UC Davis-State Team Honored for California's K-12 History Framework

Cover illustration with world map and title "History Social Science Framework"
California's new guide for history-social science instruction in K-12 schools was a decade in the making and reflects wide public input. The California History-Social Science Project at UC Davis is being honored by the American Historical Association for its work in drafting and implementing the framework.

The California History-Social Science Project, headquartered at UC Davis, will share a national K-12 teaching award with the California Department of Education for helping to write the state’s new framework for history-social science instruction in the public schools.

The American Historical Association recently announced that it will award its Beveridge Family Teaching Prize to the co-winners during the association’s meeting Jan. 3–6, 2019, in Chicago.

An alumni team

Portrait photos of three women
Nancy McTygue, Beth Slutsky and Shennan Hutton

The two teams include five UC Davis alumni — three of them lecturers in the College of Letters and Science — who spearheaded a decade-long effort to revamp the guide for teaching history-social science to more than 6.2 million students in California public schools.

At the California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP), Executive Director Nancy McTygue and program coordinators Beth Slutsky and Shennan Hutton led the effort to write the 842-page document. With support from colleagues Tuyen Tran and Shelley Brooks, they prepared and revised drafts from a team of writers across the state, and responded to thousands of individual public comments.

McTygue also co-chaired the Instructional Quality Commission’s History-Social Science Committee with former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig.

Portrait photo
Tom Adams

McTygue earned her bachelor’s degree in political science (1988), a teaching credential (1989) and a master’s degree in education (1996), all at UC Davis. Slutsky, Hutton and Brooks are history doctorate alumni from UC Davis (graduating in 2006, 2008 and 2011, respectively), and lecturers in the history department. Hutton also teaches in the classics department.

At the Department of Education, Deputy Superintendent Tom Adams (who earned his doctorate in history in 1995 from UC Davis) oversaw the process of developing the framework with the help of department consultant Ken MacDonald. Altogether, they composed an all-UC alumni team. MacDonald holds a doctorate in history from UC Riverside; CHSSP Assistant Director Tran earned her history doctorate at UC Berkeley.

A statewide effort

“This award is especially meaningful for us, as it recognizes the many years of work and the contributions of more than 40 members of the extended CHSSP family,” McTygue wrote in a blog post.

She said the award also honors thousands of Californians who participated in developing the framework, pushing the state to include a wide diversity of stories: “Public interest in the HSS Framework was unprecedented. Monthly hearings regularly featured hundreds of citizens willing to share their views; more than 11,000 written comments were submitted during the framework’s development. The final draft absolutely reflects this public input.”

Reflects wide diversity

Among other things, the framework adds more detail on Latino history, the Armenian Genocide, the role Filipinos played in World War II, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and African American history — including slave narratives and firsthand accounts of uprisings, and protests during the Civil Rights movement.

“California is leading the way in helping our students recognize the diversity of our great state and nation,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said.

“Thanks to the partnership between the California Department of Education and the California History-Social Science project, California students will learn from the latest research and have a deeper understanding of the important contributions and challenges faced by many individuals and ethnic groups that have sometimes been overlooked. These include every major ethnic group, as well as members of the LGBT community and people with disabilities,” Torlakson said.

Focus on critical thinking, literacy

Adopted by the State Board of Education in 2016, the framework is a how-to guide for teaching K-12 history-social science lessons in California. By aligning three sets of standards — History-Social Science Content Standards (adopted in 1998), the Common Core State Standards (adopted in 2010), and the English Language Development Standards (adopted in 2012) — the framework lays out the history-social science topics to be taught in each grade, as well as the critical literacy and disciplinary skills students should master as they progress from elementary to middle to high school. The framework encourages teachers to use an inquiry model of instruction in order to develop student critical thinking and promote civic engagement.

The American Historical Association award also recognizes the statewide effort to implement the framework. In the 18 months following the adoption of the framework, CHSSP and the Department of Education co-hosted 18 statewide events, introducing the new tool to more than 5,000 educators.

This is the second time CHSSP has won the AHA’s Beveridge Family Teaching Prize. Part of California Subject Matter Projects administered by the UC Office of the President, CHSSP won in 1999 for its ongoing work in professional development for K-12 teachers.

The prize, which comes with a $1,000 cash award, honors excellence and innovation in elementary, middle and high school history teaching, including individual and group contributions and initiatives that apply to the field.

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science.

Jonathan Mendick, California Department of Education, contributed to this report.