Sunday, March 30, 2014

Warning: Global Regents Approaching (And You'll Get No Help From Us!)

High school Global History and Geography teachers have a tough job. Not only must they  motivate children to love History, Economics, Government, Anthropology and Geography (the five major social studies). They must also teach along what is currently a two-year course of study. And they are responsible for getting their students to pass the most difficult mandated New York State Regents Examination there is; the Global History and Geography Regents. So difficult is this exam that it has the "lowest pass rate of any of the five Regents tests currently required for graduation" (accurate statistics are difficult to find, but the New York Post reported that, in 2011, the pass rate was only 56% (here)). So troublesome is the exam for school officials that NYSED, the state education department, has been trying to alter or change it for three full years now. So intimidating is it for high schoolers that each year in June, the hashtag #globalhistoryregents -a term that applies only New York State students- trends for two full days on Twitter. 

These realities are compounded by another truth. Global history courses themselves are populated with mainly young teachers who have not yet fully learned their craft. The typical routine in a typical high school social studies department is to have a first year teacher teach twelfth grade and second year teacher teach ninth grade (the latter being the beginning track of the two-year  Global History course that leads to this terribly difficult regents). This means that the Regents' Exam in Global History and Geography is being taken by students taught by teachers who are not yet at the top of their game. 

And while the Global History teachers require most of help in bringing world history to students, the city's DOE provides what can only be described as a paltry amount of resources to help teachers teach their students. The city's DOE website, which has an extensive section for teacher professional development, has no trainings for people who teach world history (see here). The DOE Common Core Library has just one instructional unit that can be used in a high school Global History class (see here). (The mere presence of the other units, which can be used in a 9th and 10th grade US History course, are almost comical as our state requires no US History courses to be taught in grade nine or ten) (see here). 

The resources page on the DOE website is, perhaps, the most disappointing. The section of the website advertises resources for teachers to use in the classroom. Each discipline has a collection of links that are intended to be classroom resources for teachers. The section for Social Studies contains 35 links in all. Yet many of them are useless for a Global History and Geography Teachers. Some are intended for US History courses. Others have links that point to the wrong page, are repeated. Still more point to websites where a teacher can buy, with his or her own money, the very resources (s)he came looking for in the first place. Still more are broken links that lead to nowhere at all.

 On that page, I found 12 links that just don't work (broken links), 13 that help teachers with American History, 4  to help teachers with New York History (city or state), 2 links to professional organizations (where you can buy a membership and get resources),  2 to help you buy your own resources (gee thanks folks), yet only 5 -5- that actually help a teacher of Global History and Geography (including zero to actually help that teacher with primary or secondary source document based questions (all of those were broken)). 

Now there are some resources up on ARIS. But that is a result of crowdsourcing for resources; many are teacher submitted and the submissions are overwhelmingly comprised of curriculum maps, pacing calendars and scope and sequence documents. These aren't really classroom resources in the sense that a teacher can find some really great documents about, say,  Climate Change, or favorable balance of trade in Japan (or even the history of the internet). 

So why is the Regents' Exam in Global History and Geography the lowest scoring test in New York? At least part of that reason has to do with a lack of commitment to get help to the teachers, many who are new, who teach it.

Here's a breakdown of every link there on the teacher resources page for social studies, as well as a request to the DOE to please update it. 

  1. Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators - broken link
  2. National Center for History in the Schools  - links to a website where teachers can pay for their own resources
  3. National Council for the Social Studies Model Lessons  - American History only
  4. New York State Assembly Teacher Resources - New York State History Only
  5. Smithsonian Institute - Works (nothing CommonCore aligned though).
  6. KET Social Studies Resource Sites - Broken Link
  7. NEH Humanities Resources - Works!
  8. National Geographic - Works!
  9. Leadership in American History Resources - broken link (actually doesn't even point to a website. Instead it points to a parking space). 
  10. The New York Geographic Alliance (NYGA) - It's the website of a professional organization. Members of the PO can have access to the resource. But if I were a member, would I really be looking at the NYCDOE Teacher Resource page?
  11. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - It's Gilder Lehrman. It's awesome. But it's for American History. 
  12. History Now Newsletter - Broken Link (plus it's a newsletter, not a resource. 
  13. History Matters - American History only
  14. The African-American Mosaic - Is, was and always will be wonderful. American History only, but who cares. NO lesson plans or anything like that, but still. 
  15. African Studies Association -It's the website of a professional organization. Members of the PO can have access to the resource. But if I were a member, would I really be looking at the NYCDOE Teacher Resource page?
  16. Black History Quest - works! But it's American History only and it really doesn't count as a teaching resource site.
  17. American Folklore - American History only
  18. American Social History Project - Ah, CUNY. I love this project. But it's American History only
  19. Asian-Nation - works, but not many resources for actual teachers who actually, who know, teach.
  20. Hispanic America USA - broken link. Oh, and American History only
  21. C.A.R.T.S. - Cultural Arts Resources for Teachers and Students - broken link
  22. Smithsonian Institute - National Museum of the American Indian - broken link
  23. Flushing Remonstrance - the only actual teacher resource on the page! The only link on the page that points to the actual office of teaching and learning. Too bad for me, though. It's American History only.
  24. Gotham Center for New York City History - New York History only (plus it's nowhere near a teaching resource).
  25. New York History Net - New York History only
  26. Lower East Side Tenement Museum Educators Guide - broken link (can you believe that. They can't even link to the NYC Tenement Museum!). Ohk plus it's New York City History only.
  27. The Bill of Rights Institute - American History only
  28. Scholastic Election 2008 Lessons - False link (takes you to Scholastic's website where you can, you know, buy your own resources).
  29. Making Sense of Primary Sources - Repeated link! (This links to the 'History Matters' website which they already linked to). Oh, and it's American History only.
  30. Teaching With Documents - Takes you to a site where you can buy your own documents
  31. Document Based Questions - broken link (and it's from NYSED!!!)
  32. Yonkers Document Based Questions - broken link. Funny thing; it takes you to the website of a health provider called YORKERS. If you fix their typo and try to go to YONKERS.ORG, it still takes you nowhere. Can it be a broken link twice? hmmm ...
  33. Primary Source Materials and Document Based Questions - broken link
  34. Understanding World Events - it does work, but I couldn't find use in it for world issues.
  35. Facing History and Ourselves - works!
  36. Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility - works; although it's not social studies

Please, oh please, update this. 


  1. I'm a public school teacher and I've been asked to teach two years worth of Global History in just one year to struggling students. It's total insanity and kids are completely frustrated.

    1. Hey Omar.
      Sorry you're in that position. If I may offer advice; just try to get them to love history. Regents or no, you'll never go wrong with that.

  2. This is a far cry from being the hardest regents. The only reason it's the most failed is because generally EVERYONE has to take it in order to graduate high school, unlike classes like chemistry, which are optional. The chem and algebra 2/trigonometry regentses are probably the hardest. I'm taking my global regents tomorrow. I've taken multiple practice tests, all of which seemed like a joke. Yes, it's the most failed regents, but it's also the most commonly aced (as my teacher told me, at least). Seriously, this test is really going to bring up my GPA. They do throw in a few hard multiple choice questions, but you can get 7 multiple choice questions wrong (out of 50) and still get around a 98. I really don't understand how people have problems with this test. Don't believe me? Take a look at one yourself.