Looking Back, Looking Up, Moving Forward

A Survey of Social Studies in New Jersey Schools

  • Welcome to the Project
  • A Special Message
  • An Introduction
  • Key Findings
  • Viewing Data/Policy
  • Detailed Findings
  • Data Dashboard
  • Thank You

Welcome!

Explore, engage in, and discover the state of social studies in New Jersey.

A welcome from 2022 NJ State Teacher of the Year, Theresa Maughn.

About the Survey

Revolution  NJ is  a  partnership  between  the  New  Jersey  Historical  Commission,  a  state  agency, and the nonprofit organization Crossroads of the American Revolution Association dedicated to planning the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution in New Jersey.  A first step for this initiative was to conduct a survey of social studies education in New Jersey’s K-12 classrooms. This report, Looking Back, Looking Up, Moving Forward, presents the findings of that survey.

Funding for Looking Back, Looking Up, Moving Forward was provided through legislation enacted by the State of New Jersey charging the New Jersey Historical Commission with planning and implementing initiatives to mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States.

Youth learn history by reading LIFE magazine
Teens in the YWCA Club Room, 1940-1965, with students reading period Life and Jet magazines. Courtesy of the Montclair History Center.

Background

In January of 2020, Quadrant Research & Bedrock Research, on behalf of the  New Jersey Historical Commission and the New Jersey Department of Education,  began a study of the level of social studies education in New Jersey schools. An online survey of New Jersey schools was conducted from January 2020 through June 2020.

  • The principals of  2,531 public schools were asked to complete an on-line survey to provide detailed information on social studies education in his or her school. The on-line survey captured numerous details on social studies education, more specifically:
  • Types of social studies courses (curricular and extra-curricular) offered, by grade level
  • Number of students enrolled in social studies extra-curricular activities;
  • Number of hours in a year dedicated to social studies education;
  • Certification level of teachers providing social studies education;
  • Non-salary budgets allocated to social studies education;
  • Use of outside groups/individuals for performances/exhibits AND field trips to support social studies instruction;
  • Use of social studies & New Jersey History integration;
  • Professional development offerings to art and general classroom teachers;
  • Policies in place regarding social studies education (adoption of standards, high school arts graduation requirements, etc.);
  • Facilities and resources available for social studies instruction.

A total of 607 public schools completed a questionnaire, which is a 24% response rate.  A total of 446,754 students were represented by responding public schools (34% of all New Jersey students in schools that qualified to participate).  

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the data for this study was limited to a sample of schools in New Jersey, as opposed to an enumeration (all schools), which was the original goal.  In studies like this, the norm is to use a sample and not an enumeration, as a sample is sufficient in order to draw conclusions about the total group of schools.  A sample is used in order to avoid unnecessarily using resources to collect the data.  Given the total number of schools, and the final number of schools in our sample, the margin-of-error is +/- 3.5% at the 95% confidence level.  This was deemed more than sufficient to draw conclusions about the total group of schools in New Jersey.

In addition, data on social studies course enrollment for every public school in the state was acquired for the 2019/2020 school year through an open public records request to the New Jersey Department of Education. Social studies course enrollment data from 2,374 schools has been included in the analysis to provide a detailed understanding of student participation in social studies courses during the period of the survey and is noted when referenced in this report.

Revolution NJ

About Revolution NJ

The nation’s upcoming 250th anniversary in 2026 offers New Jersey a unique opportunity to raise awareness of its seminal role in the American Revolution. To this end, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and the state legislature enacted A4194 in August 2018 to establish a planning framework “to ensure the State is appropriately recognized for its role in the American Revolution.” This planning process is guided by stakeholders from across the state.

Revolution NJ will advance the role that history plays in public discourse, community engagement, education, tourism, and scholarship in New Jersey. Through a series of initiatives that explore the history of the American Revolution, its context, and its legacy, Revolution NJ will galvanize diverse audiences statewide into embracing the enduring value and relevance of history. 

For more information about Revolution NJ, visit https://revolutionarynj.org

A Special Message

Looking Back, Looking Up, Moving Forward: Teaching a Rich, Complex History to New Jersey Students

NJ State Seal

In 2018, the New Jersey State Legislature tasked the New Jersey Historical Commission, within the NJ Department of State, with planning for a major national milestone, the 250th anniversary of the United States beginning in 2026. Over the past three years, the Commission and its non-profit partner, Crossroads of the American Revolution, have laid the foundation for an engaging, inclusive, and vibrant commemoration. Central to this initiative, now known as Revolution NJ, is identifying strategies to enhance the teaching of social studies in our schools. The first step was to conduct a survey of social studies education in New Jersey’s K-12 classrooms. This report, Looking Back, Looking Up, Moving Forward, presents the findings of that survey which will guide us in educating and inspiring informed and active leaders and community members for the future.

National momentum is building as America 250 (the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission), and numerous national, state, and private organizations plan commemorative events and programs. This anniversary comes at a particularly critical time in our state and national history. As Americans grapple with a past that is complex, it is essential that we teach our students an inclusive, honest history of who we are as a people. With a comprehensive understanding of our journey as a nation, our young people will be better prepared to lead us toward the full realization of those revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality, and justice.

Looking Back, Looking Up, Moving Forward identifies many opportunities to strengthen the teaching of history, civics, economics, and geography in our schools. It highlights the need for new resources for teaching about underrepresented communities, the expansion of civics in New Jersey education (as mandated by recent legislation), and promotes more opportunities for students to experience history and civics through valuable partnerships with New Jersey museums, historic sites, archives, and cultural organizations. 

With the essential data generated by this survey, the New Jersey Historical Commission, Crossroads of the American Revolution, and the New Jersey Department of Education are well equipped to meet the challenge of strengthening social studies education for all New Jersey students. As we prepare for the upcoming 250th anniversary of our nation, we will highlight the rich history of our state and its diverse residents in our classrooms, in our neighborhoods, and for the many visitors who come to the Garden State. This is a vital and exciting journey that we embark upon; we look forward to sharing it with our educators and students around the state.

The Honorable Tahesha Way
New Jersey Secretary of State

Tanesha Way signature

Looking Back, Looking Up, Moving Forward: An Introduction to this Report

By Angel Santiago, 2020-2021 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year
Angel Santiago

A reinvestment in social studies education is gathering support nationally and within my home state of New Jersey. I see it on the national level with the work of the Educating for American Democracy (EAD) Roadmap. And I see it evidenced with the New Jersey social studies survey report, Looking Back, Looking Up, Moving Forward, produced by Revolution NJ, the New Jersey Department of Education, and Quadrant Research. Over 607 public schools and 446,745 students were represented in the survey. Amid a pandemic, the scope and scale of this work were quite impressive and revealed some key findings.

In particular, the survey highlighted the need to prepare and train our educators on how to teach an inclusive view of history from different perspectives. The truth of the matter is that contributions of various populations have been limited to a single narrative in our history books and social studies classrooms, due to a lack of time, awareness, and/or resources. Diverse narratives teach our students lessons of perseverance while celebrating stories of heroism. 

Offering a diverse recount of our nation’s history is essential in connecting the events of our past to the lives of our students. The disconnect between our students and social studies has grown throughout the years. But offering a refreshing view on our nation’s past can fuel discussions that directly affect the lives of the students within our classrooms. By providing our students with a rich and diverse view of history, backed by primary resources and in-depth research, we can better prepare our students to confront the problems that affect their lives today. Yet, it will take educators who are well-trained in these areas to meet this goal. 

The pandemic has significantly promoted the use of technology throughout all subject matter and although there are many limitations, there has been an influx of opportunities that have been offered through an online setting, that can positively impact the future of our classrooms.  From virtual field trips to Zoom webinars with experts in the field of history, civics, or social studies, within the last year teachers have adapted their pedagogy and resources to accommodate this ever-changing, interconnected world. Through a tumultuous year, one thing is for certain: technology plays a crucial role in providing an equitable social studies education for all of the 1.4 million students of the state of New Jersey. 

One of the most eye-opening findings of the survey was the amount of funding allocated to social studies education. In order to assist schools and teachers in providing effective and standards-aligned social studies education, there needs to be a concerted effort to invest time and resources. This funding would be essential in providing high-quality professional development, offering meaningful and enriching historical field trips, or providing innovative social studies resources. A meaningful investment into social studies programs is the key to training and providing essential resources for our students and teachers to utilize. 

As we prepare to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of our nation, New Jersey, the state that served as arguably the most prominent battleground for the fight for independence, stands upon yet another frontier. A movement dedicated to providing its students with an equitable, engaging, and refreshing account of history. A movement that focuses on a truthful translation of America’s past and that involves technological research dependent upon civil and academic debate. One that tells untold narratives that reflect a diverse array of American heroes.  

As a lover of social studies education, I could not be prouder of the direction and the precedent that the New Jersey Historical Commission and the New Jersey Department of Education have set for the rest of the nation in the area of social studies education. I look forward to learning more about the lessons and resources that I can share with my colleagues, students, and my club, Young People of Character, a club of 4th and 5th graders founded to instill the foundations of citizenship within their community.  So, join me in celebrating as we embark on the reinvestment in social studies education, in providing our students with an enriching and 360-degree view of history, and offering them a pathway to building a better tomorrow.  

Angel M. Santiago II

2021 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year

 


Angel Santiago is an elementary school teacher at Loring Flemming Elementary school in Blackwood, New Jersey, and has piloted and offered professional development with several social studies curricula within his district. Through his club Young People of Character, Angel believes that through community service, he can foster empathy and emotional intelligence within his students, which is instrumental to closing the equity gap in many communities. As the 2020-21 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year, Angel has worked on various initiatives that include, diversifying the teacher pipeline, mentoring pre-service teachers, equity initiatives in education, promoting social and emotional learning, and has served on the ACEs Community Advisory Board. Angel currently lives in Elmer, New Jersey with his wife Kourtney, also an educator, and their sons Cruze and Sebastian. 

Updates Since the Conclusion of the Survey

In the spring of 2019, the New Jersey Historical Commission, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), and Quadrant Research, set out to develop and administer a survey of social studies in K-12 schools in order to better prepare for the observance of the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution in 2026. The survey was conducted from January through June 2020. In March, the Covid-19 pandemic caused a  significant shift in our national educational communities as many of our schools moved to remote and hybrid learning. This report, Looking Back, Looking Up, Moving Forward, provides a useful snapshot of pre-pandemic life in our New Jersey K-12 schools and the status of history and civics education up until this point in time. For example, this survey highlights teachers’ use of technology in the classroom primarily as a source for teaching resources, and for primary resources and media for their students. However, the shift for many schools to remote or hybrid learning (and the elimination of field trips or in-person programming) led to a significant shift in the use of technology for social studies including the extensive use of webinars and virtual field trips (provided by museums, archives, and local historical sites) that changed, perhaps fundamentally, the way social studies resources are shared, teachers’ awareness of NJ state and local resources, and ultimately, the way students experience social studies overall. 

During our data analysis and preparation of this report, two more significant changes occurred in the social studies educational community. First, in June 2020 NJDOE introduced revised New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS). The mission for the revised standards for social studies aligns with a key finding in our survey, i.e. the need for students to explore and analyze data in order to make informed decisions on sometimes complex topics of race, gender, and class, that are important to their community and state. The new standards use essential questions as a means of encouraging inquiry-based learning. They also change the semantics used throughout. For example, a reference to “human rights guarantees,” rather than the term “citizens’ rights,” creates a more complex, multidisciplinary means of exploring the topic. Another key finding highlights social studies teachers’ need for professional development and resources to guide them in these more nuanced discussions. 

While NJDOE worked to revise state standards, on a national level the Educating for American Democracy initiative also conducted its own assessment and highlighted a resounding need for civics education. In July 2021, the State of New Jersey passed a bill, known as “Laura Wooten’s Law” (S854), requiring civics instruction in middle school. The bill, named for a long dedicated poll worker, also directs the New Jersey Center for Civic Education at Rutgers University to provide the professional development sources that high school social studies teachers will need to incorporate civics into their existing history courses. The survey findings firmly support the need for civics education. At the time the data was gathered, only 61 out of 2,374 schools offered a civics course. A comprehensive, nuanced understanding of how government works is an essential tool for students who will become the informed voters and leaders of tomorrow.

 

Key Findings

An In-Class Presentation at Dennis Twp. Primary School
An In-Class Presentation at Dennis Twp. Primary School. Courtesy of Historic Cold Spring Village.

Social Studies Courses

  • Nearly all NJ public schools students have access to social studies instruction as part of their education. 99.7% of elementary and 100% of middle and high schools provide social studies instruction.

     

  • 96% of New Jersey students in grades 6-12 are participating in some type of social studies course.

     

  • Most middle and high schools offer U.S. History and World History courses.

     

  • Only 61 of the 2,374 schools teach a dedicated civics course.
    *See Update in Statement of Changes in the “An Introduction” tab above.

     

  • Although 91% integrate New Jersey history into their social studies curriculum, very few schools, (3%) offer any type of New Jersey History as a dedicated course.

Funding Social Studies

  • The median spending per student for social studies across all NJ schools is $5 per student per year. However, about 13% of schools allocate no money at all ($0 per student) on social studies.

  • Professional development opportunities for social studies teachers includes conferences or seminars, (63%), professional learning communities (60-62%), workshops with professionals or historical groups (42-54%), and webinars (35-42%). 

  • Notably, 15% of NJ schools offer no professional development opportunities for certified social studies teachers (21% elementary, 9% middle, 4% high schools)  

  • We see a significant impact on how funding affects assembly programs with only half of NJ schools reporting that they have had social studies assembly programs with speakers (56%) or plays/performances (27%) For the other half who have not, cost was the most often cited as a barrier, followed by a lack of information on programs, or assembly programs not being a priority.

Instructional Resources

  • More than half of responding schools report that they have insufficient instructional resources supporting instruction that includes LGBTQ people,people of differing abilities, and Latino and African American history.

  • 21% of teachers cited they have few or no instructional resources to teach the skill of “Taking informed action,” and 13% of teachers cited that they few or no instructional resources to teach the skill of “Applying disciplinary tools and concepts.” 

  • The instructional resources that students use most frequently are videos (97%), secondary sources (94%), maps (92%), and textbooks (85%). 
Visitors-Greetings from Hudson County
Visitors-Greetings from Hudson County. Courtesy of the Hoboken Historical Museum.

Partnerships & Resources for Social Studies

  • About 26% of schools did not take a social studies field trip during the 2019/2020 school year. 

  • Of those who have not traveled outside the building, transportation costs were cited by most as the top barrier, followed by time out of the school day, or field trips not being a priority. 

  • 62% of schools went to a historic site or museum. 

  • For most schools, the primary budget source for field trips is “school budget,” with a slightly higher proportion at the high school level reporting that these trips are student funded. 

  • Less than half of all schools (40%) report that their school/district has ongoing (at least multi-year) partnerships/collaborations with a cultural organization(s)/college that help meet their social studies education curricular goals.

  • More than half of schools are aware of free/low-cost resources, most often citing Teaching Tolerance, local museums and historical societies, the Library of Congress and the National Archives.

New Jersey Student Learning Standards – Social Studies

Summer camps- Great Falls NPS
Summer camps - Great Falls National Park Service. Courtesy of The Paterson Museum.

The New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS) are reviewed and revised every five years. The 2020 NJSLS in Social Studies were adopted by the State Board of Education on June 3, 2020. Districts are required to implement these standards through the updating of social studies curricula by September 2022. The standards provide the framework for curricular instructions as well as provide the performance expectations students are expected to meet by the end of each grade band.

Implementation of the standards is mandated by the New Jersey Administrative Code. District boards of education shall ensure that curriculum and instruction are designed and delivered in such a way that all students are able to demonstrate the knowledge and skills specified by the New Jersey Student Learning Standards (N.J.A.C. 6A:8-3.1(a)). The district must provide sufficient time and resources to ensure that all students can demonstrate that they have met or exceeded the expectations set forth in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. 

Kids at Bicentennial Concert TSC Singers
Kids at Bicentennial Concert Trenton State College (now TCNJ) Singers. Courtesy of the New Jersey State Archives.

Intent and Spirit of the Social Studies Standards

All students receive social studies instruction from kindergarten through grade 12. Today’s challenges are complex, have global implications, and are connected to people, places, and events of the past. The study of social studies focuses on a deep understanding of concepts that enable students to think critically and systematically about local, regional, national, and global issues.

Authentic learning experiences that enable students to apply content knowledge, develop social studies skills, and collaborate with students from around the world will prepare New Jersey students for college, careers, and civic life. The natural integration of technology in social studies education allows students to overcome geographic borders, apply scientific and mathematical analysis to historical questions and contemporary issues, appreciate cultural diversity, and experience events through the examination of primary sources.

Visitors at the East Jersey Old Town Village. Courtesy of Crossroads of the American Revolution.

Mission & Vision

Mission: Social studies education provides learners with the knowledge, skills, and perspectives needed to become active, informed citizens and contributing members of local, state, national, and global communities.

Vision: An education in social studies fosters a population that:

  • Is civic-minded, globally aware, and socially responsible;

  • Exemplifies fundamental values of democracy and human rights through active participation in local, state, national, and global communities;

  • Makes informed decisions about local, state, national, and global events based on inquiry and analysis;

  • Considers multiple perspectives, values diversity, and promotes cultural understanding;

  • Recognizes the relationships between people, places, and resources as well as the implications of an interconnected global economy;

  • Applies an understanding of critical media literacy skills when utilizing technology to learn, communicate, and collaborate with diverse people around the world; and

  • Discerns fact from falsehood and critically analyzes information for validity and relevance.

Structure and Content

The standards provide a guide for districts to determine grade level curricula. Districts decide what courses and content are taught at each grade level based on the grade-banded core ideas and performance expectations. There are three standards taught across kindergarten through twelfth grade.

  • 6.1 U.S. History in the World (Grades kindergarten through 12)
  • 6.2 World History (Grades 8 through 12)
  • 6.3 Active Citizenship in the 21st Century (Grades kindergarten through 12)

The standards are organized by grade-band performance expectations, which means the performance expectation can be taught at any grade within the grade-band as determined by the local district. The following provides an overview of content for each grade-band.

Kindergarten through grade 2

Social studies instruction in early elementary focuses on developing student’s understanding of their role in their family, community, county and world. Students learn foundational ideas of government, democracy, human rights, the common good, citizenship, and civil discourse as well as explore the American identity through symbols, holidays, and monuments that are reflective of our values and principles.

Grades 3 through 5

In upper elementary, social studies instruction begins with the various levels of government functions, powers and responsibilities. Students explore topics of geography and economics through a local and state context, while learning the various histories, cultures and perspectives of United States starting with the native populations of the U.S. through 1763 with an emphasis on the geography, history and civics of New Jersey. 

Grades 6 through 8

In middle school, students embark on instruction typically taught in a credit-based course format. Each credit is equivalent to a minimum of 40 minutes per week. Throughout this grade band, the performance expectations covered in standard 6.1 U.S. History focuses on the Revolution through Reconstruction (1754-1877) and standard 6.2 World History explores the beginning of man through global encounters (10,000 BCE -1450 CE). Standard 6.3 Active Citizenship in the 21st Century has students build their understanding of civics, government and human rights. 

In addition, students are required to complete a civics course, minimum two quarters or equivalent, that addresses the values and principles underlying the American system of constitutional democracy; the function and limitations of government; and the role of a citizen in a democratic society.

Grades 9 through 12

High school students are required to take a minimum of a world history course as well as two years of U.S. History, consisting of 15 credits. Standard 6.1, U.S. History performance expectations encompass colonization through today (1585-present). The World History performance expectations in standard 6.2 cover the emergence of the first global age through contemporary issues (1350-present). 

In addition, students must meet or exceed the expectations set forth in standard 6.3 Active Citizenship in the 21st Century. These performance expectations focus on students addressing contemporary national and global issues in a solutions-oriented context.

Children using AR feature of Greetings from Hudson County. Courtesy of the Hoboken Historical Museum.

New Jersey Administrative Code and Statute Requirements

In addition to the NJ Student Learning Standards, the following should be integrated into K-12 Social Studies curricula:

 

Elementary Social Studies Requirements:

 

Middle School Requirements:

 

High School Requirements:

Social Studies Survey Findings

Access to Instruction: Nearly all NJ public schools students have access to social studies instruction as part of their education. 99.7% of elementary and 100% of middle and high schools provide social studies instruction. 82% of middle schools provide either US or World History.

Participation: 96% of all students in grades 6-12 participate in at least one social studies course including 94% of middle school students and 98% of high schools students.

Time: Elementary students spend between 110 and 150 minutes per week on social studies instruction. This increases significantly to 225 minutes per week in middle school. 

Extra Curricular Activities: Student Government and Community Service clubs are the primary ways students engage with extracurricular activities.

New Jersey History and Social Studies Integration

New Jersey History: 91% of all schools report integrating New Jersey History into the social studies curriculum (96% elementary, 89% middle schools and 90% high school) with most popular grades being 4th grade (96%) and 10th grade (91%). Only 3% of schools report offering NJ History as a dedicated course. 35% of schools report incorporating NJ History into language arts.

Collaboration: Almost all responding schools report that teachers who teach social studies collaborate with teachers from other subject areas. Most often, they report collaboration in language arts (64%) & technology (30%) subject areas. Very few schools report that teachers of social studies and other content areas teach lessons together with about half of responding schools reporting that it never happens.    

Graduation Requirements: Most schools (93%) with 12th grade enrollment report that 15 credits for social studies is the local high school requirement for graduation (the state requirement) with about 60% reporting that more than half the seniors will exceed that credit requirement. 

Standards: Very few schools (only 2%) report that the curriculum has not been updated to align with the NJSLS for Social Studies and adopted or updated by the local school board. For those that have aligned, 94% used the 2014 edition of the NJ Student Learning Standards for Social Studies as the basis for updating. (Note: in June 2020 the NJ State Board of Education adopted new Student Learning Standards for Social Studies which was after the conclusion of this study).

Assessment: Most schools report the use of teacher developed/created assessments (98%) and/or textbook chapter test assessments (74%) as the ways in which student progress toward achieving the social studies standards is assessed. 

District Plans: While the majority of schools (57%) report having social studies goals for their district, less than half have a written social studies plan (40%) or report that social studies goals are part of their strategic plan (46%). 

ESSA Stakeholder Engagement: Only about a third of schools (32%) report that they conduct stakeholder engagement about social studies as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) district plan as required by the New Jersey Department of Education.

Among those who do conduct stakeholder engagement as part of their ESSA district Plan, the majority report doing so through public meetings (59%). About a third of elementary (30%) and middle (31%) schools report using community surveys, while slightly more than half of high schools (55%) use community surveys. 

Use of Title Funds: Most schools (55%) report using no ESSA Title funds to support social studies instruction. Title II are most often cited (36%) as funds to support social studies instruction.  Fewer use Title I funds (19%) and even less report using Title IVA (11%).

Using Technology to Access News: Among all responding schools who access news & current events via the internet at least occasionally, only about a third of responding middle and high schools report using the internet regularly (about 70% of the time) to access all three types of news (local, national and international).  

The majority of elementary schools (57%) report accessing none of these news options (local, national and international) via the internet regularly (about 70% of the time).

Frequency of Accessing the News: Among all responding schools who access news & current events via the internet at least occasionally, national news was most frequently (70% of the time or more) accessed via the internet (57%). 

Local news was least frequently accessed via the internet with 11% reporting that it is rarely (less than 10% of the time) or never accessed via the internet. 

Social Studies Teachers: Among schools with enrollment in grades 6 to 12, almost all (94%) have at least one FTE certified social studies teacher; 91% of middle schools have at least one and 99% of all high schools. 

Instructional Resources: The instructional resources that students use most frequently are videos (97%), secondary sources (94%), maps (92%), and textbooks (85%). 

Webinars were most often reported, across all school types, as never being used or not available (50%) followed by subscription services (15%). 

Supervisor: Most schools (70%) report having a district level Social Studies Supervisor. 

Very few elementary and middle schools report having a school level Social Studies Supervisor, but about a third (34%) of high schools do. 

Among schools with district-based Social Studies Supervisors, most report that the role of that supervisor covers ‘social studies and another department’ and that the Social Studies Supervisor holds a degree or certification in social studies. 

Budget: The median school budget allocation for social studies is $2,500. High schools had the highest school budget allocation for social studies (median of $5,364).

Per-Pupil Spending: Overall, 13% of schools spend $0 on a per student basis for social studies budget allocation, 16% at the elementary level, 11% at the middle school level and 7% at the high school level. Median spending across all school types is $5 per student. 

Funding Sources: The majority of schools (68%) report having district level budget to support social studies in addition to their school budget but very few report that their school charges fees to participate in social studies based extracurricular activities (11%) and/or receives funding from a source outside of the district to support social studies activities (8%).  

* Note that budget figures reported below do not include teacher salaries, capital expenses, non-district funds or one-time expenditures.

Instructional Resources: When asked about content areas where teachers do not have sufficient instructional resources, more than half of responding schools report that they have insufficient instructional resources in the areas of LGBTQ people and people of differing abilities.  

When asked to select the top three content areas where teachers have the most need for additional instructional resources, LGBTQ people ranked number one, followed by people of differing abilities (number two) and Latino history and African American history (tied for third).

Schools were also asked to report the number of instructional resources they have available to them to teach social studies skills. Overall, more than half report having a moderate amount or some instructional resources to teach the specific social studies skills outlined in detail below*.  ‘Taking informed action’ (21%) was most often cited as being the area that teachers have very few or no instructional resources followed by ‘applying disciplinary tools and concepts’ (13%).

Assessment Frequency: Most schools report assessing students a moderate or occasional amount on all social studies skills*.  In order, 71% of schools report assessing students a moderate/occasional amount on understanding multiple perspectives, followed by developing and planning inquiries (70%), communicating and critiquing conclusions (69%), applying disciplinary tools and concepts (68%), gathering and evaluating sources (67%), developing claims and using evidence (61%) and taking informed action (61%).  Less than 20% of schools report rarely or never assessing students on these skills with one exception.  Thirty percent of schools report rarely or never assessing students on ‘taking informed action’ (recall that this was also most often cited as being the area that teachers have very few or no instructional resources).

Alignment: Very few schools report instruction and assessment as being completely aligned with the College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework published by the National Council of Social Studies, but at least a quarter across all schools types report that they are almost completely aligned

Professional Development: ‘Professional learning communities’ (60%), ‘off-site seminars or conferences in social studies’ (63%) and ‘workshops with professional or historical groups’ (54%) were most often offered for Certified Social Studies Teachers.  

No professional development in social studies is offered in 19% of responding schools for general classroom teachers and 15% of schools for certified social studies teachers. 

 

Professional Development Incentives: Most often schools report that teachers can receive ‘release time’ and/or ‘continuing education/clock hours for re-licensure’ as incentives for participating in professional development.

Field Trips: Most schools (74%), across all types, report that as a part of a school-sponsored function, students have traveled outside the building for an exhibition, performance or event in the prior school year for the specific purposes to support social studies. 78% of schools had at least one field trip to a historic site, 76% had at least one to a museum and that among all field trips reported historic sites and museums each make up 31% of total field trips overall or 62% of all field trips, combined

Assembly Programs:About half of all schools (51%) report that outside groups or individuals performed/exhibited for students at the school in the past year for the specific purposes to support social studies. As a percentage of all outside groups or individuals who performed/exhibited for students at the school in the past year for the specific purposes to support social studies, the vast majority were either speakers (56%) or plays/performances (27%).

Ongoing Partnerships: Less than half of all schools (40%) report that their school/district have ongoing (at least multi-year) partnerships/collaborations with a cultural organization(s)/college that help meet their social studies education curricular goals. 

High schools (47%) were more likely than middle (35%) and elementary (37%) schools to report such partnerships. 

Summary of Community Resources: Very few schools (13% overall) reported no field trips, no outside group performances/exhibitions and no partnerships to support social studies instruction.  About a quarter of the schools report having all three (field trips, performances/exhibitions & partnerships). 

Awareness of Resources: Only 9% of all schools reported not being aware of any of low-cost public resources that are available to support schools. 

More than half were aware of Teaching Tolerance, local museums & historical societies, Library of Congress and National Archives

The most cited free resources included Local museums, Teaching Tolerance, Local historical societies, Library of Congress, National Archives, NJ Historical Commission, National Constitution Center, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Instruction and Activities Highlighting Cultures of Local Community:

Overall, about 90% of schools report that they offer instruction or activities highlighting the cultures of community members, 93% of elementary schools, 87% of middle schools and 85% of high schools. Special events and classroom presentations were most often cited as the ways schools offer instruction or activities highlighting the cultures of the community.

The New Jersey Social Studies Data Project (NJSSDP)is a separate research program from the Social Studies Survey. The NJSSDP is a series of interactive dashboards utilizing data reported to the New Jersey Department of Education from by the individual school districts on student course enrollment. The data included represents 2,354 schools and 1,345,502 students covering the 2016 through 2020 school years

Acknowledgements

Children in school visit to HHM
Children in school visit to Hoboken Historical Museum. Courtesy of the Hoboken Historical Museum.

About Revolution NJ 

Looking Back, Looking Up, Moving Forward is a key component of the planning to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution in New Jersey. It is an initiative of Revolution NJ, a partnership between the New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC), a State agency, and the nonprofit organization Crossroads of the American Revolution Association.

Revolution NJ is designed to:

  • Provide  a  statewide  framework that  will  encourage  synergy  between  the many aspects  of the commemoration
  • Support organizations all over the state in preparing for, planning, and executing initiatives that will support the goals of the commemoration.
  • Originate relevant programs and inspire grassroots   participation in the   commemoration, encouraging  history  organizations, schools, civic groups,  Counties, municipalities, and  others to generate programs and events.


Thank you to the agencies and individuals who supported the Looking Back, Looking Up, Moving Forward study. 

The Honorable Phil Murphy, Governor, State of New Jersey

The Honorable Tahesha Way, New Jersey Secretary of State

The New Jersey State Legislature 

New Jersey Department of Education

Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, Acting Commissioner

Dr. Beverly Plein, former Director Office of Standards

Ashley Woolsey-Greene, Social Studies Coordinator, Office of Standards

Quadrant Research

Bob Morrison, Founder and CEO

Amber Young, Analyst 

Dr. Pat Cirillo, Chief Research Officer

Patrick McCormick, Chief Data Officer

Jen Shepherd, Director of Visualization

New Jersey Historical Commission 

Dr. Maxine N. Lurie, Chair

Sara Cureton, Executive Director

Noelle Lorraine Williams, Director, African American History Program

Janet Field, Office Manager

Shawn Crisafulli, Chief Grants Officer

Greer Luce, Chief Communications Officer

Niquole Primiani, Chief Programs Officer

Marc Lorenc, Program Coordinator

Kris Myers, Program Assistant

Louise Federer, Research Assistant

Dr. Joan Ruddiman, NJHC Project Assistant, Retired teacher, West Windsor-Plainsboro School
District; Board member, NJ History Day

Ennis Carter, Director, Social Impact Studios 

Angel Santiago, 2020-2021 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year

Theresa Maughan, 2021-2022 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year

Before this report was published, NJHC and Quadrant Research gathered feedback on the survey. We would like to thank the following individuals and organizations/agencies who participated in this review:

Dr. David Aderhold, Superintendent, West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District 

Dr. Cindy Assini, Social Studies Supervisor, Hillsborough Township School District; Council of Social Studies Supervisors

Nancy Norris Bauer, Director, Professional Development and School/Community Partnerships, William Paterson University; Director New Jersey History Day

Sarrah Buker, former elementary teacher, Social Studies Department chair, facilitator for the We the People and Project Citizen programs, Center for Civic Education 

Hank Bitten, Executive Director NJ Council for the Social Studies (NJCSS) 

Beth Cooper, Curator of Education, New Jersey State Museum

Carl Cooper, Social Studies Supervisor, West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District

Dr. Dennis D. Degnan, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Bayonne Board of Education

Keri A. Giannotti, Museum Educator, New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation

Dr. Stephanie James Harris, Executive Director at Amistad Commission – NJ Dept. of Education

Evelyn M. Hershey, Education Director, American Labor Museum/ Botto House National Landmark 

Debra Lampert-Rudman, Curator of Education and Public Programs, Morven Museum & Garden

Eve Mandel, Director of Programs and Visitor Services, Historical Society of Princeton  

Christy Marrella, Rosa International Middle School (Cherry Hill)

Theresa Maughan, East Orange HS history teacher, 2021-22 NJ Teacher of the Year

Varissa McMickens Blair, Founder and Executive Consultant, Now Wellspring Consulting  

Dr. Patricia C. Pongracz, Executive Director, Macculloch Hall Historical Museum 

Shea Richardson, East Orange Social Studies Supervisor, K-12 

Brooke Salvanto, Executive Director, Tuckerton Seaport & Baymen’s Museum 

Dr. Angelica Santomauro, Director, American Labor Museum

Stephanie Schwartz, Curator of Collections and Research, Historical Society of Princeton

Pat Sellar, Auten Road Intermediary School, 5th grade teacher of Social Studies, Literature, GT  

Priscilla Taylor, Lawrence School District, MS SS teacher

Edith W. Westpy, Dean of Students; Bayonne Board of Education National History Day Coordinator; Rho Kappa Honor Society, Advisor

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