Teaching American History

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Massachusetts 2009 Grant Abstracts
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Grantee Name:Billerica Public Schools
Project Name:Imagination, Invention, and Innovation: The Making of American History
Project Director:Alexander Infanger
Funding:$992,330 over 3 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:120
Number of School Districts Served:8
Grade Levels:3-5, 8-11
Partners:University of Massachusetts - Lowell
Topics:Track 1, Secondary School: Imagining America: From Settlement to Revolution and the Promise and Perils of the Early Republic; Inventing and Reinventing America: From Upheaval to Reconstruction, Urbanization, the Great Migrations and the Contest for Reform; An Innovative Nation: Science, Technology, Culture, and the Business of America
Track 2, Elementary School: Imagining America: “So Who is this American?”; Inventing America: Those Who Built Our Nation; Innovation in America: Perspectives from Massachusetts History
Methods:Lectures, book discussions, seminars, technology workshops, field trips, conferences, study tours, summer institutes

These northeastern Massachusetts districts have underperforming elementary and middle schools that need improvement, history teachers who need training for recertification, and high schools that need to increase the numbers of students who take honors or Advanced Placement history courses. Imagination, Invention and Innovation aims to meet these needs through annual week-long summer institutes, two full-day content workshops, two or three afterschool book discussions, one or more local field trips, and two technology seminars. Every year will offer a 4-day study tour of regional sites, and an annual conference will bring together a keynote speaker and teacher presentations based on work done during the year. The project has two tracks—elementary and secondary. In addition, 10 graduate students who are preservice teachers will also participate. As they work toward embedding current historical scholarship and strong pedagogical skills into teaching, elementary teachers will focus on U.S. history as it relates to historical and geographical topics, plus early settlement and state history. Secondary teachers will consider key themes, including colonization, the Revolution and early Republic, the Civil War and Reconstruction, immigration, and the development of modern America. Strategies will include using biography, historical fiction, and visual arts to enrich teaching, strengthening the use of instructional technology, and combining lectures and facilitated discussion with experiential, hands-on learning and self-discovery. These strategies will be modeled by academic historians during content workshops. After the grant ends, project impact will be sustained by a teacher-scholar network supported by technology, teacher-created resource guides focused on specific topics and adaptable for classroom use, and teacher-developed curriculum modules.

Grantee Name:Boston Public Schools
Project Name:American Scripture: Seminal Documents in American History
Project Director:Robert Chisholm
Funding:$1,000,000 over 3 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:250
Number of School Districts Served:1
Grade Levels:3, 5, 9, 10
Partners:Boston University, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Museum of African-American History, Massachusetts Historical Society, Facing History and Ourselves
Topics:Year 1: Liberty
Year 2: Equality
Year 3: E Pluribus Unum: Constructing Community
Methods:Summer institutes, follow-up seminars, Lesson Study groups, historical investigations, summer workshops

Boston Public Schools includes 143 schools. The 79 schools in the American Scripture project constitute the district's lowest-performing schools, where teacher turnover is high and student scores in reading and English language arts are especially low. To address student needs and teachers' weak American history credentials, the project will offer the following activities annually: a 5-day summer institute that includes exploration of Boston’s historical sites and research of manuscript collections; follow-up seminars during the school year to build a teacher-leader network and supply new content; teacher inquiry groups that incorporate Lesson Study; 3-day historical investigations led by Facing History and Ourselves; and summer content workshops. Three district history coaches will support participants’ development as teacher leaders. The 3-year American Scripture program will provide professional development to 50 teachers in Year 1, another 100 in Year 2, and yet another 100 in Year 3 for a total of 250 teachers. Each annual program will focus on a different theme (liberty, equality, and constructing community) and will investigate enduring achievements and challenges of American national life that recur generation after generation. Instructional strategies will focus on using primary documents as a springboard for the development of historical thinking and writing skills. Students in all grades will write a multidraft essay in response to a district-wide common writing assignment in history. Lesson plans and videotaped lessons created during the program will be posted on the district’s Intranet.

Grantee Name:Burlington Public Schools
Project Name:Making Freedom: Evolution and Revolution in the Realization of an American Ideal
Project Director:Katie Bercury
Funding:$1,266,922 over 4 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:360
Number of School Districts Served:5
Grade Levels:3-5, 8-11
Partners:Primary Source, Tufts University, Harvard University, National Heritage Museum, Minute Man National Historical Park
Topics:Year 1: Dreams of Freedom and Bounty: Immigration to America
Year 2: Americans in Pursuit and Defense of Freedom
Year 3: Fulfilling American Ideals Through Protest and War
Year 4: United States Interactions With the Wider World
Methods:Summer institutes, seminars, study tours, technology workshops, book groups, conferences

Teachers in five public school districts in Massachusetts—Burlington, Bedford, Lexington, Woburn, and Somerville—have identified professional development in American history as a “high need” as they serve many immigrant and migrant English Language Learners who lack a solid foundation in U.S. history. Making Freedom will offer professional development that features summer institutes, 3-day seminars, and 9-day study tours, with separate tracks for elementary and secondary teachers. Other activities will include a day-long workshop and two 3-hour after-school workshops annually on technology integration, continuation activities to ensure effective application of teacher work products, four history book groups a year, and collaborative activities that include a blog and participation in full-day conferences in Years 2, 3, and 4. Incentives such as stipends and college credits will be used to recruit an average of 90 teachers each year. After completing either the summer institutes or the core school year programs, participants can apply for a study tour, with the school districts’ goal being development of a pool of master teachers. Program activities will revolve around the people, perspectives, documents, and events involved in “making freedom.” Instructional strategies will integrate differentiated instruction, historical thinking skills, and technology to develop students’ document analysis and inquiry skills. Teacher work products—reflective papers, research papers, discussion journals, book reviews, lesson plans, blog posts, and multimedia presentations—will be disseminated via the program Web site and at project conferences.

Grantee Name:CHARMS Collaborative
Project Name:A More Perfect Union: The Origins and Development of the U.S. Constitution
Project Director:Peter H. Gibbon
Funding:$998,291 over 3 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:45
Number of School Districts Served:15
Grade Levels:5, 8-12
Partners:National Association of Scholars, Adams National Historical Park, Lowell National Historical Park, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Topics:Year 1: The Crisis of the Nation’s Founding: The American Revolution and the Constitutional Period
Year 2: The Secession Crisis: The American Civil War and its Aftermath
Year 3: The Crisis of the Late 20th Century: Civil Rights, Personal Autonomy, and Cultural Conflict
Methods:Summer seminar, field trips, development of papers, after-school meetings, coaching

The CHARMS Collaborative in Massachusetts is instituting A More Perfect Union in consortium with selected school districts from the Bi-County and North River Collaboratives. The program will work most intensely in three districts located south of Boston that have not met annual instructional goals. Teachers who receive professional development through the program will do a significant amount of reading in the philosophy and pedagogy of history. Each year, they will participate in an 8-day summer seminar, a field trip, and four half-day meetings during the school year that address implementation of seminar content. Classroom implementation of teacher-created lesson plans will be facilitated by three coordinators and a pedagogical specialist. The same 45 teachers will participate throughout all three years of the program. They will explore the origins and evolution of America's fundamental political ideals, traditions, and constitutional institutions. Because the targeted districts include an increasing number of English Language Learners, A More Perfect Union will emphasize strategies that complement the Sheltered Instructional Observation Protocol. Also, teachers will learn to situate events within narrative frameworks and incorporate biography in their teaching. A project Web site will include the syllabi of the summer seminars and advice for their use in venues beyond the collaborative. The site will also house historical materials, essays, model lesson plans, and other teaching materials.

Grantee Name:Medford Public Schools
Project Name:Becoming America: The Defining Role of Immigration
Project Director:Dr. Cynthia Fiducia
Funding:$1,669,555 over 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:125
Number of School Districts Served:5
Grade Levels:3, 5, 8-10
Partners:Suffolk University, American Antiquarian Society, Boston African American Historic Site, Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Ellis Island Institute, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, Massachusetts Historical Society, New England Genealogical Society, Tenement Museum in New York City, Boston Public Library, Museum of Fine Arts, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Archives and Records for the City of Boston, Tri-City Technology Education Collaborative
Topics:Year 1: Voices Rising: Immigration and American Expansion (1776-1860)
Year 2: When Voices Clash: Contested Pathways to Enlivening American Ideals (1840-1912)
Year 3: A Plurality of Voices in a Modernizing Democracy (1880-1920)
Year 4: Many Voices, One People? Imperiled Nationhood and Immigration (1914-1970)
Year 5: Voices Heard? America Reinvents Itself (1980-present)
Methods:Summer institutes, seminars

Four of the five Becoming America districts are on the urban rim of Boston, and the fifth is a suburban district. The four urban rim districts have large multicultural populations resulting from recent influxes of immigrants, and many schools are either not making Adequate Yearly Progress or are in corrective action or restructuring. The project will immerse teachers in activities that provide intensive history content and collaborations with historians and master teachers. Every year, 13 seminars and a summer institute, along with a collaborative Web space, will support teachers' learning. Each annual cohort of 25 teachers will be selected from the schools most in need of improvement, yielding a total of 125 teachers who benefit directly from the project. The theme of exploring the role of immigrants in American history during the country’s expansion will help teachers make content relevant to the students in their classrooms. Becoming America will emphasize instructional strategies that develop student inquiry through project-based learning. To support this approach, teachers will learn to incorporate the use of educational technology and primary sources (e.g., national documents, individual records), information from local and national historic archives and libraries, and resources such as museums and historic sites into their classroom instruction. Every Becoming America teacher will develop and implement a project-based lesson. These lessons will be grouped into topic-related units and distributed to all schools electronically.

Grantee Name:Northshore Education Consortium
Project Name:A More Perfect Union: The Origins and Development of the U.S. Constitution
Project Director:Peter Gibbon
Funding:$997,391 over 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:45
Number of School Districts Served:17
Grade Levels:5, 8-12
Partners:National Association of Scholars, Adams National Historical Park, Lowell National Historical Park, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Topics:Year 1: The American Revolution and the Construction, Ratification, and Implementation of the U.S. Constitution
Year 2: Constitutional Issues Related to the Secession Crisis and the Civil War
Year 3: Constitutional Controversies and Cultural Conflicts Surrounding Progressivism, the New Deal, and Civil Rights
Methods:Summer institutes, workshops, readings, field trips, classroom support

High-stakes tests, budget cuts, and underprepared teachers are impacting these Massachusetts districts, where neighborhoods range from middle class to working class to under-resourced. Some districts are classified as in need of improvement and have no funds for professional development. Some districts are culturally diverse, with about half their students born into a home where a language other than English is spoken. All the lowest performing districts will have teachers participating in A More Perfect Union, where annual activities will include four half-day workshops, extensive readings, and an 8-day summer seminar. Extra workshop sessions will support teachers in the two most at-risk districts. One group of 45 teachers from all school levels will be recruited to participate for the first three years, and they will be prepared to support their colleagues when their training is complete. Underlying the A More Perfect Union activities is a focus on the origins and evolution of America's fundamental political ideas, traditions, and constitutional institutions. Drawing on the philosophy of history and research on pedagogy, historians and master teachers will help participating teachers develop historical habits of mind and learn how to incorporate these habits into the worldview of students. In addition, master teachers will provide classroom support for implementing new practices and for creating new lesson plans. The creation of a project Web site that contains historical materials, essays on issues and events, lesson plans, and other teaching materials will help sustain the project’s effects when the grant period is complete.

Grantee Name:Reading Public Schools
Project Name:History Connected
Project Director:Kara Gleason
Funding:$999,818 over 3 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:120
Number of School Districts Served:9
Grade Levels:6-12
Partners:Primary Source, Boston College, University of Massachusetts - Lowell, Tsongas Industrial History Center
Topics:Year 1: Equality, Citizenship, and the Law
Year 2: The Civil War to Vietnam
Year 3: Ideas and International Relations
Methods:Orientation meeting, summer institutes, seminars, book discussion, online Professional Learning Community, annual conference, teacher fellow program

History Connected is being implemented through a consortium of nine school districts in southeastern Pennsylvania. Eighteen low-performing schools within the consortium will be given preference during recruitment. A variety of annual professional development activities will prepare participating teachers to deliver American history as a stand-alone course: six school-day seminars (five on connecting history content to state standards and one on technology integration); a pre-institute orientation day in June with an online component; a 5-day summer content institute; five 2-hour book discussion/study groups based on biographies, memoirs, and historical works related to the year's theme; an online Professional Learning Community; and a 3-hour after-school “sharing conference” in Years 2 and 3. Each teacher will also develop two work products such as book reviews, lesson plans, and multimedia presentations. At least one participant in each district will be designated as a teacher fellow, Fellows will provide leadership and support for improving history education within their districts. History Connected will serve 40 teachers annually (120 over the life of the grant). Some teachers may participate in a “part-time” track if they are unable to complete all project activities. Teachers will learn to draw connections across time and place to the enduring themes and issues of American history. Instructional strategies will incorporate differentiated instruction, technology, historical thinking skills, and research skills using primary source documents and cultural artifacts. Project evaluation reports, historical resources, teacher work products, and curricula and lesson plans that incorporate differentiated instruction will be published on the program Web site.

Grantee Name:Town of South Hadley—South Hadley Public Schools
Project Name:Making History
Project Director:Barbara A. Mathews
Funding:$1,682,088 over 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:200-250
Number of School Districts Served:16
Grade Levels:K-12
Partners:Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Franklin County Professional Development Collaborative
Topics:Three Worlds and Their Meeting in the Americas (Beginnings to 1607); Colonization, Settlement and Communities (1607 to 1763); The Revolution and the New Nation (1763 to 1815); Expansion and Reform (1801 to 1861); Crisis of the Union: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850 to 1877); The Development of Modern America (1865 to 1920); Modern America and the World Wars (1914-1945); Contemporary America (1945-present)
Methods:Seminar series, afterschool workshops, individualized teacher support

The South Hadley School District, in consortium with other small districts in western Massachusetts, designed Making History to meet the needs of a rural, underserved area where 28 schools are designated as low performing and many schools have no teachers with degrees in American history. These teachers will choose to engage in either 50 or 80 hours of professional development over the course of a year as they select from the following activities: eight full-day seminars, several afterschool content and pedagogy workshops, and history labs during which historians visit teachers' classrooms to model interactive teaching strategies that utilize traveling history kits containing lesson plans, documents, and artifacts. The Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA) will provide free family passes to its museums and history programs for participating teachers and their students. Making History will serve up to 65 teachers annually, and up to 250 teachers over five years. The programwill explore themes in American history through the words and deeds of Americans, famous and “ordinary,” national and local, who made and experienced history. Teachers will integrate primary sources and local history into their instruction as they help students understand historical debate and controversy, the use of historical evidence, bias and points of view, and the challenge of interpreting the past from the perspective of the present. Classroom activities created by participating teachers will be added to historical documents and teaching resources on PMVA's American Centuries Web site.

Grantee Name:Westfield Public Schools
Project Name:Visions of Liberty and Equality
Project Director:Priscilla Miller
Funding:$1,666,600 over 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:150-175
Number of School Districts Served:5
Grade Levels:K-5
Partners:Westfield State College, Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Mark Twain House, Webb-Deane-Stevens Museums, Amistad America, Mystic Seaport Museum, Museum of African American History and Black Heritage Trail, David Ruggles Center
Topics:Year 1: Paradox and Promise: Slavery and Freedom in America
Year 2: Liberty and Equality for All: Women’s Rights from the Colonial through the Modern Era
Year 3: Nations Within a Nation: The Native American Experience with Liberty and Equality
Year 4: To Become An American: The Immigrant Experience
Year 5: To be based on needs identified during a Year 4 survey
Methods:Seminars, book groups, field trips, mentoring, summer institutes

These western Massachusetts districts are a mix of rural and urban geography. They have a total of 20 schools in need of improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, and teachers need and want professional development opportunities. Each year, Visions of Liberty and Equality will offer a 5-day summer institute that features travel to regional sites combined with lectures and discussion related to the sites. Other events will include two full-day seminars—one in the fall and one in the spring—to study grade-appropriate content delivery (e.g., theater, writing, video), two book discussion groups, and a showcase of effective content delivery practices. Years 1-4 will have separate cohorts of 35 teachers; Years 4 and 5 will add 2-year training for a cohort of 10-15 mentors, who will be drawn from previous years’ participants. In Year 5, the mentors will work with a cohort of 15 new or preservice teachers. Taking the history of human rights in America as its theme, Liberty and Equality will bring together academic historians, archival research specialists, museum educators, and experienced teachers to introduce content and historical thinking skills such as historical debate and controversy, bias and point of view, research and analysis of primary sources, and others. The goal is to spiral curriculum development from local to regional to national over time, and each teacher will create lesson plans and assemble a personal instructional archive of photos, artifacts, documents, and other teaching materials. Teachers and partners will contribute to the project Web site, which will be stocked with content, lesson plans, and avenues for teachers to connect with one another.

Grantee Name:Worcester Public Schools
Project Name:Securing the Blessings of Liberty
Project Director:Joan M. Fitton
Funding:$1,663,970 over 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:155
Number of School Districts Served:1
Grade Levels:5, 10-11
Partners:American Antiquarian Society, Old Sturbridge Village, Assumption College
Topics:Years 1-3 (all grade levels): The Revolution and the New Nation (1763-1815); Expansion and Reform (1801-1861); Crisis and the Union: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
Years 4-5 (high school): Contemporary America (1945-present)
Methods:Lectures, workshops, teaching labs, graduate courses, independent research projects, development of curricular units, coaching

Worcester Public Schools in Massachusetts serves a significant population of immigrants and English Language Learners in high-need urban schools where many teachers are teaching U.S. history for the first time. All 155 teachers in the district will be required to participate in Securing the Blessings of Liberty. Four annual professional development days will take place during the school day and will consist of a morning lecture, workshops on teaching with primary source materials, and teaching labs dedicated to integrating new content and pedagogical knowledge into classroom instruction. The district’s 55 fifth grade history teachers will participate in Years 2-3; its 100 high school teachers will participate in Years 2-5; and a cohort of 15 future coaches from both groups will participate in Years 1-5. The coaching cohort will also take part in a year-long study of the Constitution that includes graduate courses, independent research projects, and development of a curricular unit. In addition, they will provide professional development and coaching to the district’s history teachers. Securing the Blessings of Liberty will serve 155 elementary and high school teachers. History content will focus on the Constitutional themes of individual rights and communal responsibilities, the divisions of federal power, and the role of the federal government, especially in relationship to local and state government. Using differentiated instruction to help students understand and interpret primary source documents and artifacts will be emphasized. Coach-developed curriculum units that incorporate 10 to 15 primary source documents and artifacts will be made available to history teachers across the district.

Last Modified: 09/10/2009