Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Letter to Allentown School Board Directors (and a Speech by ASD Social Studies Teacher)

Kindergarten pumpkins
 Dear Allentown School Board Director:

Social Studies is a broad subject which includes history, anthropology, archaeology, political science, law, economics, geography, world cultures, current affairs, even psychology. If we want our children to grow up to be informed, humane, and caring citizens who are active participants in a democracy, then we should never deny them exposure to the study of the social sciences.

The ASD school board has approved the removal of 6th grade social studies, in favor of "integrating" the subject with language arts. The purpose of this change is to allow more school time for math, in order to improve test scores. A double period of math drilling, seat work, and worksheets is not age appropriate, nor is it humane for 11 year old children. Our children were taught very little social studies in grades K-5 due to focus on reading and math test prep.

ASD must stop cheating our children. I will be advising parents to NOT vote for any school board director who has approved these harmful cuts and changes to the school curriculum. And parents want FULL restoration of related arts, physical education, and library, taught by certified specialists. "Integration" is just another word for squeezed out. Make social studies, art, music, PE, recess, and library mandatory subjects in the ASD.

Angie Villa- parent and certified art teacher

From Allen HS social studies teacher Deb Brobst:

Here's a speech I made to the School Board, this past April. This year's (2013) 7th grade class will be responsible for Proficiency in Social Studies on the Keystone Exams. How that will happen, now, is beyond me.

School Board Mtg. 4/19/2012
The topic I would like to discuss this evening is a topic that has been discussed before, but with new vocabulary: that of 6th Grade Social Studies being “integrated” into Language Arts. Last year the verbiage was Middle School Social Studies being “embedded” in Reading Courses. During that meeting, just over a year ago, Feb. 24, 2011, the Program of Studies was up for approval. Even though dozens and dozens of people spoke in objection to the new Program of Studies, it came up for a vote, anyway.
Middle School Social Studies was saved by Board Member, now Board President, Bob Smith, who, “recommended that Item B, p. 9 if the Superintendent’s Report be amended to remove the phrase “Embedded in Reading Course,” under the column heading “Social Studies” in the table titled, “Middle School Core Academic Program.”
The Board voted unanimously for the motion and Middle School Social Studies in the Allentown School District was saved. At least we thought it was. May it be noted that Mr. Weiss, Mr. Zimmerman, Mrs. Ambrose, Dr. Bishop, Mrs. Lamb and Mr. Smith were on the School Board, last year and were part of that unanimous vote against embedding Social Studies into Reading Courses. Tonight we are facing the same issue again, but in one grade level, rather than all Middle School Grades. My question to you is: Why are we doing this again? Have those of you who were on the Board, last year, changed your minds? I am very tired of having to keep an eye on those I have voted into office to look out for my interests.
I have a big stake in this community. I am a Property Owner, a mother of three ASD alums, an ASD alum, myself, along with 3 generations of family who have graduated Allen High. As a teacher and a member of this community, my focus is on raising and educating participating members of a democratic society. In order to accomplish that lofty goal, Social Studies education is needed throughout a student’s public educational needs.
As seen by your TEST, it is Social Studies that teaches the legacy of other cultures that have contributed to our American Society. Without significant instruction in Social Studies, INCLUDING 6th Grade Social Studies, well rounded students will not exist. Participation in our Democratic Process will become minimal, at best. You will short-change the future of our community and nation.
*The present 7th grade class will participate in the Keystone Exams for the Class of 2017.
**The Keystone Exams are end-of-course assessments designed to determine student proficiency in the subject areas of Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Literature, English Composition, Biology, Chemistry, U.S. History, World History, and Civics & Government.
***Beginning with the graduating class of 2017 (current 6th graders), students must demonstrate successful completion of Keystone Exams in:
English Composition
English Literature
Two of Three Mathematics (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II) courses
One of Two Sciences (Biology or Chemistry) courses, and
One of Three Social Studies (American History, Civics & Government or World History) courses. The Keystone Exams account for 1/3 of the Final Grade.
*Without continued 6th grade Social Studies, we will be setting our students up for failure.
***According to Pa. Secretary of Education, Ron Tomalis, when the overall scores of the Keystone Exams are compared to the 2010 PSSA results, the rigor of the Keystone’s were clearly evident. Statewide, 73.5% of students scored proficient or advanced on the PSSA while 41.8% of students who completed a Keystone Exam scored proficient of advanced. **We all know that our percentages on the PSSA’s are far less than the statewide average. The State also compared the Keystone results to the National Assessment of Education Progress for parity. 40% of Pa’s 8th grade students scored proficient or advanced in both math and reading on this test.
**The Sec. of Pa. Ed. Is quoted as saying, “These results indicate the stark contrast between what students need to know for post-secondary success versus what is actually being taught in the classroom.”

**In order to have success in the future Keystone Exams in the Social Studies areas, you cannot short-change our students from each grade’s curriculum. You have already taken out most of the Social Studies Electives and next year will be the loss of Economics being taught. The Social Studies curriculum cannot be watered down any more than it is if you expect ASD students to succeed in these Exams as well as be participating members of a Democratic Society.