Anoka-Hennepin updates social studies curriculum

Anoka-Hennepin will expand its social studies Advanced Placement course offerings next year.

The district will update its social studies curriculum as a whole to better align with state standards.

New state standards were introduced last spring, so this year, teachers have studied curriculum to determine what areas of study they need to hit harder and what areas warrant less attention, according to Ellen Delaney, the director of secondary curriculum, assessment and instruction.

Geography was one such area.

Previously, geography lessons were folded into a number of social studies courses. “There was a concern that by embedding it in all the history classes, it just didn’t get due diligence,” Delaney said.

So, a one-trimester geography course was developed for ninth-graders. In 2014-2015, all incoming ninth-graders will be required to take the geography course, or opt for a more rigorous alternative: a two-trimester AP geography class.

Previously, AP U.S. history was the first AP course students were able to take in District 11 high schools.

AP courses allow students to study subjects at the college level in high school. Exams in the springtime determine whether students receive college credit for their work. Many colleges and universities give credit for scores of three or higher; the highest possible score on an AP examination is five.

The district offers AP classes in a variety of subject areas.

With the addition of AP geography, ninth-grade students will be thrust into college-level academics for the first time, if they choose to be.

AP classes often serve as an “eye-opener,” clueing students in to the kind of studying required to succeed in more challenging classes, Delaney said. Some ninth-graders are more than ready for a challenge, she said.

About 10 percent of Anoka-Hennepin’s incoming ninth-graders registered for AP geography next year, and staff hopes that number will grow as the course finds its footing.

Another change in social studies curriculum is the introduction of AP world history, which aligns better with new standards than AP European history did, teachers found. AP European history will still be offered, as an elective, but AP world history is now the compliment to the global studies course taken during students’ junior year.

In total, social studies teachers have recommended the district purchase six new books, which is extremely unusual, according to Delaney. “We try to use materials to their death,” but new standards sometimes require new texts, even when the old ones haven’t quite reached their end-of-life, she said. The district is reusing whatever it can, she added.

The new state standards made ancient civilization a topic of study for the primary grade levels, and Minnesota studies became a focus for secondary students. Previously, ancient civilization was studied in the middle grades, and Minnesota studies was taught in the elementary schools.

So, new textbooks at appropriate grade-levels had to be purchased. Third-graders will hone in on the cultures of ancient China, Egypt and Greece, while sixth-grade students learn about their home state.

Books need to be purchased for both geography courses, AP world history and a U.S. government and politics course for seniors.

Teachers, students and parents evaluated new texts before the school board approved the purchase of staff’s first-choice recommendations May 27.

In total, copies of the six books will cost $464,568, which is within the allocated budget for the department, according to Delaney and Laurie Resch, director of elementary curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]