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Children in poverty receive less education in science and social studies, says Nell Duke

March 11, 2019

Developed at the request of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Social Studies Collaborative, Dr. Nell Duke created a video that makes the case, from the perspective of a literacy researcher, for devoting more time to science and social studies education in the elementary grades.


Duke describes how declining science and social studies in U.S. elementary schools affects children living in poverty at higher rates. Duke argues that this trend is detrimental to literacy learning for three reasons:

1. Science and social studies knowledge significantly affects reading and writing.
2. Science and social studies provide a compelling context for teaching reading and writing.
3. Reading, writing, and other literacy practices are an integral part of professional practice in science and social studies.

Drawing on research findings from diverse experts to build her argument, Duke recommends building schedules that include considerable daily science and social studies instruction and committing to protecting that time. Furthermore, she suggests being cautious not to pull struggling students out of science or social studies to work on English and mathematics. She also recommends teaching more literacy within science and social studies.

Finally, Duke brings attention to the wide array of components that work together to create successful literacy instruction. 

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