Kerry Dunne – BESE Presentation

Prepared remarks for public participation segment of BESE meeting on November 28th, 2017 in Malden, MA.

Good morning.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak. My name is Kerry Dunne, and I am a 20 year social studies educator in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as a Mass public school graduate and mother of two Mass public school students. I currently teach and serve as grade 6-12 history and social studies department head for the Weston Public Schools, and previously was the Director of History and Social Studies for the Boston Public Schools. Today, I am speaking to you as the President of the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies, our state’s leading professional organization for history and social studies educators.

I’ll keep my remarks on behalf of the board of the MCSS in regards to the proposed History and Social Studies Frameworks brief, but please know that I, and our organization’s leadership, remain available to you for any consultation needed.

First, I’d like to thank both the DESE and the BESE for supporting the badly-needed effort to revise and update the state frameworks for history and social studies, which were written in the mid-1990’s. And, we’d like specifically to thank the DESE’s David Buchanan and Susan Wheltle for their capable leadership of this effort, and Associate Commissioner Heather Peske for attending every meeting of the advisory committee throughout the process.

On behalf of the MCSS, we wish to express our support for the draft that has been proposed, and we believe that it represents significant improvement over our current frameworks.

We believe that the passage of the new History and Social Studies frameworks will be closely followed by a state-wide history/social studies assessment. It is critical to communicate– quickly and preferably at the same time that the new Frameworks are released– to districts what grade the assessment will occur in and what content/skills it will emphasize. It would be appropriate to take a year to develop the actual assessment and to communicate the format that it will take (and we would welcome a non-traditional assessment!) but schools and districts need clarity right away on the assessment protocol and timeline so that they can plan their shifts to align with the new state frameworks accordingly.

– The Mass Council for Social Studies encourages firm, clear guidance to districts concerning these frameworks and the expectation that all schools accepting public monies will follow them. We request that they be communicated as an “expectation” instead of as a soft “recommendation.” The sad fact is that history and social studies have not been a priority of the DESE for many years, and, as a result, schools, particularly those struggling with ELA and math accountability measures, have often limited students’ opportunities to learn about and consider their city/ town, state, country, and our complicated world. A strong statement from the Commissioner to all superintendents and principals that every K-12 student in Massachusetts needs to have history/social studies on his/her schedule, that it should be taught in alignment with our state frameworks, and that, at the 6-12 level, it must be taught by a correctly certified teacher would go a long way towards improving the prospects of all students to receive a well-rounded education that truly prepares them to be active, responsible citizens.

– Lastly, the MCSS would like to encourage BESE to guide the re-allocation of DESE staff and funds to SUPPORT schools and teachers in implementing these new history and social studies frameworks. This would include providing substantial PD opportunities for teachers across Massachusetts, providing teachers with quality, preferably digital, resources, and connecting them with critical community partners.

Thank you for hearing my remarks today, and thank you for supporting the effort to create meaningful, current history and social studies standards to support quality social studies instruction for all Massachusetts children.