I wrote a few days ago about Kentucky History Teacher of the Year (2011) Donnie Wilkerson’s testimony to the Kentucky Board of Education about problems with the state’s proposed revisions to the social studies standards.
Here are a few key points:
Janice Duncan, a fifth-grade teacher at Lexington’s Southern Elementary says the proposed standards don’t provide enough details about which courses should be taught at each grade level.
Jimmy Brehm, Fayette County Public School’s director of curriculum and assessment, says Fayette County Schools will be challenged in trying to clearly identify a sequence of when certain subjects should be taught.
Referring to the draft standards, Brehm said, “They can’t stand alone. They have to have events tied to them to assure that our kids continue to learn that foundational content. If the state is not going to do that in their adoption, we will have to do that within this county.”
Of course, if each county and school has to separately make such fundamental decisions about basic content, students across Kentucky are going to get anything but a common core of instruction in social studies. In fact, major and important items could be overlooked completely in some areas of the state. That includes such material as a discussion of Founding Fathers like Ben Franklin and James Madison and even a discussion of the Declaration of Independence, which are all missing in the draft.
The new educator comments add to those from Wilkerson, who says the standards, are “devoid” of any substantive content and are based on a framework that does not take into account research on how students learn. Instead, Wilkerson says the draft standards are “filled with high-sounding edu-jargon that envisions students learning all they need to know about geography, history, government and economics using an inquiry-based, discovery-learning approach.”
Wilkerson also points out that the state’s current social studies standards contain a lot more about specific history topics need to be included and when they need to be taught as children progress through school.
Hopefully, the Kentucky Board of Education will realize that the proposal presented to them in early October is very deficient and we will see massive improvements before the board again considers what social studies should look like in Kentucky at their December meeting.