Area school districts prepare for new social studies standards

MANISTEE — Social studies teachers across Michigan may have issued an audible sigh of relief when the new state standards were finally approved by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE).

Students across the state will now be under new standards for Social Studies after they were approved by the Michigan Department of Education.

The standards were last updated in 2007 and for the past five years work has been taking place on updating them. However, the new standards process was delayed by political and social interference, which was frustrating to educators at all levels of the system.

Northern Michigan Learning Consortium social studies consultant Dave Johnson, who works with the Manistee and Wexford Missaukee Intermediate School Districts, was part of the committee tasked with drafting those standards. In April Johnson said it has been a tedious task.

“We have been working on those standards for five years at this point,” said Johnson at the time. “What went out last summer was probably influenced by some outside forces that weren’t present this time around. So we started a new round and were very inclusive this time around to pull in representation from all around the state to weigh in as opposed to just one undue influence.”

This week Johnson and Manistee Intermediate School District general education director Lisa Lockman said they were thrilled that the process can now start moving forward.

“I think from here we can start to plan for professional development,” said Lockman. “MDE is going to accept districts to officially implement the new standards in the 2020-21 school year, so we have a little bit of time to meet with teachers and look at the differences from the previous standards and now our new ones. This will let us look at where we need to readjust instruction and that depth of knowledge piece and where the teachers need to spend more time focusing on specific areas and what that will mean for their assessment practices.”

Johnson plans to facilitate four professional development sessions. He will set up that networking with the local social studies teachers to start the process of addressing the new standards.

“The professional development sessions vary from year to year,” said Johnson. “However, I think next year the teachers I see in Manistee are pretty comfortable with the changes and we are going to do a lot of unpacking and then lead them through some small bite size chunks through some of the biggest shifts and changes to get them ready to start implementing.”

Lockman said the training sessions will be held after school, and districts have the option of sending their teachers if they want to do it.

“They are open to all grade levels from kindergarten to high school and whatever teachers want to attend will be able to do it,” said Lockman.

Johnson said changes vary at different levels. He added that the assessment process will slowly be worked into place.

“Some grade changes are heavier than others, but … the unifying part will be learning to talk about inquiry at every grade level,” said Johnson. “It takes at least three to five years for the assessment shift to change, so there is going to be plenty of time for districts to implement and get accustomed to the new standards. They will probably start field testing things in a year or two, but it will not shift over for at least four or five years. Districts will have plenty of time to adjust before those assessments catch up.”

Lockman said beyond the local assistance through the ISD, the state department will also have roll out sessions that districts can send their people to attend to talk about some of those shifts.

“It’s exciting and I think teachers in social studies in particular have really held off in purchasing new materials because they want to know what these new standards are going to be,” said Lockman. “So locally, I think districts are going to be investigating where they add in resources for teachers.”

Both Johnson and Lockman said they were happy with the way things worked out in the end for the new standards.

“I was very happy with how things have turned out,” said Johnson. “This was supposed to be a one-year update and the fact that we are here 5 1/2 years later was a little frustrating at times, but I think the fact that we have taken this long and as much feedback as we could get from various groups and weighing against accuracy, I think we have ended up with a better set of standards than the one year update had originally called for.”

avatar

Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

Leave a Reply