New York state's new global reality.
Three of the four social studies credits are attached to two high stakes exams that are required for graduation with a Regents Diploma credential. (3) Those three high school courses are the two year sequence Global History and Geography course and the United States History and Government Course. The Regents exams in the social studies are composed of 50 multiple choice exam questions and two essay length questions. One question is a thematic essay question that asks students to integrate historical events into a unified narrative that is then judged on a 5 point scale. The second essay is a two part undertaking. Students are asked to answer 10-13 short answer document based questions. The test taker then utilizes this information in an essay that asks for integration of documents and outside information on a given topic. The students do not know any of these essay questions before the take the exam, and any material in the scope and sequence may be a multiple choice question on the test. (4)
The framework determines what events are considered part of the "canon" of taught history in New York State. This drives local curriculum decisions, textbook publishers, and the exposure of students to cultural and historical events which may or may not give a global perspective on the world. In the past, the State Education Department issued a number of resource guides to cover a variety of topics that teachers were expected to teach. This included the Irish Potato famine, the history and culture of Latin America, and the Triangle trade or Atlantic slave trade. The resource guides were designed to provide teachers with historical and knowledge based support, document and reading materials support, and finally, classroom activity support. The State Education Department, however, has been criticized in popular and scholarly press for its errors of omission in the curriculum guide, and the "slant" that material has received in how the curriculum guide and test questions have been written. (5)
The Global History and Geography Courses are intended to implement four of the five standards for social studies in New York State: World History, Geography, economics and Civic Engagement. The two year course is a chronological sequence course that begins at the Paleolithic Revolution and concludes with the year 2000. The State has, however, given guidance to the field that teachers should ensure that their students are aware of and study significant world events since 2000. (6) The Regents exam in Global History and Geography has tested students on events which have occurred after the year 2000. The update to the Resource guide and Core Curriculum is significant due to the direct correlation between the explicit events within the guide and the test questions on the Regents Exam. The State Education Department limits the exam content to only those specific events which are explicitly addressed in the Resource Guide with Core Curriculum. The lack of specifically identified content for the years since 2000 has created a conundrum for social studies teachers across the state: What should be covered in order to prepare students for the Regents exam? What should be left out of the course in order to cover new events?
History is ever changing. Since 2000, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the Arab spring, the Great Recession, and the War on Terror have all made their mark on the headlines and consciousness of the New York student. In an effort to ensure that students receive a well balanced approach to history, difficult decisions needed to be made with the curriculum guidance document. To that end, in 2013, the State Education Department called for a Content Advisory Panel (CAP) of experts from higher education, secondary, middle and elementary school to serve as the Department's sounding board on the history and social studies materials the state would identify as most important to the future New Yorker's learning process. There were attempts by the State Education Department to request feedback from member of the community as the scope and sequence morphed. The CAP provided feedback as well, with significant debates ranging from a complete reordering of the social studies curriculum to the division date of the Global I and Global II courses. Surveys and field visits by staff and members of the CAP revealed divisions between the ways schools taught social studies and what the field expected from the department.
One major concern statewide is the status of social studies. During the height of the 2008-2012 economic downturns, the State Education Department eliminated social studies testing at the elementary and middle school levels in an effort to save costs. The department had introduced these tests in 2001 as a way of assessing student's progress in social studies at the elementary and middle school level. These elementary tests were multiple choice, essay and document based questions designed to assess historical learning and the skills required for success in the high school based high stakes assessments in social studies. (7) The CAP and stakeholders, through surveys, opinion pieces, and communications with SED reflected to the department that the elimination of the tests in the elementary and middle level had pushed social studies aside, as schools were concerned with the increased accountability measures required under NCLB for ELA and math. Without the exams, the CAP and interested stakeholders expressed a concern that there was no impetus for schools to teach social studies, even though instruction is required in New York State Commissioner of Education Regulations governing the operation of schools.
A second proposal at the time was the elimination of the Global History and Geography Regents exam as the fifth required commencement exit exam for graduation. This again, caused concern within the field, as an elimination of exams would render the courses as unnecessary for students, and potentially eliminate positions in the social studies tenure area. Further, social studies and advocates identified the increased globalization throughout the world as a reason to keep the Global exam intact. The Regents proposal was actually designed as a way to free up graduation routes for students who wished to focus on emerging areas of Career and Technical Education. A CTE exam was allowed as a substitution for the Global Regents exam. This was an attractive option for students who had not experienced success on the Regents exam after attempting to pass the exam multiple times. As a measure to reinforce the importance of social studies, while allowing flexibility for students, the Regents changed the language of Commissioner's Regulations from generically requiring two social studies credits to specifically obligating students to take to years of Global History and Geography. The latest debate is the Regents proposal to only test students on content in the second year of the two courses. (8)
A third debate which emerged during the publication of the draft frameworks involved who was included in the framework and who was omitted. Advocates met with the State Education Department, or wrote comments in to the department after the initial release of the draft requesting that their group be recognized for their contributions to the development of United States and New York State history. One example was the advocacy for the Dutch in New Netherland. The group rightly focused on the influence the colonial Dutch had on New York, and specifically raised the Flushing Remonstrance for Religious liberties and toleration as a prime example of the significance of the Dutch to New York's history. A second group, the Sikhs, requested inclusion within the framework as well. The previous iteration of the Social Studies Resource Guide did not explicitly list the Sikhs under the religion section. (9) Finally and most significantly Jezebel, a woman's interest on-line blog, released a critique of the number of women contained within the Global History and Geography framework. Their conclusion was the state had not included enough historical women figures in the framework all students were expected to learn in the state. (10) In response, the State Education Department released a revised framework which included additional women in leadership roles from different time and places across the Global History spectrum. Included in the State framework is, Dowager Empress Cixi of China during the Boxer Rebellion. (11) The three examples demonstrate the difficulties that exist in creating a social studies framework which is inclusive and reflective of the diversity, especially of today's New York State.
The next step in the State's rollout of the new social studies frameworks is a two pronged approach. The first part of the process is the release of a field guide, which will assist teachers in understanding how to make the frameworks become teachable within their classrooms. The field guide spends a significant amount of time describing what new Social Studies instruction should look like. The major shift within the classroom is one that has been described in the research for a significant amount of time: letting the students do the investigation. Researchers and practitioners who have followed the work of the Stanford History Education Group should be familiar with these concepts, as the materials, as well as researchers graduating from the program emphasize and investigational approach of history. The second part of the framework includes an example unit from the eighth grade reconstruction requirement in the framework. Within the sample unit, the state has listed three areas that they expect classroom teachers to focus on, and have provided what are called "compelling questions" and sources that classes should utilize when conducting instructional activities with students. The students are then expected, in the summative task, to provide an essay which answers the question "Did African Americans gain their freedom during Reconstruction." (12) While this project is a good first step, and a significant number of documentary sources are included for use within the units, a question emerges: How will the frameworks and attached lessons allow students to meet the growing role of technology? Additionally, many of the examples are from US History. This provides concern to the World History practitioners, especially at the secondary level who will need additional guidance on the increasingly complex examples from the new framework.
The suggestions within the Field Guide do not contain suggestions to teachers about developing the "Web 2.0" skills of their students. The web 2.0 era, or the creation of content for the internet is the newest, and probably most impactful wave of educational technology change current students will need to harness for the future. The ability of students to create websites, post content and engage in on-line interactive debates will become one of key skills for the "flat world" as content on the internet drives significantly more portions of students' lives.
The second section of the State's rollout is the Framework project currently undertaken by the Binghamton University group led by the former Dean of Education S.G. Grant. In this effort, Dr. Grant, in 2014, asked for and received a significant number of teachers from the field to participate in rich dialogue and in-depth analysis of the social studies framework. The group was then charged with making the framework come to life for social studies teachers in the field. The process of including teachers in developing expertise and skill in the framework while developing and piloting units within the classroom is essential to promoting the use of the new social studies frameworks. Teachers in social studies, as well as other content experts need to see examples and hear anecdotes of the challenges and successes of their peers. This project by Binghamton will hopefully be successful in the implementation of the new Common Core/ C3 aligned lessons are delivered to students within the state. (13)
As the state and the teachers in the field work together to examine the impact of the new framework for Global History and Geography in New York State, the impact in the college and high school classroom will become evident to observers. College programs will need to shift their instruction of education majors to take into account the new scope and sequence within the classroom. The change in the field guide to examine a broader range of individuals will require further study, as teachers and students begin to form new curricula response to the field guide and resources that emerge from the state. At the school level, additional teacher resources will be needed, as social studies teachers begin to teach individuals who may not be part of their usual repertoire. Further, the requirements of the exam on teachers will still weigh on the instructional decisions some teachers make within the classroom. By necessity, the local colleges will need to provide expertise on multiple areas of the world such as the Songhai Empire. The framework asks students to "locate the Songhai Empire on an Atlantic centered map." (14) The Geographic and analytical requirements of this unit are vast, as students explore the roles of the African and South American Empires pre Contact and their impact on the environment. (15) This unit will expect students to utilize a higher level of comparison skills at a younger age than the previous scope and sequence. (16)
This does not make New York unique, as other states have faced curriculum revisions. Texas, Massachusetts, and other states have examined their social studies curriculum and found it in need of updating. The case of Texas is examined in detail in Erekson. (17) To summarize, the Board in Texas was pressured to adapt standards by politics that changed the presentation of social studies in that state dramatically from what was proposed by the expert committees assembled to suggest revisions. Massachusetts's standards are examined by Maloy & Getis. (18) What make New York unique are the differences between the states communities. New York City, with the largest school district in the state, and the Adirondacks, some of the smallest areas in the state, represent a wide variety of interests that must be addressed. Further, the tradition of the politicization of education in New York State, especially in the new Common Core era has resulted in increased scrutiny on the production of any educational materials from the State Education Department. As the school districts begin to examine their needs in implementation of the new scope and sequences, the BOCES systems of school supports will become especially important, as the level of state aid to schools has not recovered fully from the Great Recession of 20082012 under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity ruling.
The last question the remains on the minds of most educators in New York will be the new graduation exams in Global and US History. What will the exams look like? What will students be expected to do on those exams? Will knowledge of facts and events take precedence over the skills of an historian? With the State education department discussing the release of the first field tests in the early 2016 timeframe, one of the largest drivers of policy implementation within the state is a half a high school career away for many students. In the 2002 revision of the New York State Regents exam, a Document Based Question Essay was added. This step foretold the addition of a DBQ to the AP exam for World History. In many ways, the State of New York and the AP curriculum have many overlaps, and influence each other. With the AP becoming more of a benchmark nationwide for college readiness and credits, any influence by New York on the AP may have repercussions nationwide.
New York's Board of Regents, in conjunction with the Content Advisory Panel, has attempted to balance a wide range of competing forces in the development of the new Social Studies Framework for New York State. As one of the largest states in the US, the decisions made by New York will impact what textbooks are released to the nation, as the decisions on textbooks will drive a wide range of market forces for publishers. The schools of education in the state will be impacted, and this impact will spread out, as New York is a net exporter of teacher candidates for the past decade. Many western and southern states recruit New York education graduates, who will staff classrooms and educate students far outside of New York's borders. World History, and the understanding of the significance of the people involved in making world history will be impacted in the largest city in the United States, as the public schools in NYC will be subjected to the new framework. The state will need a coordinated effort to ensure that the new Regents Exams will be fair, challenging without being overwhelming, and a true indicator of student's abilities to become students of higher learning in the skills of social studies and history. New York's decisions may have far reaching repercussions for generations with the decisions on who to include and exclude in the World History and Geography framework of 2014.
Casey Jakubowski, SUNY Albany
(1) New York State Education Department, "New York State Social Studies Framework," Downloaded 2014, https://www.engageny.org/resource/new-york-state-k-12-social-studies-framework.
(2) New York State Education Department, (1999) "Social Studies Resource Guide with Core Curriculum," Downloaded 1999, http://www.p12.nysed.gov/ciai/ socst/pub/ssintrod.pdf.
(3) K. Wagner, "Memo to P-12 Education Committee of the Board of Regents Concerning the Road Map for Social Studies," (Albany, NY: NYSED, 2014), Downloaded 2014, http://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/2014/September2014/914p12d2.pdf.
(4) R. DeFabio, "Global History and Geography Regents Examination Test Sampler Draft" (Albany, NY: NYSED, 1999).
(5) Gabriel A. Reich, "Testing Collective Memory: Representing the Soviet Union on Multiple Choice Question," Journal of Curriculum Studies, 43(4) (2011), 507-532; S.G. Grant, et al., "When Increasing States Need not Mean Increasing Standards: The Case of the New York State Global History and Geography Exam" Theory and Research in Social Education, 30(4) (2002), 488-515.
(6) New York State Education Deparment, "Leaders Guide to Social Studies," Downloaded 2009, http:// www.p12.nysed.gov/ciai/socst/leadersguide/sstoc.html
(7) J. King, Jr., "Memo to the EMSC Committee on Assessment Cost Reduction Strategies," (Albany, NY: NYSED, 2010), http://www.regents.nysed.gov/ meetings/2010Meetings/June2010/0610emsca5.htm.
(8) Alan Singer, "Common Core and the End of History," Huffington Post, Downloaded 2014, http://www. huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/common-core-historyexams_b_6050456.html.
(9) NYSED, "Social Studies Resource Guide with Core Curriculum," 1999.
(10) Jessica Bakeman, "Accused by Jezebel of 'Erasing' Women from History, State Ed Says Curriculum Still in Progress," Downloaded 2014, http://www. capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2014/03/8542548/ accused-jezebel-erasing-women-history-state-ed-sayscurriculum-still-.
(11) NYSED, "New York State Social Studies Framework," 2014, 22.
(13) Binghamton (N.D.) K-12 Social Studies Toolkit project. Downloaded: http://www.binghamton.edu/ nys-ss/.
(14) NYSED, "New York State Social Studies Framework," 2014, 15.
(16) NYSED, "Social Studies Resource Guide with Core Curriculum," 1999.
(17) Keith A. Erekson, ed., Politics and the History Curriculum: The Struggle over Standards in Texas and the Nation (New York: Palgrave McMillian, 2012).
(18) Robert W. Maloy and Victoria Getis, "The Standards Connector: Designing an Online Resource for Teaching the Massachusetts History and Social Studies Curriculum Framework," Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education 2(3) (2002), Available: http://www.citejournal.org/vol2/iss3/socialstudies/article1.cfm.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||World History Bulletin|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2015|
|Previous Article:||Religious encounters within imperial contexts: Irish-Catholic legitimation and self-actualization in an age of imperial expansion.|
|Next Article:||2015 Pioneers in World History awardees.|