Social studies framework gets tentative Regents' approval

This is a first grade classroom at Branch

This is a first grade classroom at Branch Brook Elementary School in Smithtown at the end of the day Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011. (Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas)

A state Board of Regents committee gave tentative approval Monday to a plan that would align social studies curriculum with the goals of the controversial Common Core learning initiative.

Full board approval is expected Tuesday.

The new social studies guidelines would be implemented in all grades within the next two years, though a date has not been finalized. Corresponding tests will be administered to high school students no sooner than 2017-18.


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While the exams will reflect some initiatives set forth by the Common Core, state officials said there currently are no Common Core standards for social studies or science at any grade.

Regent Roger Tilles praised the framework effort, calling it highly collaborative.

"I think the method of arriving at it was better than almost anything else we have done," said Tilles, of Great Neck, Long Island's representative on the board.

The Common Core English and math exams for grades three through eight debuted last year, and students' scores plummeted.

The Common Core K-12 Social Studies Framework, designed to help local educators develop course work in the subject, includes a history of the world, the United States and New York, as well as geography, economics, civics, citizenship and government.

While some want to test even earlier grades, the funding isn't available, state officials said.

"We would love to bring back the fifth-grade and eighth-grade social studies assessment. But we don't see revenues in the future that would allow us to do that," Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz said.

In addition to the curriculum recommendations, the framework will untangle a challenging course, Global History, that many educators said was administered in a way that made it tough to pass. Global History is a single class given over two years, with a comprehensive exam at the end. The new framework will split the course in two.

Some educators have worried that social studies has diminished in importance in recent years.

Right now, while a Global History assessment is a requirement, the course itself is not. The new framework could change that, Slentz said.

Social studies teachers said an overhaul is overdue. The current framework was adopted in 1996 -- before landmark events such as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the 2008 election of the nation's first black president.

The Long Island Council for the Social Studies, made up of more than 1,000 social studies teachers and administrators in Nassau and Suffolk, wrote to the board, saying "we are pleased that social studies has returned to the forefront of the Regents agenda."

Other groups, including the Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center based in White Plains, the Native American Resource Center of Rochester, and Project Brownstone Inc., a Manhattan-based advocacy group, also lent their support.

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