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

NYT Best-Selling Children’s Author Carole Boston Weatherford on Fannie Lou Hamer & Race in America

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Prof. Carole Boston Weatherford, a New York Times best-selling children’s book author, and Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Award winning biographer of Harriet Tubman and Fannie Lou Hamer.

Pandemic, Lost Instructional Time Reveal Massachusetts’ Digital Learning Weaknesses

A report released today by Pioneer Institute says that the shutdown of Massachusetts schools due to the COVID-19 virus and the shift to online education have exposed the uneven nature of digital learning in the Commonwealth, and calls for state officials to develop programs to create more consistency.

Easthampton High Scores A National Educational Victory During The COVID-19 Pandemic

/
This spring, Massachusetts’ Easthampton High School was crowned national champion in the “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” contest. The competition brings together about 1,200 students from across the country to answer civics questions based on America’s Founding Documents including the U.S. Constitution; The Federalist Papers; and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

We Must Work Together to End Racial Injustice

/
Read Pioneer Institute's Public Statement from Executive Director Jim Stergios on the need to address police brutality, racism, and economic inequality.

Mass. schools must recommit to knowledge-based curriculum

/
The Bay State’s leadership role has continued into the current century. Massachusetts made tremendous strides in the years following passage of a landmark 1993 education reform law. But it has been backsliding since 2010, when it adopted weaker English and math standards known as Common Core. To get back on track, Massachusetts must reform its school- and district-level curriculum to emphasize imparting a shared body of background knowledge and social commitment to students in all ZIP codes.

Experts Find K-12 Online Education Can Be Appropriate for Most Special Needs Students

School closures due to COVID-19 have separated more than seven million K-12 special needs students from support they receive in the classroom, but online learning can be appropriate for most of those students if teachers and parents work as a team to provide each one with what he or she needs, according to a new report published by Pioneer Institute and ASU Prep Digital.

Study: Officials Must Address Basic Questions to Improve Public School Computer Science Education

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has further transitioned education towards electronic devices, computer science education in K-12 public schools around the country faces a number of daunting challenges, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

“Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction”: 8 K-12 Science Resources During COVID-19

/
The fourth in Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19 focuses on science education.

Kaya Henderson, Former Chancellor, D.C. Public Schools, on Leading Urban District Reform

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are happy to be joined by Kaya Henderson, the former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. They discuss the historic reforms Henderson oversaw, including increasing enrollment and improved test scores in an urban district that had been one of the lowest performing in the country.

California's Common Core Apologia

/
In a recent blog, Dr. Michael Kirst, past president of the California State Board of Education, attempts to defend his record of Common Core implementation during that period. But policy experts Ze’ev Wurman & Williamson Evers set the Golden State's record during Common Core straight.

Stargazing: Five Astronomy Resources for Parents, Teachers, and Kids During COVID-19

/
Here are some resources for parents, teachers, and students of all ages. Our hope is to cultivate the curiosity within us, in order to better understand the heavens and stars above us.

Pioneer Institute Relaunches “One-Stop Shop” for Education Performance Data

Pioneer Institute is re-launching a new and improved MassReportCards.org, a one-stop shop for information on Massachusetts public schools, including test performance, school finance, and much more. The new version of the site includes additional and updated data, and is more user friendly than the original. MassReportCards adds to Pioneer’s suite of online transparency tools, MassWatch.

New York Times #1 best-selling author John M. Barry on the 1918 Influenza Pandemic & lessons for COVID-19

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard continue coverage of COVID-19’s impact on K-12 education, joined by John M. Barry, author of the #1 New York Times best seller, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.

Study Finds Historic Drop in National Reading and Math Scores Since Adoption of Common Core Curriculum Standards

New study shows that, breaking with decades of slow improvement, U.S. reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and other assessments have seen historic declines since most states implemented national Common Core English and math curriculum standards six years ago.

New Report Offers Case Study for Transition to Online Learning

Virtual Schooling Pioneer Julie Young provides tips on how states should move forward with the transition to online education during COVID-19.

Stanford Pulitzer Winner David Kennedy on Lessons for COVID-19 from the 1918 Flu Epidemic & Great Depression

/
This week on “The Learning Curve” Cara and Gerard continue coverage of COVID-19’s impact on K-12 education, joined by Pulitzer-winning historian David Kennedy, the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History Emeritus at Stanford University.

Learning in the Time of COVID-19

/
Parents are deeply frustrated with the loss of learning their children will be provided as a result of COVID-19. Here are some resources to help address this gap.

Students still need to learn during the coronavirus pandemic

/
This op-ed appeared in The Boston Globe on March 31, 2020. State…