“…the biggest problem is how insanely complicated the standards are. It will never be successfully implemented because it’s simply not remotely clear what we are supposed to teach. This causes lots of important knowledge students should know to fall through the cracks. And, ‘coverage of content is not the focus’. In the end, we are trying to mass produce knowledgeable citizens. This is the worst blueprint imaginable to do that. I need clear, easy to understand standards of what my students need to learn. Then I can teach with no problem and my students will be much better served.”
From: Anonymous Kentucky Teacher
There’s an old saying about the proof of the pudding being in the eating, and that certainly is starting to hold true as Kentucky’s social studies teachers begin to digest the really vacuous and unclear Kentucky Academic Standards for Social Studies. The comments from a teacher above provide one of a growing number of cases in point.
Another is the incredibly lengthy “Deconstruction” of the standards that the Jefferson County Public School District (JCPS) recently created to try to help its teachers figure out what the vague standards might mean (emphasis on “might”). Somehow, the “help” seems to be bringing on more hurt.
For example, in the actual Kentucky Academic Standards for Social Studies, coverage of the material expected in Grade 8 is contained on pages 124 to 138, a total of only 15 pages.
But, the JCPS Grade 8 Standards Deconstruction Tool is 165 pages long. And, lest you think those pages are loaded with specific events and names from history that all students should learn, let me better inform you.
For example, under the standard for:
8.I.Q.1 Develop compelling questions related to the development of the United States between 1600-1877
you will look in vain to find much information about this huge swath of history for which students are supposed to develop questions. Instead, you find numerous vague comments such as:
“Communicating Conclusions – In a democratic classroom, it is a student’s ability to effectively communicate his/her own conclusions and listen carefully to the conclusions of others. Traditional products such as essays, reports, tables, diagrams, graphs, multimedia presentations and discussions can be used to share conclusions with a variety of audiences. (KDE)”
You will look without success to see an example of what specific historic events students should include in writing their essays and reports and there is no information about what a successful essay or report might actually look like, either.
This part of the Deconstruction (I’m tempted to say destruction) never offers a single example of actual content that students should be expected to communicate about. None.
It gets worse.
While the Kentucky Academic Standards for Social Studies are incredibly depersonalized, a Grade 5 standard,
“5.H.CE.1 Analyze the causes of the American Revolution and the effects individuals and groups had on the conflict”
actually mentions historically important George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Sam Adams in a “Sample Evidence of Learning.” These are three of just five names found in all of the specific standards listings in the document, by the way, but they are listed in relationship to this standard.
However, I was unable to find Washington, Jefferson or Adams listed anywhere in the JCPS Grade 5 Deconstruction.
So, it looks like, at least in some ways, the Deconstruction is even more depersonalized than the original standards!
As I said, the JCPS effort looks more like “Destruction” rather than a “Deconstruction” to me.
But, the very existence of the massive JCPS Deconstruction documents make it very clear that the basic Kentucky social studies standards are anything but clear, or useful, either.
All Kentuckians, teachers most definitely included, need to put some real pressure on our legislators, who under Kentucky law are ultimately responsible for education, to send these horrible standards back for more work. Legislators can do this anytime simply by finding the adopting regulation, 704 KAR 8:060, deficient. Legislators don’t even need to be in session to do this. Our students and teachers deserve no less.
Learn more about the terrible social studies standards currently in force in Kentucky in our recent report, “Preserving History, Problems with Kentucky’s Social Studies Standards, Must be Redone.”