In one form or another, research serves every aspect of society. So it stands to reason that all subjects in grade school should be building research skills into their curricula with some kind of culminating product for final assessment. That, my friends, is what is at the core of the Common Core in many respects. To this end, well informed colleagues are priceless. When it comes to moving content responsibilities around within a school, there is no more frustrating an obstacle than an ill-informed colleague.

A Social Studies (SS) department’s team-minded approach to an integrated writing curriculum as it is relates to research in Social Studies (Anthropology, Economics, Civics, History, Geography, etc.) could only be supported by any well-informed staff member. I had my reasons for supporting a shift a major research project called the Argumentative Research Project (ARP) from the Language Arts (LA) department to the Social Studies (SS) department of my school when it was suggested three years ago. My reasons remain the same.

That is not to say I had to support the shift. I didn’t have to. But then I never have to support what decisions are made. A lot of the time I support outwardly what I can’t stand doing inwardly. So, I could have opposed it, albeit that would have been foolish and self-centered of me. The shift of the project made curricular sense, and even if I had disagreed with it, it should have gone to Social Studies. All of the An argument could easily be built to support the fact that it should have gone to Social Studies. Actually, with the long development and deployment of the Common Core State Standards, there should be one in Science and in Technical Subjects as well. But I digress. To the point . . .

Here is how I see it.

An Argumentative Research Project/Paper specifically satisfies every one of the CCSS Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12. It most certainly does not belong in the workload of a Language Arts department. Take note of the title there “. . . Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.”

Here is why I see it this way.

The standards set for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects clearly dictate that every student must be able to “Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.”

They ask for mastery in the ability to “a. Introduce claim(s) about a topic or issue, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically; b. Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources; c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence; d. Establish and maintain a formal style. e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.” These are writing standards specifically for Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects – not for Language Arts – because, this is an important note to make, children need to be able to do this type of work for their subject specific instructors.

Which brings me to a slight tangent. My specific personal position goes further than just, “The ARP is a SS assignment.” which it is. It breaks from my school’s practice in one fundamental way. A certain amount of buy in was built in order for the shift of the project from LA to SS to be accepted. I don’t think the buy in was necessary which took the form of an olive branch extended to SS in the form of the whole staff sharing the grading. I think that was one of the biggest mistakes because it set a precedent that never should have been set. Each content area should be grading that content’s collected assignments.

Throughout the development of the CCSS, it eventually became clear to those of us who followed the development that specific writing standards concerned with Literacy in the separate subject areas (SS, Science, Technical Subjects) were in the CCSS. We, who followed that development, knew that an ARP, which in years past was dealt with in LA, was actually, according to the CCSS, a SS, Science or Technical Subject assignment. At my school site, SS teachers working hard at DBQs knew that DBQs yielded authentic samples from mini practice tasks that required students to craft arguments integrating authoritative anchor texts. That is what the ARP requires on a grander scale. What better thing to request of students in the specific subject areas for culminating products?

There is no coherent argument that could be presented to me to justify the notion that LA should take the ARP back. Bottom line is that LA should never have been responsible for it in the first place – before the CCSS. An ARP was a great project fit for SS, Science and other subject areas from the moment it was hatched. There is no basis for the position that it belongs with LA other than, “I don’t want to do that.” And that isn’t a position, that is a . . . Well, I honestly don’t know what that is.

What is important is this, the ARP fits into a set of standards called History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. This specific assignment was always a SS assignment.

English Language Arts has it’s own sets of standards broken into reading, writing and language. Here are merely the headings of those sets: “(1) College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading which deal with Reading Standards for Literature, Reading Standards for Informational Texts; and (2) College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing which deal with Writing Standards and Speaking and Listening Standards; and (3) College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language which cover Language Arts Standards such as Conventions, Knowledge of Language, and Vocabulary Acquisition.”

We teach the children to read, to write, to speak, to listen critically, evaluative, progressively – to appropriately meet any environment they are faced with. Not that I should have to explain any of this to anyone outside my content area. And quite honestly, I am kind of perplexed as to why I have to explain how a Social Studies assignment fits the Social Studies standards. I am writing this to show my support of a colleague who is fielding things that colleague shouldn’t have to field. The standards are very crystal clear.

In addition to teaching the children to read, write, think and listen, LA requires quarterly Project Based Learning (PBL) Units that fit into the Understanding By Design (UBD) framework and satisfy every angle of writing, reading, speaking, and listening which include research and argumentative writing. SS has the ARP designed by a SS Specialist as a UBD.

So we come to what I recognize as the real issue. This isn’t about whether this particular project belongs in LA or SS. It isn’t about LA or SS at all. It isn’t even about the ARP. Eh! This is about the CCSS in Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Science and Technical Subjects.

The most essential question are these:

  • What assignments/projects in Science and the Technical Subjects meet the Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects?

There should be an ARP in Science and an ARP in the Technical Subjects classes too.

  • And what exactly are all the “Technical Subjects”?

Simply, it’s about the fact that this whole post was spurred on by CCSS curricular ignorance. Language Arts has it’s work cut out for it, I might add, as it always has . . .  It took a village to teach a child to read, write, speak and listen then, and now it is the LA department as village that does it. The other subject areas can accept their responsibilities, pull themselves, as I hear it said, up by their britches, buck up and grade some big time research papers that they are supposed to be assigning, tracking, collecting, and grading.

I would ask anyone to attempt an argument against any of the cogent points I above.

And to think, I haven’t even gone near the NCSCOS.

So, it all seems clear to me. I would predict that some colleagues may not see the relevant curricular connections. But, well, “OK.” would have to be my reply.

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