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California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
January 26, 2018

Dear County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators:

Choosing Instructional Materials Based on the New History–Social Science Framework

This letter is to update you on some of the instructional shifts and new content in the History–Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve (Framework) adopted by the State Board of Education on July 14, 2016, that have implications for your decisions on instructional materials.

The new Framework places a strong emphasis on four main instructional shifts: content, inquiry, literacy, and citizenship. Course descriptions for the four major high school courses and the various suggested electives have been completely rewritten to reflect new scholarship and other changes in content since the last major revisions to the Framework more than 15 years ago.

The Framework uses guiding questions throughout the course narratives to facilitate instruction based on student inquiry. Students evaluate primary and secondary sources, develop and defend arguments, conduct research, and make presentations on important topics.

The emphasis on literacy development includes explicit linkages to the California Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects; the English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework; and the California English Language Development Standards. This collaborative emphasis between language arts and history–social science instruction is developed in a series of classroom examples seeded throughout the course descriptions, including more than a dozen in high school.

Finally, the emphasis on citizenship can be seen in various suggestions for student engagement through simulations of government, community activism, and service-learning projects. You will find these four shifts developed throughout the high school course descriptions and also in the chapters on Assessment, Access and Equity, Instructional Strategies, and Professional Learning.

I would like to draw your attention to some areas that were developed in the Framework in response to recent legislation. This list is not exhaustive, and you will find many other new additions throughout the course descriptions.

  • Coverage of the Armenian Genocide (Education Code [EC] sections 51220 and 51226.3) was expanded in grade ten, and references to several other genocides of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries were added.
  • The FAIR Education Act, signed into law in 2012, requires that instructional materials adopted at the state or local level include coverage of the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons and people with disabilities to the history of California and the United States. References to support this legislation were added in grades nine, eleven, and twelve (the Principles of American Democracy course).
  • Information on financial literacy (EC Section 51284) was added to the Principles of Economics course in grade twelve and elsewhere in the Framework, including a recommended Financial Literacy elective course in grade nine.
  • Coverage of the contributions of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans to the Pacific Campaign in World War II and to the farm labor movement in California (EC sections 51008 and 51221.3) was added in grade eleven.
  • Voter education information, including information about how students can register to vote, is discussed in the grade twelve Principles of American Democracy course (EC Section 33540).

In addition, numerous other topics were introduced into the high school course descriptions in response to public comments during the framework development process, such as the treatment of enslaved “comfort women” in World War II in grade ten. You will find many such topics addressed in the high school course descriptions in the Framework.

This is important information as you begin to make decisions on HistorySocial Science instructional materials. Chapter 23, the Criteria for Evaluating Instructional Materials, provides guidance in helping you begin the local adoption process. You will find the complete Framework on the California Department of Education Curriculum Frameworks Web page at

If you have any questions regarding this correspondence, please contact Stephanie Gregson, Director of the Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division, by phone at 916-319-0881 or by e-mail at


Tom Torlakson


Last Reviewed: Monday, January 29, 2018

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