THE BLOG
06/26/2014 10:45 am ET Updated Aug 26, 2014

Common Core's Implementation Is Tricky for Social Studies

Hoping to address misconceptions about Common Core and its implementation, the Center for American Progress (CAP) hosted a bipartisan panel on Thursday to explain Common Core and its impact on American education.

Led by Carmel Martin, CAP's executive vice president for policy, the event featured two former governors -- Ohio Democrat Ted Strickland and Vermont Republican Jim Douglas -- and Chester Finn from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The goal of the panel was to show that, when politics are pushed to the side, Common Core can be a successful and transformative effort in American K-12 public education. The panelists highlighted best practices that help to provide what they call a "roadmap" for transitioning to Common Core.

With Common Core's focus on math and reading, social studies is still on the back burner in many states. Many social studies teachers and administrators I work with have told me that a challenge to eventually applying Common Core frameworks to social studies is the dearth of up-to-date content. As I have noted before, many social studies textbooks -- particularly in world history -- are woefully outdated and can be a major hindrance for teachers seeking to align their pedagogy with Common Core standards. When I asked the panelists about this, Martin and Finn agreed that it would be a challenge.

Social studies content would be especially challenging, Finn noted, because textbook publishers "are scrambling" to align their content with the math and English Language Arts (ELA) standards outlined in Common Core. Martin added that there are groups to help transition educators to Common Core. While these groups might be invested in a successful alignment of standards, content creators might not feel much motivation to change the substance of their content. Some publishers are already claiming Common Core alignment in their textbooks, but upon closer inspection, their materials are still outdated and inaccurate.

The content aspect of Common Core transition cannot be overlooked, and some of the solutions must come from outside of the K-12 world as well. Content publishers must be made aware that their success -- and future revenues -- are dependent upon not only aligning their content with Common Core, but updating their texts to reflect 21st century realities and contemporary discourse. However, the panelists -- and many of the educators I've spoken with -- seem to agree that such changes are still at least several years away.

As the panelists noted, however, engagement of stakeholders -- including community groups and parents -- is vital to Common Core's successful implementation. In fact, the CAP report on Common Core recommends investing in "teacher preparation and ongoing professional development," a need that groups such as the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) can help to fill in the years ahead.

Moreover, it will involve buy-in from both publishers and educators that successful implementation of Common Core's vision cannot come without the help of diverse and historically underrepresented groups. These communities not only seek accuracy in their stories, but are equally invested in transforming American education to ensure better outcomes for all students.