It’s the first meeting of the Kansas state history/government writing committee today. Lots of history geekiness, lots of great conversation and lots of confusion all at the same time. And because we’re confused, the more help you can provide the better. So here’s the transparency.

I mentioned earlier, during the first two days of the larger standards committee, that I was having a James Madison Constitutional Convention moment. We started out tweaking the old standards and quickly decided that tweaking wasn’t going to be enough. We needed to come up with something that has a strong content component but which also focuses more on historical thinking skills.

So . . . we’re struggling a bit. It’s very easy to create a generic list of historical events – it’s what we have now. But we want teachers and kids to see the big picture. How do these past events connect with one another and with contemporary events?

To help with this, we’ve developed five Big Ideas or Anchor Standards or Core Standards or . . . we’re not sure what to call them but we’re hoping to replace the generic titles like History, Civics, Geography and Economics. The goal is to not have silo-like, separated from each other, content areas but rather broad themes that encourage kids to see relationships and connections across periods and places.

And we’re working to fit content into these five Core Standards:

  • Choices have consequences.
  • Individuals have rights and responsibilities.
  • Society is shaped by beliefs, ideas and diversity.
  • Societies experience continuity and change over time.
  • The relationships among people, places and environment are dynamic.

We’ve also developed a working course level template. You can get that template here. The first two pages of the template list the five Core Standards and four “benchmark” level statements under each standard. We’re planning on listing specific indicators under each of these benchmarks. The second part is an example of a grade level narrative that attempts to provide a basic overview for teachers listing grade level content, content that is taught before / after this grade and expectations of historical thinking skills. The third piece is our attempt to create a chronological list of the specific indicators. (And realize that the second and third pieces in the template are placeholders and not necessarily actual stuff.)

The group is working today to add content specificity to each of these “benchmark” level statements. It’s hard. It’s hard because we trying to organize history / government / economic / geography content in a very different way. We think we’re on the right track but right now it seems a bit like running in mud.

Curious what you think about the Core Standards, the “benchmark” level standards statements and the template. All are at the incredibly rough draft stage. I would love to hear what you like and what you don’t. (I would be especially curious what non-Kansans have to say!)

Are we on the right track?

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