Time is running out!
If you don’t contact your legislator soon and ask him or her to have the Interim Joint Committee on Education look into the proposed revision to Kentucky’s social studies standards during their forthcoming meeting on July 10, 2019, our schools will get saddled with some really vague standards that omit a huge amount of content every kid deserves to learn about, stuff ranging from the atom bomb to Thomas Edison and even our state’s most honored son, Abraham Lincoln (I kid you not – he is never mentioned, though George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are).
If you think it is wrong for Kentucky’s new standards to avoid mentioning every war since World War II (again, I kid you not, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Bosnian War, the Persian Gulf War and more are missing, too), then you need to act fast.
There is still time for legislators to add a discussion of the standards and their enabling regulation, 704 KAR 8:060, to the next meeting’s agenda. If that doesn’t happen, there will be no assurance that Kentucky’s kids will learn about a host of material that children in other states must cover, and that will set our kids up to be second-class citizens.
While you are talking to your state legislators, you should also contact Senator Max Wise (R), the co-chair of the Interim Joint Committee on Education who will officiate at the July 10 meeting. Here is his contact information:
Phone Number: 502-564-8100 ext. 673
By the way, I was recently on a Kentucky Tonight show where we talked about the social studies standards. A lot of things got said, and I need to clarify what is really going on when you hear impressive-sounding statistics about who participated in putting the new social studies standards together. If you are curious, just click the “Read more” link.
If you don’t have the time, just be aware that claims of high teacher participation in the comment period that ran in August-September 2018 have a number of flaws. For one thing, only 1,227 people total actually commented and only 957 teachers were included. With over 42,000 teachers in Kentucky, that is a representation rate of just 2.3 percent. Not only do we not know what the other 41,000 plus teachers think, but because the 957 that did respond were not in any way a valid random sample, there is no way to estimate what those others really think, either.
In any event, the proposed social studies document those 957 teachers commented on was only about 60 pages long, while the final document is now 229 pages long. And, as few as just 10 teachers commented on that final version. So, those 5,000 plus comments don’t even apply to the vast majority of what is, and what isn’t, in the final document and very few teachers commented on the final proposal.
That Kentucky Tonight meeting I mentioned can be accessed here:
My comments below about the teachers who participated in the review relate to remarks from Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis which you can find starting at 36 minutes and 5 seconds into the broadcast. Beginning at that time mark, Commissioner Lewis says:
“If we’re talking about the social studies standards in particular, we’re talking about groups, organizations, individuals across Kentucky, across the country that have given feedback.
Over 5,000 comments that have come in from individuals, from groups, pertaining to those standards.
Seventy-Eight percent of those comments coming from current classroom teachers and 90 plus percent of the standards having over an 85% approval rating by Kentucky’s current classroom teachers.”
That sounds pretty impressive, but:
Here are some facts to consider.
- As of the 2016-17 school year, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) reports the state had 42,146 active classroom teachers.
- There were several, major public comment periods for the social studies standards revision and the document changed dramatically during the process. A sequence of events looks like this:
(1) One public comment period, discussed in KDE News Release 18-006, ran from the news release’s date of January 23, 2018 to February 22, 2018. This release also requested teachers to volunteer for the social studies revision work. I believe this public review used a SurveyMonkey online type of approach that required comments to be shoehorned around an existing draft version of the social studies standards that dated from 2015. I have seen no detailed reports on the results from this first, very preliminary survey.
(2) The working version of the social studies standards as downloaded in mid-summer 2018 was 60 pages in length. I believe this version was used as a basis for the next public comment period.
(3) A second public comment period was announced in KDE News Release 18-126, dated August 29, 2018.
This time the comment period ran from August 29 to September 27, 2018. Again, a SurveyMonkey type of online approach was used, again naturally channeling comments to flow with what the department and the social studies revision team already favored.
As a note, I refused to be limited in this way and submitted a letter directly to the KDE outlining my concerns. It was totally impractical to suggest massive changes within the limitations imposed by the SurveyMonkey system. As a note, since I commented outside of the SurveyMonkey system, I have no idea if my letter was even considered. That would also be true for any letters that might have been submitted by others who would not or could not practically work within the constrictions of SurveyMonkey.
Some details of the results from the second public comment period are found in KDE News Release 18-162, dated October 16, 2018.
(4) The third public comment period, which ran during March 2019, was actually for the enabling regulation for the social studies standards. Information about the results from this public comment period can be found in a report package for the review of regulation 704 KAR 8:060 that was presented to the Kentucky Board of Education at its April 10, 2019 meeting.
Now, let’s tie some of this information together.
The working document at the time of the second public comment period was only 60 pages long. According to News Release 18-162, 1,227 individuals responded during that August-September 2018 public comment period and submitted 5,306 comments. So, this seems to be the source of the “over 5,000 comments” remark from Commissioner Lewis.
But, it’s important to note that only 1,227 individuals made those comments.
Furthermore, the same News Release says that only 78% of the respondents were current Kentucky classroom teachers. That means only 957 teachers responded to the survey out of a statewide teacher count of about 42,000.
Furthermore, the 957 teachers that did respond were a self-selected group. They absolutely do not represent a valid random sample of teachers, and their responses might not be typical.
So, the response to the August-September 2018 survey actually was rather small and cannot be considered a valid representation of what other teachers thought, either.
But, there is more.
Commissioner Lewis pointed out in the last paragraph of the quote above that the standards put forth in that survey had an overwhelming support from the classroom teachers who did respond. Now, recall that the document they were responding to is only about 60 pages total in length and isn’t even close to containing the details in the final version of the document that was submitted for adoption under 704 KAR 8:060, which is 229 pages long – nearly four times the size of the document teachers reportedly so overwhelmingly approved.
So, consider this: if the teachers thought the 60-page version was so great, why did it need so much more added later? Does that raise questions about the thinking of those 957 teachers who responded to the August-September 2018 draft in such a glowing way? They were willing to settle for a very skimpy set of standards, something far less than finally got approved by the Kentucky Board of Education.
It gets even more interesting.
Clearly, the teacher approval statistics Commissioner Lewis mentioned don’t pertain to the final, 229-page social studies document dated April 2019 as submitted to the Kentucky Board of Education for adoption by reference under 704 KAR 8:060 during the “Statement of Consideration” part of the regulations process. However, the Statement of Consideration package shows exactly how many people responded to the final version of the standards before it was sent to the legislature. You can find the complete listing of respondents on Pages 10 and 11 in the package. There were only 27 people total, and the documentation only identifies 10 of them as current or retired educators. That’s all.
Furthermore, it is clear that a number of the 27 respondents were not satisfied with the version of the document available at the time, (essentially the same one presented to the Kentucky Board of Education at its February 6, 2019 meeting and dated February 2019, which is 229 pages long).
Some of the comments from those 27 individuals are captured in the Statement of Consideration document on Pages 16 to 41. Many of the comments have great substance, but virtually all were not accepted by the KDE, and some of the excuses for non-acceptance are transparently inadequate.
So, the bottom line here is that the so-called 5,000 plus comments were for a very early version of the document and do not relate to the final version at all. In addition, the fact that 957 teachers were apparently happy with a document so inadequately short that even the individuals creating the standards chose to nearly quadruple its length in the final version bears uncomfortable testimony about the quality of standards that some in Kentucky seem willing to settle for.
That is not an acceptable attitude for our children.
So, again, I urge you to contact your legislators and Senator Wise and ask him to at least hold an open hearing on these standards before they become fixed in our schools. Our kids deserve no less.