Pioneer Institute Study: Massachusetts “Eviscerates” Its K-12 History Standards

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should reject a proposed rewrite of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework in its entirety and immediately restore the state’s 2003 framework, considered among the strongest in the country, according to a new research paper titled, No Longer a City on a Hill: Massachusetts Degrades Its K-12 History Standards, published by Pioneer Institute.

“The 2018 revision fails to provide effective history education. It must be replaced with a framework that requires much of students but offers them, in return, a share of our common treasure,” wrote the paper’s authors, David Randall, director of research at the National Association of Scholars; Will Fitzhugh, founder of the The Concord Review; and Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the American Principles Project.

The authors argue that the draft of the new framework, released for public comment in January, “eviscerates” the 2003 framework and degrades it in five ways.

  1.  It replaces coherent sequences of American and European history with incoherent fragments.
  2.  It is 50 percent longer than the 2003 framework and presents the standards in “unreadable education-school jargon.”
  3.  It replaces the earlier framework’s full account of our country’s European past and replaces much of it with “the history of politically correct protest movements.”
  4. It allots insufficient time for students to learn European and American history.
  5. It eliminates the already developed 2009 history MCAS assessment and substitutes hollow “expectations” for each grade.

“Each of the 2018 Revision’s failings is sufficient to disqualify it as an adequate standard for K-12 history instruction,” according to the authors. “It should be rejected outright.”

“It’s truly a travesty to see the loss of curriculum standards that helped catapult Massachusetts to national leader in education. First the state replaced its excellent English language arts and math standards with Common Core, and now it discards its stellar history standards in favor of progressive propaganda. This white paper aims to address the heart of these issues and suggest a way the state can reclaim its much lauded educational heritage,” Robbins said in a released statement.

In 2003 the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework was created as part of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act. It contained grade-by-grade standards for core essential learning. While history instruction in K-12 schools has been in decline for decades, according to the authors, history education in Massachusetts has fared better until changes were made in 2009.

In 2009 the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) suspended the history and social science framework. In 2016 the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) introduced a rewrite of the framework, the result of what the authors called “an exercise in progressive educational propaganda and vocational training for how to be a political activist.” The rewrite was approved by BESE and posted for public comment in January 2018.

Along with rejecting the revised standards outright, the authors made several recommendations on ways that DESE could strengthen civics instruction in the state.

These include turning the 2003 framework’s United States Government elective into a required course; endorsing the Civics Education Initiative, already enacted in 15 states, which requires high school students to pass the same test that immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship must pass; and adding a civics component to the MCAS history test.

Five Problems with Massachusetts’ Draft History and Social Science Curriculum Framework

The Pioneer Institute released their public comment on the 2018 Massachusetts Public Comment Draft History and Social Science Curriculum Framework. The authors are David Randall with the National Association of Scholars, Will Fitzbaugh of The Concord Review, and Jane Robbins with American Principles Project.

They open their comment by writing:

The January 2018 Public Comment Draft of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework (2018 Revision) follows in the footsteps of other recent revisions of the Science, English Language Arts and mathematics standards. In each case, the revised version of the standards has declined in content and coherence. Sadly, the 2018 Revision of the History and Social Science Curriculum Framework eviscerates the 2003 Framework.

They then list five deficiencies:

  1. „The 2003 Framework organized its curriculum around coherent sequences of American and European history; the 2018 Revision substitutes incoherent fragments that obstruct students from learning about historical progression.
  2. „Thee 2003 Framework provided crisply written standards that were easy for teachers to understand and incorporate into their classrooms; the 2018 Revision lengthens the standards by 50% and conveys them in unreadable education-school jargon.
  3. „The 2003 Framework gave students a history that provided a full account of our country’s European past and its own exceptional history; the 2018 Revision replaces much of that narrative with the history of politically correct protest movements.
  4. „The 2003 Framework gave students sufficient time to learn European and American history; the 2018 Revision abbreviates to deficiency the European and American history sequences.
  5. „Perhaps most importantly, the 2003 Framework ensured that parents and the public could judge how well Massachusetts schools taught history by culminating in a statewide test, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). e 2018 Revision eliminates assessment, and substitutes meaningless “expectations” for each grade.

They give the following suggestions to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for improving civics education in the Bay State.

  • Turn the American Government course, which is an elective in the 2003 Frameworks, into a required course;
  • Add a civics component to the MCAS test; and
  • Endorse the Civics Education Initiative, which has been enacted in 15 states and requires high school students to pass the same test those applying for U.S. citizenship must pass.

This public comment precedes a detailed analysis that the Pioneer Institute said will be released at a later date.

Read the public comment below: