DESE Plans Model Curriculum Unit Development

I attended a meeting at the DESE office yesterday (June 21, 2012) and came away with mixed feelings. First, there were very few constituencies represented that were comprised of classroom educators. The likes of the Tsongas Museum, New England Aquarium, and Primary Source were represented and they all certainly mean well, but none are actual classroom teachers. However, this summer about 40 SS teachers will begin working on some new units for SS, and that was indeed encouraging. I asked what units had already been developed and who the teachers were, but that information was not available at this meeting. These units will be aligned with the Common Core standards and will obviously deal with broad topic areas.

Another issue here involves numbers. The DESE is planning to create 100 units covering all disciplines, and it was pointed out that most every discipline could create 100 units alone, so the question was asked as to the DESE plan of determining which units/topics would be in the list of 100 units. At this time, the DESE had no such plan. While that is disappointing, the DESE representatives were clearly made aware of our collective concern for a clear plan of determining the units selected, and that an interdisciplinary approach was most necessary.

When asked about plans for Social Studies, the DESE first responded that there were no present plans for a revision of the frameworks for History & Social Sciences, but then made a reference that gave me the feeling that there may well be a revision in the future. They stated that right now, the Science frameworks were being revised, so the department did not want to be revising 2 areas at once. This lead me to believe that there was the possibility that a SS frameworks revision could be somewhere on the horizon, which would also necessitate a revised assessment instrument as well. DESE people did not want to really discuss any of that at this meeting, but the ideas that have been mentioned in the recent years are relatively fresh in their minds. I mentioned more than once the concern about the marginalization of SS instruction, and there was widespread acknowledgement in the room of this problem. So we at least have some philosophical allies…perhaps not taking action, but agreeing with our argument.

I am awaiting the next step, which the DESE was not ready to announce, other than the summer work of teachers in the various disciplines and their work on units to be determined. As I learn, I will pass the information on via the MCSS website.


Norm Shacochis

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