Course Syllabus

Jasper Johns - Three Flags [1958]UNITED STATES HISTORY


Dr. Cacace

Wellesley High School

Room 410


Back to School Night Presentation:




This course surveys key periods in United States history from the founding to the present.  The course is taught thematically instead of chronologically.  In particular, we will study three themes:   

  • Striving for Balance Between Democracy and Authority
    • How effectively has the government maintained its authority while protecting the rights of individuals and of states?
  • American Foreign Policy
    • What have been the paths, costs, and motives toward becoming a superpower?
  • Struggle for Equality
    • Through what mechanisms have marginalized groups gained greater equality in both law and in practice?


We will study each theme independently, tracing it from the founding to the present.  This means that we will cycle through American history three distinct times, each with a different perspective and focus. 


A thematic approach to the study of history is advantageous because it allows students to:

  • Evaluate and analyze how key issues in American history transcend time and space
  • Engage meaningfully with material, as we study it from a range of perspectives that resonate in different ways with different students
  • Learn equally about all eras of United States history without rushing to get to “the end”
  • Understand how various aspects of American history cohere to form a narrative of the American experience



  • To approach history critically and analytically
  • To analyze and evaluate competing sources of historical information from multiple perspectives
  • To describe history through the experiences of those who lived it in order to gain historical empathy and imagination 
  • To develop a clear sense of historical time in order to explain patterns of historical continuity and change
  • To formulate and evaluate original and insightful arguments using primary sources, secondary sources, and historical data
  • To develop and deepen critical thinking, reading, speaking, and writing skills at an advanced level



This year WHS is making two important policy changes that will shape how you are graded in this course:

  • Semester System
    • WHS is moving to a semester system.  There will no longer be four terms.  Instead, you will receive one grade for semester 1 and one grade for semester 2.  
  • Standards Based Grading
    • WHS will be transitioning to a standards based grading system over the next two years
    • A standards based grading system is one in which students performance is evaluated across a series of core competencies.
      • Content Knowledge and Understanding
      • Approach to Learning / Student Skills and Behaviors
      • Student Reflection on Process, Progress, and Product
    • For each assignment, you will be evaluated using a rubric listing relevant standards.
    • You will receive an “exemplary,” “proficient,” “needs improvement,” or “let’s work together” on each standard.
    • Because WHS will still be reporting semester and year-end grades using an A-F scale, your evaluations will ultimately be indexed to a final letter grade. 

NOTE: Seniors will  receive a letter grade on 11/6.  This grade will be based on work completed by this time. 


  • Our Canvas page will be absolutely essential to our course this year
  • On Canvas you will find topic schedules, archived copies of class lectures, handouts and readings, and you will be able to access and submit assignments
  • Make sure you are able to access the page and are familiar with its layout



This course will be exciting, rewarding, and memorable.  I know you will all succeed, learn, and have fun.  However, to make this possible all of us must follow certain behavioral expectations. 

  • Be positive!  Embrace others’ opinions and share your thoughts and feelings!
  • Be curious!  Ask questions, grapple with difficult issues, change your opinions, and seek a greater understanding!
  • Be prepared!  Bring your laptop, binder/notebook, pen/pencil, and your assignment book to class every day.  Be in your seat and ready to work when the bell rings!
  • Be respectful to everyone and everything! 



  • Be on time to all zoom sessions
  • Have your camera on
  • Sit up straight with your laptop/notebook ready for notetaking
  • Participate! Ask questions and share your ideas
  • Set your audio to mute when not speaking
  • Use your full name
  • Put your pronouns after your name



  • I am more than happy to connect with you for extra help or enrichment!
  • Please email me to set up a time to talk or connect!







Course Summary:

Date Details Due