Tuesday, May 10, 2016

House Bill 544: Ohio’s Strong Civics Standards and Performance-Based Assessments in Jeopardy?

Ohioans have made great progress in the past two years pushing back against an exhaustive amount of state testing mandated by the federal government; in particular due to the passage of No Child Left Behind (2002). Research clearly demonstrates that increasing time spent on testing forces teachers and students to sacrifice precious instructional time and dramatically narrows the curriculum (Wright, 2002; Ysseldyke, Nelson, Christenson, Johnson, Dennis,  Triezenberg, &  Hawes, 2004). Among the gains made in Ohio includes the homegrown development of rigorous new learning standards that promote college and career readiness. Educators, parents, professors, and stake holders from across the state have worked hard to create strong local standards for Ohio’s youth. These local standards, adopted by our State Board of Education, serve as a blueprint for new high quality performance assessments that are administered at different intervals in schools.  

Ohio’ civics standards and its accompanying assessments, through the hard work of local educators and the broader state community, are amongst the best in the nation. While this hasn’t always been the case, numerous standard and assessment revisions and updates have significantly enhanced our state’s ability to prepare the next wave of informed and active citizens. All of Ohio's youth are required to complete 1/2 unit of coursework in American Government. Our new state standards in American Government and its aligned performance-based assessments should be a source of local pride and distinction (much like our local NBA superstar LeBron James). Previous versions of our state’s American Government standards and its aligned assessments were poorly designed, limited in scope, lacked rigor, and fostered low-level/ superficial thinking. While these previous standards were initially drafted and adopted with great hope and anticipation, they never really got the job done or panned out (much like my beloved Cleveland Brown’s experience with their late quarterback Johnny Manziel).

I draw this comparison between LeBron and Johnny because recent events in Columbus could possible force our state to exchange its rigorous, relevant, college and career ready civic standards and accompanying assessments (i.e. LeBron James) for a low-level, superficial national assessment that is not aligned to Ohio’s local civic standards (i.e. Johnny Manziel). Recently, co-sponsors Representative Kyle Koehler (R-79) and Representative Al Landis (R-98) introduced House Bill 544 which would replace Ohio’s American Government End of Course and Performance-Based Exam with a low level 100 multiple-choice U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Test.  The Civics Education Initiative, supported by the right leaning, Arizona based Joe Foss Institute has been peddling the adoption of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Test, the same test required for immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship, for high school graduation to eighteen other states, with mixed results.

Additional tests, especially, those that promote low-level/superficial knowledge, steal quality instructional time away from teachers implementing Ohio’s strong civic standards which promote real-world civic engagement and community service. Ohio’s Learning Standards in American Government are centered on helping students understand how the American people govern themselves at the national, state, and local levels of government. Outside of understanding basic principles of U.S. Government and other founding documents, these standards call Ohio’s youth into action in order to engage in societal problems and participate in local government. Furthermore, students learn how the Ohio Constitution (1851) complements and interacts with the federal structure of government. Ohio’s youth learn how to engage in and make their voices heard in state government and in their communities.

The US Citizenship Test is by far the low bar, as it fails to be aligned with Ohio’s civic learning standards. I believe our youth, its schools, and our beloved Ohio deserve better. Our students deserve high quality, rigorous, and locally developed performance-based assessments (like those that have been piloted and tested for validity which are in-place). Ohio’s civic assessments and standards expose students to local and state government, instill local civic participation, and promote successful readiness for college, career, and civic life. Let’s hold onto and take pride in our LeBron James rookie card, a local hero and smart investment, and distance ourselves from those pitching us the Johnny Manziel card.

I encourage everyone to see this for themselves by comparing the two tests below. Which one is best aligned to Ohio’s American Government Standards? Which one demands critical thinking and the analysis of primary sources and founding documents?


Wright, W. E. (2002, June 5). The effects of high stakes testing in an inner-city elementary school: The curriculum, the teachers, and the English language learners. Current Issues in Education, 5(5).

Ysseldyke, J., Nelson, J., Christenson, S., Johnson, D., Dennis, A., Triezenberg, H., Hawes, M. (2004). What We Know and Need to Know About the Consequences of High-Stakes Testing for Students With Disabilities. Council for Exceptional Children, 71(1), 75-94. Retrieved at http://cie.asu.edu/ojs/index.php/cieatasu/article/view/1622

Saturday, December 19, 2015

NCLB Rewrite Throws University Teacher Preparation Under the Bus

What is meant by 'thrown under the bus'?

Recently, President Obama signed into law the bipartisan legislation entitled Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This legislation allows for more local control for states in the areas of goal setting, determine ratings, and deciding remedial measures.  Overall this legislation significantly scales back federal interventions in schools and prioritizes local control.  Rightly so, educators and parents are greatly relieved this legislation curtails an over-reliance on standardized testing and the use of these results to evaluate teachers and schools, which was narrowly prescribed in NCLB.  Local educators and stakeholders, or, those closest to students, are given the flexibility and authority to meet the needs of diverse learners.
However, not as well publicized, is the deeply disturbing teacher preparation provisions that appear in ESSA. These issues have been highlighted by Valier Straus in the Washington Post (December 5th), and by Dr. Kenneth Zeichner at the University of Washington at Seattle. Faculty in university teacher preparation are left to wonder if the largest Pk-12 teacher unions, namely the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, threw university teacher educators and their programs under the bus in order to get U.S. law makers to loosen restrictions on Pk-12 schools.
Retrieved from http://knowyourcharter.com
Provisions in ESSA permit states to allow a portion of their Title II funds to support venture capitalists in establishing teacher preparation academies. These “charter” teacher preparation academies would compete directly with university teacher preparation programs, all while exempting these same academies from national and state accreditation rules that regulate the quality and rigor of university teacher preparation.  Unlicensed academy teacher candidates would be fast-tracked into classrooms and serve as “teachers of record” without parent approval or their even being notified. Faculty that prepare academy teacher candidates are not be required to have advanced degrees, or, to engage in academic research on instructional best-practices (p. 114). Furthermore, teacher candidates that complete a program run by a non-university charter academy may be awarded a Certificate of Completion that may be recognized by states as “at least the equivalent of a Master’s Degree in education for the purposes of hiring, retention, compensation, and promotion in the state (p. 115).”

The federal government would never support medical preparation academies where non-credentialed and unlicensed doctors are thrown into operating rooms working with our nation’s most vulnerable patients.  As thoroughly reported in the news, Ohio’s Pk-12 charter school oversight and overall performance have been a embarrassment.  In light of ESSA, it looks like we can soon add “charter” teacher preparation academies to this cringe-worthy list.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Moving Away from Silver Bullets and Towards Continuums in Global Education

11-11-2015, @ Annual Conference of CUFA

New Orleans, LA

As I begin these comments, I’d like you to keep two images in your mind: 1.) a silver bullet and 2.) a scenic, continuous path. These images hopefully make sense to you as I move through my comments.

These papers I’ve been asked to discuss, document greatly needed research effort to advance global learning.  Although they each address different dimensions of the programs and practices associated with global education and teacher education, taken together, these papers address programs and practices as a continuum of the development of global educators. This continuum spans university course-taking, pre-service social studies instruction, K-12 social studies education, and onward into teacher professional development. 

Global learning must not be confined to one course, one teacher, or course of study. Instead, it must be continuously cultivated. Doing so provides what Hillary Parkhouse described as “the amalgamation of disorienting experiences and pathways into global education at all levels.”
The collection of papers for this symposium, and the recently released book it’s based upon (The State of Global Education:Learning with the World and its People), come at a critical point in time for the future of schools and in particular for global educators.

The field we love faces serious challenges.

Educators and policy makers are wrestling with what the future of our schools should look like. Joel Westhimer, in his latest book, “What Kind of Citizen”, puts this question front and center. “What kind of schools are best suited in educating our children for the common good?” Let’s be clear, wars are being wagged and battles are being fought worldwide over the future landscape of schooling- let alone, schooling in an increasingly global and multicultural age.  As these battles and conversations occur, it’s imperative there’s a coalition of global educators, committed to the field’s founding principles and advocating for the importance of students learning about the world, its people, and issues.

Research is desperately needed to inform our work as we seek out answers to perennial questions on the type of global education best suited to meet the challenges of today.  Fourteen years removed from the horrors of 9/11, nations are increasingly reverting back to “nation building” and more isolationist domestic policies.  Comments such as “we need to stop spending all that money on other countries”, “that’s their problem”, and “keep those foreigners out” have become common place in classrooms and in the media. In fact, Ron Leiber (2015) in the NYTimes reports overall U.S. charitable giving is surpassing pre-recession peaks, yet, giving to international causes and organization continues to decline, and makes up less than 4% of all yearly donations.

While technologies provide new opportunities in both reach and impact for immediate global communication and collaboration, tensions continue to mount across several nations and regions as they work to close their borders and cut themselves off from the world.  As one 10th grader recently told me when discussing the flow of undocumented workers to the U.S., “we need to build higher and stronger walls” … and no, this tenth grader was not Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

My fear is that we’re entering a “retreatist” age in global education, one centered on building walls versus bridges. These walls prioritize national allegiances at the cost of global affiliations and obligations. Nationalists must be reminded that there is no retreating from those issues, threats, forces, and values that bind humanity. No nation working alone can fight the threat of man-made climate change, avoid the reach of radical extremism and terrorism, or benefit from the development and innovation that occurs through global collaboration and scientific exploration.

It must be noted that work done in the name of promoting global education can actually work against some of the commitments described by our authors today.  A new wave of global education, coined Global Education Inc. by Stephen Ball (2012), is infecting curriculum and instruction in schools around the world. Global education incorporated is tightly packaged as school reform on a global scale, and advances neoliberal policies and scripted best practices. Its curricular tenants center on the need to learn about the world and its people in order to dominate global markets, control access to capital and resources, and to spread the gospel of free market capitalism. These pre-packaged policies and resources are bundled, exported, and sold as market based solutions in the name of “advancing global learning”. Under this framework global education has become a commodity entrenched in corporate profits and worldwide markets, for sale to the highest bidder.  Global learning is branded, mechanized, benchmarked, and connected to corporate education reform that values high-stakes exams over authentic student global experiential learning opportunities. These 10 step plans are scripted, hot off the assembly line, and often for-sale at your local Walmart.

As these ideological battles occur, it’s imperative there’s a coalition of global educators advocating for the importance of students and their teachers learning about the world, its people, and issues in a meaningful way. This makes me genuinely appreciate even more the papers included for review and discussion in this symposium, which we will now discuss:

Hillary, Ariel, Jessie, and Jocelyn’s paper, “You Don’t Have to Travel the World”: Accumulating Experiences Toward Globally Competent Teaching” provides greatly needed research on the significance of multiple pathways into being a global educator. Their finding is simple yet profound: The future of global education is a journey and path, not some pre-conceived destination. In this paper, the authors, identified the various means by which teachers develop their own pathways to global competence. Participants noted it wasn’t one international travel experience, one book, or even one professional development that accounted for their self-identification as global educators. Instead, participants felt it was an accumulation of life experiences, or disorienting experiences and their reflection on them, that prompted them to incorporate global perspectives. My advice to the authors would be to better unpack what constitutes a “disorienting experience”, and how this disequilibrium can be integrated and leveraged to advance global learning in teacher preparation and teacher professional development.

Sarah Matthews and Hillary Landorf paper, “Discussions within Online Learning Formats: Are Meaningful Encounters With Difference Possible?” pushes us to consider the opportunities and challenges associated with using online learning tools (namely MOOCs) in order to  promote global learning. The core of their argument encompasses that “meaningful encounters with difference” matter, and the need to determine if online learning tools (in all their hype and popularity) allowed for meaningful affordances in global learning. Their reviews of using MOOCs to advance global learning are mixed: Students gain through their access to multiple perspectives (cognitive domain) and the opportunity to reflect on their own identity formation (intrapersonal domain). However, transactional distance creates a barrier that prevents meaningful social interaction or social responsibility- which proves to be a barrier to global learning. Interestingly enough, at the end of the paper, the authors note that due to outside pressures, they created and aligned a fully online global learning course into their Master’s program. This course was built with these newly found learnings in mind in order to protect the integrity of global learning. I encourage the authors to disclose this “research into practice” method earlier in their paper, and work to empirically validate the disclosed online instructional design for global learning courses.

Timothy Patterson’s paper, “On the Modern Silk Road: A Case Study of the Limits and Promise of International In-service Teacher Professional Development,” considers the challenges and affordances of in-service teacher professional development through international experiential learning (global study tours). The author debunks the notion that international experiences are inherently transformative for teachers.

Like the first two papers, Tim refuses to “buy into the silver bullet” associated with global study tours and global learning. Here he challenges the dominant discourse on this topic and calls for investment and preparation time for reflection (before, during, and after the tour) and the importance of genuine and quality cross-cultural interactions. He suggests this is one area where the potential to develop truly global educators may be blunted if international experiential learning opportunities are not properly planned and executed.  While these findings evolved out of an externally sponsored global study tour, it would be interesting and insightful if Tim drew from the experience of Sarah and Hillary (to put this research into practice) via leading his own study tour. In particular, the field could greatly benefit from insights into computer mediated (before, during, and after) reflection that advance global learning.

Bill Russell and Cynthia Poole’s paper, “Globalization of Elementary Teacher Preparation in The United States: A National Snapshot,” presents findings from a nationwide study on the extent to which global education university coursework and cross-cultural/co-curricular activities have been incorporated into American elementary teacher preparation programs before and after the year 2000 and the effects of this incorporation on the global perspectives of current elementary school teachers. Like Sarah and Hillary, Bill and Cynthia employed the Global Perspectives Inventory (GPI) to assess participants global perspectives. Their findings indicate that while universities and teacher education programs have promoted global education (the rhetoric), and global education courses have increased in elementary teacher preparation in recent years, there has been no significant increase in the global perspectives of the teachers graduating from those programs (reality). Again, we see an example of a “silver bullet” (number of global content courses) falling short of expectations. In fact, this study concludes that today’s teacher candidates are worse-off in regards to their global learning than their predecessors- despite having completed more global content courses. I’m reminded of Hillary Parkhouse’s claim a strong global education is a professional journey and not a final destination. Bill and Cynthia suggest global content courses offered by American schools of education may not be meeting global education goals. I can’t help but wonder for my own selfish curiosity if global education courses, housed in a College or Department of Education, would do a better job?

Guichun Zong’s paper, “Globalization and Teacher Education: Teaching about Globalization through Community-Based Inquiry,” notes how globalization remains an underexplored yet significant topic for teacher education scholars. Her paper provides a thorough account of how globalization in teacher education is often framed as an uncritical acceptance of the taken-for-granted context. This is quite fitting, based upon the four papers previously reviewed. Despite their hype and popularity there exists no silver bullet that can save us (i.e. global content courses, MOOCs, global study tours, etc.). Guichun explores approaches to integrating the concept of globalization into teacher education curricula. Using “Atlanta in the World” as a case study, she presents how local communities can be used as resources by teacher educators to help university students demystify globalization and develop rich historical understandings of global and local connections. This approach joins the others presented, on how educators need not physically leave the country in order to learn about the world, its people, or issues. Guichun has established a significant scholarly footprint in the area of global education, and I would encourage my accomplished colleague to continue her greatly needed exploration of interdisciplinary, community-based, experiential, global learning opportunities in teacher education and challenge her to take up this idea of “paths and a continuum” in her own work. That is how does this fantastic course fit into the continuum of coursework, readings, and field experiences that her students are experiencing.

I’m proud of the contributions of this coalition of global educators (in the papers and as published in our book), and instead of seeking out the “silver bullet” in global education, let us encourage scholars to seek out and investigate the continuum and pathways into global learning.

Thank you.

*Note: Dr. Maguth was asked to review papers included for presentation in the 2015 CUFA conference titled, “Global ed in teacher ed: Programs and practices”. Discussant: Brad Maguth, University of Akron Global Ed In Teacher Ed: Programs And PracticesJeremy Hilburn, UNC-Wilmington; Sarah Mathews, Florida International University; Hilary Landorf, Florida International University; Hillary Parkhouse, UNC Chapel Hill; Timothy Patterson, Temple University; Cynthia Poole, University of Central Florida; William Russell, University of Central Florida; Guichun Zong, Kennesaw State University

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

2014 NAEP Scores in U.S. History, Civics, and Geography and Global Learning?

In the past few weeks, the National Center for Educational Statistics released its 2014 NAEP U.S. History, Geography, and Civics scores. According to its own website, the NAEP is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. The NAEP tests were administered between January and March 2014 to a nationally representative sample of 29,000 8th graders at more than 1,300 schools. The results of the assessments have been coined “The Nation’s Report Card”.

Much in-line with the scholarship on the marginalization of the social studies post-NCLB, student test scores in History, Geography, and Civics could best be described as a disappointment. Less than one-third of students scored proficient or better on any of the tests, and only 3 percent or fewer scored at the advanced level in any of the three subjects. While reviewing the released test items I found it especially troubling at the difficulty students experienced on those items dealing with the history, geography, or government outside of the U.S. While there is not a World History designated NAEP Exam, it’s interesting to evaluate how well students performed on those few test items pertaining to issues, cultures, histories, and topics outside of the U.S. homeland. Especially, since very few nationally representative data sources exist for researchers trying to better understand what today's youth know about the rest of the world, its people, and issues.

Below, I will review three of these questions I came across on the NAEP Civics Exam. Unfortunately, globally oriented items were not as common on the Geography or U.S. History exams. To review additional released test questions click here.

    Student Performance
2014 Civics Exam (sample item dealing with World Affairs)
·     Explain how at least two of the following three global interactions benefit countries
o   Trade
o   Treaties and agreements       
o   Humanitarian aid

Only 62% of 8th graders successfully answered this question

2014 Civics Exam (sample item dealing with World Affairs)
What do the current governments of Canada, France, and Australia have in common?
A. They are controlled by the military.
*B. They have constitutions that limit their power.
C. They have leaders with absolute power.
D. They discourage participation by citizens in public affairs.

Only 64% of 8th graders successfully answered this question

2014 Civics Exam (sample item dealing with World Affairs)

The cartoon below appeared in 2007. What point was the cartoonist making?

*A. Pakistan is not truly democratic because one person holds too much power.
B. Pakistan is a democracy because it has different branches of government.
C. Democracy is not as important in countries where most people are of the same background.
D. Pakistan would be more democratic if it had a congress instead of a parliament.
Nick Anderson Editorial Cartoon used with permission of Nick Anderson, the Washington Post Writers Group and the Cartoonist Group. All Rights Reserved

83% of 8th graders successfully answered this question

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Violent Social Studies Curriculum

Youth today are surrounded by violent video games, movies, and entertainment, and it appears the social studies curriculum and classroom is no different. Students studying U.S. history often move from one conflict or violent struggle to the next; rarely having the opportunity to use what they learned in class to take action and/or to take agency to promote peace and understanding in their community, country, or world.  U.S. History, and the history depicted in textbooks, is riddled with conflict, human disaster, tragedy, competition, and loss.  Research indicates that history education can serve as a weapon that exacerbate conflicts, divisions, and violence in societies (Saltarrelli, 2000; Hilker, 2011). Violent conflicts depicted in history textbooks often impose singular dominant narratives that rely on sensationalism, misinformation, and propaganda to advancing political goals- often in the name of nationalism.  

As students move from one heart-wrenching episode to another, they soon become overwhelmed, disempowered, and desensitized to the human condition and suffering.  Youth are often repeatedly exposed to this death, destruction, loss, and violence in the study of history- which in itself turns many youth off to the study of U.S. History.  This constant barrage of negatively and not having a productive academic outlet to being the change they wish to see in the world, only breeds youth apathy and inaction. Students become overwhelmed with a sense that the world is a very dangerous place, as indicated in a recent study that found 60% of Americans considered a third world war likely.

This movement from one significant historical conflict, crisis, and unpleasant episode to another only serves to wound students’ perceptions towards their own industry, resulting in civic despair and apathy. While worldwide deaths caused by war and conflict have steadily decreased, textbook publishers often exclusively focus on use of violence and war to solve domestic and global challenges. Instead of focusing on the gains made through non-violence and diplomacy, textbooks often glorify and highlight how the use of violence and confrontation is foundational to beating back “evil”.  Students in U.S. History classrooms are left with the impression that violence is the answer, and fail to learn and apply the essential skills of non-violent conflict resolution. Pulling from what’s been taught in their history classes, some youth all too quickly turn towards the use of violence. This being a serious challenge, as homicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24 (CDC, 2012). Other youth are left simply overwhelmed, desensitized, and turned-off to a violent history curriculum that rarely provides them with the opportunity to learn peaceful conflict resolution skills and understandings that can truly make a difference in their lives and communities. In social psychology this phenomenon is called learned helplessness.  By enduring continued adverse and unpleasant stimuli, youth become unable or unwilling to see how their actions can make a difference around them. In the complete antithesis to the mission of the social studies, youth become turned off by the study of history and yes even emerge as disempowered.

The acquisition of apathy and learned helplessness is all too common in U.S. History classes.  An analysis of most U.S. History textbooks will showcase significant content on issues of war, violence, destruction, and conflict.  For instance, in class, students learn about the death and destruction brought on by rising nationalism and militarism during World War I. After learning about the horrible toll of this Great War, including its over 37 million casualties, students transition into the next unit- or the next great tragedy. This usually includes students learning about the struggle and suffering of workers and families facing great hardships during the Great Depression. Black Tuesday and dwindling consumer confidence create panic and financial ruin for communities and households.  Despite New Deal Reforms, families learn to live without, and many people fight to sustain themselves through soup kitchens and breadlines. 13% unemployment rates and mounting federal debt eventually gives way to the next big, horrific event in U.S. History- WWII and its Aftermath.  In this unit, students encounter more conflict, genocide, extremism, nuclear warfare, and Fascism. Over the course of the semester this trend continues as students stare down such topics as the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, and the War on Terrorism. In most cases, the heroes turned towards the use of guns and tanks to achieve victory.

Today’s standardized and high-stakes tested classrooms often impede teachers from having the opportunity, curricular flexibility, and resources to help students learn valuable strategies and tools to promote peace and to improve themselves and their communities (US Institute of Peace, 2014).  This includes learning about the thousands non-violence acts of courage, bravery, and civic protest by ordinary Americans that have led to a more prosperous and inclusive nation. Students are rarely given the opportunity to use these stories of perseverance, grit, determination, and non-violent protest to build connections with their lives or the times in which they live today- all in an attempt to improve the quality of their community and circumstance. Instead of passively listening to one bleak, depressing, and harmful encounter with disaster and conflict, which can breed learned helplessness, the study of history should inspire and prepare students for the challenges they face and will face. Such an approach to teaching social studies yields relevance and authenticity. Maybe, instead of focusing on a conflict ridden past, social studies teachers can put at its curricular and instructional center a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable tomorrow? Instead of a social studies curriculum and pedagogy that privileges and prioritizes the narrative of successfully using violence to achieve our goals we inform and showcase to students the profound role conflict resolution, active diplomacy, statesmanship, and non-violent activism can play in creating a better tomorrow?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Crisis in Civic Education: Ohio's Lackluster High School Graduation Requirements

Having an informed and active citizenry is at the heart of a functional democracy- after all, this is supposed to be a government of the people, for the people, and the by the people. It was Abraham Lincoln that brought us these words in his Gettysburg Address (1863). In this memorable speech, he noted it was up to the People to ensure the Union would last and that if we fought hard enough a democratic form of government would not perish from this Earth. While the Union was victorious in this epic civic war, one could still argue that we’re still entrenched in a significant battle to preserve democratic governance in the U.S.

In the State of Ohio and around the U.S. there’s a crisis in civic participation, engagement, and trust. The facts and statistics reveal unequivocally that voters are as politically apathetic and discouraged at the quality of our government and its leaders than at any time before. In the May, 2014 primary, less than 17% of all registered Ohio voters went to the polls to vote. Even when voters did turn out to vote, a significant number of candidates ran unopposed. 56% (9/16) of all U.S. House of Representative races in Ohio had Republican candidates that ran unopposed in their districts during the 2014 midterm election (around 31% of Democratic contests). Thus, not only are citizens not going to the polls to vote but the very electoral campaigns meant to ensure the health and vibrancy of American democracy are in significant distress. Citizens’ mistrust of government only grows, as the approval rating for our U.S. Congress has reached historic lows. A recent Rasmussen Poll (August, 2014) indicates only 6% of U.S. citizens think Congress is doing a “Good” or “Excellent Job”.

Issues such as gerrymandering, corrupt election finance, and growing partisanship only inflicts more sickness on a frail U.S. democracy. Our nation and the State of Ohio are at a tipping point. A decision must be made, “Will we work to advance a citizenry willing and ready to strengthen and sustain the health of our democracy? Or, will we continue to the trend of disinvesting in citizenship education and in the curriculum most predicated on fostering informed democratic citizens- the social studies?”

Ohio lawmakers over the summer opted to continue its trend of disinvesting in civic education and the social studies. Recently, I reported that Ohio lawmakers decided to NOT require World History for high school graduation. Instead, they opted to only require American History and American Government. While I am extremely saddened that today’s high school graduates will not receive instruction on the bulk of the world’s people and institutions, I was somewhat comforted in that at least students would be required to complete American History and American Government coursework. Furthermore, word spread in spring 2014 that all high school students would be required to “pass” two end-of -course exams in social studies: One in American Government and the other in American History. Knowing that we live in an age of what is tested is taught, Ohio’s social studies teachers appreciated our state prioritizing the instruction of history and government.

However, it looks like we spoke too soon. Over the summer we learned that while students would be required to take the American History and American Government end-of-course exams, they could in fact graduate from high school without passing either! The State Board of Education Graduation Requirements Committee has proposed that Ohio’s students must earn a total of 18 quality points across seven end-of-course exams in order to graduate. The seven content areas that will have exams are:
  • English I and II 
  • Algebra I 
  • Geometry 
  • Integrated math I and II 
  • Physical science 
  • American history 
  • American government 
Based upon students’ performance, they will earn 1-5 quality points per exam. The scoring breakdown is:

5 – Advanced
4 – Accelerated
3 – Proficient
2 – Basic
1 – Limited

The issue comes in that while all students are required to earn 18 quality points, students can easily earn this minimum score by FAILING the American History and American Government exams. The State Board of Education does note that students must earn a minimum of:
  • four total points across the English end-of-course exams,
  • four total points across the math exams,
  • and, six total points across the science and social studies exams.
Thus, if a student scored 4s on both English Exams, 3 on the math exam, 3 on the science exam, and TWOs on the American History and American Government they would still earn 18. Students would have accumulated enough exam quality points to graduate. This means student that demonstrate a below proficient understanding of institutions, principles, and histories of American government and history will freely join the ranks of an already disengaged, apathetic, and broken democratic system. The civic mission of schools is being decimated by Ohio high school graduation requirements that fail to prepare the informed and active citizens our nation, state, and communities so desperately need.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Thank You: 2014 State Social Studies Leader

Just want to say Thank You to OCSS for this amazing award...  Truly, an organization fighting to ensure a strong history, civics, and social studies curriculum in Ohio's schools.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Update: The Campaign to Save World History in Ohio's Schools

UPDATE (12-19-2014): VICTORY!

A special thank you for your support as we fought to ensure all of Ohio's students learn about the world, its people, and issues. Because of your efforts and tireless pursuit to ensure we build a truly world class educations system for Ohio's students, Governor Kasich just signed into law a provision that requires students complete 1/2 unit of instruction in world history before graduating high school. Again, our campaign to Save World History in Ohio's Schools could not have been successful without your support!

For more information on this legislative victory, see http://www.lsc.state.oh.us/synopsis130/h0367-130.pdf

As we continue to rally for Senate Bill 96 to come to the floor of the Ohio Senate for an up or down vote, there are still a few Senators expressing concerns about all of Ohio’s high school students being required to complete a unit of World History for their graduation. With recent changes in graduation requirements, World History has been downgraded to an elective course. There have even been published accounts of school districts already making the decision to downgrade world history to elective status. For more information on this issue, click here.

Unlike any other generation our world needs U.S. citizens that know about the rest of the world, its issues, and people. Our nation and its people continue to face a host of opportunities and challenges as it relates to the rapidly accelerating pace of globalization.  Instruction in world history is critical to the promotion of global mindedness and a better understanding towards the interaction (for better and worse) between cultures and countries.

Two influential Senators in particular have expressed concern towards Senate Bill 96- which is a significant reason for it not receiving an up or down vote to-date in the Senate. We need you to contact these two Senators and tell them:

·        Our state’s future depends upon its citizens knowing about the rest of the world, its people, and issues. Thus, World History must be a course requirement for high school graduation.

·        Senate Bill 96 would require students to complete a unit of world history, is budget neutral, and is flexible enough for local school districts to continue to offer other global course substitutes (ex. study abroad courses, AP world/global history courses, etc.).

·        Finally, the reason Senate Bill 96 is necessary, is to correct a recent policy decision to downgrade world history to elective status.

The two Senators are:

·       Senator Randy Gardner (R., Dist. 2)

                        -Services Geauga, Lake, and Portage County

                        (614) 466-8060

·       Senator John Eklund (R., Dist.  18)

                        -Services parts of Erie, Wood, Lucas, Fulton County.

                        (614) 644-7718

The best way to contact them is by calling their offices. While everyone is encouraged to call, we really need those constituents in the serviced counties to make contact.

We’ll keep everyone posted as the campaign moves forward.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Story of Inches and Opportunity in Teaching and Learning

As a teacher educator, I consistently find myself pulling from my experiences as a kid growing-up in inner-city Cleveland.  For instance, I tell my students (many of whom come from suburban/middle-class households) how obscure and abstract getting a college education was for me in high school.  Sure, I heard people on television and teachers talking about the importance of going to college but they might as well have been talking about the importance of buying a BMW.  No one on my street or in my house had ever gone to college, in fact, most people never even graduated from high school.  I knew no one outside of school with a college degree, and almost everyone I hung out with couldn't dream of punishing themselves with two yet along four more years of school after high school.  Yet, these same people (without the B.S., M.A., Ed., PhD, etc.) were some of the brightest and most passionate people I've known.  You learn by what’s closest to you, and a college education was right next to winning the lottery for me and for far too many U.S. youth.  

Interestingly enough, I did graduate with a college education and I have spent most of my career advocating for the importance of education. However, in retrospect, I was inches away on many different occasions from falling prey to dropping out of high school- like so many friends and family members.  I frequently tell my students a story of one of those instances when I was saved by an unlikely hero- a local university student doing his student teaching at our urban high school.  I tell my university students (who are all preparing to become teachers) this story before they head out in local schools to work with middle and high school students.  My goal in telling my university students this story is for them to understand that what they do and don’t do when placed in area schools matters.  I want my students to actively seek out opportunities, however small, to make a difference in the lives of children. Since my university students are themselves still in school, and most are in their early twenties, there’s a unique opportunity for them to build a rapport and relationship with their students. It should be noted that my university students bring with them a fresh set of eyes, helpful hands, and naive optimism that may give middle/high school students the extra-opportunities, supports, and inches they need to be successful.

My Story: An Inch Away

I was a naive freshman experiencing the first week of classes at a brand new high school.  In many regards, I was not an ideal student.  As I entered high school, I was one of those middle school students that just managed to get by in my classes.  I learned quickly in the first week of class how important it was to make friends and “fit-in”- after all, high school is one big popularity contest.  After my second period class, a few students I went to middle school with came over and asked if I wanted to skip school with them.  Not having too many friends and knowing how important it was to fit-in, I agreed.  We plotted our escape past the school’s security guards, and low and behold the next thing I knew I’m running out of the school’s backdoor and towards the parking lot.  Once outside of the school, we agreed to walk one street over to go hide behind a small convenient store.  Ironically enough, once we got back there, and all breathed a sigh of relief, a gang of teens immediately walked over and pulled a knife on us, demanding we hand over our wallets.  Fight or flight kicked-in and I immediately dashed away from the thugs and back towards my high school. 

I remember I ran to the back entrance of the school that we initially dashed out of in hopes that I could sneak back-in during the shuffle between class periods. However, this wasn't possible, as a school security officer was standing right in the door way! I was done for and started to think of other places I could go (i.e. the park, hide in the basement, hang out by the football field, etc.).  I wish I had never agreed to skip class, and I truly wanted to go back inside of school, but I didn't want to get caught by the school’s security guard- which would have certainly led to a suspension and getting yelled at by my parents.  Knowing that I couldn't get back into the school, I walked a few inches away from the school’s backdoor, and then it happened.

Actual Backdoor of My Old High School

A student teacher from a local university was entering through the back entrance of the school to complete hours for his student teaching experience.  As I walked away, this young man yelled over, “hey, kid, where are you going?”  Since he seemed cool and close to my age, I told him the predicament that I was in… that I really wanted to go back to class and that this whole thing was a mistake… I told him that I messed-up but that it was too late and now I have nowhere to go.   In a single act of courage, and in words that I’ll never forget, the young college student said, “follow me.”  He grabbed my arm, walked me passed the attentive security guard, and finally into my fifth period class.  As soon as we walked in, this name-less college student yelled over to my fifth period teacher, “he was with me.”  I ran to my seat with a whole new outlook on school.   This university student- who wanted to become a teacher- gave me a second a chance. 

In the end, all of these inches add-up to yards, miles, diplomas, Phds, books, and blogs.  For all those teachers and student teachers fighting to give our youth those extra-inches and opportunities, Thank You.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Breaking News: Ohio Senate Education Committee Unannimously Supports SB 96

Today, the “Campaign to Save World History in Ohio’s School” moved one step closer to its goal of keeping world history as a graduation requirement for Ohio’s high school students. Yesterday, the Ohio Senate Education Standing Committee voted unanimously to support Senator LaRose’s sponsored legislation (Senate Bill 96) that requires Ohio’s students to successfully complete before graduating from high school:

…at least one unit of instruction in the study of world history and cultures from around the world other than that of the United States.

 The bill now moves to the floor of the entire Ohio Senate for deliberation and a vote.  Having the whole weight of the Senate Education Standing Committee gives us great hopes in advancing this bill out of the Senate before their recess. 

 The Campaign needs your help now more than ever! Please, continue to contact your elected House of Representative Members- especially, those in the House Education StandingCommittee. Feel free to use the letter template provided by the Ohio Council for the Social Studies. Also, be sure to sign and share our petition (on Facebook and Twitter, and over discussions) with friends, family, and vested groups and networks.

In a few weeks, Corbin Moore (President of the Ohio Council for the Social Studies) and I will testify to the Ohio State School Board on why they should support Senate Bill 96. It’s important that we gain their support in advancing this legislation through the House and onward to the Governor’s desk.

Please, know that while we still have a way to go, today was a huge step forward for the Campaign. Your previous efforts and all of your contributions have led us to where we are today.



Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Today, Corbin Moore (the President of the Ohio Council for the Social Studies) and I provided a proponent testimony to Senate Bill 96.  As we all know, the Ohio Legislature recently downgraded World History to an elective courseIn order to graduate from high school, Ohio’s students will only need to complete required coursework in American History and American Government.

We believe that today’s global age demands all of Ohio’s students receive instruction in world history before graduating from high school.  Unlike any other generation, today’s students will be actors on a global stage.  Due to improvements in technology, communications, and transportation events in a once distant part of the world have immediate impact on our nation and state.  Significant global issues such as nuclear proliferation, international trade and investment, conflict/terrorism, and environmental degradation can only be remedied through a commitment to global understanding, communication, collaboration, and action. Today’s schools are on the frontlines in preparing citizens with requisite knowledge and skills in world history, culture, economics, and geography.  By not requiring instruction in world history, our attempt to build a world-class education system is anything but worldly. 

Senate Bill 96 sponsored by Senator LaRose and co-sponsored by Senators Lehner, Hite, and Cafaro is essential in putting the global back into our efforts to build a world-class education system.  After testimony today, both Corbin and I are confident that with this legislation will continue to move through the Senate’s Education Committee and pass the Senate.  However, we have some significant challenges ahead if this greatly needed bill is to become law.

Some members of the Ohio House of Representatives and some members of the State Board of Education oppose this legislation.  Their rationale varies from one Representative noting “…it’ll be a cold day in hell before he spends one dollar of Ohio taxpayer revenue to teach about other countries, as students need to learn about U.S. values and how this country is a light on top of a hill.” Other reservations include the possibility of the legislation/Ohio Legislature overstepping its boundaries and micromanaging the curriculum of local school districts.  Such rationale fails to account for the fact that some fiscally strapped Ohio local school districts have already cut and downgraded world history to an elective course and many more will continue to do so at a time where our state and its economy can ill afford a globally ignorant and apathetic citizenry.   This argument against also fails to account for the historical precedent set by the Ohio Legislature in the past in identifying particular courses and content that must be taught (see  SB 165 which was signed into law), and the Ohio legislature’s constitutional right to ensure a high quality learning experience for all of its students

This campaign needs your help (as we’ve come so far) and we’re asking that you contact the following two parties and ask each support Senate Bill 96:

Please, feel free to use the provided letter template in your correspondences:  http://tinyurl.com/lhrnaq4.
The time to act is now, and your contacts will make all the difference in our Campaign to Save World History in Ohio’s Schools.

Global and Social Studies Education

The website/blog allows educators in the social studies to reflect upon key issues in the social studies. It also allows teachers the opportunity to access resources that help infuse instructional media and technology, and global perspectives in their teaching.