ATL Identity: Business, Trade, and Transportation

On a recent trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, I had the opportunity to take in the city’s art and restaurant scene, which I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone for a weekend.  More than just giving me loads of inspiration, the visit called me to reflect/question how a city’s identity is constructed.  Does the run of the mill Jane Smith typically reflect more on the history of a city or the trends of the present before she visits?  And what draws people to each city?  What makes them move there?  What makes them stay?  What drives them away?  Me?  I like low taxes and a great art scene.  I like walkability and commerce.  Others like quiet and quaint, picturesque views and still more love the hustle and bustle of of big city life.  As I focused my lens on Charlotte, I tried to think how my own city projects itself to the world.

Atlanta-rolling-1871Atlanta has a rich history, long before rising from the ashes of the Civil War.  My city, named Terminus, for its rail identity was one that sprang up from necessity of business, trade, and transportation.  Long before she ever became the Gateway to the South, Atlanta was buzzing with people moving to and fro, selling their wares and has always had a more transient population as a result.  Locals here know there are few true “native” Atlantans, as most Georgians coming from small towns move here to either try their hand at making it “big” in the “big city” or to escape the narrowness of living in a small town straight out of Faulkner.  My story was similar: farm girl grows up in Social Circle.  Studies hard in small town and attends the women’s’ college (Agnes Scott College) in small town close to bigger city.

I always like to ask people I meet why they moved here.  I know why I did, but I assume different strokes for different folks.  The resounding answer I tend to get is for “jobs” and the opportunity for upward mobility.  Is this legacy of a business oriented city still true?  Are we really a city that allows outsiders to come in and pull themselves up by the bootstraps to “make it”?  If so, how are we continuing to foster that image and promote growing business?

Atlanta has done a great job of promoting itself as a city “too busy to hate” and a place whose Mayor tries to be responsive to his business community.  Most recently, Mayor Reed had his Bobby Kennedy moment in the spot light as he tried to calm the #BlackLivesMatter movement protests in the streets.  In many ways, he navigated the storm well, with respect for the protestors and the blue line.  The moment Reed welcomed peaceful protests in the streets of Atlanta while asking them to stay out of the expressway was a moment I was truly proud of him!  I wish more people in the nation had the opportunity to see that side of our city.  In a city with a black mayor, a black city council, county commission and school board, we know from the bottom to the top that #blacklivesmatter here.

Mountaintop moments did not end in Atlanta with MLK, Jr. Continue reading “ATL Identity: Business, Trade, and Transportation”

The AP U.S. History War Comes to Georgia

I posted my opinion on Charter Confidential about the battle to rid Georgia of Advanced Placement U. S. History, or at least cleanse it sufficiently to satisfy the GOP overlords in the state legislature. Reprinting here for your reading enjoyment.

There has been quite the hue and cry raised across the Bible Belt and beyond about the content of Advanced Placement U. S. History (APUSH), Georgia being no exception. Essentially, the effort appears designed to ban APUSH from the state curriculum. An Oklahoma committee of legislators voted in favor of a bill to prevent state funds from being used to provide APUSH, and instead offer students a “homegrown” curriculum. The bill has been withdrawn after the story gained national notoriety, but the controversy continues to rage, centered primarily in the South but also surfacing in Colorado.

Much of the focus seems to be on whether the APUSH content is sufficiently patriotic to suit members on the right of the Republican party (are there any that are not on the right?), although there is also a strain of paranoia that “the feds” are attempting to usurp control of curriculum from the states. In Georgia, SR 80 would require that APUSH be withdrawn in its current form by the state, and defunded if changes aren’t made to the satisfaction of GOP Sen. William Ligon (Brunswick) & company (Millar-Dunwoody, Hill-Marietta, Jeffares-McDonough, Watson-Savannah, “and others”). As Sen. Ligon led the charge last session against Common Core, it’s no surprise that he would be similarly offended by the College Board, although neither Common Core nor Advanced Placement is a federal initiative.

It is a surprise to me that Fran Millar is part of this effort, and that’s what makes me suspect that, at least here in Georgia, opposition to APUSH is a party-line situation more than anything else. Fran is what I like to call a common sense conservative, not one given to hysteria, and to be fair, I haven’t spoken to him yet about why he is co-sponsoring the bill. What doesn’t surprise me is that once again, a well-meaning bunch of legislators are getting too far into the weeds of what state-agency licensed teachers are doing, i.e., deciding what specific curriculum will be used in classrooms.

What makes the most sense to me, as an administrator responsible for my district’s curriculum offerings, is to compare the new APUSH manual to the Georgia Performance Standards for U.S. History — the proposed legislation states that the APUSH framework “differs radically” from GPSUSH. I have read both documents cover-to-cover, and I don’t buy the argument being made by the legislators. With all due respect to the senators, I’m pretty sure I know more about curriculum analysis than they do. I speak from experience not only as an administrator but also as a former National Board Certified Teacher of English, history, and French. In my teaching days, I taught AP Language and Composition and co-taught it with a social studies teacher who taught APUSH.

The Advanced Placement standards do not dictate the specific reading selections or classroom activities for AP teachers — and they never have. The classroom teacher has the freedom to teach APUSH incorporating the state standards within the broad curriculum framework established by the College Board and outlined in the Course and Exam Description for each subject. The AP exam administered at the end of the course determines whether students have attained the standards, which for APUSH include the following:

  1. Historical thinking skills (chronological reasoning, comparison and contextualization, crafting historical arguments from historical evidence, and historical interpretation and synthesis);
  2. Thematic learning objectives, which describe what colleges expect AP students to know and be able to do by the end of a college-level survey course in American history;
  3. The concept outline, a series of nine historical periods from the pre-colonial era to the present; and
  4. The APUSH exam itself, an essay-based assessment.

As the College Board’s own APUSH manual for teachers emphasizes, “the concept outline does not attempt to provide a list of groups, individuals, dates, or historical details, because it is each teacher’s responsibility to select relevant historical evidence of his or her own choosing to explore the key concepts of each period in depth” [emphasis mine]. The GPSUSH does in fact provide a list of groups, individuals, dates, and historical details. Advanced Placement Teachers of are required to develop their own syllabus for each AP course, which is submitted by the school to the College Board for approval. There is nothing preventing a Georgia APUSH teacher from taking the GPSUSH groups, individuals, dates, and historical details and incorporating them into the APUSH syllabus for the school’s and the College Board’s approval.

If the Georgia senators don’t want to take this old maid schoolteacher’s word for it, they might inquire of one of the state’s best authorities on curriculum and instruction, Dr. Martha Reichrath. As Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at the Georgia Department of Education, she is one of the smartest educational leaders this state has ever produced. At the Common Core listening sessions last year, which descended into near-freak show hilarity during public comment, Dr. Reichrath was a voice of reason. The discussion on APUSH needs to be led by public school administrators and teachers. With all due respect to our elected representatives, it’s not your place to tell education professionals what to teach, or how to teach it — that’s our job. After all, theGeorgia Professional Standards Commission (an agency that is Georgia-grown and Georgia-owned) has certified us, and the GaPSC is charged with “protecting Georgia’s higher standard of learning.”

Dr. Monica Henson is superintendent and chief executive officer of Provost Academy Georgia.