About Me

My photo
A concerned member of the human race

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The 1956 World-History Regents Meets Students of Today: How Many Test Takers Are Rebels Without a Cause?

How many test takers are rebels without a cause?

On the last day before the holiday break, I gave my tenth-graders a glimpse into an era long, long ago.  Given that their school year is capped by the New York State Regents, I gave them a sample from years past.  We looked at the Regents from June 1956.

Overall, the 1956 multiple-choice questions seem to require more recall than higher-level skills.  The exam begins with vocabulary.  Doubtless, a bane for many of the foreign born.  Question number nine seems easy for any time, but number twelve is more challenging.  Most current NYC students will know little to nothing about Frederick the Great of Prussia.  He is less than Great, if the past twenty years of Regents questions is used as a measure .  Peter, Catherine, Maria Theresa and Joseph are given far more attention for their enlightened ideas.   

I liked question seventeen.  When I teach Bismarck and German unification, I typically spend a day on the creation of the modern welfare state in Germany.  We look at some of the landmark social legislation developed to pull the rug from underneath the feet of the Socialist Party.  Strange how some of the most meaningful reform comes in the name of preserving aspects of the old system.

The 1956 test seems far more conscious of time than many of our tests today.  There are some questions that draw on knowledge of relatively current events for 1956.  Look at number twenty one on Cyprus.  Then, there is a timeline for questions 25-30.  My students would not have much of a prayer here.  Although we attempt to teach students how one set of events grows out of a preceding set, there is too much confusion in covering the whole world from region to region across centuries.  Students sometimes get sadly lost between time and place.    

 The writing section seems far more challenging than the Regents today.  Currently, students are asked to complete one thematic essay.  They are given the latitude to write about any topics (leaving aside those focused primarily upon the United States) which speak to the theme and the question asked.  There is also a DBQ-essay.  Students are given documents to examine as evidence.  They are additionally asked to pull in some prior information to respond coherently to the question(s) posed.  

In the 1956 test, the writing section more than makes up for the largely recall-based multiple choice.  Students are asked to choose seven of nine questions.  Two questions incorporate some multiple-choice, but notice they also incorporate a letter b which asks for more significant information.  Question 3 looks a lot like a question I gave my students this year.  I would hope most students would be able to explain at least five persons in question 4.  They won't know enough about Benjamin Disraeli though.  I like the last three questions, but I suspect my students' answers would stray from the realm of the desirable.

A few of my students said they preferred the 1956 exam to the current Regents.  I am guessing, however, that if the 1956 exam was a reality, hanging over their heads, as will be the Common Core for students in June 2016, they would quickly change their tune.  

Today, we want and we expect more students than ever to graduate.  Yet, the Common-Core tests will be designed to fail more students than ever.  They will also drive more students than ever away from school.  The 1950s had its "rebels without a cause."  No wonder in this Common-Core aligned world, it seems our rebels have more cause than ever!

And for those who would like to check any of the multiple-choice answers, feel free to look below.  Just remember, come what may, it is FOR TEACHERS ONLY:

No comments:

Post a Comment