Social Studies Standards: Random Perspectives from the Back Row
Updated: Sep 2, 2022
Did you know that Utah Standards go through a 13-step process each time they are revised and approved? The K-6 Social Studies Standards are now in the hands of the Standards and Assessment Committee where they are discussing a revised draft based on public comments. Yesterday the Standards and Assessment Committee met for nearly 8 hours as they reviewed board member recommended changes. It is amazing that we can all sit in the comfort of our own homes and watch these proceedings happen. I must appreciate, though, that a few years ago during the committee’s 9-hour discussion on Health standards, those of us in the room were able to offer comment and make recommendations. That’s not so easy to do with the new online format. If you’d like to know what was discussed, you can go here to watch the entire meeting!
The discussion yesterday seemed to focus on the “Compelling Questions” that have been placed within each Strand of the standards. As explained yesterday, these questions are to help develop the conversation regarding the standard and help students think more deeply about the topic. Sometimes I had to question rather the committee was remembering which age group they were dealing with during certain discussions. I have to admit I have not been a classroom teacher, and thank goodness, they have the professional skills to manage classrooms and implement curriculum. I kept imagining my wiggly cub scouts at 7, 8, or 9 staying focused on some of the topics being introduced and was feeling bad for second grade teachers.
One of the Standards requires that the student locate their community, state, country, and continent on a map. The recommendation was to delete community and replace with city or town. I appreciated feedback from John Arther, 2021 Teacher of the Year, who served on the writing committee, who pointed out that many of his students identified more with the community of Rose Park rather than the City of Salt Lake. I feel like the writing committee really thought about how the children would interact with these standards in a way that was meaningful to them. I also appreciated that many times the staff would remind the committee that our students have different backgrounds and life circumstances, and our standards need to reflect that diversity.
I didn’t always agree with recommended changes that required students to study stories of “significant” Americans or “famous” Americans as opposed to a “diverse range of historical figures”. I believe our students can learn by studying about the lives of people that we may not necessarily see as significant or famous.
I appreciate the dedication of this committee to work through each of the recommendations, working with the staff and writing committee. During the campaign there were many discussions that our social studies standards were not in alignment with state code. You can see where they have tried to integrate code into the standards now to better align. There will be at least one more special meeting and then the standards will go to the Board for another review. You can look at the standards and recommended changes in the Board Packet at https://usbe.civicclerk.com/web/home.aspx. This doesn’t show the changes that were adopted yesterday but gives you a good idea of what’s being discussed.