As part of an assignment for my curriculum and methods class, I created a power point presentation examining state and national standards in American History. Looking at the national and state standards one sees a tension between content that is expected to be covered and concept that students are expected to be able to you. The nation standards are much more specific about content than the state matters with a division into 10 different eras. However, both sets of standards closely resemble each other in terms of concepts with both stressing the importance of understanding chronological timing, historical comprehension, the use of primary source documents, and the ability to analyze history.
The periods I covered according to the national and state standards were Era 5:The Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877) and Era 6: The Development of Industrial United States (1870-1900). Because the Talent Development Model curriculum I used was created to align with state and national standards, it was not difficult for me to ensure that I met these standards. The curriculum was designed to cover the content required, as well as the concepts required by both sets of standards. However, in my opinion the curriculum focused too much on the content (facts that I believe most of the students will remember very little of) at the expense of concept. I, therefore, provided more opportunities to apply the concepts set by the standards than the curriculum lies out. I attempted to get students to analyze history and to come up with their own interpretations and emphasized these skills more than the memorization of content. One example of this is the use of follow-up questions on tests that went beyond the facts to have students practice analysis and higher-order thinking skills.
It is important that a curriculum is aligned with state and national standards whenever possible. However, these standards should only be used as a framework and not an absolute, especially since the standards tend to be very vague. While meeting this standards are important for students in terms of performance on standardized tests and the development of cultural capital, it is equally important that a teacher develop his or her own style and own classroom environment that reflects his/her personality and philosophy of teaching and not just the standards.