Teaching American History

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Michigan 2006 Grant Abstracts
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Grantee Name:Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, MI
Project Name:Laying Foundations for Historical Inquiry in American History II
Project Director:Beth A. Onusko Savalox
Number of Teachers Served:50
Number of School Districts Served:2
Number of Students Served:21,000
Grade Levels:K-12 (with an emphasis on K-5)
Partners:Huron School District, the Henry Ford Museum, the Michigan History Museum, and the University of Michigan (Dearborn)
Topics:migration and mobility in local, state, and regional history 1790-1850; the importance of individuals in history; ethnic groups in the nation's founding; causes of the American Revolution; the Constitution; and civil rights
Methods:summer institutes, field experiences, and workshops

Within the elementary social studies standards, history is one-fourth of the curriculum, yet less than 1% of elementary teachers majored in history, and less than 12% are rated as "highly qualified" in social studies. This project seeks to rectify this situation by offering content-based professional development, district-adopted units to raise student achievement, and ongoing support for teachers as they implement history units. The centerpiece of the project, the Summer Institutes, will build upon teachers' foundation of knowledge by scaffolding critical elements of history education. The first cornerstone will be placed by the lead historian, drawn from partner institutions, who will address the teacher as a learner by exploring a central theme of the national story with interactive lectures and a sound reading list. The next layer will incorporate small breakout sessions based on primary resource analysis and critical discussion. Here historians will challenge teachers' interpretation of evidence and push them to think like professional historians.

Grantee Name:Waterford School District, MI
Project Name:Historians and Teachers Together
Project Director:Carol Bacak-Egbo
Number of Teachers Served:136
Number of School Districts Served:2
Number of Students Served:13,380
Grade Levels:5, 8, 10
Partners:the Oakland County Pioneer and Historical Society, Oakland University, the Michigan Council for History Education, the Historical Society of Michigan, the Henry Ford Museum, and the Waterford Historical Society
Topics:the American Revolution, political culture in early America, free Blacks in the colonies, how southern resistance defeated northern and southern Republicans, the Roaring Twenties, the Vietnam era, and the origins of the Cold War
Methods:creation of an American history team, mentoring, networking, workshops, informal group learning, summer institutes, technology support, and field trips

Waterford faces a high failure rate of students in American history classes, with state assessment scores at or below state scores and well below county scores. Recent local assessment data indicated that fewer than half of students met or exceeded standards relating to American history knowledge. Current American history teachers demonstrate low levels of professional training and minimal knowledge of subject matter content in grades 5, 8, and 10. The project will provide these teachers with extended, sustained professional development led by distinguished historians. The result will be an increase in content knowledge of American history and a heightened understanding of effective instructional strategies for delivering this content.

Last Modified: 08/18/2006