This year students in the U.S. History course learned to investigate different perspectives and to formulate and defend their own historical interpretations based on both primary and secondary source evidence. Although the course requires students to engage in alternative assessments such as debates, illustrated timelines, interactive notebooks, textbook theatre, storybooks, art projects, and research papers, they also demonstrated mastery of the state standards as tested by the California Standardized Tests (CST) exams.
I took over the AP U.S. History classes in addition to the regular U.S. History in 2009-2010 and taught the entire 11th grade. Students scored 62% Proficient/Advanced on the US History CST overall, with only 14% scoring Below Basic or Far Below Basic.Additionally, I was able to double the pass rate on the AP U.S. History exam from the previous year. Overall, my students also improved their CST scores from the 2008-2009 academic year.
During the 2008-2009 academic year I taught 11th grade U.S. History to three periods of students, about seventy-five total, all but three of whom had scored Far Below Basic, Below Basic and Basic on their History CST exam the previous year (those who scored Proficient/Advanced took AP U.S. History with another teacher). In one year, my classes improved from 4% to over 50% Proficient/Advanced. Only one of my students scored Far Below Basic and only 6% were Below Basic.
As the graph indicates, 54% of my students during the 2008-2009 academic year scored Proficient/Advanced. This is well above the California state average, which hovers between 25% and 35% each year. Furthermore, these achievement gains should be compared to the U.S. History CST scores for James A. Garfield Senior High, with 19% Proficient/Advanced, and Theodore Roosevelt High, with 12% (although they were as low as 9% in 2006) Proficient/Advanced, which are the two neighborhood high schools in East LA my students would have attended if they did not attend Stern MASS.
 CST data by school is available through the California Department of Education and easily accessible at: http://www.losangelesschools.com/los-angeles/theodore-roosevelt-senior-high and http://www.losangelesschools.com/los-angeles/james-a-garfield-senior-high.
 See 2010 Annual School Report for the Marc and Eva Stern Math and Science School, p.24.
Below please find the course syllabus.
During the next year you will learn to investigate, challenge, debate, and critically analyze events, trends, and issues in the history of this country beginning with the Revolution and concentrating primarily on the 20th century. Our classroom will be both standards-based and student-centered. I expect that you will work to demonstrate your highly proficient or advanced mastery of state standards and simultaneously reflect critically on your own education and learning. You can expect that I will strive to make content both rigorous and relevant to your life and the lives of people like you; that given your trust I will make you strong writers, debaters, thinkers; and, that I am committed to helping you share the love you have in your heart with the world through activism.
I am fully confident that given your consistently focused and sustained attention and motivated effort you can be highly successful in my class (achieving the top grades colleges expect and convincing me to advocate for you with an outstanding letter of recommendation, for example). In addition to following the honor code, completing all assignments, and demonstrating mastery on summative assessments (research papers, debates, tests, on-demand writing tasks, for example), the following observable skills and behaviors are the key to success. Consider this your cheat-sheet:
Students who consistently… are going to do well
- Pull key ideas out of text and summarize main points in your own words.
- Asking difficult and thoughtful questions.
- Support all statements/claims (both oral and written) with specific, well-chosen, and vivid examples and with compelling evidence.
- Willingly try new things and creatively imagine positive solutions.
- Engage in honest self reflection and set goals for themselves.
Like many of you, I love to argue. But, the skill of crafting logical arguments and expressing yourself clearly and effectively takes practice. In this class we will hold weekly debates on Wednesdays. Four students will debate each other each week in teams of two, and everyone is required to debate at least twice. When it is your week to debate, you will be expected to research, prepare logical arguments, and anticipate rebuttals. Your classmates and I will judge the winner of each debate. These debates will be an important summative assessment both for the debaters and the audience. The on-demand writing task following debates will be a chance for you to demonstrate your understanding of key concepts and controversies.
It is essential that you complete all assignments in this class. Grades will reflect your ability to demonstrate proficiency on standards. Summative assessments will be the primary way through which you demonstrate your progress in mastering standards. They will come in various forms, including: debates, research papers, on-demand writing tasks, multiple choice tests, short-answer tests, and oral tests. Your academic achievement (how well you do on summative assessments) will be tracked separately from your participation, behavior, and work completion to give us both a clear sense of your individual strengths and challenges. All assignments will be graded on a four point scale (so get used to seeing 4, 3.5, 3, 2.5, 2, 1.5, 1, 0.5 on your work). Although assignments will be measured against a specific rubric, you must have a general sense of what these numbers mean. Study the chart below.
Topic Score on Scale Description of Place on Scale
Advanced 4.0 In addition to Score 3.0 performance, in-depth inferences and applications that go beyond what was taught
3.5 In addition to Score 3.0 performance, partial success at inferences and applications that go beyond what was taught
Proficient 3.0 No major errors or omissions regarding any of the information and/or processes (simple or complex) that were explicitly taught
2.5 No major errors or omissions regarding the simpler details and process and partial knowledge of the more complex ideas and processes
Basic 2.0 No major errors or omissions regarding the simpler details and processes but major errors or omissions regarding the more complex ideas and processes
1.5 Partial knowledge of the simpler details and processes but major errors or omissions regarding the more complex ideas and procedures
Below Basic 1.0 With help, a partial understanding of some of the simpler details and processes and some of the more complex ideas and processes
0.5 With help, a partial understanding of some of the simpler details and processes but not the more complex ideas and processes
0.0 Even with help, no understanding or skill demonstrated
The state curriculum standards describe this course as follows: “Students in grade eleven study the major turning points in American history in the 20th century. Following a review of the nation’s beginnings and the impact of the Enlightenment on U.S. democratic ideals, students build upon the tenth-grade study of global industrialization to understand the emergence and impact of new technology and a corporate economy, including the social and cultural effects. They trace the change in the ethnic composition of American society; the movement toward equal rights for racial minorities and women; and the role of the United States as a major world power. An emphasis is placed on the expanding role of the federal government and federal courts as well as the continuing tension between the individual and the state. Students consider the major social problems of our time and trace their causes in historical events. They learn that the United States has served as a model for other nations and that the rights and freedoms we enjoy are not accidents, but the results of a defined set of political principles that are not always basic to citizens of other countries. Students understand that our rights under the U.S. Constitution comprise a precious inheritance that depends on an educated citizenry for their preservation and protection.”
National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) Performance Expectations:
We will focus on the following nation-wide standards developed by the NCSS:
NCSS.I. Culture. (b). Predict how data and experiences may be interpreted by people from diverse cultural perspectives and frames of reference.
NCSS.II. Time, Continuity, and Change. (a). Demonstrate that historical knowledge and the concept of time are socially influenced constructions that lead historians to be selective in the questions they seek to answer and the evidence they use.
(b). Apply key concepts such as time, chronology, causality, change, conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze, and how connections among patterns of historical change and continuity.
(d). Systematically employ processes of critical historical inquiry to reconstruct and reinterpret the past, such as using a variety of sources and checking their credibility, validating and weighing evidence for claims, and searching for causality.
NCSS.III. People, Places, and Environments. (h). Examine, interpret, and analyze physical and cultural patterns and their interactions, such as land use, settlement patterns, cultural transmission of customs and ideas, and ecosystem changes.
NCSS.IV. Individual Developments and Identity. (a). Articulate personal connections to time, place, and social/cultural systems.
(c). Describe the ways family, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, and other group and cultural influences contribute to the development of a sense of self.
(g). Compare and evaluate the impact of stereotyping, conformity, acts of altruism, and other behaviors on individuals and groups.
NCSS.V. Individuals, Groups, and Institutions. (a). Apply concepts such as role, status, and social class in describing the connections and interactions of individuals, groups, and institutions in society.
NSCC.VI. Power, Authority, and Governance. (c). Analyze and explain ideas and mechanisms to meet needs and wants of citizens, regulate territory, manage conflict, establish order and security, and balance competing conceptions of a just society.
(j). Prepare a public policy paper and present and defend it before and appropriate forum in school or community. [Our debates will count for this].
NCSS.VII. Production, Distribution, and Consumption. (c). Consider costs and benefits to society of allocating goods and services through private and public sectors.
(d). Describe relationships among various economic institutions that comprise economic systems such as households, business firms, banks, government agencies, labor unions, and corporations.
NCSS.X. Civic Ideals and Practices. (c). Locate, access, analyze, organize, synthesize, and apply information about public policy issues – identifying, describing, and evaluating multiple points of view.Listed below are all of the “high priority standards” for the entire year. Use this as a checklist, but be careful: only check a standard off once you feel you have demonstrated mastery.
UNIT ONE: (Revolution to Civil War)
□ 11.1.1 Students describe the Enlightenment and the rise of democratic ideas as the context in which the nation was founded.
□ 11.1.2 Students analyze the American Revolution, the divinely bestowed unalienable natural rights philosophy of the Founding Fathers and the debates surrounding the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, and the addition of the Bill of Rights.
□ 11.1.3 Students understand the history of the Constitution after 1787 with emphasis on federal versus state authority and growing democratization.
□ 11.1.4 Students examine the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction and of the industrial revolution, including demographic shifts and the emergence in the late nineteenth century of the United States as a world power.
UNIT TWO: (Industrialization and WWI)
□ 11.2.2 Students describe the changing landscape, including the growth of cities linked by industry and trade; the development of cities divided according to race, ethnicity, and class.
□ 11.2.4 Students analyze the effect of urban political machines and responses by immigrants and middle-class reformers.
□ 11.2.5 Students discuss corporate mergers that produced trusts and cartels and the economic and political policies of industrial leaders.
□ 11.2.9 Students understand the effect of political programs and activities of the Progressives (e.g., federal regulation of railroad transport, Children’s Bureau, the Sixteenth Amendment, Theodore Roosevelt, Hiram Johnson).
UNIT THREE: (Rise to power in 20th c.)
□ 11.4.1 Students list the purpose and the effects of the Open Door policy.
□ 11.4.2 Students describe the Spanish-American War and U.S. expansion in the South Pacific.
□ 11.4.3 Students discuss America’s role in the Panama Revolution and the building of the Panama Canal.
UNIT FOUR: (Roaring 20s)
□ 11.5.2 Students analyze the international and domestic events, interests, and philosophies that prompted attacks on civil liberties, including the Palmer Raids, Marcus Garvey’s “back-to-Africa” movement, the Ku Klux Klan, and immigration quotas and the responses of organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Anti-Defamation League to those attacks.
□ 11.5.4 Students analyze the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and the changing role of women in society.
□ 11.5.5 Students describe the Harlem Renaissance and new trends in literature, music, and art, with special attention to the work of writers (e.g., Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes).
UNIT FIVE: (Great Depression and New Deal)
□ 11.6.1 Students describe the monetary issues of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that gave rise to the establishment of the Federal Reserve and the weaknesses in key sectors of the economy in the late 1920s.
□ 11.6.2 Students understand the explanations of the principal causes of the Great Depression and the steps taken by the Federal Reserve, Congress, and the President to combat the economic crisis.
UNIT SIX: (World War II)
□ 11.7.1 Students examine the origins of American involvement in the war, with an emphasis on the events that precipitated the attack on Pearl Harbor.
□ 11.7.2 Students explain United States and Allied wartime strategy, including the major battles of Midway, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the Battle of the Bulge.
□ 11.7.5 Students discuss the constitutional issues and impact of events on the U.S. home front, including the internment of Japanese Americans (e.g., Fred Korematsu v. United States of America) and the restrictions on German and Italian resident aliens; the response of the administration to Hitler’s atrocities against Jews and other groups; the role of women in military production; the role and growing political demands of African Americans.
UNIT SEVEN: (Post-war domestic and foreign policy)
□ 11.8.2 Students describe the significance of Mexican immigration and its relationship to the agricultural economy, especially in California.
□ 11.8.5 Students describe the increased powers of the presidency in response to the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War.
□ 11.9.3 Students trace the origins and geopolitical consequences (foreign and domestic) of the Cold War and containment policy, including the following: The era of McCarthyism, instances of domestic communism (e.g., Alger Hiss) and blacklisting; The Truman Doctrine; The Berlin Blockade; The Korean War; The Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis; Atomic testing in the American West, the “mutual assured destruction” doctrine, and disarmament policies; The Vietnam War; Latin American policy
□ 11.9.4 Students list the effects of foreign policy on domestic policies and vice versa (e.g., protests during the war in Vietnam, the “nuclear freeze” movement).
UNIT EIGHT: (Civil and voting rights)
□ 11.10.2 Students examine and analyze the key events, policies, and court cases in the evolution of civil rights, including Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, and California Proposition 209.
□ 11.10.4 Students examine the roles of civil rights advocates (e.g., A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall, James Farmer, Rosa Parks), including the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and “I Have a Dream” speech.
□ 11.10.5 Students discuss the diffusion of the civil rights movement of African Americans from the churches of the rural South and the urban North, including the resistance to racial desegregation in Little Rock and Birmingham, and how the advances influenced the agendas, strategies, and effectiveness of the quests of American Indians, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans for civil rights and equal opportunities.
□ 11.10.7 Students analyze the women’s rights movement from the era of Elizabeth Stanton and Susan Anthony and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the movement launched in the 1960s, including differing perspectives on the roles of women.
UNIT NINE: (Social issues and domestic policies in contemporary U.S)
□ 11.11.1 Students discuss the reasons for the nation’s changing immigration policy with emphasis on the way the Immigration Act of 1965 and successor acts have transformed American society.
□ 11.11.3 Students describe the changing role of women in society as reflected in the major entry of women into the labor force and the changing family structure.
□ 11.11.4 Students explain the constitutional crisis originating from the Watergate scandal.