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State of New York State History

Teaching Teachers Local History: NYSED Changes the Rules

Middle School Field Trip

The New York State Education Department has changed the rules for the professional development of teachers. The changes affect teaching local and state history as well as all other subjects. The new system is called Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE). It was the subject of a workshop on April 2 prior to the formal start of the annual conference of the Museum Association of New York (MANY). I attended that workshop and consider it to have been the most important session in the conference.

By coincidence, Bruce Dearstyne has just written a post in New York History Blog entitled “New York History: Reaching Out to Social Studies Teachers.” I recommend it to you. He points out the three times in the k-12 curriculum that offer the best opportunity for infusing local and state history into the classroom and adds some comments:

*The Grade 4 Framework is entitled “New York State and Local History and Government” though coverage of New York history tapers off after about the mid-19th century and local history really is not covered at all.

*The Grade 7/8 Framework is titled “History of the United States and New York State” but in fact it focuses on U.S. history, with New York receiving little attention.

*The Grade 11 Framework focuses on “United States History and Government.” New York is not represented here but, given the fact that New York is arguably the nation’s most historically significant state, with many national trends starting here or playing out here, there is potential for infusing New York examples.

The reality of the situation is that the history community has to make the extra effort if local and state history is to be included in the curriculum. There will be the exceptional teachers who have a genuine interest in the subject and will make that effort and reach out to the local historical society but by and large teachers can comply with the current curriculum guidelines without paying any attention to you. As Bruce notes:

There are opportunities, particularly at the Grade 4 and 7/8 level, for integrating local, state, and national history, but it is up to historians and teachers to determine how best to do that. In fact, the preface to the Grade 7/8 Framework includes this short, but rather open-ended, suggestion:

“Teachers are encouraged to incorporate local features of state history in the course, such as the Dutch in the Hudson Valley, the Germans in the Schoharie Valley, the French in the Champlain Valley, Fort Niagara, the Brooklyn Naval Yard, the Seneca Falls Convention, Underground Railroad locations, war memorials, and other features in their community.”

Even the Path through History website includes more topics or themes in New York State history than this abbreviated notice.

Besides the shortcomings in the curriculum, the elephant in the room that is not being addressed is how teachers are to learn the local and state history which then can be incorporated into the classroom. Apparently it is by osmosis since no clear path is provided.

Do teachers need to learn local and state history as part of their certification process? No, not as social studies teachers or as elementary school teachers.

If a prospective teacher wanted to learn about local and state history while obtaining a masters degree, are such courses offered in the graduate schools of education or by the history department of the school? Rarely. How many SUNY schools, the major statewide producer of certified teachers, have such courses even as electives? How many of the other regional colleges with education programs offer such classes? So even if someone wanted to learn about state and local history, one would be hard pressed to do so through the certification process as it exists today.

Even if one did learn state history, would happen if the newly certified teacher took a job in a different region of the state? How would one learn about the local history in the area where one now taught?

Here is where professional development offers a solution. In general terms, teachers move up the salary rung by taking classes that enhance their ability to perform as a teacher. In this area, the educational experience can be in content (the history itself) as well as in the pedagogy (teaching the history in the classroom). Historical societies and museums therefore have the opportunity to offer to teachers for credit programs on local history. Of course, teachers are not obligated to take such classes.

When IHARE began to offer Teacherhostels, programs based on visiting history museums, hearing from scholars, and taking walks and bus tours, it was to provide content information in history. It might be thematic such as on the American Revolution or Hudson River Art or it might be geographic such as the history of Beacon, Cold Spring, Hastings-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, etc., or regional such as Hudson Valley or Mohawk Valley history. Here was a way to bring teachers and the history community together: to combine awareness of what teachers had to teach with the resources of the history museum. With teachers obligated to take 175 hours of professional development over a five year period, I thought my day-long, weekend, and weeklong programs of up to 45 hours fit the exact need of the teachers.

Boy, was I wrong! I was so clueless. It is impossible to underestimate the Mickey Mouse programs schools were able to create to comply with the state-mandated requirement. At the MANY session, the NYS presenters mentioned that the abuses in the professional development programs directly led to the creation of the CTLE system.

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you one example of school system ingenuity that appeared in the local newspaper. It is about a student program and not a teacher program but the defense of it by the school system is suggestive of the thinking that went into authorizing professional development programs as well. I am referring to a Hudson River cruise for 8th graders. The cost of the cruise was $37,000 (see the image for the cruise ship). That is not a typo. I won’t itemize the costs. Fortunately it is mostly paid for by the parents and the PTA and not the taxpayer.

I have used cruises in my own programs. We have cruised the Hudson River, the Mohawk River/Erie Canal, and the Champlain Canal. Generally these cruises are the final activities of the weekend or weeklong program. They provide a nice chance to enjoy the scenery in a relaxing setting and talk about what has been presented and what people will do when they return to the real world. Sometimes there are re-enactors/entertainers on board who talk about their time period. And at no time did a cruise cost $37,000.

How did the school system legitimate the annual Hudson River cruise of the 8th graders costing $37.000?  As the article notes, it turns out dining and dancing on a Hudson River cruise is part of the school curriculum. Quoting documents a concerned citizen obtain through the Freedom of Information Law, the school superintendent wrote:

“The field trip fosters student development and personal worth by celebrating and rewarding students’ hard work and completion of their middle school journey. The field trip promotes communication skills and understanding of human relations to the extent it enables students to travel together and interact with each other, chaperones and boat staff during the cruise. By travelling into the community together and along the Hudson River to NYC, the field trip expands students’ knowledge of society as they prepare for the next step of their academic and adult journeys.”

As is that wasn’t enough:

“[the cruise] is an essential component of the district’s eighth-grade academic program, specifically by promoting social-emotional learning across disciplines and communication skills in the English language arts of literacy curriculum.”

Does this person know how to sling the bull or what? Notice the expert use of approved jargon terms to convey a high-level meaning to a social activity. Upon entering the education jargon into my Universal Translator, I discovered that the true meaning of the words of the Superintendent can be more succinctly stated as:

LET’S PARTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It is this precise mindset that schools brought to the professional development requirements until at last New York State Education Department said enough is enough and instituted CTLE in 2016.

So what does this mean?

Previously each school district decided for itself what constituted professional development credit. By contrast, in Connecticut and Massachusetts, IHARE had to register with the respective state education departments and become an approved by the state. Under the new system, the same will be true in New York.  If you are not a state-approved entity you cannot offer teachers CTLE credit. The MANY workshop discussed the approval process which will be the subject of a future post where I will walk through the process.

With CTLE, the professional development contact hours for permanent certified teachers was reduced from 175 hours every five years to 100. While that seems like a cutback, there is a change in the recordkeeping process and the documenting of the individuals and institutions providing the professional development program. Think of a course curriculum or the information you obtain on a potential speaker at your site.  Just as you want to know if the speaker is legitimate to speak on a specific topic, so too, the State wants to ensure that the CTLE providers are legitimate as well: what are the credentials?

Teachers can be audited meaning the programs they submit to demonstrate compliance with the 100 hours requirement can be reviewed to ascertain if it really meets NYS Education Department standards.

School districts were automatically granted the right to issue CTLE credit. They do not need to apply to the State for approval. So if you are a small historic site that only deals with one school system than CTLE won’t affect you much except you will be asked by the school to document the credentials of your organization, the staff, and activities in the program. However, if you wish to offer a program to teachers from multiple school districts on a county, regional, or state basis then you will be better off becoming an authorized CTLE provider.

I will review the material presented at the conference workshop including contact information in a future post. I also have a copy of the PowerPoint presentation from the workshop which is available to anyone interested it.  There are still details to be worked out as became evident in the workshop since it is clear that not all historic sites and museums will apply for authorization. The New York State Museum itself which is part of the Education Department had to apply and I presume the same requirements apply to NPS sites as well private and public museums.  Also discussed as the workshop broke up, was since not everyone is even going to apply, something needs to be done to address that.

Finally, no matter what rules the State Education Department installs, one should never underestimate the ability of people to game the system.  One lesson from Bruce’s analysis confirms what was previously suspected: although there are opportunities in the k-12 curriculum for local and state history, it is easy to ignore them completely unless it also is part of national history (Battle of Saratoga, Erie Canal, 9/11).  The bigger issue for state and local history is not the CTLE but the curriculum itself and the certification requirements to be a teacher.

Comments on Bruce Dearstyne’s Blog

I am including some of the comments made in response to Bruce’s post.

1. Debi Duke: Thanks, Bruce! Social studies teachers — please join Teaching the Hudson Valley for our annual summer institute, July 25-27, in Hyde Park, BUILDING COMMUNITY WITH PLACE-BASED LEARNING. Workshops and field experiences cover all grades. Topics include Strategies for Exploring Your Amazing Hometown, Service Learning at Historic Sites, Votes for Women!: Inspiring Student Community Involvement through the History of Women’s Rights, and much more. CTLE approved.

Note: I have attended this conference on multiple occasions and even included participation in as part of a Hudson Valley Teacherhostel.

2. Please forward this email to all NYS educators in our public and private schools. Nice job, Bruce, and this needs to spread ‘like wildfire!’

3. Casey Jakubowski: Hi Bruce, et al. Capitol Area school development association is working closely with social studies teachers in creating local and state content. We have produced a series of webinars that you can access via your school. is the location for the website that will tell you how to get access.

Note: He formerly worked at the Education Department.

4. Bill Hosley: All history is local. Local is the level that matter most! I’d go further and say that one of the reasons History has lost its grip on students and the public is because academic historians have put too much emphasis on political history – “great men, great events.” Maybe that’s changing and maybe I am wrong – but I personally didn’t totally engage with history until I discovered it was all around me and in 1001 small things forgotten – touchstones to different contexts and eras – thrilling, immediate, tactile and visual. When and where will the revolution begin – because we need one. Local history is also the gateway to civic attachment – a real and substantial contemporary human need.

Note: We see other at history conferences and he has been a tireless advocate for local history in Connecticut as well as a responder to my posts.

5. Kyle Jenks: Great to see this positive feedback from so many people. You have struck a nerve that sings like a guitarist string! As they say in my favorite Bond movie, the Daniel Craig version of Casino Royale, “I am all in.”
My thrust is adding quality First Person Interpreters to the menu of educational methodology which has its academic roots in Process Drama, aka Applied Theater and Educational Theater.
All reading this may be heartened to know that I have met a woman with a noble cause. She is working on creating an online resource as a one stop shop for teachers and museum professionals to find interpreters that cut the mustard by demonstrating the highest level of commitment to scholarly research and performance acumen to cast as accurate a portrayal as possible.
Anyone interested in staying apprised of this development is welcome to contact me
Thank you for your thorough and persuasive message.

Note: Kyle will be performing as Governor Clinton in our parade as the Lower Manhattan Historical Association on July 2 at Federal Hall in Manhattan. He raises the important point about the role of individual re-enactors and performance in the teaching of history. Famed Hudson-Valley storyteller and musician Jonathan Kruk also will be performing in the parade.

17 thoughts on “Teaching Teachers Local History: NYSED Changes the Rules

  1. Peter,

    A footnote to your post. Last week Newsday, the Long Island newspaper, reported that Shoreham-Wading River school district paid more than $150,000 for the senior class trip to Disney World (with 181 students paying about $200 each).. I’m not sure that they tried to justify it as educational (though their attorney had advised that field trips should be paid for by the district rather than the students). Facing a backlash, the Board defunded $40,000 in the budget for the senior class trip in 2018,


    1. It’s is interesting to observe that while bus money for field trips to historic sites always is an issue, there always seems to be funding for the trips that really matter to the school.

      Thanks for writing,


  2. My K-12 education was in schools in New York: Bell Top Elementary in North Greenbush, Rensselaer County; Glenmont Elementary, Bethlehem Central Middle and High Schools in Bethlehem, Albany County. I have no recollection of any teacher mentioning there was a New York State Constitution, much less studying any version of it.

    Have the Regents done their job with respect to New York Education Law section 802? [sic – 801 ] In part:

    “2. The regents shall prescribe courses of instruction in the history, meaning, significance and effect of the provisions of the constitution of the United States, the amendments thereto, the declaration of independence, the constitution of the state of New York and the amendments thereto, to be maintained and followed in all of the schools of the state. The boards of education and trustees of the several cities and school districts of the state shall require instruction to be given in such courses, by the teachers employed in the schools therein. All pupils attending such schools, in the eighth and higher grades, shall attend upon such instruction.

    “Similar courses of instruction shall be prescribed and maintained in private schools in the state, and all pupils in such schools in grades or classes corresponding to the instruction in the eighth and higher grades of the public schools shall attend upon such courses. If such courses are not so established and maintained in a private school, attendance upon instruction in such school shall not be deemed substantially equivalent to instruction given to pupils in the public schools of the city or district in which such pupils reside.

    “3. The regents shall determine the subjects to be included in such courses of instruction in patriotism, citizenship, and human rights issues, with particular attention to the study of the inhumanity of genocide, slavery (including the freedom trail and underground railroad), the Holocaust, and the mass starvation in Ireland from 1845 to 1850, and in the history, meaning, significance and effect of the provisions of the constitution of the United States, the amendments thereto, the declaration of independence, the constitution of the state of New York and the amendments thereto, and the period of instruction in each of the grades in such subjects. They shall adopt rules providing for attendance upon such instruction and for such other matters as are required for carrying into effect the objects and purposes of this section. The commissioner shall be responsible for the enforcement of such section and shall cause to be inspected and supervise the instruction to be given in such subjects. The commissioner may, in his discretion, cause all or a portion of the public school money to be apportioned to a district or city to be withheld for failure of the school authorities of such district or city to provide instruction in such courses and to compel attendance upon such instruction, as herein prescribed, and for a non-compliance with the rules of the regents adopted as herein provided.

    “4. The regents shall designate a week during each year and prescribe a uniform course of exercises in the public schools of the state suitable for pupils of various ages to instill into the minds of such pupils the purpose, meaning and importance of the bill of rights articles in the federal and state constitutions. Such exercises shall be in addition to any prescribed courses of study in the schools.”

    If local history isn’t somehow part of the NY Regents exams, it’s unlikely to get that much attention in curriculums. Has there ever been a question about the state constitution? Seemingly not in recent years:

    Google search:
    “state constitution”

    1. Most of what you site refers to the abominable job being done in civics which can include local and state history but is not limited to it.

  3. Hi Peter,

    SUNY New Paltz requires all elementary school teachers who have history concentrations (versus English, Math, Science, or Spanish) to take a course in NYS history (we have a variety of choices including EMPIRE STATE, HISTORY OF NEW YORK CITY, INDIANS OF NEW YORK, and HUDSON VALLEY CULTURE. I believe that many SUNYs with education programs do offer NYS courses, though perhaps not require them.

    1. Hi Susan,

      Thanks for the reply and for subscribing to the blog. Could SUNY New Platz, which I guess means mostly you, hold a one-day workshop for teachers in the Hudson Valley on how to teach local and state history?


  4. Only one school in Schoharie County has a 1/2 year Schoharie County History class, a senior elective, and it’s a great class.
    SO sad that there is no requirement to teach about the state we live in!

    1. It would be nice to know what that school does. Is it willing to share the experience with others on how to do it and the obstacles it faced?


  5. The CTLE process may have merit in light of systemic abuses you point out, but it will do more harm than good to small local museums and historical societies in the long run – further distancing them from their local school districts and from being part of the education process overall – teachers will no longer get credit if they attend a non-CTLE certified program. If our historical institutions want to be CTLE certified, they will need to submit an application along with a $600 fee to State Ed! How many of our small institutions are going to have that kind of money for a limited audience???? No CTLE certification – no teachers will attend! Once again, the state government makes a blanket policy as a knee-jerk reaction to something that has been going on for a long time…this move will put New York history further out of reach of students.

    1. Heidi,

      You have hit on the exact issue I raised at the workshop. The procedure is still in the formative stage. Ultimately most history organizations will not apply for CTLE status for the reasons you stated. Most only serve a single local school district so the issue is moot since the school can authorize it. However, should a history organization want to reach out to multiple school districts then it is a problem. One solution is to have one historical organization per county obtain CTLE authorization and to be the record keeper for the others. I will be writing about this when I get around to the next CTLE post.


      1. I like this approach. Even my agency, which serves a 10 county area, has declined to apply for CTLE certification because of the cost. We hope to partner with our BOCES to provide training. After reading your article, I understand a little better the reasoning behind the CTLE approach, but at the moment it seems a bit like a bureaucratic nightmare.

        1. I will elaborate on this process in a future post. In your case you would need to find a BOCES or other organizations that serve the same region.

  6. Again, many thanks for publishing this local Westfield, NY historian’s letter to you for decades of frustration in attempting to keep local history alive and well. As you well know, this is not just NY, but a national educational issue! As a retired teacher/playwright for historical musicals for young people and DAR member, this is one of my serious concerns, along with the decline/demise of authentic American History in the schools for well over five decades!

    Grateful for all you do!
    Bonnie Wilder

    PS Pls email this to local NY historian Maryville Beigh if you think she might be interested.

  7. wow, you are really on it. On a lot of things.
    well, up to a few years ago anyway, the D of E sent around booklets or flyers as to what it wanted covered, to ‘teaching to’ changed emphasis. Thank God there wasn’t much about teaching kids that the Brits were responsible for the Irish famine. I thought THAT was an eyeroll moment. The hatreds that fester, really.
    The problem is that the teachers have their hands full with conduct problems. When I did student teaching with Medgar Evers in London, it was a wonderful experience to see that no one yells over there, no one raises the voice. And no school has more than 400 (I think it was 400, might have been 500) students. The principal knew each kid. We are really miseducating in subjects, in conduct, and it’s been going on since around 1950 or so.
    It’s fun reading this stuff though. Maybe they can point out that the Brits didn’t want to spend the $$ to take the Hessians home after the war so a ton stayed here…interesting. History is like that, aye?

  8. I currently have teens in public schools in NYS. I am increasingly pessimistic about any sort of deep connection between historical agencies and schools until the national education landscape changes. In the past decade, I have seen the non-teaching workload of educators increase exponentially. They have their hands full with data collection, documentation, and a focus on reading and math scores. At a meeting this week, I heard a conversation about how to speed up the process of recording minor discipline incidents into the VADIR system (stands for Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting, but it sounded like almost all incidents were supposed to be reported). I am sure my kids’ schools’ situation is worse than most since their schools were or still are in receivership, but I hear from educators in wealthy districts that they just don’t have time to devote to the great in-depth units that our historical sites and societies provide in the way that have been able to in the past.

    1. Regardless of all the other problems, as long as teacher certification and the curriculum don’t require local and state history, there won’t be any except for the teacher who makes the extra effort.

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