CT Among States Analyzed for High School Social Studies Requirements

The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), with funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, has analyzed the standards, course requirements, and mandatory assessments relevant to civic education in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.  Among the highlights:

  • All states have standards for social studies, a broad category that includes civics/government along with other disciplines such as history and geography. The civics theme of power, authority, and government is included in all 51 states' social studies standards (including D.C.). The theme of civic ideals and practices is found in every state's standard except Missouri's.
  • Thirty-nine states – including Connecticut - require at least one course in American government or civics.
  • In the 2012-13 school year, 21 states – not including Connecticut - require a state-designed social studies test. This is a similar number as in 2006 but a dramatic reduction compared to 2001, when 34 states conducted regular assessments on social studies subjects. Two states, Maryland and Florida, have recently instituted new social studies assessments.

In Connecticut, required Social Studies courses include World History, U.S. History and Civics/Government.  Topics to be included within the curriculum, according to the CIRCLE data,  include Cultural Diversity; Time, Continuity & Change; People, Places and Environments; Production, Distribution and Consumption; Power, Authority & Governance; Global Connections; Civic Ideals and Practices, Real World Application, Individuals, Groups and Institutions; and Science, Technology and Society.  Service learning is not currently part of social studies standards, as it is in numerous other states.

The report also found that less than a dozen states require students to pass exams in social studies subjects.  Among those that do, social studies assessments have shifted from a combination of multiple-choice and performance tasks to almost exclusively multiple-choice exams since 2000.

  •  Just nine states require students to pass a social studies test in order to graduate from high school: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Georgia's assessment will be phased out but Maryland and Florida will add high-stakes tests.
  • Eight states have statewide, standardized tests specifically in civics/American government: California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. Of those, Ohio and Virginia are the only ones that require students to pass that test to graduate from high school.

The CIRCLE study was the first in five years. The full analysis is summarized in a new fact sheet entitled State Civic Education Requirements , and a spreadsheet provides details on each state.