Most of the major education issues, both those followed by Education Liberty Watch and others pushed by various factions of the education community have concluded for the session. A full recap will follow in our end of the session update. With regard to the issue of the administration’s unlawful use of the Parent Aware quality rating system in the early childhood scholarships about which we warned you in our last alert, we appreciate your involvement during the conference committee process. You made a big difference. Unfortunately, none of the language restoring parental choice and evenly dividing the funding between rural and metro programs survived. But the GREAT news is that funding for the entire program for this year was cut in HALF to $2 million and a parent controlled home based literacy program that will show the lack of necessity for a QRS did survive. This means that the next legislature can further cut or eliminate funding for this program if the governor continues to require the QRS without authority. Thank you!!
There is one very important remaining issue where your voice could still make a big difference. We have told you about SF 1656, the bill that would require legislative approval before new academic standards revisions. It is authored by Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) and Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton). The Senate passed the bill way back on March 1st even with some DFL support. After passing the House Education Reform Committee, it is awaiting floor action. It is on the calendar for the day, but because of the huge push for a Vikings stadium and a bonding bill in the effort to adjourn by Monday, April 30th, it may not get heard.
This legislation is very important both to deal with preventing the cancerous spread of the Common Core Standards, as well as trying to fix, if at all possible, the absolutely awful revision of Minnesota’s academic social studies standards.
A Critical Comment of the Proposed Social Studies Standards ((8/18/2011 draft)
I Executive Summary
Until 2003, guidance for the K-12 curriculum in Minnesota was provided by the ‘Profiles in Learning,’ a group of ten ‘Learning Areas,’ one of which (‘Peoples and Cultures’) had reference to Social Studies.
The preface to the Standards for Social Studies adopted by the Legislature in 2004 indicates that these guidelines aim to enrich the cognitive content of the K-12 curriculum. In other words, the presumption is that one goes to school to broaden one’s mind. This goal is achieved by defining the requirements not in terms of the generalized themes of a traditional social studies curriculum (e.g. Peoples and Cultures), but rather in terms of four Strands, each based on an academic discipline: History, Geography, Economics, and Government. In the History and Government Strands, on which our comment focuses, there is an emphasis on the founding of the American Republic, on the democratic institutions of the United States, and on the common values that Americans share, without regard to race, creed, or color.
The 2011 Standards do not attempt to overturn the 4-Strand or 4-discipline framework adopted in 2004, but in the Government and History sections – if not in the Economics and Geography sections – one senses an intent to tilt things back in the direction of a Social Studies framework. The Introduction states that ‘the aim of social studies is the promotion of civic competence.’ The citation containing this phrase comes from National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, a 2010 Publication of the National Council for Social Studies, an advocacy group for Social Studies teachers. The National Council’s standards presume a curriculum that is based not on academic disciplines, but on cross-disciplinary ‘themes’ like Culture, Time and Continuity, People and Places, Personal Development and Identity, etc. Those who remember Minnesota’s Profiles in Learning may hear in this message some familiar ideas. Accordingly, the cognitive content of the curriculum for Government and History – again not, or at least not so much, for Economics and Geography – is significantly reduced. In some areas – notably on the founding principles of our political system, and the European background from which they derived –content is drastically reduced. In return, there is a stress on students learning to participate actively in civic life. While teachers could use these guidelines in a politically neutral way, all the benchmarks given come either from a multicultural perspective, or from left-of-center agendas.
In a nutshell: the 2004 Standards for History and Government require students to learn about the world in which we live. The 2011 Standards would require them to be active in bettering the world (with the concrete examples of improvement all coming from one side of the political spectrum). If one believes, that school-years are a precious opportunity for learning about our world, and that students ought not to have political opinions fed to them by their teachers, one must conclude that replacement of the 2004 Standards for History and Government by the newly proposed Standards would represent a giant step backwards for Minnesota’s K-12 students.
April 19, 2012
Review of Minnesota 2012 Social Studies Standards
To: Greg Marcus
Senate Education Committee
Minnesota State Senate
From John Fonte
John D. Fonte, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for American Common Culture
1015 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Let me preface by stating that my experience includes examining and vetting history-social studies curricula for around 25 years:
- · as a member of the steering committee of the congressionally-mandated National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), “the nation’s report card” for content in civics;
- · as a senior researcher at the U.S. Department of Education for nine years, who worked on content issues in history and civics for NAEP;
- · as principal advisor for CIVITAS: A Framework for Civic Education funded the Pew Charitable Trust, and appointed by the general editor to write the chapter on The Federalist Papers;
- · as an educational consultant for the Texas Education Agency, the Virginia Department of Education, the California Academic Standards Commission, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania.
- ·as a history and social studies teacher in junior high school, high school, and college
In reviewing the 2004 Minnesota History and Social Studies Standards I wrote at the time, “Overall, I believe the Minnesota standards are outstanding, among the best that I have seen in reviewing many state documents.” The most important task of social studies-civic education in American public schools is to prepare our children for citizenship in American liberal democracy. Therefore, standards should delineate what is most important for students to know in order to prepare them for citizenship in the United States in the Twenty-First Century.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the committee – My name is Karen Effrem, and I am here on behalf of Education Liberty Watch.
Despite our usual concerns about the data collection and parental autonomy in home visiting programs, we want to thank Rep. Loon for bringing forth this bill. We enthusiastically support a program that is voluntary, private, free-market, faith and home based, literacy focused, and does not require the top-down, one size fits all, government mandated program or curriculum standards without statutory authority.
This program is in stark contrast to the Department’s implementation plan for the early childhood scholarships that were funded to the tune of $4 million very precious taxpayer dollars last session. Education Liberty wishes to thank chairman Garofalo and this committee for exercising their proper oversight authority via the hearing held here on January 26th. We join you in the deep concern that the Department is unilaterally changing the implementation of those scholarships as passed by the legislature from making it a first come, first served to requiring scholarship recipients to attend a three or four star rated program under the Parent Aware quality rating system with all of its problems that this legislature explicitly refused last year.
A strong related concern for us is that according to Department documents such as the Race to the Top application,” to reach 3 or 4 stars requires both familiarity with the ECIPs and also alignment of curriculum and assessment with them.” Even if these standards were perfectly academic and non-controversial, which they are not, as our handouts show, the imposition of one top-down, government mandated set of standards on all programs – public, private or religious who “volunteer” for this rating system cannot be allowed to stand.
Again, we thank Rep. Loon for authoring this bill and look forward to this committee asserting its proper authority under separation of powers doctrine, as well as protecting parental and provider authority and autonomy.
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