As with all successful companies, Studies Weekly started because one person saw a need and had the skills to build a solution.
Paul Thompson founded Studies Weekly in 1984 as a way to get students excited about learning social studies. As an elementary teacher, he could not find a curriculum engaging enough to make their lessons enjoyable. So he wrote his own in a periodical format.
Much has changed in the 37 years since then, but the company’s mission has remained the same. The company is even better at accomplishing it, with its focus on providing fun and engaging curriculum for Social Studies, Science, and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). Plus, the periodical format is more enjoyable today because it is paired with a powerful online learning experience that supports deeper learning.
CEO John McCurdy’s strategic leadership keeps Studies Weekly focused on its strengths and technological advancements throughout the ups and downs of the education industry. Just a few years ago, students completed most of their assignments with paper and pencil. Now, many have access to Chromebooks, tablets, the internet, and various learning management systems in computer labs or right in their classroom and need a curriculum that will support that.
More than ever before, one size does not fit all when it comes to learning. Teachers might teach from a classroom or remotely over Zoom from their kitchen table. Resources might be high-tech, or severely limited. Just as learning must adapt to these situations, educators need solutions that are flexible and affordable.
“We are constantly dealing with challenges. I am proud of the fact that we have conditioned our team to face each challenge head-on and leverage each other,” McCurdy says. “When we collaborate to solve issues, we leverage collective brainpower, points of view, and experience which leads to innovations. When a team views solutions from multiple perspectives, the team grows closer together through the process. I have seen egos fade and open-mindedness expand as our teams work together.”
McCurdy has created a culture that encourages innovation, which makes Studies Weekly a uniquely agile company that is able to adapt quickly to changes in states’ standards and education pedagogy and processes, while still providing a customized core curriculum. The company’s ranks are filled with hardworking, dedicated former educators and education professionals, who have a passion for making a difference in children’s lives.
“I am very proud of our culture. Through the process of breaking down departmental silos, the teams have come to trust each other, as well as respect and value each other’s views. By doing so, we are not only moving forward efficiently but with fewer needs for correction,” McCurdy explains. “I have motivated the team to add value to one another and to the process of producing our publications. This desire to ‘add value’ is very real and tangible at Studies Weekly.”
In addition to improving the technological processes and software for Studies Weekly products, McCurdy also ensures everyone — from writers and designers to salespeople and customer service reps — stays focused on the goal of making learning enjoyable for students, and instruction easier for teachers.
“Getting the information to the end of the row is paramount, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen well at many companies that rely on departmental calls and company-wide memos,” McCurdy says. “At Studies Weekly, we have a regular all-hands video call with those who directly work with customers. Everyone from customer support, marketing, sales, professional development, and product management attends this bimonthly meeting. All are informed, concerns are heard, and solutions are shared. We implemented this simple cadence to eliminate miscommunications and misunderstandings.”
Studies Weekly offers customized core curriculum for K-6 Social Studies, K-5 Science, and PK-6 SEL / Well-Being. Because of its unique format, teachers can give students only one week of content at a time, so they are not overwhelmed by a huge textbook.
Additionally, content is chunked into grade-level accessible articles, with images that support and extend learning. All the information, assignments, and assessment opportunities are included in that weekly four-page periodical, and students are encouraged to write on, highlight, and complete activities right on the publication.
The Social Studies curriculum can actually be taught during the language arts block because it gives students practice in reading and comprehending informative texts — an important skill that is tested on yearly statewide assessments.
In recent years, Studies Weekly has improved and updated its social studies curriculum. American history and social studies instruction traditionally focused on events from a Eurocentric point of view, but the world is more interconnected today. Thus, McCurdy and his team have adapted the curriculum to include more global voices and diverse experiences, and to lead out in sharing the voices of underrepresented communities, to add multicultural perspectives, and ensure that each unit is inclusive and culturally sensitive. All materials are based on primary sources and scholarly references to deliver the most accurate content to today’s students, so they can better learn to think critically about history and current events.
“Helping students is the focal point in everything we do. Social Studies is one of the few subjects that can touch a student’s heart. As a student hears the stories of history — the struggles, successes, failures, and triumphs of people that came before — they feel empowered in their own lives,” McCurdy says.
The Science curriculum is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, and driven by guiding questions that push students to explore. The periodical format provides a hands-on interactive learning that typical textbooks can’t replicate.
The Well-Being curriculum follows the same format as well, and is an SEL program that can be taught in its own block of time, or used in conjunction with Social Studies, Science, or during language arts instruction.
The company continues to innovate, developing curriculum in places that align with its values and serves students and teachers.
“Because we have been asked by customers to take our format into these higher grades, we have a goal to expand our publications through middle school,” McCurdy says. “When I arrived at Studies Weekly, I had to streamline the production process to prepare for that type of expansion. Now that many of these newer processes are in place, we will be able to expand into these grades very soon.”
Thus, Studies Weekly meets teachers wherever they are with a consumable print and online product that includes an arsenal of teaching tools.
“Together, we can help students learn no matter where they are. They aren’t just learning a subject, they are developing the knowledge and skills and a societal awareness to succeed in school and eventual careers, and become the leaders of tomorrow,” McCurdy says.
Management: John McCurdy | CEO