Monday, August 25, 2014

National Council for History Education Position Statement: Revised A.P. U.S. History Framework

Complaints about the College Board's recently released Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) Framework raise fundamental questions about the nature of history and the responsibility of history educators. Critics list the individuals, groups, institutions and events that go unmentioned in the Framework and decry its "radically revisionist" approach that "emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting positive aspects." The process of selecting events, topics, and themes that constitute the content knowledge of a course curriculum has always been, and remains, one that involves the competing interests and values of academics, administrators, and communities. But it is important that educators and policy-makers recognize and acknowledge the protocols, methods, and instructional framework that constitute best practices in the study of history - history's habits of mind.

The point of education is not simply to acquire a specific body of information. Lifelong learning requires mastering the tools to continue to grow intellectually throughout life: to learn how to find new information, process it, and share it with others. Since the 1988 report by the Bradley Commission on History in the Schools (which led directly to establishment of the National Council for History Education [NCHE] two years later), history educators have talked and written about historical thinking skills - formulating questions, conducting research, separating fact from fiction, sorting by relevance, arguing from evidence, reporting findings - and sought to integrate them into the teaching of history. The development of state history and social studies standards lent momentum to this movement, and by 2011 nearly 80% of states had standards that incorporated historical thinking skills.

NCHE welcomes revision of the APUSH Framework and test in view of the increased emphasis on the teaching and testing of historical thinking. Multiple-choice questions, often derided as "multiple guess," will now relate to historical evidence, such as documents, images, and maps, and require students to reason rather than simply recall. There will be short essays specifically designed to assess proficiency in historical thinking, as well as command of content knowledge. Longer essays, written in response to Document-Based Questions, will also show students' ability to understand, interpret, and apply historical evidence. These skills will serve them well in college and throughout their lives. Of course, historical thinking requires that students have some history to think about, and to that end the APUSH Framework includes a concept outline, but offers teachers considerable latitude in deciding how to flesh it out. Given that latitude, complaints about omissions from, and a political bias in, the Framework seem misplaced. Besides, teaching students how to think for themselves is the best antidote to the dangers cited by APUSH critics.

However, the apprehension expressed by teachers who will teach the course and parents whose children will take it requires more attention. The stakes for them can be very high, and the College Board's roll-out of APUSH failed to offer them adequate preparation for, or even information about, the new order. While many teachers participated in AP summer institutes and workshops, many others did not, so how adequately prepared are they? Wouldn't an extensive professional development program - one that offered more lead time - have served everyone better? Is there still time for that? Since the substantial support materials available in past years - sample tests, sample responses, etc. - are now outdated and useless, are teachers sufficiently equipped to do their best work, and can students initially be expected to perform to the same levels as their predecessors? If student AP test performance declines, will colleges and universities accordingly modify their policies for granting course credit? What measures will the College Board undertake to address the concerns and meet the needs of teachers, students, and parents during the school year now underway? What will it do differently in the future? On behalf of its members and in the interest of history education, NCHE is examining these, and related, issues, collecting thoughts from teachers, educators and other interested parties, and weighing how best to address their concerns. NCHE will convey both those concerns and its recommendations for dealing with them to the College Board.

In view of the fact that the 2014-15 school year has already begun in many districts, NCHE does not believe that a one-year postponement of the new APUSH format is the best course of action. Instead, NCHE will support teachers and their students in adapting to the new APUSH Framework and test.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The National History Club Wants You!

The National History Club Inc. (NHC) inspires students and teachers to start History Club chapters at high schools, middle schools, and within other student and community programs. Members of local History Club chapters participate in local and national programs, and create their own projects and activities. The NHC also provides chapters with resources and services that will help them increase the activity and impact of their History Club. To date, 500+ History Club chapters at high schools and middle schools in 44 states have joined the NHC, and there are over 14,000 student members. 

When you join the National History Club, you join students and teachers from around the country—and the world—in discovering, learning, reading, writing, teaching, and living history. The NHC's main goal is to bring together students and teachers with a real passion for history, helping them learn from each other's ideas, experiences, and stories, which are distributed through our tri-annual eNewsletter, monthly eUpdates, and other communication methods.

We do not limit the scope of activities that a chapter may participate in—each club is allowed to navigate its own course. This allows for a wide-range of really interesting activities that are displayed in each Newsletter and on our website. Schools are free to decide whether their chapter will be a regular History Club (open to all) or a History Honor Society (with specific requirements for induction). The NHC also co-sponsors multiple award programs to recognize outstanding student members, Advisors, and chapters. 

For more information on the NHC and to find out how to join, please visit its web site here.

Friday, August 15, 2014

FREE Electronic Field Trips for Hawaii Public Schools from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

It's that time again! We just heard the good news for Hawaii history educators from Dale Van Eck, Manager of Educational Partnerships for The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 

Hawaii public schools are once again eligible to receive FREE electronic field trip programs!

In fact, the Foundations has fifty available NOW. 

Thanks to a generous Colonial Williamsburg donor, Hawaiian public elementary and middle schools are eligible to receive a full subscription to HERO at no charge (a $250 value per school). Since the subscription is for the entire school building, only one person from each school will need to subscribe.
If you have any questions, please contact us at: with the subject line HAWAII GRANT or call 1-800-761-8331.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Advanced Placement Numbers Racket: The Los Angeles Times; August 12, 2014

From the desk of Will Fitzhugh:

Op-Ed; The Los Angeles Times; August 12, 2014
The Advanced Placement numbers racket
by Brain Gibbs

Why AP courses are overrated: There's too much to teach in too little time, a former LAUSD teacher argues

When The Times reported that the number of Advanced Placement exams taken in the Los Angeles Unified School District had hit an all-time high, I couldn't help but wonder: Is that a good thing? AP courses help high school students gain admission to prestigious colleges, but not necessarily because of the course work. What matters is getting the AP course on the transcript.
Heralded as a civil rights success in some corners, AP classes are really a numbers racket and a way to play the college admissions game. Most colleges reward applicants for taking AP courses, the more the better. Rather than evidence of strong learning or superb college preparation, AP has become a credential that helps students gain access.
First seen as an exclusive feather in a cap, AP courses were added to the public school curriculum to keep elite students from fleeing. As courses have expanded to urban and rural schools across the country, they are invariably described as a “rigorous college-level curriculum in high school.”
As a former history teacher with L.A. Unified, I am most familiar with the AP U.S. history exam. It asks students to answer—in 55 minutes—80 multiple-choice questions covering 400 years of history, to respond to two essay questions and a “document-based question” that requires them to weave in material from sources they are seeing for the first time, all in 115 minutes.
I'm not really troubled by the skill sets pushed by the latter two components—the ability to decipher a challenging question, make and support an argument, analyze documents and synthesize information—although because the topics aren't announced, teachers must teach as much content as possible to give students a fighting chance.

The skill set developed by AP courses seems antithetical to what college life should be—the exploration, deeper understanding and investigation of the world's complexities. 

I do have a big problem with the multiple-choice portion, which requires students to develop skills of little value—rote memorization and recall under pressure. Content from the pre-Columbian era forward must be covered. “Covered” is the operative word —notanalyzed, evaluated or synthesized, words common to academic and intellectual investigation in a college class.
Some teachers teach against the AP test, determined to build in time for deep analysis, connection to present day, critique, writing genres and themes that connect historical movements. The AP system forces much content to be “taught” quickly, which leads to low retention and even less analysis. Students are generally on their own to read, process, understand and remember an outrageous amount of information.
I've seen gifted AP teachers who were compelled to reduce the complexity of World War II to two 55-minute classroom lectures, and to cover the New Deal and the civil rights movement in one class. To explain the compression, teachers cite the press of time, the wealth of material and the impending weight and doom of the final AP test, given a full month before the school year ends.
There is value in learning to examine complicated content, but the AP test takes it to an extreme. The exam also fails to reward exceptional or powerful writing, preferring a particular style of writing that fits a set rubric. The focus on multiple choice questions reduces complex historical events to “correct” answers: a, b, c or d.
College professors complain about students' inability to write well and their lack of creative thought. Faculty members have told me that students seem so intent on providing the answer they think the professor wants that they all end up writing their essays in much the same way. Students seem uncomfortable with complexity and want professors to guide them to the proper answer.
The skill set developed by AP courses seems antithetical to what college life should be: the exploration, deeper understanding and investigation of the world's complexities and uncertainties.
As AP courses have expanded, and as universities depend on them to separate and sort applicants, high schools have developed their own skill sets to ensure higher success and pass rates in both the courses and their associated exams. Sadly, the space for more inquiry- and discussion-driven, deeper and more complex learning is all but disappearing.
Brian Gibbs taught in LAUSD for 16 years. He is a doctoral candidate in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Education.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Today at UH Manoa: Forbidden Citizens: Chinese Exclusion and the U.S. Congress: A Legislative History

Forbidden Citizens: Chinese Exclusion and the U.S. Congress: A Legislative History recounts the long and shameful history of U.S. laws passed between 1879-1943 that prohibited citizenship for Chinese people. 

Author and attorney Martin Gold has over 35 years of legislative experience advising Senate Majority Leaders and serving on a number of Senate Committees and is one of the country's leading experts on congressional procedures.

This event is free and open to the public today, August 5, 2014, 4:30pm - 5:30pm at the University of Hawaii's Mānoa Architecture Auditorium. 

A whole class of people, forbidden from ever becoming citizens . . . forbidden from even entering the country-their rights torn up and trampled on, left with no political redress. This was the United States of America from 1882 through 1943-if you had the misfortune to be Chinese.

The United States Congress banned all Chinese from becoming U.S. citizens from 1882 through 1943, and stopped most Chinese from even entering the country starting in 1882. Forbidden Citizens recounts this long and shameful legislative history. Congress passed restrictive legislation between 1879 and 1904. The most notorious was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, described as "one of the most vulgar forms of barbarism," by Rep. John Kasson (R-IA) in 1882.

These laws were targeted not only at immigration, they banned citizenship, even for legal immigrants who had arrived before the gate was closed in 1882. Barred from becoming voters, the Chinese had no political recourse against repeated discrimination.

Because their appearance and lifestyle were so different, it was easy to tyrannize the Chinese. Insisting that the Chinese could not assimilate into American culture, lawmakers actively blocked them from doing so. Democrats and Republicans alike found the Chinese easy prey.

For the first time, this book assembles the complete legislative history of Congress's Chinese exclusion. 

"Our nation has the greatest ideals, standing as that 'city upon a hill' for the world over to look toward with hope. Yet we have not always been as welcoming as we have proclaimed. Forbidden Citizens by Martin Gold tells the story of the exclusion of a specific group, the Chinese people, for racial reasons that were expressed in the most shocking terms. It is thorough, thoughtful, and highly relevant today. This work presents the best scholarship in the most accessible manner."
-- Frank H. Wu, Chancellor & Dean, University of California Hastings College of the Law

"Through engaging narrative, Forbidden Citizens expertly tells a story unfamiliar to most Americans, one that left a permanent scar upon the psyche of Chinese Americans and changed our nation forever. Martin Gold's thorough and pioneering research into decades of Congressional history brings to life the politics of Chinese exclusion in a way no one has."
-- Judy Chu, United States Representative (D-CA)

"Forbidden Citizens is a moving account of a regrettable part of American history. Marty Gold has done us all a service by bringing this story to light so that our past mistakes are never repeated."
-- Scott Brown, United States Senator (R-MA)

"An important piece of scholarship, which vividly depicts the intensity of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian feeling that was widespread even among our intellectual and political elite only a century ago."
-- Stephen Hsu, Professor of Physics, University of Oregon