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News Release - Adding Social Studies as a Statewide Test

Nov. 4, 2010

News Release

State Board of Education Hears Suggestion To Add Social Studies As Statewide Test

The state board this week heard a request from social studies teachers and community members who urged the board to include social studies in the new state assessment system.

“Until social studies is recognized as an academic subject on equal footing with reading, writing, mathematics and science, our state and nation will continue to struggle to produce students who possess the knowledge, skills and civic values necessary to participate in our state and our nation’s democracy and in an increasingly interdependent world,” said a resolution submitted by the board of directors of the Colorado Historical Society. “The domestic and international issues facing us are so complex and pressing that, to preserve democracy as we know it, citizens must have some depth of historical, political and cultural understanding.”

A companion memo to the state board was signed by 18 groups including Junior Achievement, the Colorado Council for Social Studies, the Center for Teaching International Relations and the School of Business, Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Several members of the state board, including Elaine Gantz Berman and Marcia Neal, encouraged further consideration of the idea. “I am convinced social studies should be a tested area,” said Gantz Berman. “I look forward to a healthy discussion in December.”

At its meeting in December (Monday, Dec. 6), the state board is scheduled to approve the “attributes” it desires in the new assessment system. A new state assessment system is being developed in wake of the ongoing implementation of new academic standards.

Jo O’Brien, assistant commissioner for standards and assessment, said the assessment stakeholders, an advisory group assembled to help frame assessment issues and recommend what should be included in a new state assessment program, were also sympathetic to the idea of adding social studies.

But O’Brien said the stakeholders ultimately cited three issues that led them to recommend continuing in the new assessment program with the subjects currently being tested—reading, writing, math and science. Those three issues, she said, are additional cost, converting more classroom instruction time to testing time, and the possibility that testing social studies knowledge might lead to adding even more subjects.

Board Vice-Chair Randy DeHoff noted that subjects that aren’t tested are still important and can be mastered.

Commissioner Search Schedule Considered

The state board also discussed a possible schedule for identifying Colorado’s next commissioner, to replace outgoing commissioner Dwight D. Jones.

Under a proposal forwarded by state board chairman Bob Schaffer, a board subcommittee would draft and finalize by Tuesday, Nov. 9, a request for proposals (RFP) to seek proposals from possible search firms. The RFP would be posted through Nov. 26, and the subcommittee would provide a report about the firms that responded at the board meeting on Dec. 6.

Search firms would be interviewed in December and the board might consider holding a special meeting in late December to select the consulting firm.

Board members Elaine Gantz Berman, Peggy Littleton, Jane Goff and board vice-chair Randy DeHoff asked to serve on the subcommittee. DeHoff will chair the subcommittee, at Schaffer’s request.

Under the schedule suggested by Chairman Schaffer, the selected firm might meet with the new board, when it is seated with two new members, at its first meeting in January (either Jan. 12 or 13). The tentative schedule anticipates appointing a new commissioner in May 2011 and having the new commissioner take office on July 1.

New Assessment Director Introduced

Joyce Zurkowski was introduced as the new director of assessment for the Colorado Department of Education.

For the past three years, Zurkowski has been director of assessment for the state of Illinois. She has extensive experience as a special education director, special education consultant and special education teacher. Zurkowski started work at the department on Monday, Nov. 1.

“We expect that her combination of state, vendor and classroom experience, as well as her familiarity with special populations, should serve CDE well as we move forward with our new assessment system,” said Commissioner of Education Dwight D. Jones.

Said Zurkowski: “This is a very exciting time to be working in assessment and I’m looking forward to working with you on the new system.”

Online Teachers of the Year Recognized

The state board this week took a few minutes to honor the Online Teachers of the Year. They are Peggy Barnholt (elementary school level) from Colorado Connections Academy in Mapleton School District and Kristin Kipp (secondary school level) from Jefferson County Schools’ 21st Century Virtual Academy.

“You are great representatives of your many online colleagues,” said Commissioner of Education Dwight D. Jones.

“Thanks for being great representatives of your state,” said state board chairman Bob Schaffer, who noted the fast-growing expansion of online learning opportunities across the state and characterized the contributions of the award-winning teachers as “pioneers” in their field.

Other Action

In other action, the Colorado State Board of Education:

Took action on disciplinary proceedings concerning licenses, charge no. 2010EC12.

Took action on disciplinary proceedings concerning a license, charge no. 2010EC24.

Approved a request for approval of one initial emergency authorization.

Approved a new, official General Education Development (GED) testing center application.

Approved reauthorization of the Douglas County Alternative Teacher Preparation Program.

Approved a waiver request from certain statutes by Douglas County School District RE 1 on behalf of Platte River Academy.

Approved a waiver request from certain statutes by Douglas County School District RE 1 on behalf of DCS Montessori Charter School.

Approved a waiver request from certain statutes by St. Vrain Valley School District RE-1J on behalf of Carbon Valley Academy.

Approved the appointment of Linda Barker (Colorado Education Association Teaching and Learning Specialist) to the State Advisory Council for Parent Involvement in Education.

Approved a Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Emergency Grant Award.

Approved notice of rulemaking pertaining to amendments to the rules for the administration of the School District Budget Law.

Approved notice of rulemaking pertaining to amendments to the rules for Accounting and Reporting.

Approved notice of rulemaking pertaining to amendments to the rules for the administration of the Closing of the Achievement Gap.

Approved statewide targets established in the school and district performance frameworks (see related news release about approval of all school improvement plans and the Education Accountability Alignment Act).

Approval of department recommendations concerning school plan types under the Education Accountability Act of 2009 (see related news release).

Appointed Deputy Commissioner Robert Hammond as interim commissioner of education (see related news release).

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