I had the chance to spend some time this week working with the Kansas social studies standards review committee. Our task was to begin and finish the final review process of the state standards.
We’ve talked about the new state standards before. It’s been an exciting year and we’re getting close to the final state board presentation. The document is very different than our current set of standards with much of our work focused around the philosophy and thinking of people like Sam Wineburg. We also worked to incorporate the ideas embedded in the Common Core literacy standards for Social Studies.
A document that encourages the teaching of social studies process rather than social studies content. It’s this shift of emphasis that makes the new standards such a cool document for me. After 10+ years of focusing on specific and minute details measured by a multiple choice test, we’re moving in the opposite direction – asking teachers to focus instead on helping kids to analyze, investigate, evaluate, justify, construct, and create.
What does it mean?
Two things. A totally different type of test and some uncomfortable classroom teachers. Both will require perhaps more work to fix than it took to create the new standards document itself.
Test creation is already in the works. Using an online writing tool, we will bank a ton of primary and secondary documents available to teachers and students throughout the year. A series of writing prompts will be created for each standard and course unit. When taking the test, students will select a prompt, access the documents, and create a pre-writing outline highlighting which documents they plan to use and how they will be used. This outline will be scored with a rubric. Students will then write a formal response to the prompt, using their pre-write document. This response will also be scored with a rubric.
The cool thing is that while these tests will be used at the state level, teachers can also score them at the classroom level. It’s this ability to have both summative and formative data that I really like. Obviously much work is needed on that piece – selecting documents, writing rubrics, creating prompts – but this is so much better than a multiple choice test.
The second thing about uncomfortable teachers is a whole other issue. We understand that asking teachers to teach this way will cause some problems. We know that a few teachers may choose to continue to teach in a “traditional,” stand and lecture style. But we also know that many teachers are more than ready for this sort of document. They will require some serious professional learning to help them understand what all of this looks like in the classroom and how to go about putting the document’s ideas into practice.
The good news is that the pendelum has shifted. Memorizing content is not good enough anymore. We’re moving in the right direction.
We didn’t finish our review, by the way. We had some great conversation and we made some changes. But more work remains.
Wanna help? Download the Mission Purpose and Standards. It’s the series of Benchmarks listed under the Standards that will be tested. Get a sense of the philosophy of the document. (This document does not reflect changes made this week. Some serious editing still remains.)
Then download the 8th grade Instructional Narrative and Content Outline. Every grade and course has one. These outlines provide guidance to teachers only and do not include any content that teachers are mandated to teach. The 8th grade has been edited and gives you an idea of the look and feel of what other outlines will look like.
Finally, download the course or grade you teach. These are much rougher and do not include any of the changes made this week.
Tell us what you think. A little extra help is a good thing!
(Sorry. The 1st grade draft is not ready to share yet!)