Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Five Things To Know About The Proposed Social Studies Standards

State Board of Education member Andrea Neal, center, helps her students prepare for the state's 'We the People' competition. Neal, who teaches middle school history, says she's not satisfied with proposed social studies standards.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

State Board of Education member Andrea Neal, center, helps her students prepare for the state's 'We the People' competition. Neal, who teaches middle school history, says she's not satisfied with proposed social studies standards.

Lost in the furor over Common Core has been the routine review of Indiana’s social studies standards, which are up for a vote at Wednesday’s State Board meeting.

State education officials typically revise academic expectations in six year cycles.

“This would have been the year for social studies,” says Lou Ann Baker, spokeswoman for the Center for Education and Career Innovation.

But Baker says a legislative mandate to review nationally-crafted math and English language arts standards has overshadowed the regular adoption of new social studies standards.

The State Board is now updating those standards.

Here are four things to know about the proposed expectations for Indiana history classes:

1. They aren’t that different than the social studies standards the state has used since 2007. According to the presentation IDOE Social Studies Specialist Bruce Blomberg gave the Education Roundtable earlier this year, the majority of changes were made to make the standards more friendly to teachers.

In terms of content, Indiana students will get more on Benjamin Harrison, the only president from Indiana, in elementary and high school.

2. A new resource guide will replace examples in the standards. Remember the teacher’s edition of your high school history book? It’s sort of like that — just revamped for the digital age. The 2007 social studies standards were full of examples that earned Indiana top marks from the Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank that advocates for high standards.

But on the advice of teachers reviewing the expectations, those examples were moved to the resource guide, where educators felt they would be less prescriptive. That also follows best practices from the National Center for History Education.

3. The standards were written by Hoosiers, for HoosiersThe nationally-crafted Common Core expectations only include math and English language arts, and 175 Hoosier educators worked on the 2014 social studies revisions. The proposed changes received full marks from the national groups state education officials contacted.

In an email to IDOE staffers, Education Roundtable Director Dan Clark says the National Center for Civic Education informed him the standards for teaching high school U.S. Government had not changed substantially since 2007.

“The director of the We the People project, which developed the standards, indicated to me that updates and clarifications of the standards would be appropriate and that the Indiana standards would remain aligned with the national standards,” wrote Clark.

4. At least one board member will vote against adopting the standards. Board member Andrea Neal uses the 2007 eighth grade history standards in her classroom, though it’s not required at the private school where she teaches. The relocation of examples from the standards to the resource guide makes Neal uncomfortable.

“They’ve eliminated the rich content examples that were in the standards, and in history, content is the standard,” Neal tells StateImpact. “Teaching the Monroe Doctrine is not optional for an eighth grade U.S. history teacher. It is not micro-managing curriculum to put the Monroe Doctrine in the standards.”

She says she’s worried the state is changing the standards just to change them — and commissioned an outside review of the standards from researcher Jeremy Stern. (Stern has reviewed standards for Fordham in the past but is an independent contractor. You can read his report here.)

5. The proposed standards have the support of the Education Roundtable. The group, which is co-chaired by Gov. Mike Pence and Supt. Glenda Ritz, unanimously approved the social studies standards last month. State Board of Education member Dan Elsener also voted in favor of the standards at that time. Neal says she sent Stern’s report to other board members but isn’t sure if it will influence their votes.


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