Within NCHE’s strategic plan is a specific call to action for the organization to keep its members current on key federal actions that involve history education policy. Much of the emphasis over the last several years has been upon the funding future for the Teaching American History Grants program administered by the U.S. Dept. of Education. Created more than a decade ago, TAH had been the only federally funded program in history education professional development. While this program historically enjoyed widespread bipartisan political support in the House and Senate, recent cuts in all federal education grants has resulted in the program being defunded although not eliminated. In conversations with key Congressional staffers, we have learned that the issues were not a dislike of history or about good professional development but rather the realities of the current political and economic climate.
Another key area upon which NCHE is focusing is the history/social studies strand within the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts (see http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/english-language-arts-standards). The Common Core was developed and supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSS)) and the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and has been adopted by 47 of the 50 states (numbers are changing daily on this count). Common Core specifically addresses the need for the analysis of primary and secondary sources within history and social studies. See http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/english-language-arts-standards/history-social-studies/grades-6-8/
The adoption and implementation of Common Core has shifted much of the political discussion about history education away from the federal level and back to the states. NCHE continues to work with state and local educational agencies to determine how to best implement the history strand within Common Core.
ESEA: THE SUCCESSOR TO NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
NCHE remains committed to federal funding for history education professional development as one of the best tools to ensure that students receive the highest quality educational experience. Our support is now focused upon the pending Elementary and Secondary Education Act that was a response to the many issues raised in the now-expired No Child Left Behind Act. It is a complex piece of legislation, particularly in the U.S. Senate where there are a number of competing initiatives to support professional development in all the disciplines. In the U.S. House, several smaller bills have been proposed that address similar issues as the larger Senate ESEA.
WHAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS PROPOSING
Central to both the Senate and House versions is a proposal that would block grant large pots of money back to the states from which all the disciplines would be forced to compete for support. The concern is that the competition among ALL disciplines at the state level would result in most receiving little if any support, particularly where high stakes tests are added to the mix. The situation is complicated nationwide by a large number of unfunded educational mandates created by state legislatures. The concern is that the states would utilize these block grant monies to support these mandates at the expense of all professional development programs.
NCHE has encouraged the leadership in the Senate and House to look towards other alternatives to support professional development, particularly in history. This has included setting aside specific percentages of block grant monies for each discipline. This proposal has met with little interest because of the highly competitive nature of the myriad of affinity groups supporting each subject.
We also have proposed, as have others, for Congress to formally recognize the importance of history by designating it a Program of National Significance. This would mean that Congress recognizes the importance of history education and thus would fund a new program in professional development. We would envision that this would include US, world, and European history and would have a significant evaluation component.
HOW YOU CAN HELP!
NCHE’s advocacy team continues to work at the federal and local levels both monitoring political decisions about history education and actively working to ensure that the best teaching and learning of history occurs in the schools. If you are interested in learning more or being part of the advocacy team, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find how to become involved.