Controversial Curriculum Changes
Special Report - February 8, 2010
Curriculum changes to subjects as varied as sex education and social studies were a central theme of the North Carolina State Board of Education’s monthly meeting last week. In March, the Board will vote on language that updates the state’s guidelines for sex education to be in line with the Healthy Youth Act (HYA), which passed the General Assembly in 2009 and requires more information on contraceptives and sexual abuse to be included in the abstinence until marriage curriculum. The Globally Competitive Students Committee considered proposed recommendations to amend the Healthful Living Standard Course of Study to reflect passage of the HYA, which renamed the state’s sexuality education program, “Reproductive Health & Safety Education.” The committee did not recommend changes to the objectives of the health curriculum. The changes primarily consisted of bringing the language regarding instruction guidelines into conformity with the current statute, as amended by the HYA. Additionally, the 21st Century Professionals Committee discussed the need for changes in the university curriculum used to train health education teacher candidates, so as to reflect the additional information required under the HYA.
In 2008, the Board began a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s public school curriculum, testing, and school accountability programs known as the Accountability and Curriculum Reform Effort (ACRE). The goals are to redefine the Standard Course of Study for K12 so as to focus on the “must have” most critical knowledge and skills, to develop new tests “that use more open-ended questions, more technology and more real-world applications,” and to “provide a new model for measuring” success that better evaluates “how well schools are preparing students for college, work, and adulthood.” The first portion of ACRE’s changes looked at the essential standards for K12 Mathematics, English 10, the Occupational Course of Study, and K12 Information and Technology, and will go into effect in the 201112 school year.
Currently, the writing teams responsible for drafting proposed changes are working on the standards for K9 and 1112 English Language Arts, K12 social studies, foreign languages, healthful living and fine arts, which are projected to go into effect in the 2012-13 school year. The proposed changes to the social studies curriculum have created a firestorm of controversy. Under the proposal, the U.S. History course currently taught in 11th grade would only cover U.S. History after 1877. Officials at the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and on the State Board of Education point out that 7th grade history course would also be changed to be a more extensive U.S. history course, thereby allowing high school students to focus on “larger themes.” Currently, middle school public school students do not study U.S. history. According to a DPI press release, State Superintendent June Atkinson has said that the “goal is to give students more study of United States history,” and that the revised curriculum “actually increases the amount of time students will spend studying United States history.” North Carolina Family Policy Council president Bill Brooks responded, “There's no reason to spend ‘more time’ learning history, if you're not learning the right thing. Failing to teach the beginning of our history as a nation is to miss the entire point of its formation and philosophy of government.”
The proposed changes can be read in their entirety on DPI’s Web site. The drafts are expected to be edited over the coming months before the Board takes a final vote to approve them for implementation. LEAs, parents, educators, students, businesses, non-profits, community organizations, and the general public may provide feedback on all of the proposed standards using a survey form found on the same page. The deadline for feedback on the current draft is February 15th.
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