Thursday, August 9, 2007

History vs Social Studies: we lose

Two years ago, our test development team began the lengthy process of creating our history exams. Our quest started in a time that now seems like a totally different world. It was a time when the Highly Qualified Teacher aspect of No Child Left Behind had yet to be neutered and (to properly mix metaphors) still had potentially scary teeth. So we listened and were told by “experts” and DC thinkers that “social studies” would not be tolerated. In order to be highly qualified, you needed to be an expert in your subject and therefore we should create separate certifications for U.S. history, world history, civics and geography.

Our History experts whole-heartedly agreed. They told us there was no way that you could possibly test someone’s knowledge of world and U.S. history, civics and geography in 100 questions. In order to create great minds in our schools, we absolutely had to have separate exams.

And so with clear minds and the focused vision of being on the right path, we created the absolute best U.S. history certification - - and right now, there is not a state out there that will use it.

The states know that they are now free to ignore HQT and can just submit innocuous plans each year to DOE demonstrating their road-map to become fully staffed with HQT teachers. If you read these plans, and I have, they are basically a narrative of what each state is currently doing and has been doing for quite some time. Social studies certifications will flourish and in-depth knowledge of history will not be a reality any time soon.

Lesson learned: it doesn’t really matter what the experts and those in DC say - - the only thing that matters is what states are willing to do.

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