Tag Archives: Assessment

A Letter to Secretary Arne Duncan Re: the 2010 NAEP Civics Report Card

Seal of the United States Department of Education

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Secretary Duncan,

(Again, is Arne okay? We tend to be informal here at the Neighborhood, so we hope you don’t mind.)

How’s it going, big guy? Still keeping up that jump shot? I’m just assuming since you seem to be more of a perimeter player than someone who dominates the paint…

…which is a lot like your current job as Secretary of Education (just kidding, I think).

Anyway, I’d like to start out by offering condolences. It wasn’t easy being taken to the woodshed for your alleged insincerity on Teacher Appreciation Day—especially from my friend Sabrina Stevens Shupe. I know, I know: your press flunky felt that the “broader teaching community” was in agreement with you. Yet the overwhelming evidence Sabrina and others brought—of glad-handing, double-talk, duplicity and outright hypocrisy—has got the intellectual feel of a few rounds with Mike Tyson in his prime.

Nobody likes an ass-kicking, Arne, but it builds character…at least that’s what I tell kids just before they get their butts whupped again.

Now to the crux of the matter, and I’m afraid it isn’t pleasant. You see, last time we spoke, the New York State Board of Regents was destroying social studies assessment in the state while you fiddled with the Race to the Top money. In the end, you ended up giving them the dough—for making New Yorkers dumber citizens.

It’s a brilliant move, if you were an authoritarian despot that depended on mindless sheep to vote for you in sham elections. Way to make our state look more like a banana republic, Arne.

New York is now not alone. Other states, in their zeal to give you your annual tribute in reading and math data, have either pared down history, geography, economics and government curricula, removed requirements, and even trashed state assessments altogether in social studies. According to a recent study in Education Week, “…the number of states that test elementary social studies declined from 30 to 12 over the last ten years. By the 2009–10 school year, about half the states had developed grade- or course-specific standards across all grade spans in English/language arts (27 states) and mathematics (26). Slightly fewer have such detailed standards in social studies/history and science (23 and 22, respectively).”

The fruit of this labor is the recent results in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)’ 2010 Civics Report Card—results deemed “pathetic” by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

I needn’t rehash the results for you, Arne, but just to highlight the bullet points: Less than 50% of eighth graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights. Only 10% understood how the three branches of the federal government balance national power—the old “checks and balances” system. Only 25% of high school seniors were able to identify an effect of US foreign policy on other nations. The same percentage could name a power granted to Congress by the Constitution.

In all, only 20% of eighth graders—and only 25% of high school seniors—demonstrate a proficiency in the workings of their representative democracy.

Now, there are some people who will tell you that the results are skewed and not reliable.

There are others who do not deem this to be a crisis at all.

Frankly, Arne, these people are either committed to destroying our republic or waist-high in their own bullshit.

(Don’t tell me you’re offended by foul language…you played basketball in AUSTRALIA, for God’s sake! That’s like writing an encyclopedia of barracks humor.)

Now, the numbers for fourth- and eighth- graders, while abysmal, can be corrected in time with little collateral damage. But 25% proficiency in high school seniors should make any true-blue American brown their shorts.

You see, Arne, 100% of them are the legal voting age of 18. Yet only 25% knew what the hell they’re doing in the voting booth. That doesn’t frighten you? Doesn’t it astound you that in a few years, as the electorate gets younger, their knowledge of representative democracy diminishes just as fast…

…and yet we still expect them to participate in our democracy?

How about you give Father O’Malley the key to the boy’s orphanage, or my drunk uncle the keys to the Cadillac while you’re at it…because the education establishment’s outright disdain and neglect for social studies is just as irresponsible.

How many times to we have to repeat it, Arne? We live in a representative democracy that requires an active, informed and educated citizenry to run effectively. Speaking for my fellow teachers, it is our job to train young people to be fully active in their democracy, in all areas.

That includes a thorough knowledge of their history, their geography, and the diverse cultural heritage of our nation.

That includes a thorough understanding of the development, foundations, ideologies, functions and opportunities of our democratic republic.

That includes a thorough analysis of goods, services, inputs, outputs, needs, wants, theories, models and institutions that define us as an economic entity.

That includes a thorough understanding of a citizen’s role in a democracy: to vote, to petition, to complain, to foment dissent, to attack unjust policies, and to change politics and government itself through the electoral process or even direct action.

By the way, these things are not taught in that educational paradise you love called China. It’s because China is a dictatorship. A quasi-“Communist” dictatorship, to be sure, but a dictatorship nonetheless.

My students can have all the science, math and reading knowledge they can muster. What good is it in a dictatorship where dissent is silenced and citizens have little basic rights? Is that what you want to create in this country, Arne? A population of ignorant sedated blobs just educated enough to read the propaganda slogans?

Arne, I don’t want my students to be like the Chinese. If I did, I’d have moved there a long time ago. I don’t make data points in ELA, Math or any other subject. I don’t make goal setters, essential-question verbalizers, educational inputs, lifelong learners, lifelong objective makers, coherent planners, or jargon-based drones worthy of a “quality review” like widgets on an assembly line.

My job, Arne, is to make Americans.

The disciplines of the social studies involve every subject, every skill, every concept and idea embodied in the more “accepted” subjects of reading, math and science. They need to be nurtured, assessed and empowered as a separate subject in curricula throughout the nation. Otherwise, we can just pack up the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence and call it a night.

Arne, please help us in training the next generation of American citizens, leaders and politicians. Stop the rot now. Reverse the gutting of social studies by making them just as important as reading, math and science in data, in scores, in reports and especially in funding. Keep social studies on the pantheon of American education. Make sure our country has an informed, active citizenry for years to come.

The very life of the United States depends on it.

Thanks, as always for your time.

With warm regards,

Mr. D and the good folks at Mr. D’s Neighborhood

PS: If you choose to ignore this, the actions (or inactions) of your office could merit a call to the Department of Homeland Security as a potential “enemy of the state.” Not acting on this crisis is tantamount to high treason. You’ve been warned.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The End of the Line for Social Studies Tests in NYS–for now.

The NY Board of Regents on their way to chapel (just kidding)

Well, I think we found something close to closure in the social studies test saga.  It won’t be back for a while…but there’s still hope.

Since we last left the saga of the missing state social studies tests, I have been badgering the Regents to give a more intelligent response than the terse, one-line cast-off I was given.  Apparently, it must have touched a nerve to e-mail over the Jewish holiday, because today I receive a response from Dr. John King, Senior Deputy Commissioner for P-12 Education at the NYS Education Department.  Dr. King wrote:

Dear Mr. D:

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns regarding the Grades 5 and 8 Social Studies Tests. They were canceled due to fiscal difficulties, not because they were inadequate assessments. Given the current fiscal climate, there are no plans to reinstate these tests in the immediate future.

States may not use Race to the Top funding to support the development and administration of summative assessments. The US Department of Education held a separate competition for assessment funding, but that was focused on the development of a new generation of ELA and mathematics tests. It is worth noting that the application of literacy skills to social studies texts will be a feature of the next generation of ELA tests.

Thank you for your interest in New York State’s testing programs and for all the work you do on behalf of our students.

Sincerely,

Dr. John B. King

This response was a whopping two-paragraphs longer than the last note I received from one of the Regents.  In spite of all the jerking around this summer, I really did appreciate Dr. King being frank with me about the reason why the tests were cancelled.  Still, I didn’t exactly want to let him off the hook.  Here was my response:

Dear Dr. King,

First of all, thank you so much for responding to my concerns. I had reached a dead end all through the summer and I appreciate your candor and forthrightness in explaining the situation and the disposition of funds re: summative assessment.

Also, I fully take into account the difficult fiscal situation we are in, and accept the fact that social studies assessments will not be reinstated in the immediate future. I had wished that social studies not be the perennial whipping-boy of austerity, unlike ELA, mathematics, and science, but such is the situation we face.

However, I do want to leave you with some words for the future. In my years of experience of teaching in the No Child Left Behind universe, I have come to one immutable conclusion: if a subject is not tested, then it is not taught. The pressure, often the terror, of failure in exams has pushed students, teachers and administrators to focus efforts on those subjects that matter most to the education establishment, namely ELA, mathematics, and science. Social studies, far too often, has been left on the backburner, either through tests that have little or no stake in promotion or in half-hearted attempts to “integrate” social studies into the more “preferred” disciplines.

I caution you, however, to not create a “holy trinity” of subject matter while leaving social studies as the mincemeat of integration. Former Harvard president Derek Bok once said that “If you think that education is expensive, try ignorance.” We cannot produce informed, intelligent citizens without a focused, intense instructional system in social studies. Integration into ELA, while useful, does not highlight the content, but rather the reading skills and strategies. The content matters. Our democracy cannot function if our citizens now little or nothing about its form, function or history. This instruction cannot be left to ELA curricula that have different priorities in mind.

To put it in more urgent words, do you trust the future of our American democracy to students that have been cheated out of a proper education about American democracy?

Please remember these words when the fiscal situation changes.

Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely,

Mr. D

I think this was an appropriate ending–albeit unwanted–for this summer’s social studies drama in New York.

However, that doesn’t mean we will give up the fight to restore social studies’ rightful status in the education of New York’s schoolchildren.  If you want to contact Dr. King and give your reasons to protect social studies in this state, here’s his contact info:

Dr. John B. King, Jr.
Senior Deputy Commissioner
for P-12 Education
Room 125 EB
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12234
Telephone: 518-474-3862
Fax:  518-473-2056
To give the New York Board of Regents another piece of your mind–because they appreciate your letters so much–click here for my original post on the social studies tests.  The contact information for each of the members of the board is listed.
Let’s not give up the fight.  When the economic situation improves, remind your government representatives, superintendents, the Regents and the grand poobahs in the Education Department that social studies is too important to be cast aside.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Regent “Responds” to our Social Studies Problem in NYS

Oh where to begin? Now my fight to restore social studies in New York encountered its own Judge Smails.

In the continuing saga about the lack of state testing in grades 5 and 8 in social studies, the New York State Board of Regents managed to whangle Race to the Top money out of  Arne Duncan.  Way to fleece the blind and dumb there, guys!

Now that we had our blood money, I thought we could then proceed to re-establishing the tests that had been abandoned this year for budgetary reasons.  It only made sense, since it was sheer dollars that suspended the tests in the first place.  So I drafted the following to the Regents:

Honorable members of the Board of Regents:

First I would like to congratulate you on winning the Race to the Top Phase II funds for New York State. Even though you had to lie about our assessment data (see page 106 of your application), it was a job well done.

Now that we have Secretary Duncan’s blood money, I hope that one thing can be addressed: When will Social Studies testing in grades 5 and 8 return?

I have repeated sent messages to this regard with no response. Therefore I will be sending you this letter every day until I get a response.

I think the social studies teachers of this state deserve an answer.

 Thank you

This morning, I receive a response from Regent Harry Phillips, III.  Regent Phillips is a resident of the rich suburb of Hartsdale, a Harvard graduate and a successful businessman–everything you’d expect from the rich elite that predominate the board.  His response was the following:

I expect that teachers will give formative tests in all grades for Social Studies.

Harry Phillips

Regent, Judicial District IX

Really, Harry?  You EXPECT teachers to give formative tests?  You think this is Groton, where the old classics are beaten into kids heads because it’s good for them?

This is a response from someone with no experience in a classroom.  I’ve said this repeatedly: if there are no stakes in the game, the game isn’t worth being played.  Teachers will not give social studies the attention it deserves without some form of assessment.  It isn’t out of laziness, but rather time management: with other high-stakes tests to prepare for, social studies takes up too much time if it doesn’t “matter” in the NCLB universe.

So sorry, Harry, but this is a cop-out of an answer.  You can expect all you want, but a mandate would be more forceful, more effective, and more like how a Regent of this great state should act.

If you agree with my assessment of Regent Phillips’ response, send him an e-mail.  Be sure to say I sent you…he likes that.

So, Harry, how about a Fresca?

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The US Education Department’s “Response” to my Race to the Top Inquiry

It seems that not only are Joel Klein and company turning their tail and running from their problems.  It seems the US Department of Education and Arne Duncan are doing the same thing.

Back in late July, around the time I posted this fiery piece on the cancellation of New York State tests in Social Studies for 5th and 8th grade, I had sent letters to the Board of Regents and the US Department of Education’s pointperson for Race to the Top, James Butler.  This is the letter I sent to the Board of Regents on July 20th:

Honorable Members of the Board of Regents,

I write to you to express my disgust and dismay at your recent decision to cut social studies testing in grades 5 and 8.  In so doing, I have written a post on my blog that has been sent to thousands of my readers explaining the plight of this situation, the text of which can be found here:

https://mrdsneighborhood.com/2010/07/20/jim-crow-ism-at-the-board-of-regents-new-york-state-votes-to-end-social-studies-tests-in-5th-and-8th-grade/

I do not want to belittle the fact that in a recession, cuts need to be made.  Of course, costs must be diminished in severe economic times.  Yet I ask you honorable members one question: How is cutting testing in grades 5 and 8 “appropriate and responsible”, in Commissioner Steiner’s words?  If you do care about our high school graduates, who need this knowledge to succeed in the wider world, why take away an effective early indicator of their social studies readiness?  Why take away an impetus for instruction from teachers that understand the importance of history, economics, geography and government.?
Let us be completely honest with each other.  In this world of assessment, if a subject is not assessed in a standardized way, it is not important.  Your action has deemed social studies not only unimportant, but unnecessary.  Social studies cannot be taught out of the goodness of teacher’s hearts: assessment is necessary to make sure children are ready for higher education. Your action will create children so underprepared that it will make New York the laughingstock of the United States in terms of education.

I leave you with a request: please find an alternative solution to this financial problem that does not affect our students.  DO NOT blame President Obama or NCLB, for that is an excuse that is too tired to even contemplate.  What can YOU, as one of the oldest institutions in the state, predating the US constitution, do to solve this problem?

Thank you very much for your time.

I then sent a letter to James Butler at the Department of Education on July 21:
Mr. Butler,

My name is [Mr. D’s real name] and I am a teacher in New York City public schools.  I wanted to bring to your attention an inaccuracy in New York State’s application for Phase II RTTT funds.

In page 106 of New York’s June 1, 2010 application, it states that:

“New York collects yearly test records of individual students under section 1111(b) of the ESEA [20 U.S.C. 6311(b)] program in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, as well as scores obtained on NewYork’s secondary-level Regents examinations (see Appendix C_1_2).”

Yet on June 22, the NY Board of Regents voted to approve the suspension of social studies testing in grades 5 and 8, a serious blow to the achievement of our students.  In a more specific way, however, NY is now no longer compliant with the criteria for funding.  The NY Board of Regents, just like administrators across the country, must be held accountable to their actions.

Please make sure NY does NOT get any RTTT funds unless it returns to compliance and restores full testing on all levels.

Thank you for your time.

To which I received this response yesterday, almost a month after my initial inquiry:

Mr. D’Orazio,

Thank you for your email.  We appreciate your attention to the New York Race to the Top application.  We deeply appreciate the contributions of teachers like you, who are involved in shaping the education system for our nation’s children.  You play the most vital role in ensuring that the next generation is fully prepared for the challenges it will face.  Thank you again for sharing your concerns.

Jessica McKinney

Race to the Top Team

Now, I don’t blame Jessica McKinney.  My guess is that she’s an eager, go get-em intern type that did what she was told and sent me a form letter acknowledging that they did receive my concerns, albeit almost a month late.  She probably’s going off to TFA after her internship is up, so watch out Compton or southside Chicago!

What I am pissed about is that this problem with cutting testing–while at the same time stating the exact opposite on a federal application for funding–isn’t taken more seriously.  Isn’t that perjury?  I mean, New York State outright lied to the federal government.  Yet it seems that the folks running Race to the Top couldn’t care less.

I don’t hate New York: I want it to get the money it should get as one of the larger states.  But damnit, it should be doing it in the best interests of children getting a COMPLETE education.  I urge everyone in the Neighborhood to spread the word about this tepid response to a travesty occurring among social studies instruction in this state and possibly this country.

Race to the Top can be reached at racetothetop@ed.gov.  E-mail Jessica directly and see if it helps.

Still haven’t heard from the Board of Regents, so here’s there contact info one more time:

To contact the Regents as a whole, use the following:

New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Board of Regents, Room 110 EB
Albany, New York 12234
E-mail: RegentsOffice@mail.nysed.gov

The following are the individual Regents and the areas they represent:

2011* Tisch, Merryl H.; B.A., M.A., Ed.D.
Chancellor; At Large
9 East 79th Street, N.Y., N.Y. 10075
Phone: (212) 879-9414    Email: RegentTisch@mail.nysed.gov

2012* Cofield, Milton L.; B.S., M.B.A., Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor; Judicial District VII – Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Yates
98 Hickory Ridge Road, Rochester, N.Y. 14625
Phone (585) 200-6284    Email: RegentCofield@mail.nysed.gov

2015* Bennett, Robert M.; B.A., M.S.
Chancellor Emeritus; Judicial District VIII — Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming
201 Millwood Lane, Tonawanda, NY 14150
Phone: (716) 645-1344    Email: RegentBennett@mail.nysed.gov

2014* Cohen, Saul B.; B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
At Large
14 North Chatsworth Avenue, Apt. 3E, Larchmont, NY 10538
Phone: (914) 834-0615     Email: RegentCohen@mail.nysed.gov

2015* Dawson, James C.; A.A, B.A., M.S., Ph.D.
Judicial District IV — Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren and Washington
166 U.S. Oval, Plattsburgh, NY 12903
Phone: (518) 324-2401    Email: RegentDawson@mail.nysed.gov

2011* Bottar, Anthony S.; B.A., J.D.
Judicial District V — Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga, and Oswego
120 Madison Street, Suite 1600, AXA Tower II, Syracuse, NY 13202
Phone: (315) 422-3466    Email: RegentBottar@mail.nysed.gov

2013* Chapey, Geraldine, D.; B.A., M.A., Ed.D.
Judicial District XI — Queens
107-10 Shore Front Parkway, Apt. 9C, Belle Harbor, NY 11694
Phone: (718) 634-8471    Email: RegentChapey@mail.nysed.gov

2015* Phillips 3rd, Harry; B.A., M.S.F.S.
Judicial District IX — Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester
71 Hawthorne Way, Hartsdale, NY 10530
Phone: (914) 948-2228   Email: RegentPhillips@mail.nysed.gov

2012* Tallon, Jr., James R. ; B.A., M.A.
Judicial District VI – Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga, Tompkins
United Hospital Fund, Empire State Building, 350 Fifth Avenue, 23rd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10118-0110
Phone (212) 494-0777    Email: RegentTallon@mail.nysed.gov

2015* Tilles, Roger; B.A., J.D.
Judicial District X – Nassau, Suffolk
100 Crossways Park West, Suite 107, Woodbury, N.Y. 11797
Phone (516) 364-2533    Email: RegentTilles@mail.nysed.gov

2015* Brooks Hopkins, Karen; B.A., M.F.A.
Judicial District II – Kings
30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217
Phone (718) 636-4135    Email: RegentHopkins@mail.nysed.gov

2012* Bendit, Charles R.; B.A.
Judicial District I – New York
111 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1500, New York, N.Y. 10011
Phone (212) 220-9945   Email: RegentBendit@mail.nysed.gov

2013* Rosa, Betty A., B.A., M.S. in Ed., M.S. in Ed., M.Ed., Ed.D.
Judicial District XII – Bronx
Chambreleng Hall, Fordham University, 441 East Fordham Road, Bronx, N.Y. 10458
Phone (718) 817-5053  Email: RegentRosa@mail.nysed.gov

2015* Young, Jr., Lester W., B.S., M.S., Ed.D.
At Large
55 Hanson Place, Suite 400, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217
Phone (718) 722-2796  Email: RegentYoung@mail.nysed.gov

2014* Cea, Christine D., B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
Judicial District XIII – Richmond
NYS Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities
1050 Forest Hill Road, Staten Island, NY 10314
Phone (718) 494-5306  Email: RegentCea@mail.nysed.gov

2014* Norwood, Wade S., B.A.
At Large
74 Appleton Street, Rochester, NY 14611
Phone (585) 461-3520  Email: RegentNorwood@mail.nysed.gov

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New York in a “Race to the Top”? See for yourself.

Yesterday the Neighborhood expressed its anger at the NY Board of Regents‘ decision to cut social studies testing in 5th and 8th grade this year.  Let’s contrast this measure with the loft goals specified by the board earlier.

In March, the Board of Regents presented its application as a finalist for federal “Race to the Top” funds.  Attached is the presentation along with the Q & A session that followed.  Notice a couple of things: (a) How the lofty and admirable goals expressed by the Regents are contradicted by their actions; and (b) how little social studies is mentioned as an important subject our students need in their futures.

But wait…there’s more.

Since New York was shut out of Phase I of RTTT, the Regents submitted a Phase II application, linked here, as is the subsequent appendices.  Again, the same litany of lofty goals and rigorous standards, this time backed by charts and graphs.  Please notice page 106, in which New York proudly notes its compliance with federal standards about a statewide assessment and data collection system.  This is an NCLB requirement AS WELL AS a criteria for RTTT funding.  Please notice its response to section 6, as New York responds yes to the following:

“New York collects yearly test records of individual students under section 1111(b) of the ESEA [20 U.S.C. 6311(b)] program in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, as well as scores obtained on NewYork’s secondary-level Regents examinations (see Appendix C_1_2).” ~ Race to the Top Application, Phase II, New York State June 1, 2010, page 106.

Guess what…New York State is now out of compliance.  By not collecting said data through the state testing program in elementary and middle schools, the state cannot in good faith stand by this application.

To be blunt, the New York State Board of Regents is now lying to the federal government.  There, I said it.  Unless the Board of Regents sends an amended application that reflects their change in the testing regimen, New York State should not be eligible for any RTTT funds.

To be even more blunt, put the social studies tests back, and you won’t look like liars and hypocrites.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Jim Crow-ism at the Board of Regents: New York State votes to end Social Studies Tests in 5th and 8th Grade

The “No Child Left Behind” world has made it very clear that social studies is a second-class citizen in the world of education.

Like the Jim Crow South, NCLB has relegated social studies to non-important assessments in odd times of the year—assessments that have no bearing at all on promotion, at least below high school.  It is given the least amount of time in the day, and the worst of materials compared to reading, mathematics and science.  When the crunch to comply with NCLB standards begins in the spring, social studies is the first block of time sacrificed to the gods of standardized assessment.

Most horrific of all, when the other subjects feel the crunch of financial pressure, it is social studies that gets lynched.

A lynching is what it got on June 22, when the New York State Board of Regents, an UN-ELECTED, appointed body that oversees education in New York State, approved a cost-saving measure to cut testing in social studies for grades 5 and 8.   Social studies testing was eating up assessment dollars that the “more important” subjects need.  According to the Regents, this is a crime tantamount to touching a white woman in Mississippi in the 1950s.

In justifying their position, Education Commissioner David Steiner stated that “the Regents today approved responsible and appropriate measures – measures that will permit the core of elements of our testing program to continue, while we increase the rigor of those remaining exams.”

Let’s examine the effects of these “responsible and appropriate” measures.

High school students are not off the hook when it comes to social studies.  Global Studies and US History & Government are no cakewalk exams: they involve a massive basket of content knowledge coupled with complex thinking and analysis skills.  How are students in 10th and 11th grade to be anywhere near prepared if there is no assessments in lower grades to enforce basic content and concepts?

Furthermore, Steiner claims that the Regents are committed to “giving tests that…measure the skills and knowledge necessary for success in school, college and the workplace.”  So we can survive in everyday lives with no knowledge of our own government, our own economy, our own geography or our history?

Let’s be frank.  In the NCLB world, if it isn’t tested, it isn’t important.  Cancelling exams in 5th and 8th grade just sent a signal to elementary and middle school teachers across the state that social studies is expendable.  Social studies teachers will have to shift resources and emphasis, all without the impetus of standardized testing to motivate faculty and administration.  Even worse, social studies as a subject could be wiped out altogether in many schools in New York.

Steiner and his gang did not adopt “responsible” nor “appropriate” measures.  They sent a clear signal to this state—social studies is worthless.  To paraphrase that odious Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney: social studies, according to the Board of Regents, has no rights any teacher, administrator or superintendent are bound to respect.

It’s sicking, and I’ve just about had it.

I’m sick and tired of crying out in the wilderness, screaming at the top of my lungs the importance of knowing our past in helping to determine our future.

I’m sick and tired of stressing the interdisciplinary nature of social studies, a subject that permeates every discipline in our educational core, from reading to science to mathematics and beyond.

I’m sick and tired of creating, writing, searching, sharing, delivering, and showing resources, assessments, books, printouts, and lessons that help teacher enhance a subject that matters little to student promotion.

I’m sick and tired of going to conferences, lectures, workshops, seminars and book signings with my fellow social studies teachers and experts who are as frustrated as I am at our sorry predicament.

In fact, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

It is time that we as the guardians of this great subject stand up and tell the Albany Regency that they are shortchanging our children and our democracy.

I’m calling on all of my fellow teachers, of all disciplines, of all states.  If this can happen here, it can happen, and probably has happened, in any other state in the Union.  Below is the contact information for the New York State Board of Regents, as well as those of the Education Committees in the New York State Legislature.

Let them know that the Jim Crow-attitude towards social studies must end if we are to produce well-educated, productive students that can make those great contributions to our country.  We’re always saying how our kids can change the world: it’s damn near impossible to do if they don’t know anything about it.

Let’s make sure social studies gets the respect it deserves…by any means necessary!

NYS BOARD OF REGENTS MEMBERS:

To contact the Regents as a whole, use the following:

New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Board of Regents, Room 110 EB
Albany, New York 12234
E-mail: RegentsOffice@mail.nysed.gov

The following are the individual Regents and the areas they represent:

2011* Tisch, Merryl H.; B.A., M.A., Ed.D.
Chancellor; At Large
9 East 79th Street, N.Y., N.Y. 10075
Phone: (212) 879-9414    Email: RegentTisch@mail.nysed.gov

2012* Cofield, Milton L.; B.S., M.B.A., Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor; Judicial District VII – Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Yates
98 Hickory Ridge Road, Rochester, N.Y. 14625
Phone (585) 200-6284    Email: RegentCofield@mail.nysed.gov

2015* Bennett, Robert M.; B.A., M.S.
Chancellor Emeritus; Judicial District VIII — Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming
201 Millwood Lane, Tonawanda, NY 14150
Phone: (716) 645-1344    Email: RegentBennett@mail.nysed.gov

2014* Cohen, Saul B.; B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
At Large
14 North Chatsworth Avenue, Apt. 3E, Larchmont, NY 10538
Phone: (914) 834-0615     Email: RegentCohen@mail.nysed.gov

2015* Dawson, James C.; A.A, B.A., M.S., Ph.D.
Judicial District IV — Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren and Washington
166 U.S. Oval, Plattsburgh, NY 12903
Phone: (518) 324-2401    Email: RegentDawson@mail.nysed.gov

2011* Bottar, Anthony S.; B.A., J.D.
Judicial District V — Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga, and Oswego
120 Madison Street, Suite 1600, AXA Tower II, Syracuse, NY 13202
Phone: (315) 422-3466    Email: RegentBottar@mail.nysed.gov

2013* Chapey, Geraldine, D.; B.A., M.A., Ed.D.
Judicial District XI — Queens
107-10 Shore Front Parkway, Apt. 9C, Belle Harbor, NY 11694
Phone: (718) 634-8471    Email: RegentChapey@mail.nysed.gov

2015* Phillips 3rd, Harry; B.A., M.S.F.S.
Judicial District IX — Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester
71 Hawthorne Way, Hartsdale, NY 10530
Phone: (914) 948-2228   Email: RegentPhillips@mail.nysed.gov

2012* Tallon, Jr., James R. ; B.A., M.A.
Judicial District VI – Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga, Tompkins
United Hospital Fund, Empire State Building, 350 Fifth Avenue, 23rd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10118-0110
Phone (212) 494-0777    Email: RegentTallon@mail.nysed.gov

2015* Tilles, Roger; B.A., J.D.
Judicial District X – Nassau, Suffolk
100 Crossways Park West, Suite 107, Woodbury, N.Y. 11797
Phone (516) 364-2533    Email: RegentTilles@mail.nysed.gov

2015* Brooks Hopkins, Karen; B.A., M.F.A.
Judicial District II – Kings
30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217
Phone (718) 636-4135    Email: RegentHopkins@mail.nysed.gov

2012* Bendit, Charles R.; B.A.
Judicial District I – New York
111 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1500, New York, N.Y. 10011
Phone (212) 220-9945   Email: RegentBendit@mail.nysed.gov

2013* Rosa, Betty A., B.A., M.S. in Ed., M.S. in Ed., M.Ed., Ed.D.
Judicial District XII – Bronx
Chambreleng Hall, Fordham University, 441 East Fordham Road, Bronx, N.Y. 10458
Phone (718) 817-5053  Email: RegentRosa@mail.nysed.gov

2015* Young, Jr., Lester W., B.S., M.S., Ed.D.
At Large
55 Hanson Place, Suite 400, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217
Phone (718) 722-2796  Email: RegentYoung@mail.nysed.gov

2014* Cea, Christine D., B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
Judicial District XIII – Richmond
NYS Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities
1050 Forest Hill Road, Staten Island, NY 10314
Phone (718) 494-5306  Email: RegentCea@mail.nysed.gov

2014* Norwood, Wade S., B.A.
At Large
74 Appleton Street, Rochester, NY 14611
Phone (585) 461-3520  Email: RegentNorwood@mail.nysed.gov

LINK TO EDUCATION COMMITTEE OF THE NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY:

http://assembly.state.ny.us/comm/?sec=mem&id=12

LINK TO EDUCATION COMMITTEE OF THE NEW YORK STATE SENATE:

http://www.nysenate.gov/committee/education

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Calling all Teachers! Mr. D is assessing small children and needs your help!

I think it’s a waste of time, but apparently my principal, my assistant principal and their superiors think otherwise.  And once again, I need the Neighborhood’s help.

For the last two weeks of school, Mr. D and his colleague with the lower grades will be leading a team directed to create “goals and objectives” and “accountability plans” for each grade in social studies.  In short, we have to create assessments and a tracking system based on our New York Scope and Sequence in Social Studies–and you know how much I love that.

When it comes to the upper elementary grades (3-5) I’m in pretty good shape.  We have a set program and a paced schedule for each grade, so I’m not too worried there.  My concern is the little kids–primarily Pre-K to 2nd Grade.  These grades provide the cutest children, but they are a graveyard for resources that have real social studies content.  Assessments are another animal entirely.  I mean really, how do you assess a Pre-Kindergarten kid?  They are enough trouble keeping their hands clean and making sure they don’t spill their juice.

I am asking the Neighborhood for any help in two categories: first, if I could be directed to any social studies resources, either in print or online, that cater specifically to PreK, Kindergarten, First or Second grade.  A copy of the standards is included here.  Second, if I could have some feedback on any assessments in social studies that cater to lower grades, that would be great.  Again, use the Scope and Sequence linked above as a reference.

Also, If any teachers out there in the lower grades can share any tips, lesson plans, assessments, games, etc. that you use in social studies, that would be a big help.  Mr. D will definitely reward any help with mentions on the Neighborhood–and links to your blog for some more publicity.

What a way to spend the end of the year, eh?

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized