Teaching American History

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Colorado 2006 Grant Abstracts
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Grantee Name:Greeley-Evans Weld County School District 6, CO
Project Name:Colorado Academy of History
Project Director:Fritz Fischer
Number of Teachers Served:40
Number of School Districts Served:6
Number of Students Served:30,000
Grade Levels:K-12
Partners:the University of Northern Colorado, Colorado History Day, and the National Archives and Records Administration
Topics:year 1: Essential Learning in American Political History, including the Constitution, year 2: Essential Learning in the History of American Society, and year 3: Essential Historical Learning in and the Idea of America
Methods:workshops, study groups, summer institutes, field trips, mentoring, and participation in state and national historical organizations

Consortium schools serve high numbers of Native Americans (four tribes) and Hispanics, many of whom live in extreme poverty and struggle with literacy and reading comprehension. Nearly half of consortium schools failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress in 2005. To bring history to life for students, teachers will learn to teach American history through a variety of proven methods that are engaging and culturally resonant for diverse learning. They will learn, for example, American Indian practices for communicating and preserving history through oral histories and the arts. A variety of training sessions, varying in intensity, duration, and frequency will equip teachers with the knowledge and understanding needed to confidently create and implement in-depth American history curriculum units of significant value to student learning. After their training, the 40 participating teachers will serve as American history curriculum leaders and provide informal mentoring to their schools' teachers.

Grantee Name:Jefferson County Public Schools, CO
Project Name:Using Historical Habits of Mind to Teach Traditional American History: Project 5Cs (Context, Change Over Time, Causation, Complexity, and Contingency)
Project Director:Cynthia K. Stout
Number of Teachers Served:360
Number of School Districts Served:1
Number of Students Served:18,000
Grade Levels:5, 8, 10-11
Partners:the University of Colorado, Metropolitan State College, the Library of Congress, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Topics:America 1800-1840, 1840-1880, and 1865-1914; America 1890-1929, 1929-1945, and 1945-2000
Methods:summer institutes, lesson study model, leadership training, technology training, workshops, and conferences

The largest school system in the state, schools in this school district typically are in the vanguard of programs and initiatives intended to enhance teacher instructional practices to provide students with a high-quality education. Lessons learned from the district's 2001 grant experience will be reflected in the design of this project. The project will provide teachers with a deeper understanding of the history they teach and the use of the habits of mind that will enable them to ensure the success of all students in American history as they do history to learn history. The course of study for teachers participating in this project is a balance among content instruction that will deepen their knowledge of the historical eras and/or subject matter assigned to the grade levels they teach, understanding the application of the 5Cs, and instructional strategies for teaching students to think historically that are most effective for ensuring the success of all students taking American history courses.

Grantee Name:Pueblo School District No. 70, CO
Project Name:Experiencing American History Initiative
Project Director:Virginia A. Andenucio
Number of Teachers Served:80
Number of School Districts Served:16
Number of Students Served:5,000
Grade Levels:K-12
Partners:Colorado State University (Pueblo), the Chicago Historical Society, Salem State College, the American Institute for History Education, and the Southern Colorado Teacher Education Alliance
Topics:Colonial America: Natives, Newcomers, and the Founding of New England; the Making of a Nation; and American Industrialization and the Westward Movement
Methods:colloquia, curriculum development and dissemination activities, workshops, and field trips

In addition to the challenges of a teacher shortage, student poverty, and low academic achievement across a large, isolated region, gaps in services limit teacher access and opportunity for professional development. This project is designed to impact the quality of American history instruction by elementary and secondary teachers in 16 school districts in southeastern Colorado by providing in-depth, hands-on experience with primary documents, sites, and artifacts central to a high-level understanding of American history, with personal guidance by expert scholars in the various fields of study. Historic site visits to Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago will broaden teacher perspectives and help them to make history come alive for their students.

Grantee Name:Denver Public Schools District 1, CO
Project Name:Thinking Like Historians: Building Bridges to America's Past, Phase II
Project Director:Theress Pidick
Number of Teachers Served:60
Number of School Districts Served:1
Number of Students Served:73,000
Grade Levels:5, 8, 11
Partners:the University of Colorado (Denver) and Metro State College
Topics:significant issues, episodes, and turning points in pre-colonial and colonial America; the American Revolution and the new nation; the Constitution
Methods:summer institutes, seminars, after-school discussion groups, and online support

Twenty percent of Denver's students are English language learners, the vast majority of whom speak Spanish. Most of Denver's students (61%) qualify for free/reduced lunches. The graduation rate for Hispanics is approximately 50 % and that for African-Americans is approximately 65%. The district's challenge is to graduate all students and to close the achievement gap among all ethnic groups. This proposal builds on the successful completion of a previously funded Teaching American History project, which redesigned the district's 11th grade U.S. history course. As the groundwork for the present project, we will refine the U.S. history course for grade 11 and revise the grade 5 and 8 history curricula to bring them into line with its structures and content. Project activities include annual summer workshops accompanied by school-day activities and Saturday institutes during the school year to improve teachers' knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of traditional American history.

Grantee Name:South Central Board of Cooperative Educational Services, CO
Project Name:SCBOCES Consortium RIGHTS Project
Project Director:Cynthia L. Seidel
Number of Teachers Served:52
Number of School Districts Served:9
Number of Students Served:6,314
Grade Levels:5-12
Partners:Colorado State University (Pueblo), Southeastern Colorado Heritage Center, and Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center
Topics:liberty and equality, the American economy, localism/regionalism/nationalism, the 18th Century (Year 1), the 19th Century (Year 2), and the 20th Century (Year 3)
Methods:summer academies, mentoring, development of professional learning communities, history trunks, and history reenactors

According to Colorado State Assessment Program (CSAP) results, the nine target districts (small, isolated, rural communities) have significant percentages of students at risk for academic failure. A large number of students exhibit below proficiency achievement levels in reading and writing. As school districts focus on developing proficiency in reading and writing, no resources remain for improving and developing American history as a separate subject. Professional development, through the use of primary sources integrated with the state history standards, will provide teachers with improved content knowledge and effective understanding. This approach to the study of history uses the process of examining artifacts and primary documents in order to highlight the themes and ideas of the narrative and provides a tangible connection that extends the learning process and increases retention.

Last Modified: 08/18/2006