Only 23 percent of 8th graders in the United States are proficient in social studies. That's according to the National Assessment for Education Progress — or NAEP. Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said she has heard from Wyoming citizens and educators who are concerned about how well prepared students are to be civically engaged as adults.
Heavy emphasis was placed on student performance in science, math and language arts under No Child Left Behind. Balow said that meant social studies didn't get the attention it deserves. Now under the Every Student Succeeds Act states can set their own priorities. Balow said strengthening civics education is on her list.
Research suggests that students who receive effective social studies instruction are more likely to vote, volunteer and work on community issues. Balow said Wyoming's social studies standards are putting kids on the right track. She added some of the best learning happens when kids get involved.
"Whether that's mock elections, or opportunities to interact with local and state leaders, or opportunities to be part of service projects," said Balow. "Those are all learning experiences, but they are also community and life experiences that help prepare our kids to be responsible and engaged citizens."
Balow also said technology helps kids get a front row seat to the political process. In a recent memo, she suggested that teachers could live stream the upcoming gubernatorial inauguration or state-of-the-state address for their students.
"The speeches, and the pomp and circumstance, and the process is not only a testament to our democracy and the way we do business as a community, as a state and a nation, but it's also something we don't experience very many times in our lives," said Balow.
She said taking time in class to witness these events meets state social studies standards.