Us history regents thematic essay (order an essay inexpensively)

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Us history regents thematic essay

NOTE – THE COMPLETE ESSAYS AND EXAMS CAN BE FOUND AT THE BOARD OF REGENTS WEBSITE. THIS IS MERELY A BRIEF SUMMARY OF WHAT THE ESSAYS WERE ABOUT .

THEMATIC – Cultural and Intellectual Life: Effects of the Media – Describe and show positive/negative effects of the media on US society. (muckrakers, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, yellow journalism, fireside chats).

DBQ – Presidential proposals and battles with Congress: Polk and Mexican War, Reconstruction, FDR and Supreme Court decisions.

THEMATIC – Foreign Policy – Latin America and Caribbean – Analyze the historical circumstances and success/failures of two US foreign policies in the Western Hemisphere. (Panama Canal, Monroe Doctrine, Corollary, NAFTA)

DBQ – Conflicts between the three branches of government: Jackson vs. Marshall, Nixon’s Watergate, Wilson’s Treaty of Versailles)

THEMATIC – Reform Movements – Describe reform movements from 1820-1933 and evaluate their success. (Women’s suffrage, prohibition, consumer protection, labor)

DBQ – Causes and effects of the Spanish-American War, Korean War, and Persian Gulf War.

THEMATIC – Economic Policy – Causes and degree of success concerning economic policy. (Sherman Anti-Trust Act, New Deal legislation such as Social Security, NAFTA)

DBQ – Causes and effects of migrations within the US: Westward migration, Great Migration (African Americans in 20th Century), Sun Belt.

THEMATIC – Legislation . Choose two laws, explain them, and show their impact on the United States and/or American society. (Missouri Compromise, Homestead Act, Pure Food and Drug Act, Title IX)

DBQ – Controversial Presidential decisions: FDR and Japanese Internment, Lincoln and suspending habeas corpus, and George W. Bush’s Patriot Act.

THEMATIC – Organizations – Explain the circumstances surrounding the formation of two organizations, and discuss the degree to which their reform efforts were successful. (Populists, WCTU, AFL, NAWSA)

DBQ – Presidential Actions and their influence on society: Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Policy, Civil rights of LBJ, and TR’s consumer protection)

THEMATIC – Foreign Policy – Select two foreign policy decisions which were controversial. Explain why they were both opposed and supported. Discuss their impacts on the US and/or a foreign country. (Invasion of Iraq, Korea, Vietnam, Annexation of the Philippines)

DBQ – Challenges facing African Americans, industrial workers, and persons with disabilities.

THEMATIC – Geography – Territorial Expansion. Explain how the US acquired 2 territories, and if they had a positive or negative impact. (Louisiana Territory doubles the size of the nation, Alaska provides vast oil reserves, California becomes a free state in the controversial Compromise of 1850.)

DBQ – The similarities and differences between Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

THEMATIC – Change – Supreme Court Decisions. Choose two decisions, explain them, and show how they impacted the United States and/or American society.

DBQ – Influence of writers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Rachel Carson, and Betty Friedan.

THEMATIC – Technology – Choose two inventions and show how they changed society. Illustrate why it was either a positive or negative change. (Cotton gin, automobile, nuclear energy, television)

DBQ – The impact of the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Persian Gulf War on the United States and/or another region.

THEMATIC – Government – Legislation. Choose 2 laws, explain their historical circumstances, and if they had a positive or negative impact. (Pure Food and Drug Act protects consumers, Social Security Act provides money for the elderly in the Great Depression, Indian Removal Act forces Native Americans to move west of the Mississippi River).

DBQ – Major events of the 1950s and their impacts on society. (Korean War, Montgomery Bus Boycott, and launching of Sputnik) .

THEMATIC – Foreign Policy – National Interests. Choose 2 examples of foreign policy that affected US interests, and show if they were successful or not. (Open Door Policy, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, Panama Canal).

DBQ – Impact of Supreme Court Decisions on the United States. (Dred Scott Case takes away rights of slaves, Plessy v. Ferguson supports "separate but equal," Brown v. Board of Education gets rid of segregation in schools).

THEMATIC – Foreign Policy – Cold War. Choose 2 examples of containment, and explain if those actions were successful in stopping the spread of communism. (Truman Doctrine, Korean War, Vietnam War, "Star Wars", Berlin Airlift).

DBQ – Issues that divided the nation (Ratification of the Constitution, Louisiana Purchase, extension of slavery).

THEMATIC – Reform movements : Industrialization. Choose two problems resulting from industrialization. Show how the government tried to fix each problem, and to what extent they were successful. (Overpopulation, pollution, nativism, unsafe food, trusts, exploitation of workers).

DBQ – Controversial Acts. Choose two of the following, and show both why the government supported the act, and why people opposed it: Executive Order 9066 (1942), Patriot Act (2001), and Espionage and Sedition Acts (1917-1918)

THEMATIC – Foreign policy ; Presidential Decisions. Choose two decisions, and show their impacts on BOTH the US and on a foreign country. (Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb, JFK quarantining Cuba, GW Bush’s decision to invade Iraq).

DBQ – Movements in American History. Choose 2 of the following: Labor Movement, Women’s Suffrage, or Abolition.

THEMATIC – Impact of Supreme Court cases . Choose two cases, and show their impact on American society. Use any two court cases you like!

DBQ – Sectionalism and differences between the North and South before the Civil War.

THEMATIC – Geographical features influencing history . Choose 2 events related to geography and explain the impacts of the event. (Erie Canal construction, Panama Canal, Transcontinental Railroad)

DBQ – Expansion of Democracy in America – Suffrage, Progressivism, etc)

THEMATIC – Amendments . Choose 2 Amendments and show how they impacted America (13th = Abolition, 17th = Direct Election of Senators, 19th = Women’s Suffrage)

DBQ – Explain the differences and/or similarities of society in the 1920s and 1930s.

THEMATIC – Diversity and Court Cases . Choose 2 court cases that either limited or expanded the rights of specific groups. (Korematsu limited rights for the Japanese, Brown expanded Black rights, whereas Plessy limited them).

DBQ – Cold War . analyze the events of Presidents JFK, Nixon, and Reagan

THEMATIC – Writing and Reform . Choose 2 writers, and show how they caused the government to act. (Upton Sinclair and meatpacking / FDA, Thomas Paine and the Revolution, Harriet Beecher Stowe and abolition)

DBQ – Explain how water affected the development of the US (Rivers, canals, etc)

THEMATIC – Positive and negative affects of technology . Choose 2 . Car, internet, television, radio)

DBQ – Reform Movements – Women’s Suffrage, Temperance, Child Labor. What was the problem? To what extent was the problem solved?

THEMATIC – Choose 2 Presidential decisions in American history, and show the impacts . (Lincoln and emancipation, Truman and the atomic bomb, Washington and Neutrality.)

DBQ – Negative and positive effects of geography on American History.

THEMATIC – Pieces of writing that influenced society . Choose 2 (Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.)

DBQ – The decisions of the Warren Court (Supreme Court of the 50s and 60s)

THEMATIC – Discrimination of rights . Explain policies that helped, or hurt specific groups. Choose 2. (Native Americans and Indian Removal, Korematsu case for the Japanese, slavery for African Americans)

DBQ – Impact of industry on American society from the Civil War to WWI

THEMATIC – Supreme Court Cases . Choose 2, explain the historical circumstances, decision, and impact. (Brown, Korematsu, Miranda, Tinker, Schenck, Gideon, Mapp, etc)

DBQ – Challenges facing Presidents Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

THEMATIC – Groups affected by War . Choose 2 (African Americans after the Civil War, Indian Wars, women in WWI and WWII, Japanese in WWII)

DBQ – Reformers of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Abolition, Populism, Progressive Era)

THEMATIC – Change by individuals other than Presidents . Choose two, and show how their actions led to government actions. (Muckrakers, Carnegie and industrialization, Martin Luther King Jr., and civil rights, Henry Ford and the automobile)

DBQ – Presidential actions during crisis. Civil War, Bonus March, and Little Rock 9.

THEMATIC – Economic Policy . Describe two actions taken by the government to help the economy. (FDR’s New Deal, Tariffs, Social Security, Reagan’s tax cuts)

DBQ – Political and Economic impacts of the automobile.

THEMATIC – Geography – Discuss 2 actions taken by the US Government because of Geography. (Monroe Doctrine, Lewis and Clark, Homestead Act, Panama Canal)

DBQ – The Vietnam War and it’s impact home and abroad.

THEMATIC – Industrialization : Choose two problems that resulted from industrial growth in America. (Immigration, Technology, Monopolies, Urbanization, Reform Movements.)

DBQ – Similarities and differences between the women’s rights and civil rights movements.

THEMATIC – Choose 2 individuals who had an impact solving problems in America . (Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson, Henry Ford Betty Friedan)

DBQ – Government policy and technology influencing growth in the US economy.

THEMATIC – Controversial Issues . Choose 2 controversial issues that divided the country and explain how the government addressed each issue. (Prohibition, Civil Rights, Segregation, Immigration, Native American Removal)

DBQ – Geography’s influence on American expansion.

THEMATIC – Turning Points . Choose 2 economic, political, and/or social turning points that led to landmark changes. (Automobile, Brown v. Board of Education, Declaration of Independence, or really, anything important.)

DBQ – Mass Media’s impact on American society.

THEMATIC – Migrations of People . Choose 2 groups, and explain why they moved, and the impact of the migration. (The Great Migration, Native American Removal)

DBQ – The Cold War’s affect on the nation.

THEMATIC – Foreign Policy . Choose 2 American foreign policy actions, the immediate or long term consequences, and if self-interest was promoted. (Big Stick Diplomacy, Marshall Plan, Lend-Lease Act, Fourteen Points)

DBQ – Goals of the Progressive Reformers.

THEMATIC – Reform Movements . Choose 2 Reform movements, their goals, and if their goals were achieved. (Abolition, Prohibition, Women’s Suffrage, Progressive Era)

DBQ – Foreign Policy: Isolation vs. War before WWII.

THEMATIC – Cold War . Explain 2 Cold War conflicts and how the government operated during them. (Cuban Missile Crisis, nuclear weapon limits of SALT, Berlin Airlift)

DBQ – Problems in America during the Great Depression.

THEMATIC – Amendments . Choose 2, and explain why they were adapted, and how they affected American society. (any amendment will do)

DBQ – Expanding education to all Americans.

THEMATIC – Actions taken by the US because of geographic factors . Choose 2. Explain the action, influences, and impact of each action. (Panama Canal, Monroe Doctrine, Louisiana Purchase)

DBQ – Civil War and Reconstruction — explain social, economic, and political changes that took place.

THEMATIC – Reform Movements . Choose 2, and explain the circumstances and impact. (Progressive Era, Abolition, Prohibition, Women’s Suffrage)

DBQ – Westward Expansion during the 1800s.

U.S. History regents – thematic essays from the past 10 years

Foreign Policy (Cold War)

Treaty Organization [NATO] (1949), intervention in Korea (1950-1953), the blockade of Cuba (1962), the escalation of the Vietnam War (1964-1973), the visit of President Richard Nixon to China (1972), and the pursuit of the Strategic Defense Initiative [SDI] (1983-1989).

Foreign Policy (National Interests)

President George Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality (1793), congressional declaration of war against Mexico (1846), acquisition of the rights to build the Panama Canal (1901), United States entry into World War I (1917), implementation of the Marshall Plan (1947), United States entry into the Korean War (1950), escalation of the Vietnam War beginning in 1964, and President Jimmy Carter’s efforts to negotiate the Camp David Accords (1978).

Government (Congressional Legislation)

Embargo Act (1807), Pure Food and Drug Act (1906), Indian Removal Act (1830) Social Security Act (1935), Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) GI Bill/ Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (1944), Interstate Commerce Act (1887), Americans with Disabilities Act (1990).

Reform Movements (Industrialization)

corruption in government, exploitation of workers, overcrowding of cities, establishment of trusts, production of unsafe consumer goods, destruction of the natural environment, and increase in anti-immigrant attitudes

Unites States Foreign Policy

James K. Polk sending troops to the Rio Grande (1846), William McKinley deciding to annex the Philippines (1898), Woodrow Wilson asking for a declaration of war(1917), Harry Truman deciding to use the atomic bomb (1945), John F. Kennedy quarantining Cuba (1962), Lyndon B. Johnson sending combat troops to Vietnam (1965-1968), Richard Nixon improving relations with China (1972), George H. W. Bush sending troops to Kuwait (1990-1991), and George W. Bush sending troops to Iraq (2003).

Supreme Court Decisions

Marbury v. Madison (1803), Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), Worcester v. Georgia (1832), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Schenck v. United States (1919), Korematsu v. United States (1944), Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), Miranda v. Arizona (1966), Roe v. Wade (1973), and New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985)

Geography (Development of the United States)

Louisiana Purchase, the construction of the Erie Canal, migration to California in the late 1840s, the Civil War, the purchase of Alaska, the building of the transcontinental railroad, the acquisition of the Philippines, the building of the Panama Canal, the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the construction of the interstate highway system

Change (Constitutional Amendments)

13th amendment (abolition of slavery, 1865), 17th amendment (direct election of senators, 1913), 18th amendment (Prohibition, 1919), 19th amendment (woman’s suffrage, 1920), 22nd amendment (presidential term limits, 1951), 24th amendment (elimination of the poll tax, 1964), and 26th amendment (suffrage for 18-year-old citizens, 1971).

Diversity (Constitutional rights)

Worcester v. Georgia (1832), Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Korematsu v. United States (1944), Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States (1964), and Roe v. Wade (1973).

George Washington issuing the Proclamation of Neutrality, Abraham Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, William McKinley calling for war against Spain, Theodore Roosevelt supporting the Meat Inspection Act, Woodrow Wilson proposing the Fourteen Points, Franklin D. Roosevelt proposing the New Deal, Harry Truman making the decision to drop the atomic bomb, and Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

the cotton gin, steam-powered engines, the assembly line, nuclear power, the automobile, television, and computers

Individuals, Groups, Institutions (Writing and Reform)

Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776), Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852), How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis (1890), The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1906), "I, Too, Sing America" by Langston Hughes (1925), The Other America by Michael Harrington (1962), Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962), The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963), and "Letter from Birmingham Jail" by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1963).

Supreme Court Decisions

Worcester v. Georgia (1832), Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), Northern Securities Co. v. United States (1904), Korematsu v. United States (1944), Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States (1964), Miranda v. Arizona (1966), Roe v. Wade (1973), and United States v. Nixon (1974).

Constitutional Principles (Individual Rights)

Ex. – Native American Indians, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, women, the elderly, and the disabled

Movement of People-Migration

colonial settlement (1600s-1700s), westward expansion (1800s), rural to urban migration (1870s-1920s), European immigration(1880-1910), the Dust Bowl (1930s), suburbanization (1950s-1960s), and illegal immigration.

Role of Government in Economy

assumption of Revolutionary War debts, building the transcontinental railroad, passage of tariff laws, passage of the Interstate Commerce Act, creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, adoption of the Social Security system, passage of federal minimum wage laws, Reagan Era tax cuts, and ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Frederick Douglass and slavery, Andrew Carnegie and industrialization, Jacob Riis and urban life, Upton Sinclair and consumer protection, Henry Ford and the automobile industry, Margaret Sanger and reproductive rights, Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights, Cesar Chavez and migrant farm workers, and Bill Gates and the software industry.

enslaved persons during the Civil War, Native American Indians during the Indian Wars, women during World War I or World War II, Japanese Americans during World War II, and American college students or army draftees during the Vietnam War.

Contributions of Individuals to American Life

Upton Sinclair, Henry Ford, Langston Hughes, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Betty Friedan, Rachel Carson, Cesar Chavez, and Bill Gates.

Ex. – increased immigration, new Inventions or technologies, growth of labor unions, growth of monopolies, growth of reform movements, and increased urbanization.

Influence of Geographic Factors on Governmental Actions

the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806), issuance of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), Mexican War (1846-1848), Commodore Perry’s opening of Japan (1853), passage of the Homestead Act (1862), purchase of Alaska (1867), construction of the Panama Canal (1904-1914), entry into World War II (1941), passage of the Interstate Highway Act (1956), and involvement.

Migration of People

the forced migration of Native American Indians (1800-1880), the westward movement (1840-1890), the migration of African Americans from the South to cities in the North (1900-1929), the Puerto Rican migration to the North after World War II (1945-1960), the westward migration from the Dust Bowl (1930s), suburbanization (1945-present), and the migration to the Sun Belt (1950-present).

-Describe the historical circumstances that led to the event

-Discuss the political, social, and/or economic changes that resulted from the event.

the signing of the Declaration of Independence (1776), end of Reconstruction (1877), Henry Ford’s use of the assembly line (1913), United States entry into World War I (1917), Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (1964), and the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989).

Individual, Groups & Institutions/Controversial Issues

placing Native American Indians on reservations, slavery, women’s suffrage, Prohibition, the use of child labor, and the policy of unlimited immigration.

the postwar economic upheaval in Western Europe (1945-1947), Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe (1945-1948), threat of Communist takeover in Greece (1947), Soviet blockade of Berlin (1948), nuclear arms race (1950s-1970s), and placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba (1962).

Reform Movements in the United States

Ex. – the abolitionist movement, woman’s suffrage movement, temperance movement, Progressive movement, civil rights movement, women’s rights movement, and environmental movement.

Theodore Roosevelt’s Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine (1904), Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points (1918), the Lend-Lease Act (1941), the Marshall Plan (1947), the blockade of Cuba (1962), the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) agreements (1972), and the Persian Gulf War (1991).

Geography and United States Government Actions

Louisiana Purchase (1803), issuance of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), passage of the Homestead Act (1862), decision to build the transcontinental railroad (1860s), acquisition of the Philippines (1898), decision to build the Panama Canal (early 1900s), and passage of the Interstate Highway Act (1956).

1st Amendment — personal freedoms (1791), 15th amendment — right to vote (1870), 16th Amendment — income tax (1913), 17th Amendment — election of senators (1913), 18th Amendment — Prohibition (1919), 19th Amendment — suffrage (1920), or 22nd Amendment — term limits (1951).

President George Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality (1793), congressional declaration of war against Mexico (1846), acquisition of the rights to build the Panama Canal (1901), United States entry into World War I (1917), implementation of the Marshall Plan (1947), United States entry into the Korean War (1950), escalation of the Vietnam War beginning in 1964, and President Jimmy Carter’s efforts to negotiate the Camp David Accords (1978).

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) — federal supremacy, Schenck v. United States (1919) — freedom of speech, Korematsu v. United States (1944) — equal protection under the law, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) — equal protection under the law, Engel v. Vitale (1962) — separation of church and state, Miranda v. Arizona (1966) — rights of the accused, Roe v. Wade (1973) — right to privacy, Vernonia School District v. Acton (1995) — search and seizure.

Was this U.S. History Test Designed So Students Fail?

New York State Regents exams were first administered in 1866. Since 1878 they have been used as final exams in high school courses. American history was one of five original subjects tested. Today there are exams in ten subject areas offered three times a year, January, June, and August, although most students take them in June.

Dr. Michael Pezone, a New York City high school social studies teacher and a cooperating teacher in the Hofstra University teacher education program, emailed me complaining about the design of the recent United States History and Government Regents Examination. Students generally take the test in 11th grade and passing the history “Regents” as well as four other state exams is required for high school graduation. Dr. Pezone teaches in a high school where 85% of the students are Black or Latino, 75% receive free lunch, and one out of five is designated as special education. He believes the test was unfair to his students and students from similar backgrounds.

I asked other social studies teachers in the New York metropolitan area involved in grading the test to respond to Michael Pezone. The number of responses I received and the anger expressed in some of them show the level of upset teachers have with the state’s high-stakes testing regime. They do not agree with every point Dr. Pezone raised, but many found significant parts of the test unfair to students, especially academically challenged students, who need to pass the test to earn a high school diploma. I include their replies after Dr. Pezone’s original statement.

In their comments on the United States History Regents, the key questions raised by these teachers are:

  • Shouldn’t the test focus on what is taught?
  • Should the test include “gotcha” questions that a high percentage of students are destined to get wrong?
  • Shouldn’t tests create space for students to show what they know?
  • Does New York State still values multiculturalism and a curriculum that seeks to engage student interest by touching on topics that connect with them?

What is clear form their comments is the thoughtfulness of these teachers and the depth of their concern for students and learning.

Michael Pezone wrote:

I have been a high school social studies teacher in NYC for twenty-three years. A prime duty of mine is to prepare students for the U.S. History and Government Regents examination, which they must pass in order to graduate. I am troubled that on two of the last three June United States History and Government exams, the Thematic Essay question inexplicably restricted students from writing about the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case and the Civil Rights Movement, both important and required elements of the U.S. History curriculum.

On the June 2014 exam, the Thematic Essay question required students to describe the historical circumstances surrounding two Supreme Court cases, explain the decisions in each case, and discuss the social impact of each decision. Surprisingly, the question included the following warning: “Do not use Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka as one of your Supreme Court decisions.”

On the recent, June 2016 U.S. History and Government Regents examination (not yet uploaded on the state website), students were required to write about reform movements in United States history, but were restricted to writing about movements that occurred between 1820 and 1933. This time frame prevented students from writing about the Civil Rights Movement, the New Deal era labor movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the modern feminist movement, the gay rights and immigrant rights movements, and environmental movement.

I spoke to a number of colleagues about this issue, all of whom suggested that the questions were written this way because many students are familiar with the Brown case and Civil Rights Movement, and frequently choose to write about them when given the opportunity. The Board of Regents, evidently, wants students to demonstrate knowledge about other issues and events.

This raises a number of questions:

* Should students be restricted from writing about topics simply because the topics are well known and frequently studied? Aren’t the topics well known precisely because they are extremely important and worthy to be explored in depth? Will other important topics that are familiar to students be excluded from future tests? For example, will the Nazi Holocaust be excluded as a choice on future Global History Thematic essay questions?

* Did the restrictions imposed in the June 2014 and 2016 Regents essay questions disadvantage African American students, who in general may learn about these and other culturally relevant topics in greater detail than other groups?

* Will this apparent trend in essay question requirements serve as a signal to social studies teachers around the State that they should teach less about the Civil Rights Movement in particular or African American history in general?

* Was writing about these movements barred because they are at the end of the curriculum, part of the eras most recently studied, and freshest in student minds? Was this test designed so they fail?

It seems to me that if the New York Board of Regents is concerned that many students choose to write about important, familiar topics, the solution is not to ban the topics, but rather to craft better questions about those topics.

Bill Hendrick replied to Michael Pezone after grading the United States History Regents at a DOE grading center in Queens. He noted that many students did indeed write about the Civil Rights Movement in their thematic essays. Since this was outside the scope of the “prompt,” they received no credit for their response. Here are some of Bill’s thoughts on the United States History Regents

The objective of state examinations is to assess what students have learned; at least that is what we are told. However, the prompt on the thematic essay on the 2016 U.S. History Regents seems more like a “gotcha” moment for students. For no real apparent reason, the prompt focused on a narrow time frame then usual which purposely excluded many potential answers. Students are participating in a marathon of an exam: 50 multiple choice, 9 documents to examine with at least one (and sometimes two) questions attached, a DBQ Essay, and the thematic. It is understandable that many of them would misinterpret this prompt and choose a topic that is more familiar and relevant, including and especially the Civil Rights Movement. Excluding this topic in an essay that focuses on building connections among “themes” in history is puzzling. At best, it is a poorly designed question. At worst, it is an attempt to penalize students for not reading instructions carefully enough. As an experienced educator, I would NEVER design a prompt that would exclude a familiar topic for students on purpose. Something needs to come from this, and I think that we teachers, backed by our unions, need to speak out against this as an act of injustice.

Pablo Muriel teaches high school at a vocational school in the South Bronx with a student population very similar to the school where Michael Pezone teaches. Newer teachers “Jackie” and “Mike” who teach at similar schools in Brooklyn also responded.

The thematic essay was possibly the toughest I have seen in my fifteen years as a social studies teacher. It gave students a very small window from early 1800s through 1933 to write about. Last year, in their essays, my students wrote about the Young Lords, Black Panthers, and Occupy Wall Street, topics that engaged them during class discussion. This year many of them told me that they wrote about labor unions and woman’s suffrage, but with much less certainty.

The movements left off the test are movements that I spend more time on in class because the students are passionate about them. The question also prevented students from writing about the Chicano movement in the 1960s, which many enjoyed learning about, especially because they also learned about the walk-outs and boycotts in their Spanish language class.

Over the past 5 years I have been teaching and preparing my students for the United States History and Government Regents. During this time I have solely taught students in lower-income communities. In my experience, these tests are biased against English language learners, especially students who enter the country after the 8th grade and are still expected to pass the exams. It is hard enough for my students to learn the content and skills they need to pass a history tests in a language they are still learning, but these students also lack the basic foundations of U.S. History that even their peers who have been in New York schools from middle school would have.

Over half of the multiple-choice “questions” on the June United States history Regents were not even questions. They are really sentence fragments that students need to complete by selecting one of the choices. English language learners find these “questions” especially daunting and frequently make the wrong choice even when they know the correct answer. I can’t believe this is the best way to measure student content knowledge.

I do not have as much of an issue with the June 2014 thematic excluding the Brown case as Dr. Pezone does, because the Brown case was referenced in one of the documents in the DBQ section. My issue is that history did not occur in a 113-year vacuum. The test limits students to reform movements from 1820-1933, but one question many of my students had and struggled with was “What if the causes or effects of a movement happens prior to 1820 or after 1933?” All of the movements suggested by the state in the instructions for the essay had roots that preceded 1820, and all of the movements had effects that went beyond 1933. Didn’t anyone on the test writing committee see the Broadway play Hamilton. If a student wanted to argue that the Women’s Suffrage movement lead to the Women’s Right’s movement, they could lose credit because they referred to a post-1933 movement, especially if they have difficulty expressing their ideas in written English.

But my biggest issue with this test is the term “analysis.” Over the past few days I have been part of day and evening sessions grading both the U.S. and global history exams for the NYC DOE. According to the grading rubric, students are graded on their “analysis” of key information. This sounds completely reasonable except so far no one has been able to offer me a clear explanation of what “analysis” means in this context. In the instructions, students were charged with the task of describing and discussing, not analyzing, but they are being graded on their ability to analyze.

Regina Folio has taught in “minority” schools in both New York City and on Long Island.

Regina Folio wrote:

I disagree somewhat with Mike. This year the essay seemed to be testing periodization and sequencing of events. They did offer many options for students to use the movements Mike listed to discuss long-term effects. This is especially true for the abolition movement, labor at the turn of the century, and women’s suffrage. When grading the essays, we accepted this information as long as it was appropriately referenced and added. Some of the sample essays provided by New York State also referenced the movements of the 1960-1970s, so we found it acceptable information to be included.

With regard to the June 2014 thematic essay, I think the issue was because of the DBQ. The first section of the DBQ was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. The information in the documents provided information regarding the civil rights movement and implied the background and effects of the Brown case. The general rule of thumb is that topics used or even referenced in the DBQ are off limits in the thematic. Granted this was a bit of a stretch on the state’s part for the June 2014 exam, the information in the documents still would have bolstered students replies by providing them information to use freely, information that most students would have been unlikely to come up with on their own. I say that with more clarity now, but I do remember being quite upset about it then. Typically the state does a good job of scouring the multiple-choice questions for anything tangibly related to essay topics. In the end I do believe it is all about not providing students with extra information regarding the essays.

If we discuss topics omitted or limited in the multiple-choice questions that yields a different conversation. This happened with the newly designed AP U.S. history exam and I am sure it will be an issue with the upcoming changes to the N.Y.S. U.S. Regents. These newly designed exams, with their use of grouped questions, allow fewer topics to be explored and tested. Placing (45-55) multiple-choice questions within groups of 4-5 questions leaves only 9 or 10 topics to be tested.

On the first administration of the new AP test revolution, industrial revolution, workers, wars, women and people of color were absent. Although the second administration this year included most of these topics, it was at the expense of other essential content. It is not likely that New York State can include everything – or everyone – within the future “stimulus” related groupings and with fewer multiple choice questions. Every exam is flawed depending on what you see as important information necessary to be taught and tested.

Adding more open-ended questions, even bringing back a choice of essays, would allow students to demonstrate the breadth and depth of their knowledge more fairly. Having said that, most students do not write analytically or with any depth, so I am mindful of what I wish for.

Henry Dircks is an award-winning social studies teacher who works with more middle class students in a suburban school district. Henry Dircks wrote:

I had a great problem with the U.S. History and Government Regents Exam thematic this year also. It was unforgivable for NYSED to assign a thematic essay on “reform movements” and then restrict choices to before 1933. This restriction seemed to trick students who, in haste, neglect to focus on the time period given, and may very well write about the civil rights movement, women’s rights movement, environmental movement and consumer protection movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. While a dedicated history student could make much of the examples provided, due to their broad nature, most students would be challenged to remember details of the anti-slavery movement and temperance movement, covered less in-depth and earlier in the school year. Undoubtedly, NYSED will claim this “twist” represents rising standards, when all it really represents is NYSED’s disassociation with the purpose of the social studies curriculum.

I also had quite a problem with NYSED testing about topics not scheduled to be focused on in the curriculum until the new Framework for U.S. History and Government was phased in during the 2018-2019 school year. One multiple-choice question asked students to interpret a cartoon about the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the DBQ question included a document on the Persian Gulf War (1991). When did NYSED decide that testing students on topics earlier than scheduled was fair game?

From July 8-10, educators, parents, and activists will rally in Washington, DC for three days of action in defense of public education. Featured speakers include author Jonathan Kozol, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, and Diane Ravitch. On July 8 there will be a People’s March for Public Education and Social Justice. Save Our Schools is organizing a conference for July 9 to be followed by a July 10 Coalition Summit and organizing session. The program for the rally and meetings includes full, equitable funding for all public schools; safe, racially just schools and communities; community leadership in public school policies; professional, diverse educators for all students; child-centered, culturally appropriate curriculum for all, and no high-stakes standardized testing.

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