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Woodland Park School District’s curriculum in question after board passes new teaching standard

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Woodland Park School Board approved new teaching standards, but parents are confused about what it means for their children’s curriculum.

During a contentious meeting Wednesday, the school board unanimously approved a “social studies academic standard” known as American Birthright, formed by Civics Alliance, which characterizes itself as a “national coalition of organizations and citizens dedicated to preserving and improving America’s civics education and preventing the subornation of civics education to political recruitment tools.”

The standard’s main principle is to teach K-12th grade students about “the nations, the faiths, and the history of the world”, as well as “the common language of liberty, patriotism, and national memory”, according to the organization’s website.

“It looks to me to be very Euro-Christian centric, kind of orienting towards more of a 1776 curriculum or an American exceptionalism,” said Khurshid Rogers, a parent who has two kids in the Woodland Park school district. “Those are just not things that personally I am aligned with.”

The Colorado Department of Education said standards differ from curriculum. Standards are “broad learning goals articulating what students should know, understand and be able to do over a given time,” which are then used to form schools’ curriculums.

The state board of education rejected the American Birthright standard, but local school boards are able to exceed the state board and adopt whatever standard aligns with its beliefs. This is exactly what the Woodland Park school board did by unanimous vote.

“In my opinion, and I think anyone that reads your purpose statement would agree, the proposed American Birthright standard is better aligned with the Woodland Park School District,” said Woodland Park Interim Superintendent Ken Witt.

This comment was followed by a chorus of “no’s” from the audience at the meeting. And that wasn’t the only disruption. One audience member interrupted the school board meeting and said the board was a “joke” and that it didn’t have “any educational background.” Woodland Park School Board president David Rusterholtz paused the meeting to call police on the audience member.

According to parents, the public wasn’t made aware of the vote until the day of the meeting.

“I only had an hour to look through it,” Rogers said. “That was my number one concern, that we did not have time to review the standard itself nor the resolution that they were going to vote on.”

Mary Ward, who attended the meeting and has a kid enrolled in the school district, was worried about how the standard will change the district’s curriculum.

“It basically sounds like they would not allow students to engage in activities related to anti-racism, civic engagement, current events learning, inquiry-based learning, media literacy, project-based learning and social-emotional learning — basically any kind of pedagogy that aims to promote diversity, equity and inclusion or social justice,” Ward said.

Rogers is still confused about how the approved standard will change current classes.

“Do they intend to limit my son's choices of other courses that are made available to him, specifically AP social studies courses? He's concerned about that,” she said.

Ultimately, Wednesday’s meeting left parents with more questions than answers. The school board said it will use the new American Birthright standard to update its curriculum, but there was nothing stated during the meeting from the board about how that will change what’s being taught in the classrooms.

13 Investigates reached out to Witt and the Woodland Park school district multiple times for comment but has yet to hear back.

Ward and Rogers both said the concerns regarding this decision extend to the entire school board in general.

“They aren't wanting to hear from students,” Ward said. “They're not listening to community members when we consistently show up to their meetings.

There's just a lot of concerns about this board, and the continuous actions that they're taking without regard for what the community and really what families and schools and teachers need.”

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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