The State of K-12 Social Studies Education

Social studies classroom showing a globe and colored pencils

High-quality social studies education is imperative for preparing students to engage in a more diverse, complex society. However, research consistently indicates that social studies educators receive less instructional time, professional development, and learning resources in comparison to other subjects. In recent years, social studies education has increasingly been at the center of local, state, and national discourse. Particularly, discourse has centered on what can or should be taught in social studies. 

The spotlight on social studies education has led states to introduce laws expanding or limiting more controversial or divisive topics, reevaluate the standards development process, and seek ways to provide educators and students with quality instructional materials. These efforts are helping shape the social studies education landscape.

More than ever, the field needs research and resources to clearly define the purpose of social studies and to address limitations that stifle what aspects of social studies are being taught. In our report, we draw from our experience working with states, districts, and social studies organizations to identify key trends in social studies education and explore current gaps and opportunities to bring greater focus to what is needed in the field. We communicate the state of K-12 social studies education by examining the following topics:

  • Trends in the development and content of state social studies standards;
  • Landscape of curriculum materials and state and district efforts in evaluating these materials; and
  • Gaps in the field for further investigation. 

It is essential that we continue to invest in social studies education and address the current gaps in the field. This report serves as a starting point for further discussions and actions needed to address the gaps in the field.