Education
1:39 pm
Wed November 9, 2011

Report: Social Studies Guidelines Not Aligned With College Standards

Social studies standards adopted by the Texas State Board of Education will leave students unprepared for college, according to a new report by a professor of history at the University of Texas El Paso.

The report was prepared by Keith Erekson for the Social Studies Faculty Collaborative, an organization funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). The report’s findings have not been reviewed by the Faculty Collaborative or the Coordinating Board.

“The end result for the students in the classroom is that it’s going to be a lot harder to go to college,” said Erekson, who directs a teacher education program and a center for history and learning at UTEP.

He points to what he says are specific historical omissions in everything from the roles of women and African Americans in the revolutionary war to the coverage of Native Americans to the role of the law and courts in instituting racial inequality.

More broadly, Erekson says, the standards have grown so long that teachers will have to spend too much time on rote memorization and not enough time teaching critical thinking skills.

“When you get to college, we don’t have memorization tests,” Erekson said. “You’re writing. You’re reading primary sources. You are making an argument based on evidence. Doesn’t matter if you memorize all the liberals in the world or all the conservatives in the world.”

For example, the state’s College and Career Readiness Standards  ask students to “examine how and why historians divide the past into eras,” while the social studies guidelines developed by the State Board of Education requires that children “identify the major eras in U.S. history from 1877 to present,” according to Erekson’s report.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, whose members are appointed by the Texas Governor, issued a statement today saying it had not reviewed the report and that it should not be attributed to the board.

“This was not a report that we put out. It just happened to be a report that a faculty member who’s working as part of our faculty collaborative has done independently of the coordinating board,” THECB spokesman Dominic Chavez said.

The State Board of Education adopted social studies standards last year in a heated political process by the members of the board.

Liberal critics derided the standards as a partisan conservative document that undermines the separation of Church and state, while proponents said the new guidelines were a victory against what they perceive as an existing liberal bias in education.

Update at 3:02 pm: State Board of Education chairwoman Barbara Cargill e-mailed us this statement in response to Erekson's report:

"I fully support the recently adopted social studies curriculum standards. The U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Founding Fathers, citizenship, patriotism, and American Exceptionalism are at the core of these standards. The State Board of Education worksdiligently to ensure all Texasstudents are exposed to curriculum standards aimed at college-preparedness, and these TEKS reflect those efforts."