Because of new social studies standards approved by Gov. Matt Mead, students in the Johnson County School District will soon learn more about Native American culture and history
“Thanks to the contributions of many tribal members, we know that our social studies standards will present a complete picture of Wyoming history to our students,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said.
On Aug. 17, Mead signed and approved amendments to statewide standards for social studies. He also approved changes to math standards.
The new social studies standards will give Native American students across the state more access to their culture and history in the classroom. The new standards were inspired by the 2017 passage by the Wyoming Legislature of the Indian Education For All Act, according to Dr. Thomas Sachse, the coordinator of the State Board of Education, which created the updated standards. The bill requires schools across the state to teach the history and culture of Wyoming’s two tribes, the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho.
In a July interview with the Buffalo Bulletin, Buffalo High School teacher Tiffany Songer spoke favorably about the updates, although she also expressed concern that teachers could be spread too thin.
“I think it’s great that the new standards require us to focus on the contributions of Native Americans in history and culture,” Songer said. “It is important for us to see our country’s history through a variety of different perspectives, and it is also important to speak to the history of our Native American students. My only concern is that every time you add new requirements, it becomes harder to cover everything adequately.”
Unlike the history standards, the new math standards won’t lead to changes in student instruction but will instead provide clarity for teachers, according to Sachse.
“The new math standards do provide more examples of the kinds of work students should be doing,” Sachse said. “The hope is that the changes will serve as a helpful guide to teachers as they evaluate student work.”
Now that the standards have been approved, teachers will have three years to update their curriculum, Sachse said.