I wrote a little while back about the very disappointing condition of the current draft for Kentucky’s social studies standards.
I thought the standards might show up at the Kentucky Board of Education’s October 3-4 meetings, but except for some very negative comments during the public comment period, that didn’t happen.
But, other standards did come up for board approval on October 3, 2018 (See agenda items XVII.A.3. to XVII.A.7. for more), and a simple comparison of the length of those other standards for areas like math and reading provide more graphic evidence that the social studies draft is really vacuous and unsuitable.
To begin, social studies covers a very wide area of important topics. A very partial listing from the National Council for the Social Studies includes: anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, government, civics and sociology.
That’s a lot of material.
However, the draft standard for Kentucky to cover all of this for all grades from Kindergarten to Grade 12 is only 60 pages long. Just 60 pages.
In sharp contrast, the highly regarded Massachusetts social studies standards are more than twice as long at 131 pages. And, grouped together, just the Kindergarten to Grade 8 social studies standards for Indiana amount to 157 pages while the Indiana high school social studies standards run another 162 pages in total.
But, a new surprise came when I looked at the newly approved math and reading and writing standards from the Kentucky Board of Education’s October 2, 2018 meeting. The new Kentucky math standard alone runs to 257 pages for this one academic subject. For reading and writing, the length is an astonishing 458 pages!
Clearly, if it takes 458 pages of standards to tell our teachers how to do just reading and writing, a social studies standard of only 60 pages is nothing but a joke.
By the way, don’t forget, a provision in Senate Bill 1 from the 2017 Regular Legislative Session makes the omission of material in Kentucky’s education standards even more crucial than before. This new legal stipulation appears on Page 20 in Section 3 (c) of the bill and says:
“The statewide assessments shall not include any academic standards not approved by the board under subsection (2) of this section.”
So, if something isn’t in the new standards as approved by the Kentucky Board of Education, it cannot appear on the state’s assessments. And – most Kentuckians know – if it isn’t on the tests, it isn’t always encountered in the classroom, either.
Bottom line: Thanks to Senate Bill 1, the revised social studies standards need to be clear and complete, or else real trouble will likely follow.
It looks like the people doing the math and reading/writing standards might have understood the Senate Bill 1 situation a lot better than the folks doing social studies. By itself, the length of the social studies draft alone shows those standards are not ready for prime time, and maybe it’s time to ask questions about the direction the social studies team is taking to create them.