Study: No Longer A City On A Hill: Massachusetts Degrades Its K–12 History Standards

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should reject a proposed rewrite of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework in its entirety and immediately restore the state’s 2003 framework, considered among the strongest in the country, according to a new research paper titled, No Longer a City on a Hill: Massachusetts Degrades Its K-12 History Standards, published by Pioneer Institute.

“The 2018 revision fails to provide effective history education. It must be replaced with a framework that requires much of students but offers them, in return, a share of our common treasure,” wrote the paper’s authors, David Randall, director of research at the National Association of Scholars; Will Fitzhugh, founder of the The Concord Review, and Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the American Principles Project.

The authors argue that the draft of the new framework, released for public comment in January, “eviscerates” the 2003 framework and degrades it in five ways.

  1. It replaces coherent sequences of American and European history with incoherent fragments.
  2. It is 50 percent longer than the 2003 framework and presents the standards in “unreadable education-school jargon.”
  3. It replaces the earlier framework’s full account of our country’s European past and replaces much of it with “the history of politically correct protest movements.”
  4. It allots insufficient time for students to learn European and American history.
  5. It eliminates the already developed 2009 history MCAS assessment and substitutes hollow “expectations” for each grade.

“Each of the 2018 Revision’s failings is sufficient to disqualify it as an adequate standard for K–12 history instruction,” according to the authors. “It should be rejected outright.”

In 2003 the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework was created as part of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act. It contained grade-by-grade standards for core essential learning. While history instruction in K-12 schools has been in decline for decades, according to the authors, history education in Massachusetts has fared better until changes were made in 2009.

In 2009 the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) suspended the history and social science framework. In 2016 the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) introduced a rewrite of the framework, the result of what the authors called “an exercise in progressive educational propaganda and vocational training for how to be a political activist.” The rewrite was approved by BESE and posted for public comment in January 2018.

Along with rejecting the revised standards outright, the authors made several recommendations on ways that DESE could strengthen civics instruction in the state.

These include turning the 2003 framework’s United States Government elective into a required course; endorsing the Civics Education Initiative, already enacted in 15 states, which requires high school students to pass the same test that immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship must pass; and adding a civics component to the MCAS history test.

The Pioneer paper features a preface from Paul Reid, the co-author with William Manchester of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965.  In 2004, Manchester requested that Reid complete the last volume of Manchester’s Churchill trilogy.  The book was a New York Times bestseller and named one of the best books of 2012 by The Wall Street Journal.

About the Authors

David Randall is Director of Research at the National Association of Scholars. He received his PhD in History from Rutgers University.

Will Fitzhugh earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard. He founded The Concord Review, which for 30 years, has published student history essays from around the globe.

Jane Robbins is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project. She earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Stay Connected!

 

Related Posts

Study: Signs of Progress at Madison Park, but Still a Long Way to Go

Four years after it began to implement a turnaround plan, Boston’s Madison Park Technical Vocational High School is showing clear signs of progress, but its performance continues to lag behind that of other vocational-technical schools in Massachusetts, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

“Every Child is an Artist…” - 15 Resources for K-12 Art Education

/
In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Introducing K-12 schoolchildren to great works of art.

“Music is liquid architecture” - 15 Resources for K-12 Education

/
In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this entry focuses on introducing K-12 schoolchildren to timeless music.

When ignorance and violence are permitted to trump justice

/
This week marks the 65th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year old black boy from Chicago who was killed by two white Mississippians for whistling in the presence of a white woman.

Should the federal government provide free, universal child care?

/
Free, universal child care provided by the federal government would be contrary to the spirit of the Founders’ view of K-12 education as the constitutional domain of state and local governments.

Award-Winning Author Devery Anderson on the 65th Anniversary of the Murder of Emmett Till

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Devery Anderson, the author of Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement. Today, August 28th, marks the 65th anniversary of the brutal murder of 14-year old Emmett Till, a story which is central to understanding America's ongoing struggle for civil rights and racial justice.

MA’s Remote Learning Regs Should Specify Consistent District Grading Policies, Return of MCAS in 2020-21

The COVID-19 pandemic-related revisions to Massachusetts’ remote learning regulations should restore state and local accountability by specifying that any remote academic work shall, to the same extent as in-person education, prepare students to take MCAS tests, and that grading criteria should be the same across in-person, remote, and hybrid learning environments, according to a new policy brief published by Pioneer Institute.

The 65th Anniversary of the Murder of Emmett Till: 6 Key Resources for K-12 Education

Continuing Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this post focuses on the 65th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till, which is August 28, 2020.

Daughters of Liberty: Celebrating the Centennial of Women's Suffrage & History - 10 Key Resources for K-12 Education

/
In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs here, here, and here on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Celebrating the Centennial of Women's Suffrage & Women’s History.

Mapping K-12 School Reopening in Massachusetts

/
As the 2020-21 school year begins for the approximately 950,000 schoolchildren in Massachusetts, our state and country are working to adapt to the unprecedented moment presented by COVID-19. To aid in these efforts, Pioneer Institute is posting a database and map of districts’ reopening plans.

Let's Be There For Students

As we head into the new academic year, unsure if remote learning will continue, we must equip our teachers to ensure that all students are offered the consistent, structured, rigorous, and supportive instructional programs that they need to succeed. This video highlights two schools that have successfully transitioned to remote learning.

New Pioneer Study Looks to International Examples to Inform Massachusetts K-12 Schools Reopening

With the fall semester fast approaching, Massachusetts should provide more specific COVID-19-related guidance for school districts about ramping up remote learning infrastructure; rotating in-person cohort schedules; diversifying methods of communication between students, parents, and teachers; and investigating physical distancing capabilities.  Districts must determine whether to adopt in-person, remote, or hybrid schooling options, and they will not be ready for the fall unless the state provides clear direction, according to new analysis from Pioneer Institute.

Education tax credit programs extend choice to families who can’t afford private schools or to move to a tony community

/
Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Espinoza ruling, many more students can reap the benefits of school choice

The Virtual Lessons Catholic Schools Can Teach

/
This op-ed originally appeared in The Boston Pilot. By Tom…

Brown Uni.’s Pulitzer-Winning Prof. Gordon Wood on American Independence & the Founding Fathers

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Gordon Wood, Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution.

Public Statement: Pioneer Institute Applauds U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Espinoza School Choice Case

Pioneer Institute applauds today’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down a bigoted state constitutional amendment in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Like Massachusetts, Montana is among nearly 40 states with so-called anti-aid amendments, which have roots in 19th century anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant discrimination.

Sensible police reform includes changing ‘qualified immunity’ laws

/
Even in a time of painful divisions in our country, there is little doubt among people of good faith that what Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers did to George Floyd was criminal. If they are indeed convicted of a felony, how is it that the former officers could very well be immune from civil liability?

Pulitzer Winner Diane McWhorter on Civil Rights History & Race in America

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard mark the Juneteenth commemoration of the end of slavery with an episode devoted to Civil Rights history. They are joined by Diane McWhorter, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.