iCivics and National Council for the Social Studies Call for Renewed Focus as New RAND Corporation Report Shows Lack of Infrastructure for K–5 Social Studies

March 07, 2023

Released during Civic Learning Week, “The Missing Infrastructure for Elementary (K–5) Social Studies Instruction” shows that more supports are needed to ensure high-quality social studies for our nation’s youngest learners.

WASHINGTON, DC – March 7, 2023 – With the release of the RAND Corporation’s latest report, “The Missing Infrastructure for Elementary (K–5) Social Studies Instruction,” during today’s opening forum for the first-ever national Civic Learning Week at the National Archives, iCivics and the National Council on the Social Studies (NCSS) call for renewed efforts to prioritize K–5 social studies instructional time and ensure educators receive sufficient support. 

According to the report, most states do not have the infrastructure in place—such as academic standards, accountability policy and assessments—to support high-quality social studies education. Where an infrastructure is in place, there remain large gaps in quality. 

The report was based on an extensive literature review on what is known about state policies for social studies along with nationally representative data from surveys of more than 700 K–5 teachers and 1,600 principals in public schools.

At the local level, infrastructure such as teacher evaluation and professional development for social studies pales in comparison to the more-tested subjects of math and English language arts (ELA). 

“Civic learning and social studies have always been important foundations of a well-rounded education, but they have been marginalized, and social studies instructional time has significantly decreased or been outright eliminated—especially at the elementary level,” NCSS Executive Director Lawrence Paska said. “We hope this report sheds light on why it is so important to ensure a robust social studies K–12 program every day—and support teachers and students in teaching and learning social studies. That is why we are working with many states and organizations to support what we know to be the best approaches for developing, revising and implementing high-quality learning standards and curriculum frameworks across social studies disciplines.“

According to the report, half of elementary school principals report not having published curriculum materials to support social studies, leaving teachers to cobble together materials to support their classes. Combined with decreased instructional time, this means that too many elementary school teachers spend more time planning social studies content than they do actually teaching it.

“The implication that many educators called on to teach social studies have little to no support when it comes to teaching the lessons of our history and the fundamentals of how democracy works in the United States is simply unacceptable,” iCivics Executive Director Louise Dubé said. “Civics and social studies are essential for informed and engaged participation in our self-governing society. That is why we must work to make these subjects a priority and support educators in providing high-quality instruction in these fundamentals.”

The timely report arrives during Civic Learning Week, March 6–10, 2023, when more than 100 organizations, states, and educators are holding scores of in-person and online events across the country to highlight the role of civic learning in sustaining and strengthening constitutional democracy in the United States. 

The events are designed to provide people of all ages with positive and engaging civic learning opportunities, offering mechanisms for parents, educators, students, business leaders, and other community members to connect at the local level and beyond around a shared commitment to civic education.

Civic Learning Week is cosponsored by the Farvue Foundation, iCivics, Microsoft, the National Archives, the National Archives Foundation, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the SN Charitable Foundation. 

For more information:

RAND Report


Civic Learning Week