Education

Public Comment Opens On Debated Ga. Social Studies Standards

In this Thursday, April 18, photo, Burgess-Peterson Elementary School first graders Jacqueline Wright, left, and Kennedy Thomas, work through a lesson as part of Atlanta Public School's after-school remediation program in Atlanta. Anxiety is high among students and teachers with state standardized tests set to begin Tuesday. A lot of focus and criticism has been aimed at the tests, known as CRCT in Georgia, since one of the nation's largest cheating scandals erupted within the Atlanta Public Schools system a few years back that included allegations that teachers and principals changed scores to inflate performance. While criminal charges are pending against 35 former Atlanta educators, the district has been working on a system-wide remediation program aimed at helping those directly affected by the cheating scandal and others who have simply fallen behind. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
In this Thursday, April 18, photo, Burgess-Peterson Elementary School first graders Jacqueline Wright, left, and Kennedy Thomas, work through a lesson as part of Atlanta Public School's after-school remediation program in Atlanta. Anxiety is high among students and teachers with state standardized tests set to begin Tuesday. A lot of focus and criticism has been aimed at the tests, known as CRCT in Georgia, since one of the nation's largest cheating scandals erupted within the Atlanta Public Schools system a few years back that included allegations that teachers and principals changed scores to inflate performance. While criminal charges are pending against 35 former Atlanta educators, the district has been working on a system-wide remediation program aimed at helping those directly affected by the cheating scandal and others who have simply fallen behind. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press
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The Georgia Department of Education wants feedback on its latest proposed social studies standards.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is actually the third edition of the standards, which, when approved, will determine what shows up on students’ tests in the 2017 school year.

The previous editions had been revised, respectively, after a wave of public comment and after disagreement from teachers on the state’s social studies review committee.

“We just have had a lot of participation – a lot of people who feel very strongly and passionately about certain topics,” said Shaun Owen, social studies program manager at DOE.

She said the new proposed standards have addressed some of the concerns voiced by teachers and public officials.

For example, they put lessons about the Holocaust – already included in the fifth and seventh grade standards – back into the sixth grade history standards. The standards also refer to the U.S. as both a democracy and a republic, which was a request of state Sen. William Ligon.

Teachers on the review committees that designed the new standards also disagreed with additions that showed up after the standards were submitted to the state superintendent and board of education.

Georgia Council for the Social Studies Executive Director Eddie Bennett said teachers noticed that Columbus Day and Christmas had been re-added to the kindergarten standards.

“Some of those things they had talked about and said ‘no these are not appropriate for this grade level,'” Bennett said.

The Department of Education emphasized that the state superintendent and board have input in crafting the standards.

Georgia’s standards for science were approved at the end of March. Owen said she wasn’t surprised that the ones for social studies prompted debate.

“I’ve been involved with social studies at the national level. I can tell you, it is unheard of for anything to go through in social studies without evoking a lot of emotions,” said Owen. “It happens at every level.”

The public comment period is open until June 3. 

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