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Curriculum Map for American Studies, Grade 9

Central York School District - York, Pennsylvania

Matthew J. Monahan

Millersville University

November 28, 2016




One of the purposes of public education in American has always been to build strong citizens. Students with an understanding of history, and the skills necessary for success in social studies, will be more likely embrace their civic duties and be more engaged participants in American government and society. Korchnak (2012) establishes that, “Education is a concern of the federal government, a function of state government, and the responsibility of local government” (p. xi). The State of Pennsylvania does not prescribe a standardized state test for any high school social studies course. The responsibility for the degree to which students in the Central York School District use American Studies content and skills to inform their lives rests with the district. The American Studies course, at the 9 th grade level provides a context from which high school students study other social studies courses, including global studies, civics, and various elective courses. The 9 th grade American Studies course curriculum in the Central York School District (CYSD) must be rewritten to improve student understanding, to improve student acquisition of 21 st century knowledge and skills, and to aid in the improvement of 9 th grade test scores on state assessments. The curriculum map proposed here reflects the Understanding by Design philosophy of Wiggins and McTighe (2005), who encourage that curriculum planning “begin with the end in mind.” Goals for student learning, in the form of Essential Questions (EQs) and Enduring Understandings (EUs), are the root and focus of each unit. Student knowledge and competencies are geared toward EQs and EUs, and assessment evidence evaluates student exhibition of skills rather than rote content recall. The resources illustrate learning activities designed to engage students in learning opportunities directed toward gaining those vital skills and competencies. To expand student acquisition of 21 st century knowledge and skills this proposed American Studies curriculum map follows a prescription by Jacobs (2010) to upgrade content. A meaningful content upgrade requires answers to three questions: “1) what content should be kept: 2) what content should be cut? 3) what content should be created?” (Jacobs, 2010, pp.30-31). As a study of human relationships, societal patterns, and critical turning points American Studies is crucial to global competency in the 21 st century. The focus should be fixed upon concepts that comprise historical themes and concepts and help students to make connections between their lives, the history of the United States, and the greater world. As established, social studies is not a state-tested subject. With a focus on skills- based instruction and assessment, an American Studies course is well positioned to support tested subjects. Social studies teachers in CYSD are attempting to place more emphasis on transferrable academic skills such as patterns, synthesis, context, reasoning and interpretation. These skills are especially valuable in supporting English Language Arts (ELA) exams. If students in a social studies class learn to analyze primary sources, draw connections between historical themes and concepts, and form opinions, these skills will serve them well in all academic disciplines and lead to increased performance in tested subjects.



Curriculum Map

The Rubicon Atlas software program supports, and provides the framework for this rewrite of the CYSD American Studies curriculum in grade 9. The map is available for review at https://anngaudino.rubiconatlas.org/Atlas/Develop/View/UnitCalendar?TeacherID=


Implementation Timeline and Assessment of Results

Generally speaking, social studies teachers in CYSD have traditionally taught American Studies using an industrial model of education, with less emphasis placed in skills and individualized instruction and more emphasis placed on the mastery of content. To reevaluate and update the teaching of American Studies may initially be uncomfortable for educators whose teaching style is closer to the content- heavy industrial model of education. Mary Parker Follett advised, “We cannot be too careful of the power of previous ideas.” (Graham, 2003, p. 135). For that reason, obtaining buy-in from American Studies teachers regarding the new curriculum is crucial to its implementation and success. Fisher and Ury (2011) argue that people are unlikely to approve a product if they are not involved in the process of creating and implementing it. With that said, the timeline for implementation of this revised American Studies curriculum map must focus on selling the salience of skills-based instruction with less focus on traditional content and more focus on transferrable skills. Martin (2007) advocates that a shift from conventional thinking to integrative thinking involves “a broader view of what is salient (p.41).” The potential payoff is very exciting. If teachers can direct student-centered instruction that makes connections between historical events and the lives of students, social studies will be more relevant to students. If students have opportunities, though student-centered instruction they will be more engaged in social studies. Teachers are they key, however. As Olivia (2013) argues, “teachers are…the primary group in curriculum development. They initiate proposals and carry them out in their classrooms (p.79).” Because much of the implementation of this curriculum will involve a shift in mindset from what has been traditional, time and space will be necessary. In order for this curriculum to be implemented in a fall semester, conversations with American Studies teachers must begin during the previous spring semester. Such conversations can take place first in department meetings informally. The formal process of adopting the new curriculum will take place during the spring and summer during allotted curriculum development time. Teachers and administrators will need training to understand this new approach to social studies generally and American Studies specifically. The effects of the new curriculum will be assessed based on traditional and skills-based local assessments, student course evaluations with specific questions about the curriculum, and results on the 9 th grade ELA Keystone exam. Teachers, in collaboration with building level leadership, will assess this data and make suggestions for further adjustments to the American Studies curriculum.



Budget Plan

The implementation of this curriculum benefits from the fact that our district has a 1:1 ratio of iPads to students at the high school level. All of the resources included in the curriculum map are already in electronic form and may be shared with students, and assessed using a learning management system (LMS) like Schoology. CYSD currently subscribes to a paid version of Schoology. The real cost to the district to implement this curriculum would be associated with faculty development. Ideally all 13 teachers in the high school social studies department would be involved in this development. Realistically the teachers who will teach 9 th grade American studies will participate in the implementation of the new curriculum. Four teachers would be involved in one full day implementation discussion, spanning 6.5 hours. CYSD pays substitutes $100/day ($105 after 20 days worked in the district within one school year). The cost would be four full day substitute teachers at a total cost of $420.00. Additional paid professional development hours will likely be needed during the summer. It is anticipated that the cost of two days of conversation and planning will break down as follows:

$30.00 per hour for six hours, times four teachers for a total of $720.00. CYSD pays facilitators of training $75.00/hour. A facilitator would cost the district $1,387.50 in total. The total cost to CYSD of this curriculum implementation is estimated at $2,527.50.


I recommend that the School Board of the Central York School District adopt the revised curriculum for American Studies in grade 9, as outlined in the referenced curriculum map. Its development, based on the Understanding By Design insures that instruction is planned with EQs and EUs in mind. Many social studies teachers are passionately attached to our content because it is fascinating and because we enjoy the art of storytelling. The reality for teachers in CYSD, with our 1:1 ration of iPads to high school students, is that content resources are available to students like never before. Instruction should be focused on the ways in which we can help students develop skills relevant to social studies rather than a focus on memorizing content. In order to improve student acquisition of 21 st century knowledge and skills, the content of American Studies should be updated by deciding what content should be kept, what content should be cut, and what content should be created (Jacobs 2010). As a study of human relationships and societal patterns, American Studies is crucial to global competency in the 21 st century and we should embrace its potential for developing transferrable critical thinking skills. The resources included in this curriculum map illustrate skills-based instruction with a focus on Essential Questions and Enduring Understandings that will serve our students well beyond a semester, or even a high school academic career.




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Martin, R.L., (2007) The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through

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