Alabama state school board wants quick review of social studies standards

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The Alabama School Board on Thursday asked State Superintendent Eric Mackey to put the review of social studies standards back on the schedule as soon as possible.

Social studies standards are simply too old, board members said, and they want state officials to return sooner than expected. Textbooks were last approved in 2011 and teachers need new materials, they said.

Social studies standards are currently due for revision in 2026, with local schools implementing a new curriculum with new textbooks in the 2028-29 school year.

Read more: Alabama delays updates to social studies standards amid requests to treat ‘unbalanced’ subjects, CRT

“I assure you that in our company, a lot has changed,” board member Wayne Reynolds said during the business session in Montgomery. “The Gulf War is new, the whole environment of the world we live in and which our students should understand is radically different.”

Board member Tonya Chestnut said: “We really need to have a sense of urgency and put social studies earlier than what we have. Can you think of what has happened since 2010? Our children deserve better. So adjustments have to be made. »

Cynthia McCarty, a board member and professor of economics at Jacksonville State University, said she was concerned the economics portion of the standards might be outdated.

“Monetary policy has changed. The tools that our central bank is able to use have changed.

As a result, McCarty said, “We teach them some things that are no longer done with economic policy, and we don’t include some things that are done.”

The board debated possibilities for which the curriculum – science is next in line – could be replaced with social studies.

Board member Tracie West said teachers can pull up-to-date supplemental materials even if textbooks are outdated.

“It’s not like we just leave them there with no options to be able to extract new material in geography, in monetary policy.”

Pulling extra material isn’t an option for all schools, said board vice president Yvette Richardson.

“When you’re talking about districts that can get additional documents updated, that’s good for those who have the money to do it,” she said.

Another problem, Richardson added, is that if teachers are tasked with finding updated materials, it leads to a lack of continuity between schools and districts.

Mackey warned council members that it is not a simple task to move the subject exam sequence. A lot of research is done in the year before a committee reviews a new curriculum. And the department currently does not have a social studies specialist with whom a committee could work, he said, following the longtime specialist’s sudden retirement last year.

Board member Stephanie Bell, pushing for an earlier review of social studies standards, said she had heard whispers of plans by lawmakers who could take the reins of the review if the council didn’t.

She cited lawmakers passing the Literacy Act and the Numeracy Act as examples of lawmakers dictating what is taught.

“We should be the ones actually doing it,” Bell said, “and making those decisions and not waiting for them to tell us when and how.”

A review of social studies standards was underway last year, but Mackey dismissed the committee in September, saying a recent review of Alabama’s social studies standards revealed them as one of the standards strictest in the country and that changes could wait.

No decision was made during the working session, but Mackey said they would come back to the matter in May.

In an interview with AL.com on Friday, Reynolds was confident social studies would be advanced.

“We do not accept the current plan,” he said. “The council will set the timetable. And it won’t be delayed as long as it has been.

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