common knowledge

State releases roadmap for Common Core-aligned social studies

Social studies teachers who want to align their instruction to the Common Core have so far gotten only limited guidance: The new curriculum standards exist only for literacy and math, and a search of the city’s resource library comes up bare.

Now, they are getting a helping hand from the State Education Department, which today released a proposal for revising what is taught in social studies and when.

The department is soliciting feedback on the proposed guidelines, which lay out expectations for social studies teachers and students in kindergarten through eighth-grade, through EngageNY, its teacher resource website. The 85-page draft, which was released this morning, will be submitted to the Board of Regents for approval in October, and would help districts and teachers develop their social studies curriculums for next year and beyond.

The guide to the new standards released today follows the broad contours of the current curriculum, meaning first grade will still be focused on families, and the last two years of middle school will still be spent on American history. But in addition to emphasizing content knowledge, the Common Core “framework” also tells teachers to focus on “key ideas and conceptual understandings,” “unifying themes,” and “practices,” such as chronological reasoning and using evidence. It also offers a detailed chart on how students should be using primary and secondary historical sources to understand and write about the past, reflecting the Common Core’s emphasis on literacy instruction across disciplines.

The framework says it is not meant to give teachers concrete guidance about how and what to teach on a daily basis. That will come later in a practical “field guide.”

New York City is requiring every teacher to deliver some lessons this year that reflect the new standards, which are aimed at boosting college readiness by emphasizing critical thinking and literacy skills. But so far official materials on how to do that have focused on elementary and middle school English and math — the first subjects that will have new, Common Core-aligned tests. This year social studies teachers have been asked to follow the old state standards, and the state tests will not reflect the new standards until 2014.

The city has developed some resources for social studies teachers whose lessons focus on literacy, which can be found in the “new tasks” section of the Common Core library, and promises more are in the works.

Chad Gleason, a social studies teacher at the School of the Future, a secondary school where students are not required to take most state exams required for graduation, said the new standards seem to do a better job of spelling out the skills students and teachers need. However, he is not sure whether the guide will motivate teachers to change their teaching practices.

“There isn’t much to disagree with here,” he said in an email. “Most teacher’s instructional decisions will be driven by the test that is developed rather than this document. To what extent the new assessments are aligned with this framework remains to be seen.”

Gleason also warned that the standards don’t leave much space for teachers to weave contemporary subject matter into their history lessons, even though those subjects can create valuable opportunities for reflection.

“I don’t see much room to study issues that develop after the content standards have been written. This is always one of the challenges with social studies curriculum maps,” he said.

The state’s complete proposed blueprint for social studies instruction in elementary and middle schools is below.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.