Address to DESE Board, Sept. 2012

September 25, 2012


To: DESE Board

From: Norm Shacochis, President, Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies (MCSS = MassCouncil)



Over the summer months, when many teachers take the opportunity to travel, hit the beach, or simply escape the constant work of the classroom, there was a group of Social Studies teachers (and other groups in other disciplines) that met for a week in July/August to create model units of study for all grade levels with the intent of making these units available for all Social Studies teachers in Massachusetts. This effort was made possible using the Race To The Top funds obtained by the Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education.


I had the opportunity to observe the SS teachers and sit and talk with them as they worked, and I was struck by their enthusiasm, their diligence, and their utmost professionalism. Bravo to those teachers and to the DESE for seeing the necessity of such funding, such effort, and such direction. Please make these efforts known to all public school systems and administrations and seek to create similar opportunities each summer and each academic year. This is a significant bridge in the gap between the creation of the Massachusetts Frameworks for History and Social Sciences and the presently abandoned MCAS assessment. Once again, the MCSS applauds this effort and opportunity.


I also had the opportunity to meet with Kevin Dwyer of the DESE to discuss his participation with the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and its project on Civil War Memorials throughout the Commonwealth. This project is sponsored by the Massachusetts Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission however it is important to see the DESE taking part. This is one more illustration of the attention to Social Studies education that is so necessary. Once again, kudos to all involved.


I also have taken part in the Massachusetts Senate Special Commission on Civic Engagement & Learning chaired by Senator Richard Moore. This committee’s work is another example of the efforts being made to highlight the need for greater Social Studies education in the public schools of Massachusetts and the efforts being made to address those needs. The MCSS has reached out to school administrators throughout the Commonwealth concerning the importance and necessity of Social Studies and Civic Education and we urge the DESE to do the same. The attached document is a copy of the notice we have distributed to school superintendents statewide. It is a sincere and vital effort to bring about the halt to Social Studies marginalization in our schools and we ask that the DESE reinforce these sentiments with the superintendents and school boards – on behalf of all students.

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