School leaders scrutinizing social studies curriculum
Should the Crook County School District keep using social studies text books from 2005?
That's the question school board members and administrators hope to address in the coming months as they explore the options for updating the social studies curriculum.
"It was a long-term comment that we had heard from members of the community that they felt that we weren't addressing social studies/civics in a proper manner," explained school board chair Doug Smith.
The idea of forming a committee to review social studies curriculum came up in December when board members were reviewing their board goals.
"That was an item that was added to our goals last year," Smith explained. "We're trying to figure out the direction of our goal, which is to determine what to do. In other words, it's a very vague goal."
Although they have not formed a citizens review committee yet, administrators have begun looking into that possibility.
Social studies covers a vast array of topics but locally includes classes such as world and U.S. history, world geography, government, psychology and economics.
"The educational literature at the national and state level says the state of social studies instruction is not in decline, it is in freefall because the curriculum is too jammed with everything else to make time for what some people would argue is an important component of a child's education," board member Scott Cooper said.
CCSD Director of Curriculum and Instruction Stacy Smith says for the most part, current textbooks in Crook County have been in use since 2005, and the next curriculum adoption is scheduled for preview next year and use in classrooms should be the fall of 2019.
The state recommends a seven-year cycle for curriculum adoptions so that textbooks are timely and relevant to any changes in standards.
"We want our texts to reflect the most up-to-date knowledge and ideas for our students," Stacy Smith said.
There have been occasions when both the state and school districts have gotten off schedule in their adoption cycles. The most recent example was the recession of 2009, when the vast majority of school districts saved money by not adopting new curriculum, he pointed out, noting that districts may adopt new curriculum when they choose as long as they follow procedures for adopting less frequently than seven years.
"You can do it more often if you choose, but curriculum adoptions are very expensive," he said.
Stacy Smith, Cooper and Crook County High School Principal Michelle Jonas will meet in the coming days to discuss the goal and present their findings at the Feb. 12 board meeting.
The board chair said the group will meet to discuss whether there are time and resources to pursue new curriculum.
"We felt we would start with the time available and the curriculum capability prior to having a community group meet," he said.
Jonas voiced concern for forming a citizens review committee, saying it's a fine line.
"What makes me nervous is — I love input — but we need to be examining what we do. Sometimes people are on the hot topic of social studies and what they want taught in our schools, and their political agenda takes over," she said.
The board chair said they want to determine how to get public input prior to a curriculum adoption, realizing that with the little time and resources they have available, they have to be very direct and pointed.
"The board goal says appoint a committee and have them meet regarding this matter. The board goal was not to establish a broad curriculum in social studies," Doug Smith said. "It's exploratory — what should we be doing in the eyes of our community? That's our guiding light."