By Alix Bryant and Ed Richards
Washington, D.C. – The experience of living abroad in a different country can often provide Foreign Service youth with a greater level of cultural enrichment and personal development. Having the unique opportunity to complete their K-8 education outside of the U.S. school system can also make those same students stand out from their peers back home.
However, there is one potential downside for those who study abroad.
The fact is this: U.S. history isn’t part of the K-8 curriculum at international schools. This means that today’s Foreign Service youth population will need to be brought up to speed before they continue their studies in the States. Educators say history is unique in how it teaches students to research and make better, well-informed decisions. Despite its importance, history isn’t known for being the easiest or most enjoyable subject among school children, even within the U.S. school system.
According to the latest tests compiled for the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics—a study designed to measure their knowledge of American history in the contexts of democracy, culture, technological and economic changes, and America's changing world role—only twenty percent of fourth-graders and just seventeen percent of eighth-graders perform at or above the proficient level in U.S. History.* This trend of low history scores trouble experts like Will Fitzhugh, publisher of The Concord Review, a journal which features the work of the young and gifted history scholars who represent less than one-quarter of the student population at large.
“Nobody is doing anything to fix it,” according to Fitzhugh. “History informs the present with lessons from the past and if you don't do any history than you are exploring without any background.”
There are several resources available to Foreign Service youth who are interested in reversing the trend of low history scores.
· Sonlight is a literature-based homeschool curriculum company that offers an American history instructor’s guide with lesson plans and fifty books. $479
· All American History Volumes I & II are student readers that are designed to be engaging stories contained in thirty-two lessons with hundreds of images and dozen of maps.
· International Connections Academy is an online private school where students can enroll part-time and complete grade appropriate history courses.
· Teachers.net allows parents to search for American history lesson plans and to teach their children on their own.
· U.S. History Abroad delivers a series of self-paced, online classes developed with Foreign Service youth in mind. USHistoryAbroad.com provides a quality supplemental American history education with a ten-week curriculum that adheres to the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) guidelines.
The SOL guidelines describe the expectations given by the United States for student learning and achievement in grades K-8 in American history. It also defines the framework that teachers are expected to teach as well as the specific knowledge and skills that their students are expected to learn. As a result, those who successfully complete their USHistoryAbroad.com course series (typically in as few as 10 weeks) are able to show proficiency in the subject matter that meets U.S. standards.
Though no official grade is given, participating students will be awarded a certificate upon completion. In most cases, tuition is 100% reimbursable. Visit www.ushistoryabroad.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional details on enrollment.
*SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1994, 2001, 2006, and 2010 U.S. History Assessments.