Boston Public Schools to Eliminate History & Social Science Departments

Joseph J. Ferreira, Jr.'s picture

It was announced today that the Boston Public School department is "reorganizing" by eliminating all Departments of History & Social Sciences in all schools and folding the departments into the Department of English Language Arts as a "Humanities Department" with the currciculum determined by the ELA Common Core Standards.  Certified history department heads/chairs are being laid off and, apaprently, no certified history specialist will be hired to replace any of these teachers. This essentially eliminates history and the social sciences as one of the core academic departments in the Boston Public Schools and subordinates HSS to ELA.  This appears to be the first major metropolitan school district to reduce history and the social sciences to merely a supporting role in the education of students.

As it might appear to be a political issue, I will leave it to H-High-S network members to research this issue and the various petitions, political issues, etc. that are circulating about this matter, but as this addresses a core element of our network's raison d'etre, history education, I hope this will generate both interest and discussion.

As a former teacher (Technology Applications/Physical Science-Biology), I don't like this idea, but I think I understand why they have chosen this route. The main issue with education today is the fact that a large percentage of kids can't read or write very well. Their literacy levels are below par, and ELA is supposed to take care of this, but school systems are having a hard time trying to upgrade these levels. Also, pressure from state mandates and testing add to the crises. So, Boston is looking for a way ... a desperate move in my opinion ... to concentrate more on ELA education to nurture the students' reading and writing. It is a bit of a "Catch 22" situation and "borrowing from Peter to pay Paul". I think this rationale/methodology will backfire long term, and create generations of EVEN MORE culturally-illiterate kids. The powers-that-be need to be smarter than this, and design their History and Social Science departments to incorporate more of an ELA component, ELA skills can be taught/acquired as the students engage with History and the Social Sciences. They (leaders) are going about this in a backwards fashion and at the expense of our youth ... and to the detriment of our society.

As a follow-up to the post from Friday, here is a link to a response from the Interim Superintendent of Schools for the Boston Public Schools, thoughtfully provided by the Executive Secretary of the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies, June Coutu.

As a courtesy, I am including the original e-mail which apparently initiated this concern and discussion.  I have redacted the link to the petition that was included as such a petition is considered political activism and, thus, precluded from publication by H-High-S and H-Net by the terms of our charter, by-laws and non-profit status:

-- Begin original e-mail --

Hello history department head colleagues,

Recently, the director of the history & social studies department and all of the social studies coaches for the Boston Public Schools have been pinked slipped.  The department is being eliminated and folded into a new ELA/literacy-focused Humanities & Literacy department that will be led by this new hire: .  Please note that there is no mention of any history licensure or teaching experience as any part of this job description.  BPS' administration has apparently hoped to do this in secret and has made no announcement of this decision.
Can you each please sign and circulate the petition?  Also, can we, as an organization (MCSS) try to get some media attention around this and do a press release opposing this re-org that all but eliminates social studies leadership from our state's larges school district?
Thank you,

Kerry Dunne, Ed.D.
K-12 Social Studies Director and TAH Grant Program Director
Arlington Public Schools
-- End Original E-mail --