Arizona Education Leaders Adopt New History, Science Standards

By Mariana Dale
Published: Monday, October 22, 2018 - 1:38pm
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - 3:38pm
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The Arizona State Board of Education voted 6-4 on Monday to adopt science, social studies and history standards developed in a multi-year process by educators and parents in the state.

The standards include references to evolution. Educators and advocates spoke out after the word was removed from parts of the standards and a creationist was appointed to the standards committee.

Outgoing Arizona Superintendent Diane Douglas was among the no votes. The board rejected her recommendation to replace Arizona’s standards with those created by Hillsdale College, a private university in Michigan.

She called the work of Arizona educators and the department she oversees “vague and incomplete at best, indoctrination at worst.”

Douglas’ motion to adopt the Hillsdale standards did not receive a single vote from the board and failed.

Board members Jill Broussard, Jared Taylor, Patricia Welborn joined Douglas in voting no on adopting the standards. Rita Cheng left the meeting before the vote was taken.

What Are The Standards? How Are They Changing?

Standards outline what a student should know by the end of each school year. It’s up to districts, schools and teachers to determine how students should learn those lessons.

The last time the state updated the history and social studies standards was in 2005. The science standards were last updated in 2004.

Tammy Waller is the director of K-12 social studies at the Arizona Department of Education and explained to the the board how the new standards go beyond learning facts.

“You still have the facts, then you build to look at a larger picture,” Waller said. “Students can explore complex questions that show why history is relevant to them.”

For example, in addition to learning “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."

Students might discuss and begin to understand questions such as:

“How did the voyages of Columbus and other explorers impact the lives of the native peoples in the Americas?”

“How did his voyages link the world through globalization?”

“What technological advances did his voyages spur?”

The standards have less specificity in some areas with the intention that teachers, schools and districts will select specific lessons that are most meaningful or effective for students. 

Third grade teachers will now have the responsibility of teaching their students a comprehensive Arizona history lesson, formerly a unit assigned in the fourth grade. 

One addition supported by by several people who spoke in public comment was the inclusion of Sikhism as a world religion. 

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion born in India about 500 years ago. 

“How can people learn about who we are if we’re ignored in the classroom?” asked Chiraag Singh Sachdev,  a freshman at Brophy College Preparatory, a private Catholic school in Phoenix. 

“As fellow citizens, I believe it’s our duty to learn about each other so that we’re not ignorant to one another’s beliefs,” Sachdev said. 

Students Will Learn ‘What The Scientists Would Do’

The science standards outline everything students should learn from weather in kindergarten to cellular division in high school. 

There were 110 educators and community members who created the standards and technical reviewers with advanced degrees reviewed them. 

The standards are designed to encourage students to ask questions, investigate, explain and communicate information. 

“What the scientists would do, what an engineer would do, that’s what we want our students learning and doing in the classroom,” said Sarah Sleasman, director of K-12 science and STEM. 

The Arizona Science Teachers Association previously requested the board modify how the standards refer to evolution. 

“The recommendations ... protect teachers of science from being put in the position of teaching non-scientific ideas”, said Sara Torres, executive director of the Arizona Science Teachers Association. 

The standards are scheduled to be fully implemented by March 2020. 

Read Standards Adopted

Arizona History and Social Science Standards by KJZZ Phoenix on Scribd