Social studies coursework may give students more to remember than to learn, according to findings by a Hall County Schools committee on curriculum for the subject.
The committee, formed a year ago in response to concerns the curriculum was broad-reaching but lacked depth, has made some recommendations on increasing the depth of the curriculum without neglecting its reach.
“What we asked them to do was rank the importance (of different parts of the curriculum),” said Nath Morris, chairman of Hall’s Board of Education. “What is it from social studies that our kids ought to learn?”
Morris said the committee was also formed so the board could get an idea of what the local community wants to see in its social studies curriculum.
“They asked the question, ‘Are we teaching kids what it means to be an American citizen?’” Superintendent Will Schofield said.
The committee’s findings found the curriculum was lacking in studies related to American citizenship, personal economics and community service.
“We believe there are too many social studies standards and that there is not enough focus on our own country and government,” Schofield said in a prepared statement. “Additionally, there is little or no focus on K-12 mastery of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.”
He said the committee also called for a personal economics strand that will help students better manage everything from investments to checking accounts as they enter the adult world.
The committee also found need for “a program that provides all students an opportunity to ‘give back’ to their community and rediscover the American value of self-sacrifice and caring for others,” Schofield said in the statement.
Morris said the committee’s findings don’t remove anything from the current curriculum, but add some things and provide focus.
“That’s what we want to take and incorporate into our own set of standards,” he said.
Schofield stressed that the school district has the last say on curriculum.
“In spite of the rhetoric, at the end of the day local districts can teach their children what they deem to be important,” he said, “what it doesn’t have a say in is what’s tested.”
Morris said if the state eventually rolls out its own standards on social studies, the district won’t necessarily have to change its own, but will have to weigh the advantages of maintaining its own curriculum with concerns about standardized testing.
He said the school board has not formally approved the recommended standards, but plans to “at some point.”
“The committee agreed that much of this work must be done by the school district, and we will reconvene when we have progress to consider,” Schofield said in the statement. “Some of this work is underway via our Balanced Scorecard and will be reflected in our revised district plans in the coming months.”