U.S. Awards Grants To Help Set Standards in Civics, Geography

By Debra Viadero — August 05, 1992 4 min read

Federal officials have awarded more than $855,000 in grants for efforts to set national standards for student achievement in geography and civics.

The efforts are an outgrowth of the education goals set by President Bush and the nation’s governors.

The Education Department, along with other federal agencies and private funders, earlier this year awarded grants for the development of standards in science, history, and the arts. A grant to develop standards in English is expected later this summer.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has already developed national standards in math.

Education Department officials said the geography and civics standards are expected to be in place by early 1994.

The goals adopted in 1990 state that American students should be able to “demonstrate competency’’ in English, mathematics, science, history, and geography by 2000.

To provide a yardstick for measuring that competency, President Bush in his America 2000 education plan called for the creation of voluntary, “world class’’ standards for what students should know and be able to do in those subjects.

Drawing on ‘Civitas’

In the newest round of standards-setting awards, announced last month, the lion’s share of the money will go to the project to set standards in civics. The subject was not specifically mentioned in the national goals, but it has received strong backing from the federal panel that endorsed a national standards-setting process.

Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander announced July 1 the award of $505,000 to the Center for Civics Education to oversee the standards project. The grant will be augmented by $200,000 from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The California-based civics center has already developed a blueprint for teaching the subject in kindergarden through 12th grade. The 700-page document, known as “Civitas,’' was unveiled last September. (See Education Week, Oct. 2, 1991.)

The new standards will be based in part on that framework, said Charles N. Quigley, the executive director of the center.

“Civitas will be used as a resource but not as a straitjacket,’' he said. “Civitas covers far more than one could realistically cover in schools.’'

Mr. Quigley said the standards will be developed over two years and will be reviewed by national panels of teachers, scholars, curriculum supervisors, and professional organizations in the field. The National Council for the Social Studies will also help solicit comments on the standards and will distribute the finished product to teachers.

Federal officials and educators said civics education needs more attention in light of increasing evidence that young people do not know much about their democratic institutions and do not participate in them.

Mapping Out Geography

In a similar vein, Education Department officials said they are hoping the $350,000 grant to develop geography standards will upgrade poor student performance in that subject.

The award, announced at a July 22 press conference hosted by the National Geographic Society, will go to the National Council for Geographic Education.

The Education Department is funding the project jointly with the National Endowment for the Humanities, which contributed $30,000 toward the grant. The National Geographic Society, the American Geographic Society, and the Association of American Geographers will also assist in the effort.

A national panel of citizens, educators, and scholars has already put together a framework for the first national student-testing program in geography, to be conducted in 1994 by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. (See Education Week, May 13, 1992.)

The new standards are expected to be based in large part on that framework. It was developed using a similar national consensus-making effort; many of the same people are involved in both projects.

Both efforts are expected to espouse geography teaching that departs from the traditional emphasis on memorizing state capitals or learning to read a map in favor of a broader, more cohesive, and analytical approach to the topic.

The geography-standards panel has already been formed. Among its members are: Gilbert M. Grosvenor, the president of the National Geographic Society; Chester E. Finn Jr., a “core team’’ member for Whittle Communications’ Edison Project; Christopher Cross, the executive director of the education initiative of the Business Roundtable; Richard P. Mills, the commissioner of education in Vermont; and Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

The panel also includes geographers, scholars, teachers, curriculum coordinators, and members of national organizations representing the social studies, civics, the arts, economics, and science.

Arts Panel Meets

In a related effort, the project to develop national standards in arts education formally got under way this summer. Federal officials had announced the project in early June. (See Education Week, June 10, 1992.)

At its first meeting, held June 30, the arts-standards group discussed the extent to which multicultural education should be included in arts education and the degree to which the arts should be integrated with other subjects in the curriculum, among other issues.

Among the 29 members of the panel are: Gordon M. Ambach, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers; Gregory R. Anrig, the president of the Educational Testing Service; A. Graham Down, the president of the Council for Basic Education; Denis P. Doyle, a scholar with the Hudson Institute; Keith Geiger, the president of the National Education Association; Michael Greene, the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences; Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers; and James D. Wolfensohn, the chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The group also includes music educators and business representatives.

A version of this article appeared in the August 05, 1992 edition of Education Week as U.S. Awards Grants To Help Set Standards in Civics, Geography