Teacher asks state to step into history-class dispute

A Carson High School history teacher asked the state superintendent of education on Monday to audit the Carson City School District to assess whether it is meeting state standards in history.

Joe Enge, a teacher at Carson High School, is at the center of a campaign by education-reform advocates over his claim the school hasn't taught pre-Civil War history. Now he wants the state to look into the matter.

"I called (the state Department of Education) a year ago trying to get some straight answers on enforceability," he said. "I think they are pretty much relying on voluntary enforcement, which is an issue of concern."

In a letter to State Superintendent Keith Rheault, Enge claims the Carson City School District is failing to meet state standards and is "at variance" with standards regarding U.S. history prior to the Reconstruction and world history prior to the Renaissance.

The history teacher said he plans to speak at tonight's school board meeting during the public comment section relating to the review of District Superintendent Mary Pierczynski's annual evaluation.

"There are some issues I'm concerned about regarding her evaluation," he said. "One is the whole nexus of this controversy. What do the state standards actually say? As one of the authors of them, I have seen the district and Dr. Pierczynski give out completely contrary information to what the standards require."

According to Gloria Dopf, associate superintendent for the state, the district's school board of trustees is responsible for ensuring the state's curriculum standards are met. Rheault is out of the office until Wednesday morning.

"It is the board of trustees' responsibility to guarantee the alignment, and that is by statute," she said. "And there is nothing that says that every standard has to have (individualized) curriculum with it. In other words, it is not one for one."

State standards are undergoing a revision, she said. Science standards have recently been rewritten, math is being revised now and English-Language Arts will be next. History standards will be revisited in the 2006-07 school year.

Any challenge of whether the standards are being met should go to the local school board, she said.

"It's really not a function of reporting (it to someone else)," she said. "It's a matter of the expectation that they correct the mis-alignment."

Eight professionals comprise the academic standards council, which proposes the standards. The state Board of Education then adopts the standards. Rheault is not a member of the council, but is a liaison to it.

"The standards are thick, long and deep," Dopf said. "Especially the first round of them, which were adopted in 1999."

Also planning to attend tonight's school board meeting are Angila Golik, a U.S. history teacher at Carson High School who says she does teach pre-Reconstruction history to her students, and Karen Simms, head of the history department, who has said the course catalog description about U.S. history will be re-written next year for a fuller reflection of events.

When asked about a comment by Enge that the district is back-pedaling and only now becoming more inclusive of early American history, Simms responded: "It has always been taught."

The course catalog for U.S. history describes the yearlong class as beginning at post-Civil War events and running through to the present.

"I would like the (board tonight) to just put the cards on the table and honestly say 'OK, our course description book did reflect what was going on,'" Enge said. "That would be the honest thing to do."

If you go

WHAT: Carson City School Board of Trustees meeting

WHEN: 7 p.m. today

WHERE: Sierra Room of the Community Center, 851 E. William St.


• Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.


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