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Students enrolled in the U.S. military’s school system aren’t just studying about cultures around the globe.

"Our kids are living social studies," said Marc Mossburg, chief of curriculum for the Department of Defense Education Activity.

So why was social studies the weakest subject area for DODEA students in the TerraNova tests that students took last year?

While students often pick up some of the history and culture of the host countries they’re living in, the tests don’t include questions on Italian pasta-making methods or proper etiquette while visiting a German host, Mossburg said.

"It’s difficult to translate that into academics," he said. Especially on a test geared for students in the United States.

Officials say they don’t want to change teachers’ attempts to bring children closer to the culture of countries they’re living in. But they say that they do think the system could do a better job helping teachers identify subject matter that children need to know about.

"Social studies covers a lot of areas," said Rebecca Anderson, an instructional specialist who specializes in social studies. "It’s a very large field."

So she’s been working on updating the standards that teachers should work on when forming their curriculum. She expects to introduce the new guidelines during the upcoming school year.

She said that teachers probably haven’t been given the same level of guidance in social studies as they have in subjects such as mathematics, reading, language and science.

Mossburg said DODEA is not saying teachers "aren’t teaching what needs to be taught," but is looking at when particular subjects are taught. For instance, a third-grade student currently learning about a particular event in history might be better served to learn about something else first and then concentrate on that item a few grades later.

Mossburg noted that DODEA’s scores in social studies this year — with 66.33 percent of students meeting or exceeding median national scores — are still higher than many districts. But students scored more than 2 percentage points less than in language, which was the strongest category.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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