Education Association: Proposed standards are too hard for young learners, too easy for upper-grade students – Mitchell Republic

PIERRE — A leading group of educators is expressing concern about newly released educational standards for social studies classes in South Dakota public schools, saying the proposal is too difficult for some grade levels while also being too easy for others.

The proposed standards, which were released Monday by the South Dakota Department of Education, would dictate what students would learn in social studies classes from kindergarten through graduation in the nearly 150 school districts. of State.

Although the South Dakota Education Association (SDEA) is still reviewing the 128-page proposal, their executive director, Ryan Rolfs, said first impressions left the association concerned.

“Since its initial review, the SDEA has been concerned about the age appropriateness of the standards as presented,” Rolfs said in a statement on Tuesday. “The lower-level standards require a level of memorization that is not cognitively appropriate for our state’s early learners, and the higher-level standards fail to challenge students’ critical thinking abilities through standards that encourage analysis and evaluation of the world around them. ”

A comparison between the 2015 standards – including a 2020 supplement – ​​and the latest proposal reveals significant variations in what students should know.

Kindergarteners would be required to explain American symbols, historical figures

In the 2022 proposal, kindergarten students are expected to recite the pledge of allegiance from memory, while previous standards and supplements include no reference to the pledge.

The pledge is one of nearly 32 “symbols of America” ​​that students would be required to identify and explain “the meaning of.” Other subjects include the motto “in God we trust”, the Alamo, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the 21 Gun Salute and the Betsy Ross flag.

The proposal also requires kindergartners “to tell stories about characters in American history through 2008, including stories from their childhood, adulthood, and examples of their character.” The proposal says the figures could include Barack Obama, Black Elk, Cesar Chavez, Clarence Thomas, John Muir, Red Cloud and more.

Geographically, whereas kindergarteners previously began to learn to describe their immediate surroundings, such as locations in their classroom or on a playground, the proposed new standards ask kindergartners to identify locations specific to North America, including Alaska and Hawaii. They would also be expected to locate their school on a map.

Complex Geography Taught Earlier, Simple Geography Taught Later

According to the 2015 standards, elementary school students had to first understand the difference between maps and globes before creating maps of their K-2 classrooms and schools.

In grades 3 and 4, students would begin to learn the grid system and identify the differences between landmasses and bodies of water, receiving an introduction to the world’s oceans and continents, before beginning to learn latitude and longitude in fifth grade. It is not until the seventh grade that students begin an “in-depth study” of geography.

By today’s standards, high school students would use geography to analyze geospatial information and its impact on social, political, and economic issues.

Under the new proposal, K-2 students would name continents and oceans, learn about lines of latitude and longitude, and explain geographic features — including plateaus, isthmuses, and ocean and wind currents . They would also be required to explain the differences in culture, economy and way of life between different regions, including northern and southern states.

Students in grades 3-4 would begin to identify and name specific geographic features and regions of South Dakota and the United States, ranging from Black Elk Peak and Spearfish Canyon to the Great Lakes and the Pacific Northwest through the Ohio and Hudson rivers. Fifth graders would begin to learn European geography, naming European straits, rivers, seas, mountain ranges and regions, such as Scandinavia.

After learning more than 150 cities, countries, and specific geographic features around the world in sixth grade, students begin learning about the capitals of all 50 states and other major U.S. cities in seventh grade.

In high school, in addition to writing essays based on class notes, students must name and/or locate hundreds of cities, countries, and geographic features, many of which are the same ones taught in previous grades. Specifically, they will again be responsible for naming state capitals and other major US cities.

Some learning standards for high school students, under U.S. History, are written identically to the standards covered as early as second grade.

One standard – “Student explains the differences between different geographic regions, particularly the growing divide in culture, lifestyle and economy between northern and southern states” – appears four times in the career of a K-12 student.

Under the new proposal, specificity is key

The most notable difference between the current and proposed standards is the specific content that teachers need to ensure their students know.

The 2015 standards include 30 pages of actual standards and an additional 14 pages of information regarding the standards development process. The new proposal contains 118 pages of current standards and 10 additional pages of information.

Many of the standards offered use an entire page or more, as the specific things students are expected to learn are presented individually.

In secondary schools or government, for example, current standards describe a learning objective in about 80 words, using general terms that describe the purpose of the lessons. The same standard in the new proposal takes nearly 250 words and lists more than 20 specific government officials — local, tribal, state and federal — whom students should be able to name and identify “with relative ease.”

The South Dakota Education Association, located in Pierre, is a professional organization working for educators, so they can continue to work for children in the state.

Map data courtesy of 2022 Google

SDEA to submit additional comments, executives say

Rolfs said review of the proposal is still ongoing by SDEA members, but the association already plans to submit additional comments to the Department of Education, seeking further changes.

“SDEA will be submitting comments to the Board of Education Standards in the coming days,” Rolfs said, “and we encourage educators and parents to review the proposed standards and have their voices heard as well.”

The standards, according to Rolfs, should inspire students to reach their “full potential” while having “the freedom to learn in an environment that allows them to ask the questions that lead to higher-level thinking.”

“Educators are committed to teaching students a complete history, including good and evil, while helping them develop the critical thinking skills that enable them to be productive citizens committed to the great promise of our country ; that all men are created equal,” Rolfs said.

Additional public hearings regarding the proposal will be held statewide in 2022 and 2023. According to the Department of Education, the standards will undergo a year of transition during the 2023-24 school year, before being fully implemented. implemented in 2024-25.

Public comments can be submitted on the Department of Education’s Education Standards page.

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