FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – The Kentucky Board of Education unanimously passed new social studies standards for Kentucky students Wednesday, earning praise from educators two months after several called for major revisions to the proposal.
Changes made to the proposal mostly give teachers additional guidance in how to follow the new guidelines, such as offering key vocabulary terms that students should know to show proficiency at certain grade levels and providing examples of what students should know with each standard.
The changes come after a number of teachers raised concerns about the proposal during the board’s December meeting.
On Wednesday, speakers who addressed the board offered their support for the final product.
Ryan New, the social studies instructional lead at Jefferson County Public Schools, said the collective effort in revising the proposal after feedback from teachers across the state “sharpened and improved” the new social studies standards.
“These standards, as an inquiry and multidisciplinary approach, empowers our teachers to turn their classrooms into laboratories for democracy,” New told the state board.
“Teachers and students will be exploring questions, digging into multiple sources, examining multiple points of view, and reach meaningful conclusions that are not only grounded in evidence, but are tested through rich discussion and experiences. This process is transformative and meaningful and lets students see that we are better when we reason together.”
Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis also voiced his support for the revised standards and the process through which they were created.
“I feel really good about the fact that they (teachers and others who worked on the standards) have taken tremendous amounts of feedback from lots of sources, and what they’ve put together is a really solid product,” Lewis said.
Changes to the social studies standards are part of a broader effort by the state board and Kentucky Department of Education to review and revise academic guidelines in every subject, as required by legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2017.
The standards, drafted by panels that included Kentucky teachers among their members, aren’t curricula for school districts to follow, but rather guidelines that generally say what students should be learning at each grade level.
Kindergarten students, for example, would be required to learn about the general relationship between communities and governments, such as ways people can collaborate on decisions, how to differentiate between needs and wants, and how communities change over time.
By the eighth grade, students will be tasked with learning about the U.S. between 1600 and 1877, such as how the U.S. government developed, the economic differences between states in that period, and how forced and voluntary migration changed the U.S.
High school standards aren’t broken down by grade, but rather by subject. The standards cover civics, economics, geography, U.S. history and world history.
Teachers will be expected to teach to the new standards in the 2019-20 school year, said Krista Hall, director of KDE’s Division of Program Standards.
“In March, we will be meeting with district-level leadership to provide guidance around the different standards documents,” Hall said. “… Then in June, we will be holding face-to-face sessions across the state for educators to all participate and have access to the actual standards document as well as resources to support the implementation.”
Weekly web-based seminars will also be available for teachers to help them understand new standards in social studies and other subjects, she said.
“We’re trying to do it virtually because we’ve heard from districts it’s very hard to pull those teachers out of the classrooms,” Hall said.
Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.
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