View Full Version : State standards and us

02-17-2011, 06:20 PM
I reposted an NPR article about a group that 'graded' states' education standards for science and history on fb. http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2011/02/17/133840634/an-eye-opening-look-at-americas-academic-standards?sc=fb&cc=fp

I reviewed my current state and the state I grew up in on both studies, and found it very interesting. I especailly loved the description of how awful PA's history standards are - exactly what I remember - disconnected boring facts with no meaning behind any of them and big chunks just missing.

Anyways, these kinds of articles always make me feel like I'm not being rigorous enough in my homeschooling, and make me want to be more classical. Ok, TWTM book made me want to go classical, but my challenging boys had other plans.

Still, it reconfirms my desire to move Raven to an actual science curriculum next year instead of whatever he does on T4L. And it makes me second-guess, again, what I"m doing for history (basically going through the Usborne big book of history with both boys, finding occasional supplemental books for Raven, videos for both, and Orion is also reading Asimov's chronology, Little book of history, and story of science. And i plan on using Story of Us (books, not the unrelated video) for US history. While I dont really have faith in my ability to teach history, _I_ am learning enough that its gotta be better than what I was taught. But is that enough?


02-17-2011, 06:28 PM
Oh, wow. North Carolina gets a big, fat F. 1 out of 7 for content and rigor, 1 out of 3 for clarity and specificity. Lovely.

02-17-2011, 06:34 PM
History mom, would that be for . . um . . history lol?

02-17-2011, 06:45 PM
This makes me want to see what South Carolina is doing that's so good. We are using Calvert right now but I constantly worry that this isn't the best choice for us. I especially worry about history and science. Looking at what they are doing right would be a good place to start I think.

02-17-2011, 06:49 PM
MOst states have their standards on line. I actually found that my district's standards made more sense than my state's, but i'm in a really good district. I used those standards as a guide my first year, but then I just kept going the direction i was going, basically.

02-17-2011, 06:59 PM
History mom, would that be for . . um . . history lol?

I know, right? I LOVE history and it kills me that they're butchering it. I'm thankful we're kind of a history buff family, because otherwise DS14 would be missing out on so much, since he's in PS.

02-17-2011, 07:35 PM
Wow, no wonder I always felt like "where's the history lessons?". Thanks for posting that Cara. I shared it on FB too.

I found a small, private secular school that I was looking at for my younger son (but it is waaaay too small) but anyhow they are offering science classes for homeschoolers, beginning in April and I'm definitely signing my 9 yo up for that. I really haven't done much of anything science related since he was so behind in grammar and language arts.

I've been really happy with the Intellego Rev War unit. I feel like it's pretty comprehensive. I'm searching for something on the western expansion now and then we'll do the Civil War. I don't even know the acronyms y'all use here for history. I'm pretty lost but I hope I can find something similar to the Intellego stuff.

02-17-2011, 07:48 PM
That was interesting.

I grew up in NC, and have an EXTREMELY positive view of history in NC schools vs. others I've experienced as a teacher. They did not (they gave it an F). If you go through school in NC, you get fully propagandized to the amazingness that is the Tarheel state - from the Lost Colony to the beauty that is North Carolina, they make sure you know your state (clearly, I fell for this propaganda... sorry...). But also, because the guidelines were so loose and there is no end of year testing, the AP and honors level classes I took in NC were clearly superior to any I observed later as a teacher in high school and even better than some survey courses I saw as a college history major at an elite liberal arts school. The world history courses I took were genuinely world history (not European). I think part of the reason was that courses for advanced students could be so good was that they weren't bound by drilling dumbed down content that was meant to apply as a one size fits all mentality. I didn't teach AP history when I taught in Virginia public schools briefly (well, just as part of my student teaching way back when), but one of the complaints that I heard consistently from AP level teachers was that they couldn't focus on the depth the AP content called for because the SOL's (the VA standards) were getting in the way and had to take precedence. I certainly saw that with my honors "World" history class, it was probably to the kids' detriment that I had them actually read excerpts of primary sources from Enlightenment thinkers because the SOL test was written to over-simplify the information and that may have tripped them up. It was just a poorly made test.

Of course, this statement rang true for me about Virginia's history standards: "A tendency toward tendentious politicization is pervasive throughout."

02-17-2011, 07:54 PM
Oh, I'm remembering I had another point... which is that one of my big problems with public schools in general is trying to micromanage teachers and produce one size fits all curricula. A better solution would be to create better teachers who are proper professionals who can actually be trusted. No one would say that two homeschoolers need to be using the same curricula if it's working for one family. The same should be true of classrooms. Of course, it can't work unless teachers can be trusted to interpret standards and materials for students themselves and make choices based on an individual class.

Oh, AND... (clearly I'm on a rant here...) (with extra ellipses...)... While I think there should be breadth and depth to history curricula, I don't think there's a single, monolithic set of information all American kids should know. And if historical analysis skills are emphasized, then kids should be able to apply them to other information. And that way, NC children can still learn how NC is the best state. Because you know it IS. (I know, I know, the government school propaganda got me...)

02-17-2011, 08:59 PM
My history growing up consisted of two excellent teachers that made the past come alive and a string of teachers who had us read not so accurate textbooks and then fill out worksheets. My dad was a history nut and I caught the bug from him, so he and I read history together and he would take me on business trips and explore museums with me. When I started HS, I was shocked at just how little my 10yo knew about history. He knew even less than I did at that age. His world history had consisted of studying Egypt four years in a row and the pilgrims--the not so interesting version of the first thanksgiving. We are having a ball remedying that problem. Nothing like sea battle re-enactments that include torching paper boats in the bathtub. Does anyone else have a how cluttered up with history posters, building projects, dangling from the ceiling mobils and other junk? My kids NEVER want to throw some of this stuff away, even if I take pictures.

02-17-2011, 08:59 PM
I can see what you mean Farrar. My son's class did study the coastal area of NC and did a lighthouse project/craft on it. They are also taking their field trip to Grandfather mountain and Biltmore, but of course he will miss it since he is out of there now. I don't recall any US history studies though. Maybe they wait until higher grades but I would have expected them to at least touch on some of it.

But you are right....NC is great!!! :)

02-17-2011, 10:01 PM
Farrar, where in VA did you (briefly!) teach?

I hear your point, and that is a good counter-point to some extent. What i'm hearing from you is that rigorous state standards do not necessarily translate to a better education. One of the questions is - who decides what is a good education? BUt on the other hand, I think we all agree that, on average, american students are not as well educated as other first-world countries - they dont know as many facts, they cant do as much math, they cant write as well, they dont work as hard, and they seem to be having the innovation schooled out of them as well.

So on the one hand, requiring schools to cover a specific scope and sequence, and requiring kids to be able to spit that scope and sequence back out on a test, is not creating a better educated country. But what can . . . nobody knows.

so . . . i shouldnt compare my educational program to the standards OR to the opinions of those who are judging the standards. But . . . i need to keep reevaluating if I am doing the best I think I can for my kids . . . so stay neurotic, but look inwards. Got it.

02-17-2011, 10:26 PM
I did my student teaching in Arlington and I taught at TC Williams (Remember the Titans) in Alexandria, but only for a year. It was decidedly NOT for me. I'm surprised they didn't have me removed from the school at the end of the year. They must have known I was leaving on my own.

02-17-2011, 11:10 PM
I checked out both the history and science standards reports for Oklahoma and was rather surprised that it did as well in history as it did. I suppose if you're looking for a good grounding in U.S. history, a B+ makes sense, because they do cover that ad nauseum, but world history is pretty much NIL. I'm surprised that isn't taken into account, because quite frankly, world history has rather a large impact on U.S. history (and vice versa... French Revolution, anyone?).

I'm definitely not surprised that we totally flunked science. NO shock. When I went through high school - and I graduated 11 years ago, mind you - science was a joke. I think you only had to take three years of science, one of which HAD to be general science if you came from an outlying school like I did and one of which HAD to be biology, which was pretty much a review of everything I'd learned in 8th grade. I think the only difference was actually dissecting something. They offered Honors Chem I/AP Chemistry II as the only advanced science courses in our school, and it was a large school with a good reputation. Most people took botany or anatomy, which were blow-off classes. Physics was somewhere in between. Now I print off and check the PASS standards for M1 each year to make sure we've covered the basics, and this year I laughed out loud at the science standards. They're completely useless and so basic it's a wonder anything gets taught at all. Seriously. I just checked again, for giggles, and M1 is currently learning material somewhere around fifth grade standards. He's EIGHT. Sure, he may not be able to write it all down at a fifth-grade level, but he's got the knowledge. Yes, he's a science buff, but still. BASICS.

I have no suggestions on how to FIX the system, but I think tightening standards can't hurt, by any means. If the schools and teachers get together and create better standards for the states, publishers will have to provide better curricula, which will in turn help many of the kids, at least on some level. I think.

02-17-2011, 11:25 PM
I'm surprised that isn't taken into account, because quite frankly, world history has rather a large impact on U.S. history (and vice versa... French Revolution, anyone?).
In VA, when you get to the "Enlightenment Revolutions" section in WORLD history, you're only supposed to study the American Revolution. The French Revolution is mentioned in passing but gets zero attention in the standards themselves. Haiti is WAY too out there to get a nod, though I seem to recall it may have had a small text box in our proscribed textbook. No, really. You even can't make this crap up. I assume it's because of all the liberal scholarship that surrounds the French Revolution. There's a whole lot of Marxist historians out there writing about that.

02-18-2011, 01:00 AM
Well, we are from NC. MN, where my husband and I grew up, got an A- and I can tell you it's obvious. It's amazing to me how little people actually know about history here, even history that happened in their own city. Apart from that, they teach it differently down here. The Civil War for example, it's approached differently then it is in MN.

02-18-2011, 11:52 AM
LOL Jeni, I also noticed, moving from PA to VA, that the civil war was covered VERY differently . . . the south wanted to rebel because they wanted to immorrally keep slaves . . . the north invaded us and destroyed our lands, our homes, our glorious way of life . . . yeah that war isnt completely over yet

02-18-2011, 02:13 PM
I have been working hard to let go of state standards in my mind and work towards a nice broad overview of all subjects with strong attention paid to reading, writing and math. State standards are so darned arbitrary and vary widely. What is important to one person may be a total waste of time in another's opinion.

But letting go of what you are "supposed to be learning" is HARD WORK. Recognizing there are gaps in ALL education is an important concept to embrace, for it is the truth. There IS no one body of knowledge that should be learned by everyone. There are skills that should be acquired, I acknowledge that...everyone should read, write and compute well, but beyond that? Whose opinion counts the most?

I drove myself crazy last year with worry about meeting some sort of state standard that didn't fit with where our kids were at or what their interests were. I finally gave up and decided to create OUR standards! Hahaha! A little more focus than average on the arts, a strong exploration of history from a secular perspective which was chronological and critical thinking oriented rather than date memorization, an exposure to a variety of sciences with a focus on strong general everyday knowledge and a following further for those of our kids who are so inclinded...and solid reading and writing without worrying about how classically educated our kids are. That last one was hardest as I might have tended to drift classical had we started when they were beginning school,l but now I seem wisdom in a different path as well.

I hate standards with a passion, but find we impose them on ourselves too as homeschoolers as we try to keep up with this family or that family, viewing their style of educating their particular children as somehow superior to the path we have taken. It is always hard to remain with eyes straight ahead, not looking at the Jones's :-)

02-18-2011, 02:52 PM
NJ received a B in Science and a C in History so not totally awful. I'm sure any states that don't teach Evolution or are trying to teach Creation "Science" aren't getting real good scores.

02-18-2011, 03:59 PM
NJ received a B in Science and a C in History so not totally awful. I'm sure any states that don't teach Evolution or are trying to teach Creation "Science" aren't getting real good scores.

Yup, Oklahoma's science standards don't mention the word evolution at all, and the report specifically stated that for that reason, it dropped a letter grade (from D to F so still...).

02-18-2011, 05:33 PM
So do people think there should be national standards or not? Even if they might be better (which I'm unconvinced of... but they might...) a lot of homeschoolers worry that if we went to national standards that states would expect homeschoolers to follow them too.

02-18-2011, 06:49 PM
I go back and forth. On the one hand, it SOUNDS reasonable to say that the country should set high standards for education. OTOH, i remember seeing someone interviewed saying that, really, the local educators are trying to do their best for their students, for the most part. Its insulting to tell them how it should be done. Many people say that the more we try to 'improve' education, the worse it gets . . and otoh, education is not outcome-based. Its all political. Sorry, i'm still in the 'most humans are corrupt and we're going to hell in a hand basket" mood. I am baffled. Really baffled.

Ok, overall, I've never heard a teacher say a good thing about state standards. But we need SOMETHING to keep schools motivated to do their best. What works best to motivate people, micromanagement or encouragement? Remember that lecture that said that people are most motivated if their work is meaningful and they have some autonomy? I do think that, in trying to bring up failing schools, we've sucked the life out of all schools. More, broader, tougher standards wont help. Just like beating kids harder when they dont seem capable of following rules, seldom helps.

02-18-2011, 07:53 PM
Wow, no wonder I always felt like "where's the history lessons?". Thanks for posting that Cara. I shared it on FB too.

I found a small, private secular school that I was looking at for my younger son (but it is waaaay too small) but anyhow they are offering science classes for homeschoolers, beginning in April and I'm definitely signing my 9 yo up for that.

May I ask where in NC? Or the name of the school if it's in the Charlotte area?

02-18-2011, 08:00 PM
Oh, wow. North Carolina gets a big, fat F. 1 out of 7 for content and rigor, 1 out of 3 for clarity and specificity. Lovely.

Maine get's 0/10....not surprised. My DD never had anything remotely resembling history in the 2.5 years of PS she did here. I was surprised NH received the same score. Having grown up in NH and had almost all of my schooling in NH from grade school to college, I always thought the teachers I had really covered history and made it fun and in context.

Though I suppose a lot can change from when I started school with the dinosaurs............................