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Oklahoma educators and lawmakers disagree over banning social study testing

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma educators are expressing their concerns about the proposed state legislation that would erase Oklahoma’s ability to measure student knowledge of social studies, geography and a significant portion of U.S. History.

According to reports, Senate Bill 1654 seeks to eliminate state assessments on social studies in grades five and eight, as well as geography in grade seven.

This U.S. history end-of-instruction exam would remain in place in high school.  However, that assessment only covers standards that encompass history following the Civil War.

If Senate Bill 1654 passes, students will not be assessed on the founding of the colonies, the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, the writing of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Civil War, and everything else that happened in early American history.

“Oklahomans know what our nation’s flag represents. Thousands of Oklahomans sacrificed their lives fighting for it and thousands more are prepared to stand up for it today,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi. “If this bill passes — combined with another law enacted last year that diminishes end-of-instruction exams — it is possible that a student in Oklahoma could go through 12th grade without ever having been assessed on America’s heritage or values. What message do we send if we dispense with the ability to ensure the teaching of what, in many respects, is the story of America?”

Kelly Curtright, director of social studies education at the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the president of the Oklahoma Council for the Social Studies, believes social studies is an essential part of our education.

“When citizens of a democracy are deprived of an effective social studies education, it places our citizens, our democratic principles and our Republic at risk. Citizenship illiteracy is no less destructive than reading illiteracy. We simply cannot afford to raise a generation of civic amnesiacs. Citizenship is as basic as reading, writing and arithmetic,” said Curtright.

Eighth-grade American history teacher Glenda Coleman agreed with Curtright’s opinions.

“SB 1654 does not hold students accountable for learning about the past but pushes students to walk blindly into the future,” said Coleman.

Many leaders of the Oklahoma Council on Economic Education, Oklahoma Alliance for Geographic Education and Oklahoma Council for History Education have submitted letters opposing SB 1654.

Supporters of the measure believe the bill will benefit both students and teachers.

The Cooperative Council Oklahoma School Administration stated the bill “is a great step towards alleviating the burden of over-testing on students and local school staff.”

CCOSA said nothing in the bill prohibits a local district from testing students in social studies.

SB 1654 would remove testing requirements for state mandated tests in grades three through eight that are not required by federal law.

The bill passed the Senate Floor unanimously by a vote of 44-0.

Now it is slated for consideration by the full House.