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A Short History of the Standards

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July 1987

California adopts a pioneering history-social sciences framework that Charlotte Crabtree and Diane Ravitch helped write.

September 1987

Under the leadership of Lynne V. Cheney, the National Endowment for the Humanities publishes American Memory, a status report of humanities education in the schools. Crabtree consulted on the project.

April 1988

The endowment awards a three-year grant to the University of California at Los Angeles to launch the National Center for History in the Schools. Crabtree, a professor of education at the university who wrote the winning proposal, is named the director of the center, and Gary B. Nash, a historian at UCLA, is named the associate director.

October 1990

The California state school board approves only Nash's social-studies textbook series, published by the Houghton Mifflin Co., for use in elementary and middle schools.

October 1991

The history task force of the National Council on Education Standards and Testing, or NCEST, a congressionally chartered group, meets to discuss whether national standards in history should be developed. Cheney chairs the task force, and Crabtree is one of 11 members. Four other members eventually will be named to the policy-setting council of the history-standards project.

December 1991

Cheney and Lamar Alexander, the U.S. secretary of education, announce at a joint press conference that the NEH and the U.S. Department of Education will grant $1.6 million to the history center at UCLA to develop U.S. and world-history standards.

January 1992

NCEST recommends the creation of national standards and assessments. The history panel recommends that the standards be developed through an open and consensual process involving various groups; that they have a "global dimension" and include world and U.S. history; and that the developers build on such previous works as the California framework, Lessons From History, a document published by the UCLA center, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress for history.

February 1992

The national council overseeing the history-standards project meets for the first time.

June 1992

The history-standards council decides it will limit its reliance on Lessons From History because many of its members believe the document focuses too narrowly on Western civilization.

September 1992

The UCLA history center sends the first set of drafts, along with progress reports, to the endowment and the Education Department.

November 1992

Bill Clinton beats George Bush in the presidential election.

January 1993

Cheney, Alexander, and Ravitch leave office.

June 1993

The national council approves the final version of the criterion that will guide the writing of world-history standards and place Western civilization in a broader global context.

May 1994

The national council and the forum, a cadre of other groups with an interest in education, offer extensive praise for the content of the U.S. history standards and the document that embodies both American and world history for students in kindergarten through 4th grade. Historians who serve as advisers to the panel suggest a major rewrite of the world-history document.

October 1994

Two weeks before the scheduled release of the standards, Cheney writes a scathing commentary about the U.S. history standards that appears in The Wall Street Journal. The UCLA history center releases the U.S. history document.

November 1994

The history center releases the world-history and K-4 history documents.

January 1995

Nash agrees to revise the standards. A week later, the U.S. Senate, in a nonbinding resolution, denounces the history standards in a 99-1 vote.

September 1995

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole vilifies the history standards in a Labor Day speech.before the American Legion. A week later, Richard W. Riley, the U.S. education secretary, publicly repudiates them for the first time.

October 1995

Two independent panels of historians, teachers, and public figures chosen to review the documents, announce that the standards, though flawed, are worth saving. Twelve days later, Cheney has a second critical commentary published in The Wall Street Journal.

November 1995

NAEP releases the results of its U.S. history exam. The scores indicate that U.S. students have an abysmal knowledge and understanding of American history. Crabtree served on the panel that wrote the framework for the national exam, as did four other members of the national council overseeing history standards. At least seven others on the NAEP panel played key roles in reviewing the national standards.

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