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Conn. makes social studies curriculum update

HARTFORD — Connecticut is taking the first steps toward changing how elementary, middle, and high school students learn social studies, tying lessons more closely to critical thinking about government and the economy.

The state board of education approved a statement Wednesday giving school districts guidance on developing a social studies curriculum that prepares students to enter a ‘‘globally competitive workforce’’ where economics, geography, technology, and culture play a role.

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‘‘It gives students the skills of being citizens, asking questions about government, economics, about the past,’’ said John Tully, a Central Connecticut State University history professor who worked with the board on the curriculum changes.

With a flood of information easily available on the Internet, students must now learn how to think critically about facts available on countless websites, he said.

‘‘What I can’t look up is ‘What questions am I not asking?’ ’’ Tully said. ‘‘What’s hidden?’’

The board of education statement dovetails with Common Core curriculum, a set of college- and career-ready standards.

Common Core has been adopted by more than 40 states, but it’s also drawn fire from critics such as Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana who say courses are being drawn up at the national level, bypassing local education.

Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, chief academic officer of the Connecticut Department of Education, said a major change in the direction of social studies teaching followed the recent release of recommendations by the National Council on the Social Studies.

Known as the ‘‘College, Career and Civic Life Framework,’’ or C3, the initiative was devised by social studies teachers and others in states and backed by professional organizations representing civics, economics, geography, and history.

The initiative recognizes the ‘‘important role’’ that Common Core standards play in defining grade school and high school literacy expectations.

The C3 initiative proposes instruction in civics that include political institutions, rules and laws; economics, which propose lessons on the national and global economies; geography; and history.

Tully said Connecticut teachers and others have been advocating for social studies curriculum that would make up for Common Core’s absence of more complete course content.

The changed curriculum could be adopted by the state board of education in the fall, Tully said.

But Connecticut schools are not bound to follow the state and may establish their own curriculum on their own schedules.

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