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Curriculum changes could cut students’ time with Ark. history

A newly revised social studies curriculum for Arkansas’
school children will cut the amount of time devoted to state history for
elementary and high school students, historians warned.

The new curriculum, set to begin this fall, combine social
studies and ArkansasArkansas
history has taught. history into
one subject for kindergartners through sixth graders. The curriculum also
requires teaching world history in seventh and eighth grade typically the time

“I’m just astonished and appalled,” said Jeannie
Whayne, chairman of the history department at the University
of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
“It’s a devastating blow to Arkansas

Forty-four educators devised the curriculum, which must be
revised every six years.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Education defended
the changes as a means to strengthen education for all.

“We do believe Arkansas
history is important for our students and the intent … was certainly not to
water down any standards,” Julie Johnson Thompson said.

Reacting to the change, the Conway
School District added an extra
period for seventh- and eighth-graders to take state history as well as world
history. A junior high Arkansas
history teacher in Fayetteville
said school officials there will keep the class in the eighth grade by offering
a reduced course and trying to blend it into world history.

Most school districts likely will offer the course in high
school instead but there aren’t any Arkansas
history textbooks designed for those grades. As state history isn’t a
graduation requirement, some students may not take the class.

State Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, helped pass a law
mandating Arkansas history
classes in schools. She sent a letter in May to state Education Department
Commissioner Ken James protesting the changes.

“Why are they messing with this? It beats me,” Madison
said. “I thought it was working real well.”

In a letter to Madison,
James wrote teachers felt that the previous social studies curriculum was too
vague. James wrote the new frameworks allow schools to teach the one semester Arkansas
history course anytime from the seventh to 12th grades, and its up to
individual districts to decide whether they will teach the course in junior
high or high school.

James declined to comment further about the change to a

Information from: Arkansas

– Associated Press

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