HM - June 2019 - Updating Michigan Standards


Updating Michigan's Social Studies Standards

Fewer, Clearer, Higher.....Longer

by Jim Cameron

Happy Birthday! On April 15 2014 (my birthday), the deputy superintendent at the Michigan Department of Education (MDE)  informed a meeting of Michigan social studies experts that we are to update the Michigan SS Standards. A one-year project to make our Standards “Fewer, Clearer, Higher.” No big deal. Our Standards are good but need to be updated after seven years. A series of meetings consisting of our best regional social studies leaders- Michigan Council for the Social Studies, Michigan Social Studies Supervisors Association, Michigan Center for Civic Education, Michigan Council on Economic Education, Michigan Geographic Alliance, Michigan Council for History Education- accomplished the task and presented to the State Board of Education. They request feedback from the community. The fun begins.
In 2015 a Focus Group is formed with 31 social studies leaders, a few parents and students, and community members. A sitting state senator is invited by MDE leaders along with a conservative judge. The senator brings three friends and six full days of work follow. The resulting document is taken around the state at 18 Listen & Learn sessions along with an Online Survey to gather feedback from the community. The feedback was overwhelmingly opposed. Over 5,000 responses questioned our minds, intellect, and heritage. In 2018 the Standards are again presented to the State Board of Education. They request additional feedback. The fun continues.

Late 2018, MDE solicits Michigan residents to apply for Six Task Force Committees- K-4, United States History & Geography, World History & Geography, Civics, Economics, and Bias Review. The 13 Task Force Chairs, recruited from the Focus Group leaders, select members of their committees based on criteria established by MDE which include geographic diversity, teachers, administrators, parents, students and interested community members. Each group meets for several full days, records changes and rationales for the changes, and communicate with each other. Connections to the C3 Framework’s Arc of Inquiry are established. Additionally, seven communities- African American, Arab American, Asian Pacific American, Hispanic/Latino, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQ, and people with disabilities- are invited to review and respond to the proposed Standards.

April 9, 2019 the Standards are again presented to the State Board of Education. They again request additional feedback. The fun is diminishing.
Another Online Survey is opened and nine more Listen & Learn sessions are scheduled around the state. A 45-minute presentation is shared with each of the nine sessions. The remaining 75 minutes consist of audience members sharing their opinions both in writing and verbally. We are in our fifth year of revisions. The fun is completely gone.
The 13 Task Force Chairs meet once again to edit the Standards based on the feedback from the Listen & Learn sessions and the Online Survey Feedback. The final(?) document is presented to the State Board of Education on June 11, 2019. Stay tuned.
Lessons Learned
  1. It’s great to have a strong, supportive boss.
  2. It’s great to have an incredibly strong network of state social studies experts.
  3. Don’t include politicians on standards development.
  4. Always record rationales for your work.
  5. Know that if both sides don’t like your document, you got it right.

Jim Cameron, a former NCHE Board member and retired high school history teacher, is a Social Studies consultant for the Michigan Department of Education.  

About NCHE

The National Council for History Education provides professional and intellectual leadership to foster an engaged community committed to the teaching, learning, and appreciation of diverse histories.