In a couple weeks, me and 18 other social studies teachers, district level curriculum coordinators, state education consultants, and other assorted interested individuals will get together to rewrite the state’s social studies standards.
Rewrite is perhaps the wrong word. Revise might work better. Maybe just tweaks. Because the number of changes we make to the document really depends on the decisions we make during our time together. Do we think the current document is flawed enough for massive changes or are we looking at just some simple re-wording?
If you’ve been following History Tech for a few years, you know the story of our current standards. If you haven’t, a quick review.
Several years ago, per Department of Education regulations, a group of us was asked to come together for a scheduled review of the state social studies standards. Long story short . . . we changed them. We went from a document that encouraged the memorization of content to one that supported a balance between the gathering of information with the effective use of that information. We wanted kids to do social studies rather than simply memorize it. Along with the standards document came a performance-based assessment measuring historical and critical thinking skills that replaced the previous test of 60 multiple choice questions.
The goal was simple – change the way social studies is taught is the state. Focus on process and content. Measure thinking, not memorizing. Develop engaged, informed, and knowledgeable citizens. And while there’s been a few bumps along the way, the message that we need to go beyond traditional instruction has made its way through the system.
And now in 2018, we’re back – per Department of Education regulations – to look again at whether the document needs adjustments. It’s been an interesting conversation so far. Everyone is onboard with historical and critical thinking skills remaining a focus.
But the questions we’re really wrestling with are more complex: what should a state level, public document look like that encourages learning about a country and world as diverse, as complex, and as interesting as ours? How does it support the telling of multiple stories and themes and people and ideas without getting bogged down in the minutiae? What do we emphasize and what can we ignore?
As part of the process, I’ve been reading and looking at what other states are doing and what other current curriculum documents look like. During my search, I ran across a recent article in the Washington Post that asked seven historians a simple question: Read more