NASD Curriculum Needs More History, School Board Member says
Chris Miller, a Nazareth School Board member and former history teacher in the Bethlehem Area School District, expressed concern that students aren't getting a healthy enough dose of history.
Nazareth Area School Board heard a former history teacher and a former social studies teacher exchange thoughts about how history is taught and tested in the district.
And the board heard a presentation about a high school alumnus who made history and recorded it in a book.
The former history teacher is board member Chris Miller, who said he wanted to make sure students are getting enough of a dose of history, particularly local history.
The former social studies teacher is Tamara Gary, the district’s director of curriculum whose focus is the humanities. She told Miller she is confident students are getting strong exposure to history and that the district has a strong advanced placement history program in the high school.
Gary rattled off statistics about how history is taught in the district. For instance, local history is taught in third grade, while teachers in higher grades -- not only in history but in other subjects such as art -- try to take advantage of local history groups and historical places to help bring to life topics like the Civil War.
Miller, a history teacher in the Bethlehem Area School District for more than 30 years, expressed concern that history is not covered in statewide tests such as the PSSAs and the Keystone Exams.
Gary acknowledged this, explaining that the Keystone Exams are “course specific tests” for algebra I, biology and literature -- but not history. And since the PSSAs are for math, reading and science, history and how much of it students are learning sometimes “fall under the radar,” she said.
But she pointed to significant enrollment in honors and AP history and social studies courses and said students who achieve high scores on AP history tests essentially gain college credit at certain schools by being exempt from taking introductory courses.
”Social studies is not a forgotten thing,” Gary said after the meeting.
She also said high school principal Alan Davis is expected to give a presentation on the history and social studies programs at a December school board meeting.
Miller appeared satisfied with Gary’s responses to his questions and said “thank you” when she was finished.
Meanwhile, the board heard about a Nazareth High School alumnus who made history.
Jeff Noecker, a member of the Class of 1966 who grew up on Pine Street and attended Whitefield Elementary School, was a combat pilot in Vietnam who flew more than 108 missions in an AC-130 spectre gunship, according to a presentation by Barb Dietterich, also a member of the Class of 1966.
Noecker, who died in June at age 64, wrote a book about his experiences, “Callsign: Spectre,” published last year. Dietterich and fellow Class of 1966 member Rosemary Engler presented the board with a copy of Noecker’s book. She said another copy already has been given to the Memorial Library of Nazareth and Vicinity.