The Education Innovator #31
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The Education Innovator
 September 29, 2003 • Number 31
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  Past issues
What's inside...
"Freedom's Story: The American Experience"
What's New
Teaching American History grants announced; charter schools named Blue Ribbon Schools; Innovations in Education Exchange focuses on supplemental services; charter school conference agenda to be built with input from the public; National History Day and others sponsor "Our Documents" project; new guide to partnerships for home-schoolers available; and Education|Evolving formed to promote "new schools."
Innovations in the News
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund 67 new, small public high schools in New York City; plus information on teaching American history; home-schooling; charter schools; and virtual schools.

"Freedom's Story: The American Experience" Will Provide Rich History Content for Los Angeles Teachers
Students across the country lack knowledge of American history, according to National Assessment of Educational Progress data. Yet, a recent report on state history standards gives California an "A" for rich content. This dichotomy presents major challenges: How can school districts create a bridge between a robust American history curriculum and the ability of students to perform at a high level on history exams? How can the districts provide the necessary support to the teachers in the classroom so that these teachers can carry out history instruction on a daily basis?

In order to address these challenges, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will sponsor a new professional development program for its elementary school teachers, entitled "Freedom's Story: The American Experience." This program will be implemented in partnership with the Henry E. Huntington Library, one of the largest and most complete research libraries in the United States in its fields of specialization, which include American history and literature.

The "Freedom's Story" program addresses LAUSD's need to enrich the elementary school teaching of traditional American history and to align it with the content-rich California state standards. Areas of study will include the history of Native Americans; the 13 colonies; slavery; English roots; the Founding Fathers; the American Revolution; the Bill of Rights; the Constitution; and westward expansion until 1850. The project hopes to:

  • Raise student achievement by enhancing participating teachers' knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of American history;
  • Assist teachers with teaching American history as a separate subject within the core curriculum; and
  • Improve teachers' ability to help students achieve higher standards in American history.
To accomplish these goals, 125 fifth-grade teachers in 32 inner city elementary schools in Los Angeles will participate in the program. There will be six three-day history seminars and six single-day workshops. The program will include lectures, interactive discussions, lesson plans, other instructional resources, and teaching assistance from Nationally Board Certified teachers and/or teacher mentors.

Teachers will be randomly assigned to one of four professional development paths in a process that mirrors scientific testing of an intervention or treatment:

  1. One group of teachers will participate in the professional development program described above, participating in a total of 24 days of intensive, highly focused professional development over a three-year period.
  2. A second group of teachers will participate in the same type of professional development activities as group one, plus they will use classroom libraries to improve student understanding of American history and measure the effects of content knowledge on reading literacy.
  3. A third group of teachers will participate in the same type of professional development activities as group one, plus they will have instructional planning time, time to reflect on their classroom practice, and time for peer collaboration in addition to the first treatment.
  4. A fourth group of teachers will participate in the activities of all groups: one, two and three.
The effectiveness of these approaches will be compared, using student achievement data from the statewide California tests of history achievement that are aligned with the state history standards.

The Huntington Library will provide all the content-based professional development activities through its resident and visiting scholars program with Ph.D. historians. The library will provide content instruction, model curriculum for fifth-grade students, instruction in the use of primary sources, original lesson plans, and access to temporary exhibits of library materials that pertain to the professional development workshops and seminars.

"Freedom's Story: The American Experience" will be funded by a 2003 Teaching American History grant (see What's New). The Office of Innovation and Improvement administers this grant program. For more information on the Los Angeles Unified School District, go to: For more information on the Huntington Library, go to: For more information on the Thomas B.Fordham Foundation's report on history standards, go to: For information on the Teaching American History grant program, see

Note: This feature describes a new program and no data on effectiveness or impact are available at this time. The program design has an evaluation component that will be conducted toward the end of the grant period. This evaluation, which uses random assignment, will help determine the effects of different models of professional development on students and teachers.


What's New
Secretary Paige announce the 2003 Teaching American History Grants press release.
Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced the 2003 Teaching American History grants and a partnership with the History Channel. For a press release with these announcements, see (Sept. 22)

Secretary Paige names three Blue Ribbon Schools.
Secretary Paige has named three charter schools as Blue Ribbon Schools under No Child Left Behind. The charter schools are Summit Middle Charter School in Boulder, CO and Kaleidoscope/Caleidoscopio Middle School and KIPP Academy both in Houston, TX. For a complete listing of all Blue Ribbon Schools go to:

OII sponsored its third Innovations in Education Exchange on the topic of supplemental educational services.
For a press release on this event, see (Sept 25)

OII will sponsor a Charter Schools Conference in June 2004.
The charter school community will shape the agenda for the conference. For a description of the conference and the public outreach efforts, see (Sept 18)

National History Day (a program that partners with several Teaching American History grantees), the National Archives, and USA Freedom Corps have created the "Our Documents" project to strengthen understanding and appreciation of the records and values that form our democracy.
For more information, see (Sept 24)

The ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management has published Support for Home-Based Education, a guide to partnerships between public schools and families who educate their children at home. (Spring 2003)

A new Minnesota-based national initiative called Education|Evolving has been created to promote the rationale and importance of "new schools" as an essential element in achieving needed changes and improvements in teaching and learning.
For more information go to:


Innovations in the News

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will channel $51.2 million in grants through nonprofit groups to create 67 new, small public high schools in New York City, designed around themes, such as technology, theater and the environment. [More-The New York Times] (Sept. 18)

Teaching American History
Cynthia Mostoller, a Teaching American History adviser, was spotlighted as an "innovative educator" in a recent article in the Washington Post. [More-The Washington Post] (Sept. 22)

The number of children being taught by their parents is rising, and these families' backgrounds are increasingly diverse. [More-The Baltimore Sun] (Sept. 15)

Charter Schools
Siletz Valley School is the first Native American-run charter school in Oregon. Most of its 163 students are members of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, and some of the school's teachers are tribal members, too. [More-The Register Guard] (Sept. 22)

The Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter School in North Adams, MA got a boost when Governor Mitt Romney announced the state has been awarded a $6 million grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement to help build and renovate charter schools. [More-The Berkshire Eagle Online] (Sept. 18)

Virtual Schools
Students who are looking for flexibility and a full menu of courses are increasingly turning to Illinois's virtual high school. The school was started in 2001 to give students from rural, small or low-performing schools a chance to take economics, oceanography, or other courses not offered at their own schools. [More-STL] (Sept. 21)

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Last Modified: 04/26/2011