The middle and high school “unboxing” documents for the state’s new social studies standards were narrowly approved Thursday in a 6-5 vote along party lines.
The board’s Democratic majority voted in favor of materials that teachers and districts will use to develop lesson plans and curriculum as new social studies standards go live this school year.
State board members had few comments on the Grades 6-12 materials, in contrast to the heated debate last month when the K-5 “unpacking materials” were approved or when the board adopted the social studies standards in February. Both votes were 7 to 5, depending on the party, with Democrats voting in the affirmative.
Instead, on Thursday, the council focused on a recent report from the Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank that gave North Carolina a grade of D for its new civic standards and an F for its standards of American history.
“North Carolina’s new standards for civics and United States history are inadequate,” the Fordham report said. “Nebulous verbiage and an aversion to detail render them functionally contentless in many places, and organization is poor everywhere. A full review is recommended prior to implementation.
The state consistently receives low ratings from the Fordham Institute, said David Stegall, the state’s superintendent of innovation.
The problem, he explained, is that the state standards are conceptual to give districts and schools the flexibility to determine content and curriculum to meet the needs of teachers and students. Institute assessors value standards that provide specific topics for students to learn.
The institute recommends, for example, that the standards “articulate what students should know rather than asking them to ‘illustrate’, ‘critique’, ‘distinguish’, ‘differentiate’, ‘compare’, ‘evaluate’ or to classify “.
Stegall said design standards enable students to engage in critical thinking.
“Conceptual standards allow teachers to make deeper connections to the real world at multiple points in the story that are connected rather than requiring students to memorize specific names and dates,” Stegall said.
Still, criticism coming from the Fordham Institute should not be ignored, said State Superintendent Catherine Truitt.
“It’s frankly myopic of us to dismiss the report just because North Carolina is still downgraded by the Fordham Institute,” Truitt said.
Truitt pushed back on Stegall’s explanation for the low notes. She said the state gets them because it doesn’t understand what local control means when it comes to what a standard should look like.
“A standard is a statement of essential knowledge of what a student is expected to learn, and our standards do not contain any statement of essential knowledge that must be learned,” Truitt said.
The state is also penalized for organizing its standards by topic rather than chronologically, Truitt said.
“Anyone who has ever been frustrated that the majority of young adults in the United States don’t know when World War II happened, it’s because in the 70s…we didn’t teach the story chronologically, at least our standards didn’t encourage teachers to do that,” Truitt said.
SBE Superintendent and President Eric Davis discussed an alternative to the model used by the NCDPI and contracted teachers to develop the standards.
The model used now has been around for a decade, Truitt said.
“What I’m postulating is that the model is flawed and a better model that provides a better framework will be better for teachers and therefore better for students,” Truitt said.
Truitt will share information about a new model with the board over the next month. The board could be asked to adopt a new model in August.
Davis said a new model could provide a roadmap that could improve new social studies standards.
Whether a new model warrants further consideration is “subject to board judgment and approval,” Davis said.
The new social studies standards have been a source of controversy for months because critics believe they incorporate elements of critical race theory (CRT), which examines social, cultural and legal issues related to race. and racism.
Critics complain that the CRT is divisive and portrays white people as “unredeemable” racists.
Meanwhile, those who support the CRT say it’s important for children to learn ‘hard and uncomfortable truths’ about America’s racial history, which includes slavery, Jim Crow law and brutal lynching blacks at the hands of white mobs.
Jill Camnitz, chair of the state board’s Student Learning and Success Committee, noted the heated debates the new standards have sparked.
“I am personally confident that our district and teachers will use the standards and supporting materials to provide a classroom experience that gives our students a deep understanding of our history, inspiration to continue working to perfect our union, and capacity to deal with the wealth of experience and perspective found in every classroom in North Carolina,” Camnitz said.
Last month, SBE member Olivia Oxendine asked how grade school papers could omit Sandra Day O’Connor from a list of women who have contributed to change and innovation in the United States.
“I know we can’t think of every person in history, every event in history, every major theme in history, but I can’t understand how in this particular standard in the documents of unboxing, how we missed Sandra Day O’Connor,” Oxendine said.