of 1:1 and the use of 1:1 for whole-class science instruction and individualized mathematics. TPACK was not a significant moderator of the relationships between PEOU or PU and instruction involving 1:1 in the subjects of English language arts or social studies. These findings suggest that TPACK can strengthen elementary teachers' adoption of 1: 1 for instruction in mathematics and science, but did not support this notion in English language arts or social studies.
... It is my responsibility, not only to teach methods for social studies instruction, but to disrupt future teachers' dangerous narratives, build cultural and equity literacies, and prepare them to do the same with their students and colleagues. Teaching social studies presents a challenge to future teachers who attended public schools during an era in which the subject was marginalized and discouraged in elementary schools because of standardized testing policies (Fitchett, Heafner, & Lambert, 2014). A large part of my course includes critically understanding and teaching multicultural U.S. history. ...
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The Covid-19 pandemic caused distance that separated the teacher from the learner as schools and higher education moved to virtual and flexible learning communities. Likewise, at the same time racial tensions were growing further increasing the distance and divide across the country. This positions teacher educators with the responsibility to bridge this distance. The challenges of preparing educators for activism in a post-Covid educational context that considers cultural literacy, ethical leadership, and community engagement is explored with three narratives. These narratives provide the opportunity to think with and through our commitments in early childhood and elementary teacher education. Collectively, these narratives use the conditions of learning and teaching in a pandemic to consider educational challenges of the past and the things we must do to create a more equitable and just future. We conclude this essay with essential commitments as we work to bridge the distance and build community. Baker, S. J., McCafferty-Wright, J., Baker, A. M., & Livers, S. D. (2022). Bridging Teacher Candidates, School Communities, and the World During a Pandemic. The Journal of Advancing Education Practice, 3(1).
Purpose The purpose of this study is to explore decision-making of elementary teachers ( n = 5) specific to US/American history content and curricular resources. More specifically for this study, the author asks the following broad research question: When presented with a collection of social studies instructional resources, how do elementary teachers describe the choices they do make/may make? Design/methodology/approach In this comparative case study, fifth-grade teachers were interviewed using verbal protocol methodology, they discussed their curriculum, teaching and instructional decisions as each was presented with history/social studies resources associated with newly adopted state standards. Findings Findings indicate these elementary teachers have professional freedom to make instructional decisions in the ways they interpreted the standards, design instruction and select materials for social studies. Originality/value This study contributes to and extends the research in elementary social studies. Teachers' voices and decisions are presented as intellectual and pedagogical actions associated with teaching elementary school social studies.
Many suggest that the declining national confidence in its governmental institutions and the political divisiveness in the USA is due to the lack of civic education most adults received in their K-12 schooling experience. Numerous calls for the revitalization of civic education have emerged and these take many forms. This chapter explores the current landscape of civic education in K-12 schooling and seeks to understand the potential influence of each in promoting social justice aims of civic education. The compelling question addressed is: Is civics education a viable path for promoting the social justice aims of K-12 education?
Social studies education and research can and must play a central role in sustaining democratic societies. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of this vital journal that aims to strengthen social studies education, democratic societies face numerous serious challenges. Although today’s circumstances are unique, many of our current challenges have existed (and will continue to exist) in some form throughout the history of democracy. In this article, scholars from various sub-fields of social studies education explore how research, scholarship, and practice in the field can address seven of these persistent civic challenges: ecological sustainability, media literacy, equity and inclusion, civic engagement, political pluralism, civic competency, and sociohistorical change. Essays on each of these topics analyze relevant prior research and offer suggestions for how future research and scholarship can explore how educators can help to address these persistent civic challenges, with the goal of supporting robust participatory democracy.
This article reports the results of a six-year longitudinal interpretative case study on the development of five elementary teachers’ beliefs and practices related to historical inquiry. Using activity theory as the lens, the researcher found: (1) the teachers’ conceptual tools remained relatively consistent over time, and they believed inquiry was the instructional method best aligned with their beliefs; (2) although the teachers occasionally used historical inquiry, it did not become a regular part of their practice; and (3) the teachers described their school contexts and a lack of practical tools as major barriers to implementing inquiry-based instruction. This study highlights the need for more support and time for inquiry-based history instruction at the elementary level.
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This book documents the "brave new world" of teacher, administrator, school, and student accountability that has swept across the United States in recent years. Its particular vantage point is the perspective of dozens of new teachers trying to make their way through their first months and years working in schools in the New York City metropolitan area. The issues they grapple with are not, however, unique to this context, but common problems found today in urban, suburban, and rural schools across the United States. The stories in this book offer a compelling portrait of these teachers' encounters with the new culture of accountability and the strategies they develop for coping, even succeeding, within such demanding settings. Learning to Teach in an Age of Accountability: *introduces research on teaching and engages the "big ideas" concerning teacher research, highlighting what we know and where that leads us; *offers a rich set of teacher narratives that are organized to widen the angle of vision from biography, to classrooms, schools, and society; and *includes questions and activities to encourage discussion and further research about the ideas raised; and *addresses the possibilities for best practice and curricular decision making in light of the issues and ideas presented in the book. This volume--unique in its portrayal of new teachers' encounters with issues of accountability--makes a singular contribution to the educational literature on new teachers. It is relevant to everyone interested in the contemporary world of teaching, and is particularly appropriate as a text for preservice and in-service students. All readers who believe that the key to a good school lies in attracting and keeping good teachers will find the issues presented here both personally engaging and deeply troubling. © 2004 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.
This paper examines how a beginning teacher in Virginia and a beginning teacher in Florida make sense of the high-stakes tests in their state. By examining beginning teachers in two states where the tests are so very different, we gain important insight into whether there are similarities and differences across states and how the nature of the test affects the teaching and learning of history. We first offer insight into the context of accountability in Virginia and Florida and then discuss what ambitious teaching and learning look like in these states as informed by the literature. Then, we turn to our research methods, findings, and implications for the field of social studies.
Background/Context In response to state-level test-based accountability and the federal No Child Left Behind Act, school administrators increasingly view centralized curriculum and prescribed instructional strategies as the most direct means of increasing student performance. This movement toward standardization reduces teachers’ autonomy and control over their classroom practices. The consequences of test-based accountability on teacher practice are often conceptualized as a tension between teacher professionalism and standardization. Focus of Study This case study investigates the classroom instruction of an experienced teacher in an elementary school where the principal supported teachers’ autonomy and authority over curriculum and instruction. Examining her instructional practice in social studies, a subject not included in state testing, we demonstrate how specific teaching dilemmas that arose in response to state testing led to a new type of professionalism that we call constrained professionalism. Setting This qualitative case study focuses on social studies instruction in a fifth-grade classroom at a rural elementary school in southern California serving a low-income, diverse student population with a large percentage of English language learners. The school was selected for two reasons: (1) as a low-performing but improving elementary school as measured by state testing, the school was under pressure to continue to raise student test scores, and (2) social studies continued to be part of the elementary curriculum. Data Collection/Analysis Data collection extended over a 10-month period and included observation and videotaping of social studies lessons, interviews with the teacher and principal, and document collection. Observation and videotaping covered virtually all the social lessons during the school year in the teacher's classroom, a total of 66 lessons. Findings/Results As state-mandated testing was instituted, administrative support of teacher autonomy continued, but constraints on this teacher's decisions emerged as instructional time and resources shifted to language arts and mathematics. Although able to make independent decisions, this qualified teacher did not teach social studies in the way she believed would best serve her students’ needs and interests. Conclusions This case study demonstrates how teachers’ professional discretion is being minimized in subtle yet consequential ways amid high-stakes testing, even in subject areas not tested by the state. Constrained professionalism represents a new situation in which teachers retain autonomy in classroom practices, but their decisions are significantly circumscribed by contextual pressures and time demands that devalue their professional experience, judgment, and expertise.
Background/Context Recent research indicates that social studies is being “squeezed” from the elementary curriculum as instructional time is shifted to language arts and mathematics in response to state testing and the federal No Child Left Behind Act, especially in schools serving poor students and students of color. However, less is known about the specific curricular and instructional choices teachers make as they confront reduced instructional time for social studies, and the enacted curriculum resulting from these choices. Purpose The purpose of this study is to analyze what happens to the enacted curriculum in social studies in elementary schools where instructional time for social studies was reduced in response to state testing in language arts and mathematics. Setting This research was conducted at a rural elementary school in Southern California serving poor Latino, African-American, and White students, a low performing yet improving school as measured by state testing in language arts and mathematics. Research Design A ten-month qualitative case study of social studies curriculum and instruction was conducted in one fourth-grade and two fifth-grade classrooms at one elementary school. Data Collection and Analysis Data collection consisted of observation and videotaping of classroom lessons and activities in social studies during the 2002-2003 school year in three teachers’ classrooms, consisting of a total of 125 videotaped observations. Interviews with teachers, students, and the principal, and the collection and analysis of student work and curricular materials supplemented this data. For this article, data analysis was based on the coding of field notes, analysis of transcripts of lessons and activities, and teacher interviews, to understand the curricular and instructional choices teachers made in social studies and the effect of these choices on the enacted curriculum. Findings/Results Reduced instructional time in social studies has resulted in a reduction of the scope of the curriculum, the curtailment or elimination of opportunities to promote students’ higher order thinking, and an increased emphasis at times on the simple reproduction of content knowledge. Conclusions/Recommendations The institution of a system of accountability meant to improve teaching and learning for all students is instead undermining the quality of students’ education in social studies, especially at low performing elementary schools serving poor students and students of color. As instructional time is shifted to language arts and mathematics the scope of the social studies curriculum and opportunities for thoughtfulness that would deepen students’ understanding of history are being squeezed from the enacted curriculum.
This chapter focuses on assessment of social studies in the elementary classroom. It includes sections on a brief history of assessment in social studies, the present, a broader view of assessment and evaluation; and context for social studies assessment. It discusses the principles for planning and implementing activities with an eye toward assessment and social studies standards, as they link to classroom assessment. It also offers a set of guiding principles. The authors briefly summarize the history of assessment and its posture in the classroom. They highlight instruments that have been designed to measure elements of the social studies curriculum. The chapter traces the shift from a rather relaxed approach to current efforts to make assessment an integral part of the social studies program. The authors' position is that assessment should become so well integrated that it becomes a part of instruction. One section of the chapter addresses the multifaceted assignment that subsumes more than one type of activity and production and that extends over a period of time. The final section addresses social studies standards and their potential influence at the classroom level. It concludes with a set of guiding principles developed by the authors for creating, monitoring, and implementing powerful social studies assessment practices.
This book is a must have for faculty and students in the field of social studies education, and broadly relevant across the fields of curriculum studies and educational policy.
This book, resulting from a collaboration among an educational psychologist, a social studies educator, and a primary teacher, describes in rich detail and illustrates with excerpts from recorded lessons how primary teachers can engage their students in social studies lessons and activities that are structured around powerful ideas and have applications to their lives outside of school. The teaching portrayed connects concepts and skills emphasized in national and state standards, taught in ways that build on students' prior experiences in their local communities and connect with their family backgrounds and home cultures. The analyses include rich descriptions of the teacher-student interactions that occur during lessons, detailed information about how and why the teacher adapted lesson plans to meet her students' background experiences and adjusted these plans to take advantage of teachable moments that emerged during lessons, and what all of this might imply concerning principles of practice. The principles are widely applicable in elementary schools across the country, as well as across the curriculum (not just in social studies) and across the elementary grades (not just the primary grades).