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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Connecting past to present : empowering students through social studies

  • Author(s): Maratea, Romero A.
  • et al.

In the current environment of No Child Left Behind-driven school reform, most attempts to ratchet up academic standards have involved creating pacing calendars that steer teachers through the content, benchmark tests that measure students' degree of mastery of a multitude of standards, increased standardized testing, and rampant tracking of students. The result has been the creation of an increasingly scripted approach to teaching that does not take into account the needs of diverse learners. Due to this reality, it is up to teachers to take steps to empower all students, especially those of minority status who are stuck in "failing" schools, with the tools necessary to become lifelong learners. Connecting Past to Present is a social studies curriculum that seeks to do just that. Implementation of Connecting Past to Present took place in a seventh grade classroom comprised mostly of Latino students of low socio-economic status. Data collected consisted of the results of students' attempts to self-monitor their work habits; assessments of students' abilities to use Bloom's Taxonomy as a tool to reach higher levels of thinking; teacher observations of discussions and work samples to measure students' progression towards a critical perspective; and students' responses to reflective writing experiences throughout the process. The data indicate that students can succeed in a challenging curriculum that provides them with the tools needed to do so. Students demonstrated the ability to monitor and improve their own work habits and to think critically about historical and contemporary issues of tolerance and equality

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