South Dakota Board Approves New Social Studies Standards

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — August 25, 2015 2 min read
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South Dakota’s board of education voted Tuesday to approve new social studies standards for the first time since 2006, the Associated Press reports.

The new standards were developed by a group of 35 South Dakota professors, teachers, and education professionals. They emphasize responsible citizenship, geographic spatial awareness, economic literacy, and the ability to analyze history.

The standards’ in-state development is a crucial detail: South Dakota lawmakers voted in 2013 to require that the state board not adopt any standards developed by multistate consortia. That effort was aimed primarily at preventing the state from adopting the Next Generation Science Standards, which were written by a multistate group.

This spring, South Dakota’s board adopted a set of science standards that were written by an in-state group. The standards strongly resembled the Next Generation Science Standards, but had tweaked language related to the age of the earth and about climate change.

There is currently no set of social studies standards developed by a “multistate consortia.” Many states have been basing new standards on a framework created by the National Council for Social Studies and the College, Career, and Civic Life Framework, known as C3. The framework is not a set of standards; instead it’s meant to guide states in developing their own academic standards. It also steers clear of specifying subject-matter content, again leaving that up to more localized decisionmaking. The framework’s lack of historical dates, people, and events has been the subject of some criticism.

The Argus Leader reports that the group that wrote the new social studies standards consulted the C3 and the National Council for Social Studies to make sure the standards are aligned with best practices and with the state’s common-core English/language arts standards. South Dakota educators say the new standards will require more analysis from students but are less prescriptive than the current set.

The South Dakota education department’s website lays out how the new standards compare to the current set. For instance, the new standards no longer have a “core” and “advanced” version.

The most contentious issue in this round of standards debate in South Dakota was how much time to devote to U.S. history. The new social studies standards allow schools to separate U.S. history into two courses—one of which is usually taught in 8th grade and one in 11th—or to cover the entire sweep in 11th grade. Some local historians had suggested that the state require a comprehensive course in 11th grade for all schools to ensure that all of U.S. history is covered in high school, according to the Rapid City Journal.

South Dakota is still using the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and math after several attempts by state legislators to back out of those standards fizzled.

The new social studies standards will be implemented in the 2016-17 school year.

The standards were adopted after four public hearings. Other states, including Georgia and Kentucky, are still seeking feedback from the public on new social studies standards.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.