The National Standards for History address one of the major goals for national education reform developed within the past decade. First envisioned by President George Bush and the nation’s governors in their historic summit meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1989, this reform agenda took shape in the National Education Goals jointly adopted by the National Governors’ Association and President Bush a year later. These Goals were subsequently incorporated into legislation by the Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in the GOALS 2000, Educate America Act of March 1994. Broadly supported by the American people, their state governors, their legislators in the United States Congress, and two successive presidential administrations, these National Education Goals have represented a genuine bipartisan approach to education reform.
The vision behind this reform agenda was initially expressed by the Bush Administration with the 1990 launching of the National Education Goals: “ A new standard for an educated citizenry is required, one suitable for the next century. Our people must be as knowledgeable, as well-trained, as competent, and as inventive as those in any other nation. . . . America can meet this challenge if our society is dedicated to a renaissance in education.” Central to this reform agenda was Goal 3, affirming that “by the year 2000, American students will leave grades four, eight, and twelve having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science, history, and geography; and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our modern economy.”
To move the nation toward this goal, President Bush announced on April 18, 1991 the launching of AMERICA 2000, a comprehensive reform strategy calling for the development of “world class” standards in the five subjects identified in the National Education Goals and the development of voluntary “American Achievement Tests” to assess progress toward this goal. Both proposals were strongly supported by the American public.
On January 24, 1992, the National Council on Education Standards and Testing, appointed by the Congress to advise on these matters and co-chaired by Governors Roy Romer (D-Colorado) and Carroll A. Campbell (R-South Carolina), released its report to the Congress and the American people. That report, Raising Standards for American Education, affirmed the importance of both national content standards and a national system of assessments. Nine months later, in October 1992, presidential candidate Bill Clinton committed himself, too, to the “establishment of world class standards [specifically to include history] and development of a meaningful national examination system. . . to increase expectations, and to give schools incentives and structures to improve student performance.” It was a goal advanced by the passage of the GOALS 2000 legislation two years later and heralded by the Clinton Administration with the words, “Final passage of [this] legislation moves us one step closer to the day when we can assure every parent in America that their children. . . are receiving an education that is up to world class standards.”
It was in this robust climate of bipartisan support for a national program of education reform that the National History Standards Project was born. Initially co-funded in the spring of 1992 by the National Endowment for the Humanities, chaired by Lynne Cheney, and by the United States Department of Education, headed by Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, this project sought to develop broad national consensus for what constitutes excellence in the teaching and learning of history in the nation’s schools. Developed through a broad-based national consensus-building process, this task has involved working toward agreement both on the larger purposes of history in the school curriculum and on the more specific history understandings and thinking processes all students should have equal opportunity to acquire over twelve years of precollegiate education.
This present publication, National Standards for History is the result of nearly four years of intensive work by hundreds of gifted classroom teachers of history; of supervisors, state social studies specialists, and chief state school officers responsible for history in the schools; of dozens of talented and active academic historians in the nation; and of representatives of a broad array of professional and scholarly organizations, civic and public interest groups, parents and individual citizens with a stake in the teaching of history in the schools.
The National Council for History Standards, the policy-setting body responsible for providing policy direction and oversight of the Project, consisted of 30 members, including the present or immediate past presidents of such large-membership organizations directly responsible for the content and teaching of history as the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the Council of State Social Studies Specialists, the National Council for the Social Studies, the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the National Council for History Education, and the Organization of History Teachers. In addition, members included the Director and Associate Director of the Social Studies Development Center, supervisory and curriculum development staff of county and city school districts, experienced classroom teachers, and distinguished historians in the fields of United States and World History. To foster correspondence in the development of these standards with the work under development for the 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in United States History, several participants in the NAEP Planning and Steering Committees were included in the National Council for History Standards. For similar reasons two members of the Congressionally-mandated National Council for Education Standards and Testing also served on this Council. Finally, the two directors of the National Center for History in the Schools, responsible for administering this Project, served as co-chairs of the Council.
The National Forum for History Standards was composed of representatives from major education, public interest, parent-teacher, and other organizations concerned with history in the schools. Advisory in its function, the Forum provided important counsel and feedback for this Project as well as access to the larger public through the membership of the organizations represented in the Forum.
Nine Organizational Focus Groups of between 15 and 29 members each, chosen by the leadership of their respective organizations, were contracted with to provide important advisory, review, and consulting services to the Project. Organizations providing this special service included the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the American Historical Association, the World History Association, the National Council for the Social Studies, the Organization of American Historians, the National Council for History Education, the Council of State Social Studies Specialists, and the Organization of History Teachers.
Three Curriculum Task Forces were formed, totaling more than 50 members, with responsibility for developing the standards for students in grades kindergarten through four, and for students in grades five through twelve in the fields of United States and World History. Composed of veteran classroom teachers from throughout the United States who had been recommended by the many organizations participating in this Project, and of recognized scholars of United States and World History with deep commitments to history education in schools, these groups have worked for many months in grade-alike writing teams and in meetings of the whole to ensure continuity of standards across all levels of schooling, elementary through high school.
In particular we express the special appreciation due the team of editorial writers-John Pyne, Gloria Sesso, Kirk Ankeney, and David Vigilante-who over the closing months of the Project addressed the final changes requested in the third national review of the United States History Standards and helped bring the Project to completion.
We also express deep appreciation to Sara Shoob, Cub Run Elementary School, Centreville, Virginia, who chaired the Curriculum Task Force for the K-4 History Standards; and to Helen Debelak, Birchwood Elementary and Junior High School, Cleveland, Ohio, and John M. Fisher, Fifth Avenue Elementary School, Columbus, Ohio, who served with Shoob as the editorial team who responded to the recommendations of all the review groups and worked long hours throughout the late spring and summer months of 1994 to refine the standards and bring them to completion.
The drafting of the World History Standards required more than the usual collaborative effort that any standards project must mount. Acknowledgements and appreciation are therefore especially apt. The National Council for History Standards Project established an ad hoc World History Committee of experienced teachers and historians with expertise in various eras and areas of World History to draft a scaffolding for the writing of the standards. This devoted group, which met for four work sessions over a period of six months, was chaired by Michael Winston, Howard University and the Alfred Harcourt Foundation. The other members of the committee were: Joan Arno, George Washington High School, Philadelphia, PA; David Baumbach, Woolsair Elementary Gifted Center, Pittsburgh, PA; Richard Bulliet, Columbia University; Ainslee T. Embree, Columbia University; Carol Gluck, Columbia University; Akira Iriye, Harvard University; Henry G. Kiernan, Director of Curriculum, West Morris Regional High School District, Chester, NJ; Colin Palmer, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Richard Saller, University of Chicago; and Theodore Rabb, Princeton University.
Working from the Winston Committee’s report were a group of experienced, knowledgeable, and dedicated classroom teachers and historians who have been in the forefront of efforts to teach and write a more balanced and inclusive World History. This group-the World History Curriculum Task Force-worked over two summers and in week-long sessions throughout these two academic years. They included: Joann Alberghini, Lake View Junior High School, Santa Maria, CA; John Arevalo, Harlandale High School, San Antonio TX; Joan Arno, George Washington High School, Philadelphia, PA; David Baumbach, Woolsair Elementary Gifted Center, Pittsburgh, PA; Edward Berenson, University of California, Los Angeles; Margaret Binnaker, St. Andrews-Swanee School, St. Andrews, TN; Jacqueline Brown-Frierson, Lemmel Middle School, Baltimore, MD; Richard Bulliet, Columbia University; Stanley Burstein, California State University, Los Angeles; Anne Chapman, Western Reserve Academy, Hudson, OH; Peter Cheoros, Lynwood High School, Lynwood, CA; Sammy Crawford, Soldotna High School, Soldotna, AK; Ross Dunn, San Diego State University; Benjamin Elman, University of California, Los Angeles; Jean Fleet, Riverside University High School, Milwaukee, WI; Jana Flores, Pine Grove Elementary School, Santa Maria, CA; Michele Forman, Middlebury High School, Middlebury, VT; Charles Frazee, California State University, Fullerton; Marilynn Jo Hitchens, Wheat Ridge High School, Wheat Ridge, CO; Jean Johnson, Friends Seminary, New York, NY.; Henry G. Kiernan, West Morris Regional High School District, Chester, NJ; Carrie McIver, Santee Summit High School, Santee, CA; Susan Meisler, Vernon Center Middle School, Vernon, CT; Joe Palumbo, Long Beach Unified School District, Long Beach, CA; Sue Rosenthal, High School for Creative and Performing Arts, Philadelphia, PA; Heidi Roupp, Aspen High School, Aspen, CO; Irene Segade, San Diego High School, San Diego, CA; Geoffrey Symcox, University of California, Los Angeles; David Vigilante, Gompers Secondary School, San Diego, CA; Scott Waugh, University of California, Los Angeles; Julia Werner, Nicolet High School, Glendale, WI; and Donald Woodruff, Fredericksburg Academy, Fredericksburg, VA.
To all of these precollegiate and university members of the World History Curriculum Task Force we express great respect and admiration for their tireless efforts and good spirits in negotiating the choppy waters of World History. None of their efforts would have reached fruition without the very special involvement of Ross Dunn, who played a leading and indispensable role in coordinating the work of the World History Curriculum Task Force, led two of the drafting sessions, and acted as a gentle intellectual padrone in negotiating the many cross-currents that necessarily attend the writing of anything as ambitious as a framework for the study of humankind’s entire history.
In the final drafting of National Standards for World History, a small group of people worked with Dunn in the summer and early fall of 1994: Joann Alberghini, Roger Beck, Anne Chapman, Jean Fleet, Jana Flores, Jean Johnson, Henry Kiernan, David Vigilante, and Donald Woodruff. The East Asian Curriculum Project at the East Asian Institute, Columbia University, and the Council on Islamic Education greatly assisted this group. The co-directors of this project believe that only rarely in the history of American education has such a group of good-spirited, gifted, and devoted teachers-from across the country and teaching at every level of education from elementary schools to baccalaureate institutions-accomplished so much for the teaching of history in the schools.
Our thanks go also to the many members of the National Council for History Standards, the National Forum for History Standards, and the Organizational Focus Groups who gave unfailingly and selflessly of their time and professional expertise during the more than two years of intensive work that went into the development of the standards. The Appendix presents the rosters of all these working groups. In particular, we salute those who read draft after draft under difficult deadlines throughout the spring and summer of 1994, and submitted substantive recommendations for revisions that have contributed importantly to the completion of this volume.
Special appreciation is due also to the many school districts and administrators who time and again agreed to the release time that allowed the gifted teachers who served on the History Curriculum Task Forces to meet at UCLA for week-long working sessions throughout the school year in order to complete the development of the standards and of the grade-appropriate examples of student achievement.
As co-directors of this project, we express special appreciation, also, to the many thousands of teachers, curriculum leaders, assessment experts, historians, parents, textbook publishers, and others too numerous to mention who sought review copies of the standards and turned out for public hearings and information sessions scheduled at regional and national conferences throughout these several years, and who provided their independent assessments and recommendations for making these standards historically sound, workable in classrooms, and responsive to the needs and interests of students in the schools.
Finally, we note with appreciation the funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement of the United States Department of Education to conduct this complex and broadly inclusive enterprise.
The United States and World History Standards were revised in early 1996. The revisions are responsive to the recommendations of two panels of distinguished educators and public figures that were organized by the Council for Basic Education and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation. The panelists are listed in the Appendix. In making these revisions, we are grateful for the participation and advice of the following history educators: Richard del Rio, Muirlands Middle School, La Jolla, CA; Gerald Holton, Harvard University; Daniel Kevles, California Institute of Technology; Richard Steele, San Diego State University, CA; David Vigilante, San Diego; Bob Bain, Beachwood High School, Cleveland Heights, OH; Joanne Ferraro, San Diego State University, CA; Craig Lockard, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay; Bullitt Lowry, University of North Texas; Robert Rittner, Hasting High School, Spring Valley, NY; and Peter Stearns, Carnegie-Mellon University.
A newly-formed Advisory Board to the National Center for History in the Schools appraised the revisions and made important contributions to the final version. Their names are also listed in the Appendix. Their work, like that of the panelists convened by the Council for Basic Education, should be seen-and appreciated-as a part of the effort to achieve a participatory and wide-reaching consensus on what constitutes historical literacy in this nation.
In this most contentious field of the curriculum, there have been many who have wondered if a national consensus could be forged concerning what all students should have opportunity to learn about the history of the world and of the peoples of all racial, religious, ethnic, and national backgrounds who have been a part of that story. The responsiveness, enormous good will, and dogged determination of so many to meet this challenge has reinforced our confidence in the inherent strength and capabilities of this nation to undertake the steps necessary for bringing to all students the benefits of this endeavor. The stakes are high. It is the challenge that must now be undertaken.
Gary B. Nash and Charlotte Crabtree