New Social Studies Standards Face Criticism
ST. CLOUD-- Social Studies standards for Minnesota's schools are being revised, but not without controversy. The proposed standards for kindergarten through 12th grade education are being criticized by both the political left and right. Minnesota Law requires every subject to be revised periodically to reflect new available information.
Critics on the right say too much emphasis is put on slavery and the treatment of American Indians, while critics on the left say not enough focus is placed on the Civil Rights Movement. The Southern Poverty Law Center gave the proposed changes an "F" grade, due to a lack of direction for teachers and low expectations for students. The Director of Social Studies Education at St. Cloud State University, Dr. Kyle Ward says it's not about standards, it's about teachers.
Some believe that debating standards isn't necessarily a bad thing. Melrose Social Studies teacher, Adam Rushmeyer says it can be used as a learning lesson.
A standards committee was formed in 2011 with participation of more than 40 educators, business members, government officials and members of the public. The standards were developed during a year-long process that included a nationwide study by the committee, along with comments from the public at town hall meetings.
The Minnesota Department of Education website says the new rules will provide fewer standards and benchmarks for teachers. Ward says the new standards provides for more flexibility in the classroom.
Despite the outside criticism, teachers are preparing for the new plan. Rushmeyer says teachers will need to keep an open mind when dealing with the new rules.
One question being asked is how will the state have any accountability if there are fewer benchmarks and no standardized test to go along with the curriculum? Rushmeyer says teachers will have more discretion with materials.
One side effect of the new proposed standards is how future teachers are taught, while currently in college. Ward says the wavering issue is causing uncertainty with his teaching.
The state requires the new standards to be in place by the start of the 2013-2014 school year. The Minnesota Department of Education was contacted for comment, but did not respond.