BY MARY KATE MURPHY
As North Carolina works to develop curriculum guidelines based on new standards for teaching social studies, the Moore County Board of Education has voted to request a one-year postponement in those standards’ adoption.
The new standards — written to include more diverse perspectives of government, economic systems and seminal historical events — have been controversial since before the State Board of Education approved them by a split vote in February. Critics on Moore County’s school board and throughout the state say that the new standards open the door to teachers instilling in their students a negative view of the United States.
How the new standards are actually taught in public schools on a day-to-day basis is up to local school districts and teachers themselves. A group of about two dozen Moore County Schools teachers spent a few weeks after school ended reviewing the new standards, which apply from kindergarten through high school, and are starting to write guidelines for how each grade level and class might be structured throughout the year.
The state has instructed local school districts to teach according to the new standards this fall, when high schools are set to begin phasing in a realignment of history and civics courses.
North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction is in the process of crafting its own guidelines for how each learning objective could be taught. Those “unpacking documents” also suggest specific events and historical figures relevant to each objective.
The State Board of Education last month approved unpacking documents for the elementary grades, as well as a comparison chart drawing parallels between the new standards and previous ones, and a glossary of terms. This month, the state board will review proposed documents laying out details of how the new standards might be taught in middle and high school.
The glossary of instructional terms underwent a significant overhaul since it was initially proposed to the state board earlier this month. The version approved this week was amended by state education officials to cite middle-of-the-road sources — including Merriam-Webster, several government agencies and the American Psychological Association — for each entry.
The state board approved those materials, agan by a split vote, after one board member objected to the omission of Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, from a list of examples supporting the learning objective: “Explain how the experiences and achievements of women, minorities, indigenous groups and marginalized people have contributed to change and innovation in the United States.” The list of examples for that topic includes Ruth Bader Ginsburg along with figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt and Sojourner Truth.
Moore County Board of Education member Robert Levy voiced the same criticism earlier this month, based on his review of the proposed documents before their approval.
State Superintendent Catherine Truitt responded that the documents adopted by the state board are intended to suggest examples rather than imposing “a checklist of people to cover.”
That’s also what Tim Locklair, Moore County Schools’ chief officer for academics and student support services, told the school board earlier in the week.
“They aren’t a requirement, they’re a reference that our teachers who are experts in these areas are looking at, and they’re looking at where they may need to add critical information, where there weren’t enough examples of a certain topic or certain resource they’re adding,” said Locklair.
Locally, some board members have spent the last few months asking whether individual districts can opt out or decide to wait before putting them into practice.
“One of the things that I think we all realize here is that our school system, I think all school systems, are under the gun,” said board member Robert Levy. “The State Board of Education has passed these changes in standards, but they haven’t given us a lot of the backup documents to implement them. I know we can do it, I know we can if under the gun come up with something which is adequate, but we need to come up with something that is superior.”
Contact Mary Kate Murphy at (910) 693-2479 or email@example.com.