FRANKFORT — The Interim Joint Committee on Education received an update on Tuesday about the state’s plan to implement new academic standards related to social studies under Senate Bill 1.
SB 1, which received approval from the General Assembly earlier this year, calls for the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to incorporate fundamental American documents and speeches into middle and high school social studies standards. State officials expect to finalize the implementation by August.
The 24 fundamental documents and speeches named in the legislation include, among others, The Mayflower Compact, The Declaration of Independence, The Gettysburg Address, the Atlanta Exposition Address by Booker T. Washington, A Time for Choosing by Ronald Reagan, and The Monroe Document by James Monroe.
Micki Ray, chief academic officer at KDE, said the standards were already scheduled for review in 2025, but that SB 1 called for an accelerated timeline.
“We moved very quickly with the passage of the law to reconvene the social studies advisory panel and review committee to come together to discuss how they were going to incorporate the required documents into the Kentucky academic standards for social studies,” she said.
Ray added that the upcoming changes will not impact the timeline for the full-scale review in 2025.
Signed into law last April, advocates for SB 1 say it ensures core concepts are taught in social studies. But opponents say it limits important teachings and stifles free speech in the classroom.
State officials held a public comment period on the standards in September, and another public comment period is scheduled in January 2023.
Four hundred respondents participated during the first comment period, representing 59% of all Kentucky counties. They included teachers, retired teachers, administrators, parents/guardians, students and stakeholders from higher education and business, according to KDE.
Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, asked how those who are not educators and more people in general can become involved in the process.
“We appreciate the feedback because that makes the process better and they, like us, want this to be something that’s useful to the field and also helpful to students as they go through that K-12 progression for social studies,” Ray said.
Feedback from all types of people is welcome, she said.
Senate Minority Caucus Chair Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, asked about specific information teachers shared on the survey, including possible comments related to critical race theory.
Beth Ratway of the American Institutes for Research said educators supported the adjustments based on the statute and saw the explicit connections to the documents.
“They really did not bring up the concepts of CRT within their comments, but they did give some really good suggestions to support the 2025 review, so we definitely captured those and have those for our future work as well,” she said.
Sen. Adrienne Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg, questioned if the standards will be taught throughout multiple grades rather than just during a single year.
“Are we really rotating around the cycles correctly, or do we still have more or less holes,” she asked.
Ray said that all of the pieces are included over the scope of both middle school and high school.