SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Action on South Dakota’s social studies education content standards has been postponed for up to a year following backlash over revisions made that stripped references to indigenous history and culture. In light of this discussion, many may be wondering how content standards shape what is taught in the classroom.
KELOLAND News spoke with Mark Naugle, Custer School District Superintendent and President of the South Dakota School Superintendents Association, to learn how educators use content standards.
Naugle describes content standards as more akin to guideposts along the road of education, rather than a strict framework for what can and cannot be taught. He says they exist in all areas.
“South Dakota has content standards in all of our content areas, from math, science, to industrial arts, family consumer sciences — the whole gamut,” he said.
Naugle said standards are usually developed in a process involving both working professionals and the Dept. of Education. “Usually, the people from the field work together with someone from the Department of Ed. to help develop those standards.”
What these standards do, said Naugle, is help with coordination among teachers.
“In my district, we may have four 4th grade teachers,” he said. “I want those four 4th grade teachers to be teaching the same content, at basically the same time to our kids.”
Naugle said this also helps teachers figure out where they fit ‘vertically’ in the system.
“I want them to know what 3rd graders should know when they walk into their classroom, and what 5th graders should know when they send their 4th graders up to 5th grade the next year,” he said.
While standards are markers for what must be learned throughout grades and disciplines, they should not be confused with curriculum.
“Standards are those things that make up your curriculum, but curriculum can be so much more than just the standards,” said Naugle. “If I was teaching junior high social studies, I would use the standards to guide my teaching, but I might add into my curriculum a speaker talking about local history or local geography.”
In terms of bringing in extra elements to teach students, Naugle mentions potentially bringing in a speaker to talk about things like Crazy Horse Monument. This would be an example of curriculum building upon the base standard of learning about South Dakota history.
“The standards is what is to be taught; the curriculum is how you’re going to teach it,” said Naugle.
For a further example of curriculum going beyond standards, Naugle told us about some of his favorite examples of creative learning.
“We take some of our math kids to Wind Cave and do some mapping of the cave,” he said. “Crazy Horse — our students go up there on Native American Day and other days and participate in some of their curriculum there.”
One thing Naugle pointed out is that the standards don’t necessarily hold back educators.
“I think how the teacher gets the standards — works them into the curriculum — is still going to be up to them and their individual school district,” he said. “I am not that concerned with our teachers being handcuffed into the standards.”
When it comes to implementing new standards, Naugle says it is certainly a challenge, but that most changes are not major and time is spent throughout the year, including during the summer and teacher-in-service meetings to get everyone up to speed.