Somewhere Between 1500 and Higgs Boson
Some say you know people by their words. I say you know them by the inconsistencies in their words. That’s why the decision by the State Department of Education not to participate in the development of national standards in Science or Social Studies is so curious.
Oklahoma participated in the development of the Common Core State Standards for literacy and math. Oklahoma has adopted them as the default standards beginning with the 2014-15 school year. The previous governor and state superintendent (Democrats) and the current governor and state superintendent (Republicans) all agree that adoption of these standards was an important reform measure. I’ve said repeatedly that of all the recently enacted changes, this is the one meeting with the least resistance from teachers and administrators.
I’ve personally heard Superintendent Barresi say (on multiple occasions) that Common Core will finally give us a chance to see how our students perform in comparison with students in other states. Back when she used to record video messages, she even said that adopting new standards will “further empower students by giving them a clearly rigorous education that will put them on par with their national peers.” That’s a goal shared by veteran educators as well as education reformers.
Unfortunately, that goal – if the means to achieving it is participation in national curriculum frameworks – is undermined by inconsistent approaches driven by politics. While the state is fully on board with national standards for math and literacy, the same cannot be said for social studies and science curriculum. (It should be noted that we are ok with reforms written by national policy-making groups on issues like digital learning, grade retention, and teacher evaluation).
During the 2011-12 school year, the SDE led educators (yes, actual educators) through the process of developing new social studies standards. While similar work was being done on a national level, Oklahoma chose not to participate. This explains, in part, why American History seems to start at 1500. In truth, I’ve heard a lot more social studies teachers at all grade levels who are dissatisfied with the changes than I’ve heard people who are happy with them. The only defenders of the new standards seem to be the people who worked on developing them.
The only core content area remaining is science. While Oklahoma has yet to officially announce its plans as far as participating in the development of Next Generation Science Standards, all signs point to us moving forward in developing new science standards on our own. Nevermind the countless press releases from the SDE last year when our NAEP scores in science were announced – our plan is going to be to help students perform better on a national assessment by burying our head in the sand and writing our own standards (that will avoid critical issues such as evolution and climate change).
Meanwhile, in a land outside the borders of this state, scientists celebrated the discovery of a Higgs boson (maybe not the Higgs boson – but a Higgs boson). Hopefully, Oklahoma students will have the opportunity to learn about it.
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