NJCSS Commences Grant on Living in New Jersey Before & During the American Revolution

NJCSS Commences Grant on Living in New Jersey Before and During the American Revolution

by David DiCostanzo, Vineland High School (NJ)

Several Social Studies teachers from around the state began a research grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission to examine the histories of ordinary people in New Jersey and how the events leading up to and during the Revolutionary War impacted their lives. The grant, “Telling Our Story: Living in New Jersey Before and During the American Revolution”, is an effort by the NJCSS to prepare educators in New Jersey for the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution during the 2025-26 school year. The 250th anniversary celebrations will continue through 2031 and are part of the overall mission of the NJCSS to provide and make available meaningful lessons and activities to students, teachers, and the public. This is important work because it engages students and residents in various counties throughout New Jersey about the birth of representative government in America.

Research Scholars Working at the MCHA Museum on 11/6/2021

The purpose of this grant is for each research scholar to explore primary sources, such as pamphlets and letters, related to events that affected the lives and livelihoods of people during the American Revolution. The results of this research will be communicated to students in Grades 4-12 (and college) through activity-based lessons requiring role playing, simulation and/or debating decisions relating to the personal experiences of people living in New Jersey in the 1770s. Each research scholar is also responsible for submitting an article on their topic for publication, producing a 3-5-minute documentary, and including an annotated bibliography.  The articles will be published on the NJCSS website and the documentaries will be made available via our Vimeo channel. Our team of research scholars include:

Bobby Ciarletta           Ramapo College of New Jersey

Kevin Daly                  Parsippany Troy Hills High School

David DiCostanzo      Vineland High School

Bob Fenster                 Hillsborough High School

Bill Smith                    Shore Regional High School

Karen Smith                Immaculate Conception MS

Susan Soprano            Passaic Middle School

The Dey Mansion in Wayne, New Jersey

Recently, these research scholars in coordination with Dr. Lucia McMahon, Professor and Chair of History at William Paterson University, Dr. Mark Percy, Professor of Social Studies Education at Rider University, and Mr. Hank Bitten, Executive Director of the NJCSS visited two historical sites as a way of beginning their research. On Friday, November 5, 2021, the group worked from the Dey Mansion in Wayne, New Jersey. Dey Mansion was the headquarters of General George Washington and the Continental Army during the fall and summer of 1780. The Dey Mansion promotes the examination of life during the colonial era and the events and people of the American Revolution.  This historical site also offers a wide range of inquiry based educational programs for students in all grade levels.  Under the direction of Dey Mansion Curator and Research Librarian Jessica Bush, the group spent a productive day touring the grounds, learning about the importance or material culture, and conducting independent and group research. Marc Lorenc from the New Jersey Historical Commission welcomed us.

The Monmouth County Historical Association Museum in Freehold, New Jersey

On Saturday November 6, 2021, the grant participants headed south and spent the day at the Monmouth Historical Society Museum in Freehold, New Jersey.  Founded in 1898, the Monmouth County Historical Association manages the museum.  Their mission of the association is to collect, preserve, and interpret its extensive museum, research library, and archival collections that relate to Monmouth County’s history and culture and makes these resources available to the widest possible audience. Under the direction of Research Librarian and Archivist Dana Howell, the group read through and scanned over 200 primary source documents related to dozens of individuals that lived in Monmouth County during the American Revolution. Several of the educators were extremely impressed with the museum which included a recent exhibition honoring hometown musician Bruce Springsteen. The NJCSS would like to thank Jessica Bush and Dana Howell for a wonderful two days!

Going forward, the research scholars will be meeting at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark, New Jersey on December 4, 2021.  In Newark, they will carry on their research which will continue to be guided by Dr. McMahon, Dr. Pearcy, and Mr. Bitten. The research scholars will have two additional opportunities to meet in January to work on their projects.  All of the grant participants will also conduct independent research by visiting 18th century historical sites in their own respective counties and by sharing their findings and presentations with other Social Studies teachers and people in their individual school districts. The finished products are scheduled to be completed in February and March of 2022.

Developing a FAIR School Homework Policy

Michael Pezone is a retired social studies teacher who taught at the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety in Jamaica, Queens. He organized his classes around research and writing projects for teams and individuals, oral presentations, class discussion, and civic action. This project was developed for Participation in Government classes. Many of his students had difficulty presenting their ideas in writing and supporting them with evidence. This project was designed to support students who will be taking the New York State English/Language Arts Regents Exam. Many of the students in his classes took the exam more than once so they can earn a diploma.

Introduction:

While changes in the larger society are needed to address problems like poverty and homelessness, there are things schools can do to help students affected by these issues. Your group is tasked to write a practical and reasonable proposal to the principal to suggest a school wide homework policy that might better serve all students, including our most needy students. (“No more homework, ever!” is NOT a practical proposal). Use information from the documents below as well as outside information to complete the project.

Requirements

A. A written recommendation addressed to the principal (see suggested outline below). Your group’s proposal must:

  1. Be 150 words that are extremely well written. Your proposal must be typed in friendly letter format (the format will be projected on the smart board during class).
  2. Explain how poverty and homelessness in NYC affect the ability of many children to do homework. Use statistics and other evidence to support your explanation. Use information from the documents and from your own research. Cite your source(s). (See how to cite the documents below)
  3. Propose a practical and reasonable school wide homework policy to address these issues

B. A poster that will be presented in class along with the proposal and may be selected to present to the principal. The poster should contain: A title and student names on the front of the poster; Chart(s), graph(s), and photo(s) that support your proposal, along with captions that explain what each chart, graph, photo shows. The poster should be EXTREMELY attractive with accurate information.

C. Presentations. Each group will present their proposals and posters to the class. All proposals will then be combined into one final proposal. Students will choose a team (two or three students from each class) to present the proposal to the principal. One poster will be chosen for use in the presentation to the principal.

How to Cite the Documents

(Singer, “Children Need Homes, Not Charter Schools Or Standardized Tests, And Definitely Not Tax Cuts For The Wealthy,” Huffington post, 12/14/2017)

(“Homelessness in New York State,” NYSTeachs, nysteachs.org/info-topic/statistics, 2017)

(“Figure 1: Time high school students spend on homework by race and parent’s income,” Brookings Institute, brookings.edu, 2017)

Suggested Paper Outline

I. First paragraph: Explain the problem of poverty and homelessness and how it affects NYC students, using statistics and evidence to support your explanation

II. Second paragraph: Present your proposal for a school wide homework policy

III. Brief concluding paragraph: Thank her for her consideration of the issue and ask her to meet with a team of students to discuss your proposal

Directions: Read the key term and documents and then complete the group assignment below.

Key Term: “Gentrification” – process of renovation of deteriorated urban neighborhoods by means of the eviction of poor residents to make way for an influx of more affluent residents.

Document 1 – Article: “Children Need Homes, Not Charter Schools or Standardized Tests, and Definitely Not Tax Cuts for the Wealthy,” by Alan Singer, Huffington Post, 12/14/2017
 
(1) Over 1.1 million children and teens attend more than 1,800 New York City public schools. About one-third of these children live in poverty. In addition, 111,562 students were homeless at some point during the 2016-2017 school year. They are assigned homework, but they have no homes. It is as if these children are trapped in a 19th-century Charles Dickens novel about London’s poor.     

(2) New York City is not a Third World country, but 10 percent of its registered students live on the street, in cars, in shelters, in abandoned buildings, in public housing double-ups, and in over-crowded deteriorating tenements with people they do not know. They often don’t have basic food, clothing, and health care, or heat in the freezing winter and air-conditioning in the sweltering summer. They don’t do homework and they don’t do well on standardized tests. Over 60 percent are chronically absent from school.  

(3) Homeless children are the collateral damage of gentrification in New York City. Between 2000 and 2015 the Hispanic population of Washington Heights in Manhattan declined by over 10,000 people. There were double-digit percentage declines in Hispanic population in the gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhoods of Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bushwick. The African American population sharply declined in Harlem and the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. No one is asking what happened to the children who used to live in these communities.

(4) During his reelection campaign, Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed great advances in addressing homelessness and school performance. These children don’t see it. The governor and his appointees on New York State school accrediting agencies push for more charter schools and lowering teacher qualifications. It is not clear how this will make a difference in the lives of these children. The City Council is discussing a bill that will ensure families applying for places in homeless shelters receive school information. They must be kidding, but the kids don’t get the joke.

(5) Mayor De Blasio, Governor Cuomo and President Trump need to know this: Schools and teachers can do just so much to help homeless children. Children need homes. Their parents need jobs. Authorizing additional charter schools and standardized testing and AP classes are pretend solutions to very real and pressing social problems.

(6) Expect the situation to grow worse. The Trump tax scam will force cuts in a range of federal programs including medical care. Such cuts in social services will be done so that tax breaks for the rich will not increase the national debt too much. Under Trump’s plan, loss of tax breaks for state and local governments will squeeze middle-class taxpayers and force state and local governments to lower taxes and cut spending on vital social services. Already two New Jersey towns have rejected school spending increases that were expected to pass. Children from the poorest families will be amongst the hardest hit.

Document 2: Data on Homelessness in New York State

(NYSTeaches – Chart shows growing homelessness from the 2009-2010 school year to the 2016-2017 school year)

Document 3: “Time high school students spend on homework by race and parent’s income.”

(Brookings Institute, www.brookings.edu, 2017)

Document 4: “Households with School-Age Children That Do Not Have Broadband Access

National Education Association, www.neatoday.org/2016/04/20/the-homework-gap/, 2016

Questions

  1. What percentage of all households with incomes under $50,000 lack a high-speed internet connection?
  2. What percentage of all households with a $50,000 income or higher lack a high-speed internet connection?  
  3. Which racial group has the most broadband access?
  4. Which racial group has the least broadband access?
  5. In a full sentence, state the relationship between income level and broadband access.
  6. In a full sentence, answer the question: How does lack of broadband access affect homework completion rates?
Homework Policy Project Grading Rubric (Total 15 pts)

Content of Proposal (0-3)
Is your explanation of the problem of poverty and homelessness and
their effects on homework completion well organized and logical?
Is your explanation supported by statistics and other evidence?
Is your proposal for a school wide homework policy reasonable and
practical?

Quality of Writing (0-4)
Is your writing of high quality, typed, with no errors?
Do you follow a simple paragraph format?
Do you properly cite your sources?

Quality of Poster (0-4)
Is the information presented accurate?
Is the poster extremely attractive?
Does the poster present graph(s), chart(s), and photo(s) with titles and
captions for each that explain what they are showing?
Does the poster contain a title and student names on front?

Presentation and Teamwork (0-4)
Do all group members contribute to the proposal and poster?
Do all group members come on time and follow school rules?
Do all group members behave in a mature manner?
Do all group members take turns presenting their proposal and poster to the class?