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New draft of social studies curriculum up for review

  • Article by: NORMAN DRAPER
  • Star Tribune
  • April 10, 2011 - 9:03 PM

The public will have one more chance to review the proposed state social studies standards before they go to Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius for approval next month.

The second public review and comment period for the standards will be from April 29 to May 8. Unlike the first comment period, there will be no statewide public meetings. A second draft of the standards, which are used to direct the teaching of social studies in Minnesota schools, was prepared after the Minnesota Department of Education received more than 500 comments in February and March on the first draft.

"They were mostly from teachers," said Beth Aune, who directs the academic standards process for the Department of Education. "Some of the comments were from postsecondary educators, and some of them were from parents. We had some that were from people in business."

During the first round of public comments, the department held four meetings around the state, in addition to taking comments at the district website. The meetings generally were poorly attended, Aune said.

The original standards and examples, written in 2003 and 2004, were voluminous and controversial, especially in regard to U.S. history. Aune said a key goal for this year's social studies committee, which is made up of citizens and teachers, is to shrink the standards to more manageable lengths, which means far fewer examples than are contained in the current standards. Social studies includes U.S. history, world history, economics, geography, and civics and government.

The next step, Aune said, is to send the draft for review by experts. Among them: Alfred Andrea , professor emeritus of history at the University of Vermont; Mary Suiter , manager of economic education for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; and Sarah Bednarz, associate dean for academic affairs at Texas A&M University's College of Geosciences. Once they weigh in, the draft will go back to another standards committee meeting for work before the public comment period.

The final draft is to be on Cassellius' desk by May 17. A copy of the original draft of the new social studies standards is on the Department of Education website, www.startribune.com/a301. The revised version will be posted in time for the public comment period.

Norman Draper • 612-673-4547

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