Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

‘Substantially Similar’ Social Studies Standards Get State Board Approval

State Board members Cari Whicker, left, and Brad Oliver listen during a presentation on new social studies standards.

State Board members Cari Whicker, left, and Brad Oliver listen during a presentation on new social studies standards.

State Board member Cari Whicker wanted to know what the proposed changes to Indiana’s social standards would mean in her sixth grade history class.

“So I took the 2007 standards and the new standards, and I took my green highlighter, and highlighted everything that was word-for-word exactly the same,” says Whicker. “Then I went back through and any words I hadn’t highlighted I highlighted in orange so they would stand out.”

Whicker only found about 20 changes for sixth grade — the new social studies expectations are substantially the same as the top-ranked 2007 standards.

But Whicker says she’s worried the routine social studies review has been conflated with a much larger effort to rewrite Indiana’s math and English language arts standards. State lawmakers sent the nationally-crafted Common Core standards back for a rewrite, mandating an extensive review and public comment sessions.

The social studies standards, by contrast, were reviewed this year as part of a the state’s regular process for updating student expectations.

State Board member Andrea Neal was the only one to vote against the social studies adoption.

Neal, who teaches history at an Indianapolis private school, says the new standards lack many of the examples that made Indiana’s prior social studies standards good.

“I work at a private school that doesn’t even have to follow the standards, yet I do follow the eighth grade U.S. History standards because they’re so good,” she tells StateImpact. “So I’m perplexed by this sort of let’s change this because it’s time attitude.”

Most of the examples in the old standards will move into a separate resource guide for teachers — that’s at the recommendation of the educators who participated at the review. Those guides are being developed though the Department of Education and will be ready before the standards are implemented for the 2014-15 school year.

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