Thursday, September 25, 2003

Ky. gets an 'F' in history teaching

Institute slams its lesson plans

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Kentucky and 22 other states got an "F" in history - or rather, the standards used for teaching American history - in a "report card" issued Wednesday by an education research institute.

In sometimes biting prose, the report takes Kentucky to task for having "extremely general" guidelines encouraging "simplistic interpretation" of events.

"As far as Kentucky's standards are concerned, history is descriptive rather than analytical," the report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute concludes.

"Kentucky's students are expected to focus on facts without any real understanding of what is involved in interpreting those facts," it said.

The report was drawn primarily from the institute's critique of two guideline documents - the Kentucky Core Content for Assessment, which attempts to spell out what's essential for students to know, and the state Program of Studies, which outlines the minimum that students should know before graduating from high school.

Of Kentucky's neighboring states, Indiana got an A, Virginia a B, Tennessee a C and Ohio a D. Missouri, Illinois and West Virginia also got F's.

Indiana was especially praised for its teaching of World War II and the comparison of civic and political values of the United States and Nazi Germany.

Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, said the report seems to assume, incorrectly, that the documents make up a state-mandated curriculum.

For example, the report says fifth-graders studying Thomas Jefferson are told to create time lines of his life, make "Jefferson silhouettes" with his contributions to American life and "participate in trivia contests to reinforce these contributions."

"Surely, 10-year-old students are capable of more than 'trivial pursuit' and shallow hero-worship," the report said.

Gross said the Jefferson example was a suggestion for teachers, not a mandate. The two documents "have many such examples and guidelines. ... Using that as an example of how we teach history is misleading," she said.

The report said teachers "should have wide latitude" in selecting materials, points of view and in making interpretations. "But that latitude does not include a lack of knowledge of essential historical material," it said.

Justin Torres, a spokesman for the Fordham institute, said a state got a higher score "if it had a very specific set of standards ... specific directions to teachers about what kids need to know." The report especially looked for history teaching to have a high biographical dimension, among other things.

The report "basically looked for (state) standards that provided standards for teachers, rather than kind of left it to teachers to cover periods or aspects of history that the teacher thought appropriate," Torres said.

UC campus awakens
Concealed-carry ban upheld
Debate over concealed-carry likely will continue to rage
Expedition back in Ky.
Lewis and Clark trivia challenge
Noise makes neighbors speak up
Sound-dampening walls quietly doing their jobs

Portune adapts to life on wheels
Before heading home, zoo's manatee learning to be free
N. College Hill defies odds
Regional Report

Pulfer: We all benefit: The Bengals are starting to get it
Howard: Good Things Happening

Ex-boyfriend arrested in shotgun double slaying
Decision awaited on blame in crash
Decision revives Butler political scandal
Fairfield Twp. trustees approve retail project
Police open house to show off renovations
Fox defiant as he opens campaign to keep seat
Monroe lops 3 positions in budget emergency
Community gathering places in works
Stricter zoning guides urged

Prison warden had respect for people
Winifred Motch, 79, backed Junior League
Kentucky obituaries

Video slots urged again
Couple sentenced in faked cancer case
Ohio moments

Hoosiers might bet in L'ville shadow
Father in sex video case makes bail
High-tech center debuts
NKU professor, Fox News reach settlement
Ky. gets an 'F' in history teaching
N.Ky. repairs focus on side roads
Smoking ban opponents seek emergency order
Covington gets ideas on west riverfront
Community agenda
Kentucky News Briefs