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Social Studies update given

Monday, December 10, 2007

During a management team meeting on Monday Dec. 3, Cherokee teachers and administrators updated school board members on what Social Studies material is taught at each grade level.

Such topics as government, history, geography and citizenship are incorporated at various grade levels. Often, teaching of reading at the elementary level involves Social Studies information.

At the high school level, the electives in psychology and sociology are available for college credit.

Recent changes in state recommendations for mandatory high school classes have caused an adjustment in history classes offered at Washington High School. Previously, the high school curriculum was heavy on American studies with two full years of American History and one semester of government.

The state recommends that there should be more of a global focus, with a full year of world history required. In order to accommodate this requirement, the study of American History I, which concludes with the Civil War, will be taught in the eighth grade.

John Chalstrom, superintendent, noted that the trend is to make studies more aligned with what is being tested on the Iowa Basic Skills (ITBS - through eighth grade) and the Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED -- high school).

Teachers and administrators are able to look over questions after testing and get an assessment of what questions were most frequently missed by students. It was noted that the Social Studies sections of the tests have a heavy focus on economics although that is not taught as a formal subject until the junior year of high school.

There will be more economics incorporated into Social Studies classes in the lower levels.

Chalstrom noted that there is no good grade level to set aside time for studying Iowa history because it is not subject matter tested through ITBS and ITED. The subject matter will be taught piecemeal at various grade levels.

Career education is another area that is not specifically tested by standardized tests but it is a mandatory area of study in high school because of its importance for all students.

The teachers noted that the standardized tests have flaws, not just in Social Studies but other subject matter as well. An example of a flawed question cited involved elementary vocabulary.

In a multiple-choice question, students were asked to select the picture that showed "a team working together." One of the pictures showed a group of doctors and nurses working together on a patient. This was the picture that was the correct one, according to the test.

However, most students chose a picture of a race, associating the term "team" with a high school track team, not necessarily an inaccurate association but inaccurate according to the test.

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