Texas vs. Utah Elementary History Standards

I received a copy of this document prepared by Judy Cox and obtained her permission to post it here. I think this is a great job of showing some of the differences between the new Texas standards and the Utah standards.

Contrasting Utah’s Core Curriculum for Grades 3-6 Social Studies with the new Texas Standards for K-5 Grades

In compiling this information, I do not intend to infer that teachers in the State of Utah are not teaching important information in the Social Studies curriculum to our students. I have personally participated with my children in Veterans Day observances, patriotic programs, and pioneer treks that show a concerted effort on teacher’s part to teach our students an appreciation for the country we live in and an understanding of societal relationships and community responsibilities. I am not a professional educator, but a parent who has had three children in Utah schools, and will soon have two grandchildren entering the public school system here in Utah. My knowledge and concern come from study, experience with my own children, and a desire to better the educational experience for my grandchildren and other children in our state.

My intent is to show that the guidelines given to Utah teachers are lacking in specificity of content, and that valuable information, concepts, and ideas are missing from the core curriculum in the state. These standards guide the selection of textbooks and curriculum. Without more exact requirements and guidelines, many details, concepts, ideas, and critical exposure to important historical figures and other social studies components may be missed or ignored, and some concepts may be over-stressed at the expense of others of equal or greater importance. Additionally, parents do not have the assurance of specifics that must be taught in the curriculum when students experience the occasional teacher whose personal opinions and beliefs and/or political ideology supplant the responsibility of teaching the core curriculum.

The new Texas curriculum provides a more thorough and comprehensive look at the founding of our country, the importance of knowing and understanding historical figures, places, and dates, stresses the importance of the knowledge and celebration of our patriotic holidays, and helps students understand the meaning and importance of citizenship and civic responsibility.  The curriculum is rich in examples of men and women who have contributed  to our society and emphasizes  the role individuals play in creating positive changes within our communities, state, and nation.

By citing the following, I hope to bring to light a certain inadequacy within our State curriculum that can, and should be remedied. While neither states’ curriculum is without gaps, by implementing the more specific aspects of Texas’ curriculum we can create a more thorough and rigorous course of study for our Utah students. The importance of this curriculum in our elementary schools cannot be overlooked, and should be given a thorough and comprehensive review.

Judy Cox

Orem, UT

Please note: Utah State Core Curriculum standards have changed for grades K-2 as of 12/2009. These new standards are more extensive and inclusive of key concepts not found in the current grades 3-6 curriculum, which is dated 05/2008. Concepts introduced in the K-2 curriculum are not specifically reinforced in grades 3-6.

Utah Social Studies Core Curriculum Grades 3 – 6

Four areas of focus are found in the Utah State Curriculum: history; geography; economics; civics. Each area of focus is studies as part of the general theme for the year, i.e. Grade 3 studies community and culture, Grade 4 the State, and Grade 5 the Nation.

Citizenship is discussed once in the introduction “Essential Goals Used in Developing the Elementary Social Studies Core”, and once specifically in the curriculum as in: “Discover the basis for the patriotic and citizenship traditions we have today (i.e. Pledge of Allegiance, flag etiquette, voting)”. The concept of laws is mentioned twice, as in “obedience to laws” and “make laws”. A more comprehensive discussion of laws and their role in citizenship, such as the purpose of rules and laws, in the home, school, community, identifying the benefits of established laws such as providing security and order; the characteristics of good citizenship, such as truthfulness, justice, and examples of historical and other figures, are missing.

The following are NOT specifically mentioned in the curriculum for 3-6 grades in the State of Utah Core Curriculum:

  1. No historical figure that impacted the founding of the country is mentioned by name, i.e. George Washington, John Adams, etc., nor is any Utah state historical figure mentioned by name. The curriculum discusses “leaders”, as in “Identify representative people from selected revolutions” and “ideas and leaders of the 20th Century”.  The only specific people mentioned are “Napoleon, Martin Luther, James Watt, Isaac Newton, Madame Curie, Anton Van Leeuwenhoek”, and figures from the Renaissance era such as “Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Palestrina, Shakespeare, Tallis”. The curriculum stresses events but no specific individuals are listed to be studied.
  2. Reciting the pledge. The words “recognize”, “identify”, and “demonstrate respect for” are used, but no requirement is listed for “reciting” the pledge.
  3. A study of the songs, anthems, or mottoes of the US or State of Utah
  4. Holidays or Patriotic Holidays
  5. The word “Republic”
  6. The term “constitutional republic”
  7. The word “Patriotism”
  8. The word “President” (as in the US President)
  9. The word “Congress”
  10. The term “Founding Fathers”
  11. The term “free enterprise system”. “Free market system” is used once as in “assess how the free market system in the United States serves as an engine of change and innovation”. It is also a vocabulary word.
  12. The word “capitalism”.
  13. The names of Government officials, state or national. Students are only asked to compare the roles and responsibilities of state, county, and local officials.
  14. The US is referred to as a Representative Government, but there is no name given to the form of representative government (i.e. constitutional republic or democratic republic)
  15. The word democracy is used numerous times: “In order to participate in civic responsibilities required of participants in democracy”; “Assess differing points of view on the role of the US as a world power (e.g. influencing the spread of democracy..)”; “Benchmark: The modern world has witnessed incredible change in global trade, the spread of democracy, the influence of technology, an increase in environmental awareness and advances in human knowledge”. It is also used as a vocabulary word. No information is given however to the specific form of government of the United States, other than discussing a representative government. The idea of a constitutional republic is never mentioned, leaving the idea that democracy is the form, not just a process, idea, or value.

Texas Curriculum Standards for Social Studies Grades K-5

The following words, concepts and phrases are found in the new Texas curriculum. (See, The new Texas curriculum (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies, Subchapter A, Elementary. Approved for second reading and final adoption.)

See: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=3643

This is for K-5 curriculum. Much of the following is introduced in Kindergarten, and reiterated and built upon throughout the following years.

Eight areas of focus are found in the Texas Social Studies Curriculum: government, citizenship; history; geography; economics; culture; science, technology and society; social studies skills. Each area of focus is studied as part of the general theme for the school year, i.e. Grade 3 studies community and world, Grade 4 studies Texas history, Grade 5 studies the history of the United States.

  1. Introduces and emphasizes the study of historical figures such as Washington, Adams, Texas historical figures, etc. and mentions them specifically by name, throughout the curriculum. In Grade 3 alone, 10 historical men and women are to be taught specifically, along with groups of individuals, such as the “Founding Fathers”. See Texas curriculum website for a list of individuals included for study in the curriculum. Table 1 contains individuals to be “included” in the curriculum. Table 2 is designated as “such as” in the curriculum.
  2. Teaches the Pledge of Allegiance, it’s meaning, and uses the word “recite”.
  3. Students identify anthems and mottoes of the United States and the State of Texas.
  4. Discusses celebrating and understanding patriotic holidays such as Veterans Day, Independence Day, Presidents Day, Constitution Day,  etc.
  5. Uses the word “patriotism”, as in : “enables students to understand the importance of patriotism”.
  6. They give intensive study during one specific week per year to the founding documents of the country. This week is called  “Celebrate Freedom Week”, wherein; Each social studies class shall include, during Celebrate Freedom Week as provided under the TEC, §29.907, or during another full school week as determined by the board of trustees of a school district, appropriate instruction concerning the intent, meaning, and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, in their historical contexts. The study of the Declaration of Independence must include the study of the relationship of the ideas expressed in that document to subsequent American history, including the relationship of its ideas to the rich diversity of our people as a nation of immigrants, the American Revolution, the formulation of the U.S. Constitution, and the abolitionist movement, which led to the Emancipation Proclamation and the women’s suffrage movement. (B) Each school district shall require that, during Celebrate Freedom Week or other week of instruction prescribed under subparagraph (A) of this paragraph, students in Grades 3-12 study and recite the following text: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness–That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
  7. The term “Founding Fathers” is used, names are used, and students are to identify them and explain the contributions they made in the development of the national government.
  8. The terms “President” and “Congress” are used, as in:  “identify past and present leaders in the national government, including the president and selected members of Congress” and “name current public officials, including mayor, governor, and president”.
  9. The terms and meanings of a free enterprise system, and capitalism, are to be identified, as in: “Students identify the role of the U.S. free enterprise system within the parameters of this course and understand that this system may also be referenced as capitalism or the free market system.” Students learn the character and benefits of the system, describe the development of the system within the state and nation, and how the system works.
  10. Citizenship is a specific component of the curriculum. Characteristics of good citizenship are discussed, examples of historical and contemporary figures who exemplify good citizenship are given, and students are encouraged to actively participate in the democratic process*. “Citizenship: The student understands characteristics of good citizenship as exemplified by historical figures and other individuals. The student is expected to: identify characteristics of good citizenship, such as a belief in truthfulness, justice, equality, respect for oneself and others, responsibility in daily life, and participation in government by educating oneself about the issues, respectfully holding public officials to their word, and voting.”
  11. The word “democratic” is used only in the following context: “…and appreciate the basic democratic values of our state and nation as referenced in the Texas Education Code.” The word democracy is not used. (Note: I am not advocating for removing this term, but rather for placing it within the appropriate context.)
  12. The curriculum clearly and repeatedly discusses the US form of government as a constitutional republic.

*(this is the second of two times that the word “democratic” is used, the other is “democratic values” as in “appreciate the basic democratic values of our state and nation”)

15 Responses to “Texas vs. Utah Elementary History Standards”

  • Peter Cannon:

    My deep appreciation goes to Judy Cox for succinct and clear work in comparing these two curricula.
    I will use this in my discussions of the subject in the Davis School Board.
    Thanks also to Oak Norton for bringing it to my attention.
    Peter Cannon, Farmington

  • lewisbarnavelt:

    I'm confused. Are the Utah Standards being compared the ones dated 12/09 or the previous standards. If they are the previous standards, then why do the comparison with outdated standards? It would be more helpful to see the comparisons with the current standards.

    Peter, I'm not sure how much good it will do in discussing the matter with the Davis School Board when it is the Utah School Board of Education that approves of such changes to the core curriculum.

  • Judy Cox:

    lewisbarnavelt –
    The comparison is being made between the current Social Studies curriculum for grades 3-6. They are being compared to Texas K-5, because the curriculum is organized in that manner. In Utah, K-2 curriculum has just been redone, as stated in the paper, and is much more inclusive of these topics. The comparisons, unless noted are for the curriculum as stated above. All of the “not” in Utah curriculum is not found in 3-6, but is found in the current Texas curriculum in the corresponding grades 3-5 (as grade 6 is in middle school in Texas). Sorry for the confusion!

    Mr. Cannon – I believe it WILL help in discussing the content of the Texas curriculum with your local school board. Of course it is best if changes come from the top down, but by implementing changes within the school district and by selecting text books that emphasize these areas, and particularly by listening to parents who complain about curriculum, changes can move forward at a district level without an immediate change at the State level. Apparently the USOE has the feeling that the words “describe” and “identify” are thorough enough. I feel the standards are ambiguous and do not provide a truly comprehensive study.
    Judy Cox

  • Judy Cox:

    lewisbarnavelt – I should have clarified that the K-2 curriculum is NEW as of 12/2009. The 3-6 curriculum is dated May 2008, and is the most recent curriculum change.

  • Kris Kimball:

    Thanks for all of your work Jundy in giving us comparisions. I know 1st hand with 2 children just graduating from High School in Davis County that our curriculum teaching our core history and government is very weak. An example of this would be the results of our Consitution Bowl that we held last fall at the Bountiful Freedom Light Celebration honoring the signing of the Constituion on Septnmeber 17th 1787. The Leagacy Home School Team of 12 to 14 year olds soundly beat the 3 High School Teams (Bountiful, Woods Cross and Viewmont) of players ages from 16-18. There you go, “Houston we have a problem.”

  • Cptreft:

    I am a former Secondary History Teacher and was involved with meetings in the past with curriculum decisions. I always found it interesting that outside interest with no real regard to participation or accountability had more say about what is taught in our schools than the teachers and parents of our local schools. I know this because in these discussions we were handed out guidelines from the districts how and what to discuss with most of the agenda being from things like the evils and atrocities of slavery and how they affect American culture today, the importance of Native American cultures to the proper use of the land, and my most hated, Why minority cultures improve the American culture fro the better. These outside influences have more say than the teachers and parents when it comes to how your children are taught than you do because it comes with a Federal Mandate and Federal funding. Most District Administrators say that these Federal dollars have far more importance that what you know is important for your children.s education.

  • Judy Cox:

    Cptreft –

    I completely understand the Federal dollars vs. parents and teachers voices. I believe this happens ALL the time! It happened when my son didn't know 4 letters by sight when he took his test to enter Kindergarten. When I was told he needed to be in a Title 1 “reading group” because he didn't know all of his alphabet, I laughed! I asked the teacher if she would be teaching the alphabet, and she said yes, it was part of the curriculum, and she really needed to emphasize it because of all of the non-English speakers in the class. I asked why he needed Title 1 then if she would be teaching those letters anyway. She didn't really have an answer. So I rejected the “invitation” to Title 1, and boy was there a backlash! I had to sign a paper rejecting the “service”. I specifically gave instructions that he not be removed from the class for any additional instruction. I found out months later that my son was being taken from the room for one on one “tutoring” because he didn't know those 4 little letters. All in the name of federal funding.

    As a former teacher, I would love your input on how to change this and get some accountability to the parents and teachers back into our schools.

  • Don:

    Lewis,

    This is simply another illustration of how government imposed education standards dumb down our children's education. It guarantees that schools never have to compete based on their results. All they have to do is meet the minimum standard as defined by the State. Once the standard is met, they can tout it to all that they meet the State Standards, while others do not. Imagine if we had a charter school that taught to the Texas standards. Critics of charters would immediately exclaim, “They don't even teach the Utah State Standards!” While technically true, the implication that the education received at that particular charter school is inferior is dishonest. Schools should be competing on capitalistic principles: Results matter. If parents had greater choices in publically funded education, the result would be schools competing on results and touting the superiority of their own individual standards. Standards would naturally rise and would need no government intervention.

    State standards exist for statists to control educational content. If citizen groups like Oak's aren't vigilant, the standards tend to become less rigorous and more fallacious with time (in the interests of keeping statists in power). It is a constant battle to keep the standards high and there is very little incentive to exceed them locally. I hope Mr. Cannon is successful in getting Davis schools to adopt the Texas standards without being mandated to by the State…But I'm not holding my breath.

  • Jennrc3:

    I completely agree that we need to make changes to our curriculum as Judy has suggested. However, is anyone aware that Utah has adopted the Common Core State Standards (draft) as of this month? And are you also aware that it is closed to public comment? Texas and Alaska have opted out, we should have too. I am tutoring my children at home, beginning this year.

  • Woof:

    As a mother of 6 children I have been actively involved at local schools, district and state BOEs since approx. 1991. I have served on so many curriculum committees only to have months of work tossed in the trash because the board knows better. My children over the years have attended public, private and charter schools all with the same results. You start with good curriculum and then it is abandoned to go with the “newest failed curriculum” because the governing board decided even though it has failed miserable else where it will be a success here because we're smarter. I have given up on our educational system and now I homeschool. I personally will be adopting the Texas Standards in my own homeschool program. It says a lot about our state's education policies when a homeschool team beats 3 high school teams in a competition and 9th-grade-homeschooled students can't receive their high school diploma from Utah County's Academy of Science (a charter school) but graduate the month before from UVU with an Associate Degree. Christine Curl is the Deputy of Education in the Governor's office maybe she can be of help in getting things rectified in this state.

  • Judy Cox:

    Jennrc3 – I was interested in your comments about the Common Core State Standards. I went to the website for this, and did not find Utah listed as one of the states that has adopted these standards. Do you have different information I could look at?

    It appears the Common Core Standards are for English and Math only, and are geared towards better college preparation. I would love to hear Oak's thoughts on the math standards!! Of course I am not an advocate of a national movement to control local schools, as I am already bothered by state standards that are weakening our childrens education. However, if these standards are an IMPROVEMENT on our watered-down, pc correct standards, then I would be all for a movement to follow their guidelines (without formal adoption). Thanks for bringing this to my attention Jennrc3!

  • Judy Cox:

    Woof, et al. I remain baffled at the stories I hear like yours Woof that have gone on for years and nothing ever changes. I'm confused as to why, in a state that supposedly is about family, patriotism, children, education, we have these ridiculously inept programs and unresponsive elected board members and state leaders. One thing I know will help – SEND THEM YOUR STORIES! If we don't tell them, they can claim they didn't know. If we don't tell them, we are partially to blame for the problems. Please, everyone – a simple email with your personal story/concerns to your school board members, the state board of education (attention Sydnee Dickson), Larry Shumway, state Superintendent of Schools, your state legislative Representatives and Senators, the newspapers, etc. Why must we continue to have such poor educational standards for our children? Your property taxes are paying for this (and do NOT buy into the line that we can't afford better because there isn't enough money. That's rubbish, and a topic for another post Oak – hint hint). Demand better!

  • Peter Cannon:

    Woof,

    You and I have too long been convinced by the education establishment that our involvement in the schools or at most on a volunteer committee or commission is the best we can do to influence the direction of our public schools. That is not true. Your years of involvement in various types of schools and on curriculum committees qualify you to serve on a school board as well as any of those professionals from the education system. It is time to take the reins ourselves. I will be on the ballot in November for a seat on the Davis County School Board. We need many involved citizens to prepare themselves to win seats on Boards of Education at the district and state level so we can guide education in a constitutionally conservative direction.

    We often say that freedom is not free and think of the soldiers who were wounded or died in battle defending the American ideal. The high cost of freedom extends beyond that. It must include those who will give of their life while they live to faithfully pass on the founding principles to the next generation. Thank you for being part of that army. Let us gather many around the banner Oak Norton has raised and storm the beaches of education. There we will plant the banner of the true principles of American liberty for our posterity.

  • Judy Cox:

    Best of luck to you Peter! We need more balance on our school boards. There is a mindset that you must be an educator of some kind, or have spent umpteen years as a PTA president to be on a school board. My vision of a good school board? Have an educator, a businessman, a doctor, a parent (preferably a Mom or Grandma), a retired professional (scientist, computer scientist, mathematician, chemist…). Many big businesses have a board of directors made up of people NOT in the company's specific industry. This brings perspective and creative thinking to the board, and a responsiveness to parental concerns precisely because they are NOT all educators who think they know what's best for our children! Most importantly, we need citizens to take the election of school board members seriously. A board member should NOT serve for life, and it should not be a social status or “right”. This is one area where change is truly beneficial. We need the change to bring new perspectives to problems, and we need board members who are focused on the children and the problems in the district, and not on climbing political ladders. I believe this happens too often in local school boards. Without this change, the national agenda of education creeps in, and we lose our local control and voice.

  • lewisbarnavelt:

    These Texas standards leave a lot to be desired. Some are good and some are… well…just political.