News

Elementary, middle schools to get new history curriculum

Board members laud committees' selection process

Students and teachers at the Palo Alto school district's elementary and middle schools will use new history-social studies curricula next school year.

Two separate committees, one for elementary and one for middle school, presented their curriculum recommendations to the school board on Tuesday night. Board members were supportive of both programs but have not yet formally voted to adopt them.

Both committees described a need to replace textbooks adopted years ago to align with current state standards and instructional philosophies, including a focus on student inquiry, civics and diversity. They were also prompted to update local materials after the state Board of Education adopted a new K-12 history-social science framework in 2016.

The elementary committee unanimously recommended the Teachers Curriculum Institute's Social Studies Alive! California Edition, an online interactive program that was received well by teachers and parents. While it's an online program, students will also have access to a workbook and can choose which platform to use, offering flexibility for different learning styles and needs, committee members said. English language learners and dyslexic students can also choose to listen to audio recordings of the texts. Teachers can also adapt materials and assessments to fit their students' needs.

The program will require some supplemental materials for third grade, when students learn about local history, but teachers will continue to use units they have already developed, committee members said.

The middle school committee recommended in a 16-3 vote that the district adopt the same publishing company's History Alive! California Series, which also was rated well by teachers, parents and students in surveys. Three committee members voted for the other piloted curriculum, National Geographic's World History: Ancient Civilizations; World History: Medieval and Early Modern Times.

The district also working with educational nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves to develop a middle-school history unit about eugenics in response to the renaming of Jordan and Terman middle schools.

Both elementary and middle school programs were adopted by the state Board of Education in November and recommended for adoption for California schools.

The committees selected a final curriculum after teachers piloted two sets of materials in classrooms this year. The committees asked teachers to complete an evaluation and surveyed parents and students after each pilot.

At the middle schools, teachers taught one unit from each set of pilot materials at the same time non-piloting teachers were on the same unit. Students in both piloting and non-piloting classrooms were assessed before and after units so teachers could compare their growth between the new and existing materials.

The pilot materials were also made available at schools and the district office for parents to view and comment on.

In sharp contrast to years of contentious textbook adoptions in Palo Alto, the new programs sailed through with little debate on Tuesday.

"Both of these committees stand out in my mind as two of the best illustrations of how to run a process," said board member Todd Collins. "As we all know, good process means a good outcome."

The total cost for eight years of the new elementary curriculum, including professional development, is $755,500, to come from one-time state discretionary funds and professional learning grants. The first year of implementation will be the most expensive with an estimated cost of about $546,900.

The estimated cost for purchasing the new middle school materials is $600,000, also to come from one-time discretionary funds from the state.

Both textbooks will come back on the board's consent agenda on May 22.

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Comments

17 people like this
Posted by Susie Richardson
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 10, 2018 at 10:47 am

Susie Richardson is a registered user.

So happy to see that the Middle School will be working with Facing History and Ourselves. Facing History seeks to help teachers and students confront issues of bigotry and hatred and to imagine their role in a saner, safer world. As we say, People make choices and choices make history


9 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2018 at 2:58 pm

Glad my children are past middle/elementary school... too bad they got caught in the "everyday math" fiasco. History lessons need to facilitate understanding context of the past times, and not try to push everything into the current context or the teacher's/school's/state's "modern" viewpoint (which itself will change over time). There was less controversy here because people are more focussed on math and science than history in this district.


15 people like this
Posted by bye bye
a resident of Barron Park
on May 10, 2018 at 3:20 pm

Thank god my kids are out of PAUSD, more money wasted on a liberal agenda. The renaming gift that keeps on giving. I would rather see a focus on the 3 R's than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars "to replace textbooks adopted years ago to align with current state standards and instructional philosophies, including a focus on student inquiry, civics and diversity." I'm sure that will be a balanced curriculum !! LOL


Posted by Ignorance On Display
a resident of Mountain View

on May 10, 2018 at 5:24 pm


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Posted by bye bye
a resident of Barron Park

on May 10, 2018 at 8:42 pm


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Posted by Ignorance On Display
a resident of Mountain View

on May 10, 2018 at 8:51 pm


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5 people like this
Posted by Parent of young adults
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 10, 2018 at 9:01 pm

What a shame to move away from direct instruction of historical facts.
There are many agreed-upon facts that constitute a basic education - a foundation.
Discussing contriversial topics or aspects is fine as additional to the foundation.
I am concerned this curriculum will not be beneficial to the students.
California may have evolving curriculum frameworks, I know, but that doesn’t mean they are wise.
Good teachers can make history and social studies engaging while helping students gain knowledge and understand principles that will help them be informed voters in the future.
Starting with unusual axe-grinding does a dis-service to youth..
It’s fashionable to complain loudly on everything now. Headlines state that so and so “slams” so and so.
It’s at the lowest common denominator level now:
We are in a narcissistic age.
It’s cool to be “angry” OR to devise a means to attract attention..
Surveys show minimal understanding/knowledge of basic facts of our government by many, and this is scary.
It’s scary for the future of this country, and other ones because this one is so influential.
While flaws in the gistory of the U.S. should be included, I wouldn’t start with angry diatribes about this country.
Try living in a communist country.....
Using maps and a globe are easy and students will benefit from knowing locations of places. Just using an app to get directions on the fly, and being content with this as many young people are, is scary when politicians make choices about involvement/going to war/sending our millions of tax dollarsto/ with other areas of the world....better to be informed.


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