Funny How Things Work Out....

I've been hearing about blogs for quite some time, but never thought they were for me. Too public, I thought. Too Gen X or Y or wherever we are now (in other words, I'm too old for blogging). It's growing on me though. And that brings me to my next entry....

I am frustrated. I am concerned about the state of history and social science education in my district and in the state of California. Rightfully, my school district is concerned about student achievement, but I believe it is going in the wrong direction.

Beginning in the fall of '05, all secondary English teachers will be using a scripted program. Students will no longer be ALLOWED to read novels in their English classes because the scripted program doesn't have them. This doesn't make sense to me. Novels actually help my students understand the historical period we are studying. No longer will my students be reading stories of the period we are discussing in history class.Beginning in the fall of '05 many of the middle schools in my district will shuffle underachieving students to double math and double english classes in an attempt to improve achievement. Students will also take PE. Their last class will be split between one semester of science and one semester of history.

With test scores being so important to schools and districts nowadays, I find it difficult to understand the thinking of the powers that be. The 8th grade History CST will, in 2005, count for 7% of the API score for the school. Next year, it will be in the neighborhood of 13%. Apparently, our students are expected to do well on their test with only one semester of history during the 8th grade year. That is unless they get history during the second semester. Then they will have about 10 weeks of history before that all-important test.

I am also concerned with staff development. There are studies that show good history/social science instruction can help improve student achievement. However, in my district, there has been no money put into improving the skills of history/social science teachers in the past four years. Before that, development was limited to teachers in grades K-8. History/Social Science teachers could easily implement reading, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing skills into their curriculum. Many teachers just need help to see where this skill instruction fits into their lessons.I find this to be a frustrating time in history education.

We have much to teach. We have to ready our students for standardized tests. We are expected to hold our students to a high standard. We are not begin given the training or materials with which to help our students reach a high level of achievement. Where does that leave the classroom teacher?