West Virginia’s schools superintendent announced Tuesday he plans to recommend that the state Board of Education not reduce high school social studies standards.
The Department of Education, which Superintendent Steve Paine leads, had recommended the changes. The school board put them out for public comment on Dec. 11, and the comment period ends at 4 p.m. Friday. You can comment here -- Policy 2510 is the relevant policy.
“This review has brought a vigorous response from the public and, most importantly, our educators,” the education department said in a news release Tuesday. “This level of response is a reflection of the importance of this issue. Due to this overwhelming response, State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine plans to recommend to the West Virginia Board of Education to keep the number of social studies credits for graduation at four.”
The previous recommendations included cutting the number of social studies credits required to graduate from four to three.
The proposals also included other social studies changes, like pushing teaching high school U.S. history in one course instead of two.
But Christy Day, a coordinator in the department’s communications office, wrote in an email that Paine’s recommendation also would “keep required courses to be offered and county options the same as they are currently.”
The move comes after the Gazette-Mail revealed the proposed social studies changes, which are part of a much broader policy proposal, and reported on their possible effects.
The school board could still decide to pass the department’s previous recommendations anyway.
But board President Dave Perry said he “absolutely” agrees with abandoning the proposals. He said Paine, himself and board Vice President Miller Hall came to a consensus on the issue Tuesday.
“I think it’s just evidence that as a board we’re going to take the pulse of those stakeholders that would be affected,” Perry said. “Obviously, we’re paying attention.”
The proposals were drafted with the help of 109 outside stakeholders, according to the department. Only one was a high school social studies teacher.
Currently, county school systems may offer a single high school U.S. history course, but they also are required to provide a two-course path. The proposal would allow counties to eliminate the two-course option.
Aside from the effects on U.S. history, the proposed changes also would let counties allow students to more easily avoid taking world studies, which goes from prehistory to the 1800s. Another normal-level social studies course, including psychology, sociology and others, could take its place.
The state board proposed similar social studies changes in 2017 but recanted them after criticism.
“I would hope it’s a dead issue at this point ... that we wouldn’t cross over that bridge again,” Perry said.
C. Bryan Daugherty, who teaches civics at Ritchie County High, said, “I’m pleased that enough response has gotten back where they’ve backed off of their second attempt to reduce the number of social studies credits.”
He said social studies changes are needed, but these weren’t. He’d like to see personal finance taught somewhere other than as part of civics, where it’s currently required.
“For every day I put on personal finance, I’m cheating them on civics and then vice versa,” he said.