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Q: Is BPS really eliminating its History and Social Studies Department? A: No.

Friday, May 23, 2014
There is a lot of misinformation circulating online and I want to set the record straight.

History and Social Studies is remaining as a single Department. It is not being eliminated or folded into English Language Arts, which is also its own department and sits alongside History and Social Studies in our organizational structure. Both are crucial. They will remain as distinct departments, just as they are today.

History and Social Studies teachers will continue to teach History and Social Studies in our schools. Despite what you may have heard, English teachers are not being asked to take over the teaching of History and Social Studies.

Instead, we are improving and coordinating the use of instructional materials throughout all subject areas. This means we will improve our ability to support English teachers who wish to take advantage of historical lessons in their classes, and for History and Social Studies teachers who wish to take advantage of literature that frames an understanding of historical content. This is different than eliminating one course and asking another subject to take it over. This is about coordinating our curriculum at all levels and connecting the dots for students. To help us do this successfully, we are bringing these areas together under the Humanities umbrella. This allows us to maintain separate History and Social Studies, English Language Arts and World Languages departments while aligning ourselves academically to promote interdisciplinary cross-collaboration. This was one of the major recommendations offered in the Academics review we requested this spring from the Council of the Great City Schools.

We could have done a better job explaining our thinking from the start. Some of the confusion may have come from an earlier decision to hire an assistant director for History and Social Studies. This did not lead to a clear understanding of our priorities and mission, so we have decided to make that position a Director-level position. Our History and Social Studies Department will have the right staffing support to be successful.

Let me be very clear: History and Social Studies remain a vital part of our organization both centrally and in our schools, as do the community partnerships in these areas that our students enjoy. History and Social Studies teachers will continue to provide a core element of instruction for students in History and Social Studies courses. It is not being folded into ELA. ELA is a different department.

We all share the same mission: to eliminate achievement gaps. Only by ensuring every student clearly understands our past and the present can he or she truly help build a great future. This means all students must have access to geography, economics, government, history, civics and much more. All students must develop an understanding of civic engagement, cultural awareness and have the tools to think critically about our community. We value all of these things and – especially based on some of the online feedback we have seen -- we know you do, too.

History and Social Studies instruction is not going anywhere in BPS. The History and Social Studies Department is not being eliminated or folded into English Language Arts. I am sorry that so much misinformation has circulated so quickly online. I hope this helps us correct the record so we can move forward.
John McDonough
Interim Superintendent