Kids in Hawaii won’t be required to learn world or U.S. history, according to the official policies of the Board of Education. And the board is OK with that.
The board on Tuesday unanimously approved a new graduation policy, a controversial amendment to Board Policy 4540 that at first proposed reducing the number of social studies credits required.
But Department of Education officials then reversed their position, keeping the social studies credits at four. And board members didn’t seem concerned about the switch.
Board member Brian DeLima said he applauded the Department of Education for “being critical of their process.”
The final version goes into effect for next year’s freshmen, and omits U.S. and world history from the listed requirements.
Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe assured the board that even though the policy amendment does not include language requiring those two courses, they will remain required courses per longstanding custom and supporting documents in the department.
Civil Beat reported last week that while U.S. and world history historically have not been included in the school board’s graduation policy, they have been required courses for decades. They are also mandatory for graduation, according to the department’s Authorized Courses and Code Numbers manual.
But the fact that the board says one thing while the department does another is perplexing to educators and students who showed up at the meeting to say as much.
The department’s original recommendation to the board, presented June 21, did include language requiring U.S. history and world history, while the final Sept. 20 recommendation did not.
Dozens of students, teachers and education advocates squeezed into the board room Tuesday to testify for more than an hour on the proposal, some of them beseeching the board to make its own policy consistent with the department’s course requirements.
“I don’t see why, if these courses were included in the June 21 recommendation, they can’t be rewritten into this policy,” testified education advocate Maya Soetoro-Ng, sister of President Barack Obama. “I’ve been asked not to worry, because these courses are included in the (course manual), but until we reach the new frontier of Common Core Standards changes, I would like to see protections for these classes.”
One social studies teacher called on the board to lead.
“You have the power to do this, to make the policy match DOE implementation,” he said. “I urge you, our Board of Education, to return to matching the curriculum policies as in the June 21 recommendation. The board’s policies should drive curriculum implementation.”
The board passed the Sept. 20 amendment anyway, citing dozens of students’ testimony as evidence that U.S. history and world history have been and will continue to be taught, regardless of board policy.
“Those requirements were not explicitly stated in any of the graduation policies that previous boards adopted, yet all of the students who testified here these last few months — and I believe all the students in the state — have taken U.S. and world history,” said board member Jim Williams. “I believe, too, that with the emphasis that has been placed on it lately, schools will be even more careful to make sure all students take and pass these courses before graduating.”
Williams also said the policy reflects a significant improvement by consolidating graduation requirements into one diploma instead of the current system of two differentiated ones, which he said can make some graduates feel their diploma is inferior.
Board member DeLima said that he believes the board should not include U.S. and world history in its policy in order to maximize flexibility for the department to develop new courses as it moves forward with nationally aligned Common Core curriculum standards.
Student Achievement Committee Chairwoman Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui said she ultimately had to do a gut check before she decided to approve the policy.
“I had to ask myself, ‘Does this policy move us forward and put student achievement first and foremost?'” she said. “At the end of the day, I feel that it is. I support it because of all the heartfelt, impassioned pleas and work by teachers, students, principals, complex area superintendents, supervisors and staff.”
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