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Ga. Board of Education approves social studies curriculum
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    ATLANTA — The Georgia Board of Education approved changes Thursday to Georgia’s social studies curriculum in hopes of preventing a repeat of last spring when droves of students failed state-mandated tests.
    State schools Superintendent Kathy Cox attributed the failure of 70-80 percent of sixth- and seventh-graders on the social studies portion of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests this year to the state’s curriculum not matching the exams. She threw the scores out and promised to fix the problem.
    A committee of educators and experts combed through the curriculum this summer and suggested changes.
    The new curriculum narrows what students learn in sixth- and seventh-grade and eliminates redundancy in the material.
    For example, sixth-graders will focus on Latin America, Canada, Europe and Australia and seventh-graders will learn about Africa and Asia, rather than students in both grades learning about the entire list of countries both years, said Bill Cranshaw, social studies coordinator for the state Department of Education. The Renaissance has been taken out of the curriculum entirely because students learn that material in high school, he said.
    The biggest problem with the old curriculum was that teachers had too much material to cover each year, making it difficult to help students do well on the CRCT.
    ‘‘We have pared down the curriculum so it doesn’t cover as much,’’ Cranshaw said.
    Cranshaw and his staff will spend the next four months traveling the state and training middle school teachers on the new material.
    The curriculum will be taught as a pilot program in schools this year. Students will be given the social studies CRCT at the end of the year but only as a way to determine if the curriculum works.
    The scores won’t be counted until the following year once the curriculum has been vetted.
    This spring’s low social studies scores shocked students and angered parents, who said their children weren’t properly prepared for the test. Students reported being questioned on material they had never been taught.

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