By state statute, New Mexico schools need to adopt secondary Social Studies instructional materials in time for the 2023-24 school year, with the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education expected to approve a large committee’s decision at an April meeting.
Among that RRPS Social Studies committee’s participants are 36 teachers; they have been meeting since September.
Per the New Mexico Public Education Department, “The social studies standards include six strands: civics; economics/personal financial literacy; geography; history;
ethnic, cultural, and identity studies; and inquiry. Within RRPS, according to Erica Lozano, secondary curriculum and instruction coordinator, Social Studies entails New Mexico History, World History, U.S. History, Human Geography, and Government and Economics.
By the time a student is about to graduate, the PED mandates that Social Studies graduation requirements are stipulated to be “three and one-half units in social science, which shall include United States history and geography, world history and geography, government and economics and one-half unit of New Mexico history.”
“The new Social Studies standards are really shifting from an emphasis on just knowledge the students need to know,” Lozano said, “to the skills they need to demonstrate, that are really centered around what it means to be an analytical thinker, not only what has happened in history but about the different groups to have made contributions to history.”
It’s not really as much about remembering – as many of us recall, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” – but now, she said, more “skills-based … the standards really emphasize what students have to analyze, evaluate, critique, as they look at what has happened throughout the course of history.”
As an example, “They might look at, in U.S. History, the contributions the different groups of Americans made during the (World War II) period. … Like what contributions women made during World War II.”
High school U.S. History, she noted, starts in 1865, with the start of Reconstruction.
Students in RRPS get these courses at different times in school, such as New Mexico History being taught in seventh and ninth grades, U.S. History in eighth and 11th grades, said Lozano.
More parental involvement is sought by the district, although it’s possible parents aren’t sure what constitutes “Social Studies” in the 21st century, compared to what was Social Studies when they were students.
One way this input is sought is through monthly virtual meetings, the first of which takes place Nov. 9 from noon to 1 p.m., when parents and other interested individuals can “explore new topics related to middle and high school social studies standards and instructional materials.”
The New Mexico Public Education Department has a list of instructional materials each district may choose from, and as the committee eliminates a choice, the selection is narrowed down.
Keep in mind, the textbooks chosen basically serve as a map, with teachers in those disciplines able to take detours along the way.
Or, as Superintendent Sue Cleveland said, “We don’t teach the book, we teach the standards,”
The state’s Social Studies standards and more information regarding input may be found on the district’s website (rrps.net).