GFPS reviewing new social students material

Great Falls Public Schools staff are proposing new social studies materials and discussed those with the board during their April 24 meeting.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction adopted new social studies standards for K-12 in June 2020.

GFPS considering new social studies materials

A committee of K-12 educators was created to review and prepare ‘know, understand, do’ goals that the GFPS board adopted in summer 2022.

The committee met last summer to review books and begin the process of choosing new textbooks for the new social studies standards.

According to GFPS staff, elementary teachers met throughout the year to document interdisciplinary connections between the new social studies standards and the new English Language Arts curriculum and determined that many social studies standards are addressed in the context of the ELA.

GFPS board approves new social studies standards [2022]

A combined ELA/social studies committee is proposing the creation of supplemental resources at each grade level to address the standards not found in ELA, according to GFPS staff.

The Montana Historical Society has released a new textbook that provides content unique to Montana and addresses all 4th grade standards, according to the staff report.

FPS working on update to social studies curriculum [2022]

Fifth grade wants to retain their textbook that the school board approved in the last adoption.

Rachel Cutler, curriculum coordinator for elementary, said that they solicited copies of available resources, including traditional textbooks, the Montana Historical Society and open source educational resources.

She said they sent the new social studies standards to teachers and asked them to make content connections to other curriculum areas.

They found a lot of connections, “so we decided we wanted to look at this in a more holistic way” and combined the social studies and ELA committees.

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Cutler said they noticed social studies textbooks included a lot of reading lessons and skills, and teachers were concerned because of the amount of content in those materials.

She said they found those materials content heavy rather than process oriented and there were some drawbacks to digital resources since they’d have costs for updates.

The committee came up with the idea to build upon what already exists in the language arts curriculum since a lot of the material they’re using to learn to read and write also covers a lot of social studies content.

Cutler said the committee determined what the existing materials didn’t cover and that they wanted to build their own social studies resources.

Cutler said they plan to purchase maps and globes for certain grade levels to support geography standards and allow the teachers on the committee to create resources for themselves using a variety of materials, such as the National Archives.

The estimated expenses for the new social studies materials is $76,812. Most of that cost is paying the teachers to create the materials, $21,687 for the 4th grade book, $7,000 for the sixth grade book and $8,000 for supplementary globes and maps, she said.

The estimated cost for the traditional textbooks was $81,342 per grade level, she said.

Culter said they’ll move forward developing drafts for community review over the summer and provide implementation guides and professional development for the fall.

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Secondary history teachers are proposing to adopt the following series from McGraw Hill, according to the staff report:

  • 7th grade: Networks World Geography
  • 8th grade: U.S. History– Voices and Perspectives: Early Years; Exploring Civics
  • 9th grade: World History Modern Times
  • 11th grade: U.S. History Modern Times
  • 12th grade: U.S. Government and Civics

High school Montana history curriculum will continue to use their middle/high school book that the board last adopted.

The materials will be purchased through the GFPS curriculum budget.

Beckie Frisbee, curriculum coordinator for secondary, said they followed a similar process for selecting new materials.

For the high school materials, the vote wasn’t 100 percent, but 92 percent were in agreement on the recommended materials.

She said it’s part of the C3 inquiry model, which is career, college and citizenship, and they integrate all strands throughout each grade for civics and government, economics, geography and history.

Montana government is a semester in high school, she said.

Frisbee said the middle school quote for materials was $241,254.82, but that would likely come down because she was adjusting their order.

She said they can’t negotiate the cost of the textbooks, but can change quantity and class sets are more realistic than per student sets since they can use more digital content.

The estimate for high school materials is $263,044.05.

Kim Skornogoski, school board member, asked if there was a concern when students move from sixth grade to middle school and whether the material transitions well.

“The standards provided consistency,” Cutler said.

Frisbee said the materials blend well and that since students have grown up in a digital world, they’re less intimidated by digital materials than a huge textbook.

They still want hard copies of the textbooks since not every student has digital access at home, she said.

She said with the new curriculum, teachers will be covering social studies in a deeper, richer way in elementary school so students won’t have to catch up as much when they transition to middle school.

Frisbee said U.S. history is a good example since the book goes well beyond what they cover in middle school and they start further in the book since they don’t need as much overlap.