A new draft of history, geography and social studies education standards recently examined by the Kansas State Board of Education is similar to those already taught in McPherson schools.

A new draft of history, geography and social studies education standards recently examined by the Kansas State Board of Education is similar to those already taught in McPherson schools.

The standards were presented to the board Wednesday, which is the first revision since 2003. Although Kansas usually revises its academic standards every seven years, this was delayed recently due to the economic recession. The draft has been in the works for more than a year and focuses on context rather than content, according to the Associated Press.

The mission statement of the draft is to “prepare students to be informed, thoughtful, engaged citizens, as they enrich their communities, state, nation, world, and themselves,” according to the Kansas State Department of Education website.

“The new history and government standards just look phenomenal,” Angie McDonald, McPherson USD 418 director of instruction, said. “I love the way they’re put together.”

This is because of new learning objectives.

The new standards will not change much of what is taught. Rather, it will change how students evaluate the data. In other words, the students will learn the basic historical data, but also will be asked to analyze and apply the basic concepts in relation to that data.

Those basic concept-based standards are: Choices have consequences; individuals have rights and responsibilities; societies are shaped by beliefs, ideas and diversity; societies experience continuity and change over time; and relationships among people, places, ideas and environments are dynamic.

McDonald said they are more civics-minded, more life skills-driven and focus on concepts rather than content.

This means assessments will change. In place of multiple choice factoid questions, some tests will encourage students to analyze documents and evaluate past and current situations based on their factual knowledge.

Jackie Bohnenblust, U.S. history teacher at McPherson Middle School, has seen previous drafts of these changes during the past several years. She said the standards are moving in the right direction.

“A lot of people think of history as memorizing facts and who did what,” she said. “There's so much more to history than that. It’s really a story. It’s trying to get kids to analyze those stories and really ask questions about them and be detectives.”

This detective mindset asks students to become critical thinkers.

“We have to question anything written — what was the background, who said it, can you trust who said it,” she said. “History is making our students more of the historian and checking out those facts that have been in the history books for a long time.”

Bohnenblust said she hopes this approach will transform the way individuals think about history, switching it from reluctant memorization to eager participation.

“I think the perception out there is that history is a boring subject,” she said. “I think all subjects have to relate to the students, and they have to become engaged with their learning.”

This engagement allows them to carry on their learning later in life. This importance is stated in the draft’s alignment to the Kansas College and Career Standards, often referred to as the Common Core, which is almost identical to McPherson Citizenship, College and Career Readiness initiative.

Bohnenblust said McPherson already is using standards like the one proposed.

“On the McPherson level, we’ve been doing this all along,” she said. “It validates what McPherson has been doing and is trying to do. It means McPherson is a great place to teach and have a student in their system.”

The draft standards are expected to be formally approved later this spring after further public comment and review. If passed, students will be tested based on the new standards starting in 2016, according to the Associated Press.

Contact Jenae Pauls at jenae.pauls@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel