The Kentucky Council for the Social Studies (KCSS) serves as the primary voice for social studies education and educators in Kentucky. Our membership exists to inform, educate and advocate on behalf of not only social studies educators at all levels (elementary, middle, high and post-secondary), but also of students throughout the Commonwealth. KCSS wishes to inform state education authorities on our position regarding the proposed requirements, as well as advocate for this position.
As a result, our membership has reviewed the Proposed Graduation Requirements as they relate to the Social Studies and is, in general, supportive of the initiative to look for new and innovative approaches to engage and challenge students, and specifically supports that the proposed graduation requirements:
But, KCSS also identifies the following points that must be addressed:
● A transition plan must be created showing how new graduation requirements would be phased in; how parents, school, and districts would be educated on the new requirements; and, how educators at all levels would be trained to help students be successful. We would like the opportunity for ourselves and Kentucky citizens to make informed decisions.
● Equity must be addressed. Rural, urban, and other underserved schools often do not have access to the same resources as some schools in the state, especially when it comes to opportunities for students to meet the Transition Readiness requirements. Additionally, we know that, historically, unintended consequences and inequities have been associated with student tracking, as different groups are disproportionately filtered to different tracks. One example is the Technology Competency Requirement. KCSS is sensitive to the digital divide across the state of Kentucky, perpetuating inequities present in Kentucky’s poorest regions and counties. This requirement could place undue and unintended hardship on counties lacking the financial infrastructure to provide every student access to the technology needed to meet this requirement, which could result in self imposed graduation barriers on Kentucky’s students.
Any new system must have specific plans to prevent demographics and geography from determining a student’s future.
● Many of these requirements are rooted in the Individualized Learning Plan, which lacks consistency in high impact implementation across the state.
● Financial Literacy. As stated in the previous section, KCSS has a position of support for Financial Literacy requirements. Where might these requirements be housed? These concepts serve to intersect Mathematics, business/career preparation, as well as the Social Studies. It is our position that these requirements be housed in mathematics or business/career preparation courses. Though there are some mathematical concepts within economics, finance and economics should not be falsely conflated. The two subjects have many distinct differences, requiring their own particular disciplinary content knowledge and skills.
● Credit Requirements. The proposed requirements require students earn 3 Social Studies credits. It is the position of the National Council for the Social Studies that high school students attain 3.5 Social Studies credits. The official position of KCSS is to request 4 required Social Studies credits.
● Critical Media Literacies. We strongly believe the technology competence requirement should also include critical source analysis, media literacy, and assessment of freedom of speech issues in digital space. To be technologically competent, students must be armed with the particular skills preparing them to assess information within digital spaces. The National Council for the Social Studies takes the following position, to which KCSS agrees and supports.
“The National Council for the Social Studies Position Statement on Media Literacy argues that media literacy can facilitate participatory democracy if students' interest in media is harnessed. The statement conceives of media technology as neutral and under-conceptualizes socializing aspects of media technologies that foster atomized individualism. Narrowly grounded in New Media Literacies, Critical Media Studies, and Medium Theory scholarship, it offers a limited understanding of media as merely conduits for message transmission and concludes that media technology will create a more democratic society if students are encouraged to participate in it. The authors' pragmatist reconceptualization examines media not only as transmission but also as a space where common meanings are constructed. The authors offer a critical review that advances an alternative direction for media literacy in which learning for participatory democracy includes analyzing not only medium, messages, and content but also media forms and their relations to transactional tendencies within the broader society.” (Routledge, 2012.)
● What skills does the Technology Requirement entail? Can this include basic word processing and business formatting, in addition to coding, digital literacy, programming, and/or virtual reality?
● Standards Based Learning. KCSS requests clarification on “Standards Based Learning Experiences”. Is this connected to the shift across the state to move towards a more competency based progression system?
● Speaking and Listening Standards. As Kentucky’s population continues to diversify, it is imperative that graduation requirements reflect Speaking and Listening standards, to ensure all students are supported in developing communication skill sets. There is a wealth of research on which Kentucky can draw speaking to the importance of these skills towards achieving learning outcomes, as well as creating democratic classroom spaces conducive to rigorous and meaningful learning.
● Content and Skills. The proposed system potentially incentivizes a skills-only and assessment driven approach to instruction. Appropriate changes or a plan should be developed to discourage this, and instead encourage conceptual, problem solving experiences for students where they apply learning to in-school and out-of-school contexts. Previously stated by the Kentucky Board of Education, “Westheimer & Kahne’s pivotal study found that only supporting the concept of participation does not necessarily lead to action. Without an explicit connection between the content of a democratic education and the needed skills, students are less likely to take on the responsibilities needed in a civil society.” (Westheimer & Kahne, , 2002.)
We understand that some of the above points may be easier than others to address and/or implement. KCSS recognizes that other unintended consequences, for instance equity, transitions, and standards, require more in-depth analysis and work to arrive at quality solutions. Diana Hess says, “…the ‘new civil right’ of educational opportunity should be framed as access to good schooling.”
Together we can provide that for Kentucky students.
KCSS is ready to continue to be involved in the longer task of shaping recommendations and solutions around research and plans that best serve our students, but currently,
The Kentucky Council for the Social Studies advises that the Kentucky Board of Education not support the proposed graduation requirements as they stand.
The power and potential of education in our state rests on the shoulders of its teachers. As a council, our mission is to educate, inform, and advocate on behalf of Kentucky’s teachers and students. KCSS strongly urges the Board to pass the proposed standards as they will support teachers in their important work towards creating informed, engaged Kentucky citizens.
The purpose of social studies education, and indeed public schooling more generally, is to create an informed, engaged democratic citizenry. Often this purpose feels divorced from expectations placed on teachers.
No one knows Kentucky education and its young people like teachers. These standards are written by Kentucky teachers, for Kentucky teachers. Our teachers recognize the power of an effective social studies education in preparing students for active civic life in a pluralistic democracy.
What’s been said multiple times is that standards should be driven by teachers. This is the second set of Kentucky social studies standards written by teachers. Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards were both adopted by this Board, however neither have the voices of teachers, as much as these proposed standards do.
If we value teachers’ voices – and want to support them in their work for Kentucky’s students, then these standards should be adopted.
What excites us about these standards is their potential to empower teachers and students in achieving this ambitious goal. These standards center the literacies students need to make sense of their world, helping Kentucky’s students be active contributors to their communities, whether in college, their careers, or as civic participants.
A focus on skills, particularly inquiry-based learning, is not only more meaningful because it re-centers students in their learning, but it also has a large wealth of scholarship showing it to be an effective pedagogical strategy, reflected in research and assessment data.
The Kentucky Council for the Social Studies supports these standards and urges they be passed. As the official state social studies organization, we are also willing to collaborate with the Board towards implementing them in Kentucky schools.
The standards are grounded in the expertise of our state’s teachers and scholars in the field. They provide Kentucky educators a framework to promote the content, skills, and literacies of the social studies, nurturing rigorous and meaningful educational experiences for Kentucky’s children.