Social Studies Standards in Tennessee: Changing for the Better
By: Jason Roach and William Freddy Curtis
How often do citizens speak up only to be patronized or, let’s face it, outright ignored by those who represent them? I can proudly report that Tennesseans spoke and Legislative Plaza listened. Not only did your representatives listen, but they implemented a ground-breaking process to fix a problem that irked many Tennesseans across our state.
During the 2014-2015 school year, the State Board of Education implemented a set of social studies standards that were designed to increase the academic rigor in social studies classrooms across the state. There were some concerns that many Tennesseans had with the content of the standards as well as how developmentally appropriate they were for Tennessee students. In 2016, after hearing many share their concerns, the state government designed a process to review the standards and to create a version that better reflects Tennessee values.
A team of professional educators was selected from all across the state to review and edit the standards. This “educator advisory team” has worked relentlessly to represent the core values of Tennesseans while also understanding the need to address a variety of historically relevant topics throughout the social studies curriculum. We have seen this team in action. They are a phenomenal group of social studies teachers and leaders that have worked to revise the social studies standards according to the needs of our students. As of now, they have wrapped up their first round of edits of the social studies standards.
The Social Studies Recommendation Committee is made up of many qualified professionals, from a district leader of Nashville Metro schools to a professor of history at Tennessee State University. Our committee will review the changes that are given to us, discuss further changes, and send the standards back to the educator advisory team to be addressed again. Once we conclude that the standards are ready, we will make a final recommendation to the State Board of Education for approval.
The need for continued feedback from Tennesseans is both necessary and desired throughout this process. The Tennessee State Board of Education has designed a program where any Tennessee citizen can comment on the standards that have been proposed. The public comment portion of this process was opened last year in order to obtain feedback about the standards before we began our work. We have looked at all 60,000 comments. Our committee values the input of our fellow Tennesseans. If you missed the first opportunity, you have until October 28th to review and leave feedback on the revised set of standards at https://apps.tn.gov/tcas/ .
The voices of all Tennesseans matter in this process. As we move forward with this process, we ask that you partner with us to create a set of social studies standards that we can ensure will benefit the students who sit in every public school classroom in the state of Tennessee.
Mr. Jason Roach is a principal and former social studies teacher from Hawkins County and chairs the Tennessee Standards Recommendation Committee; Mr. William Freddy Curtis is a social studies teacher in Cannon County and serves as vice-chair of the Committee.