Teaching American History

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Texas 2009 Grant Abstracts
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Grantee Name:Dallas Independent School District
Project Name:History Sparks: Improving History Instruction by Bringing History to Life Through Primary Sources
Project Director:Robert Edison
Funding:$1,604,286 over 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:50 or more
Number of School Districts Served:1
Grade Levels:8, 11
Partners:University of Texas at Arlington, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Topics:Strand A (middle) Years 1-3: The Revolution and the New Nation (1763-1815), Expansion and Reform (1801-1861), Crisis of the Union: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
Strand B (high) Years 1-3: The Development of Modern America (1877-1920), Modern America and the World Wars (1914-1945), Contemporary America (1945-present)
Strands A & B Years 4-5: Turning Points in American History, American History in Review
Methods:Annual kick-off events, Saturday seminars, summer institutes, field studies, independent studies, online discussion and collaboration

The Dallas Independent School District serves many students with limited English proficiency, a contributing factor to low history scores. In a recent year, just 54 percent of eighth graders and 68 percent of high school students passed the first-semester exams. Each year History Sparks will begin with a kick-off day during which teachers receive independent study materials, review student work, and participate in sessions delivered by historians and master history educators. Other activities will include Saturday seminars and summer institutes, supplemented by field trips to a local site in Year 3 and a national site in Year 4. A cohort of 50 teachers will be selected from the district's 24 low-performing middle and high schools. Any teachers who leave the program before the final year will be replaced, so the curriculum for each year will be self-contained. History Sparks will help teachers learn to deal with complex questions of historical thinking, form habits of mind for studying historical events, people, and issues, and make connections to contemporary events. Years 1-3 will feature separate strands for middle and high school teachers, each presenting broad, chronological surveys of historical eras. In Years 4 and 5, all teachers will join in deep exploration of selected content. The project will employ primary source documents, books, videos, and Web sites—each accompanied by study questions and bolstered by online discussions that include project leaders and university historians. Participants will leave the professional development with classroom teaching resources and lesson plans that align with state standards and the History Sparks blueprint for effective history teaching and learning.

Grantee Name:Education Service Center Region 12
Project Name:Lyndon B. Johnson Liberty Fellowship
Project Director:Glynis Rosas
Funding:$1,665,310 over 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:40
Number of School Districts Served:7
Grade Levels:5, 8, 11
Partners:American Institute for History Education, McNeese State University, National Council for the Social Studies, Delaware State University
Topics:Year 1: The British Empire vs. the American Colonies
Year 2: From Unity to Division: the Agrarian South and the Industrial North
Year 3: From Division to Unity: War, Reconstruction, and World Power
Years 4-5: International Liberalism vs. the Totalitarians
Methods:Summer institutes, colloquia, field trips, Talking History webinars, research/lesson development sessions, real-time lesson observations and reviews, workshops

Seven central Texas school districts within the Education Service Center Region 12 service area have formed a consortium to deliver targeted services to nine elementary and secondary schools that have not achieved Adequate Yearly Progress. Through the Lyndon B. Johnson Liberty Fellowship program, consortium teachers of American history in Grades 5, 8, and 11 will be prepared to teach American history as a distinct subject. Annual professional development activities will include a 5-day summer institute, a 2-day fall colloquium, a 3-day winter colloquium, and a 2-day field-study trip. Teachers will also view the American Institute for History Education's monthly Talking History webinars and participate in regular half-day research/lesson development sessions throughout the year. The program will serve 40 fellows, including five seasoned veterans who will serve as teacher-leader content specialists and conduct turnkey sessions for history teachers in all nine schools. A guiding theme woven into fellows' research and instruction will be how geography, economics, and political thought contributed to events in American History. Instructional strategies will incorporate the Understanding by Design approach to constructing lessons, the American Institute for History Education's Twelve Effective Steps to Optimum Teaching, and thereNow's IRIS, which will allow coaches and trusted peers to watch teachers deliver lessons in real time and make constructive comments about the lesson as it happens. Based on their research and training, teachers will create historical narratives, lessons, virtual field tours, and innovative activities to be shared with other history teachers via a Web site.

Grantee Name:Fort Bend Independent School District
Project Name:Teachers as Historians
Project Director:Jennifer Gigliotti-Labay
Funding:$1,678,663 over 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:90
Number of School Districts Served:2
Grade Levels:5, 8, 11
Partners:Rice University, Bill of Rights Institute, Law Focused Education, Inc., Museum of Fine Arts - Houston, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, George W. Bush Presidential Library, Colonial Williamsburg
Topics:Year 1: A Nation Is Born (1492-1815)
Year 2: Transformation of the Republic (1801-1920)
Year 3: Modern America and the Global Community (1914-present)
Methods:Summer institutes, field studies, workshops, digital library, speaker series, mentoring

The Fort Bend and Spring Branch Independent School Districts serve a diverse population from disadvantaged communities across Houston, Texas, where many students are first-generation Americans. Through the Teachers as Historians program, the two-district consortium will deliver teacher training and support to 14 schools that have not made Adequate Yearly Progress and to 49 additional Title I schools. Annual activities will include a 2-week summer seminar at Rice University, followed by a week-long experiential field study, two workshops and a field study during the school year, three district planning meetings, access to an online community network and digital library, a community lecture by a distinguished historian, and a mentor network facilitated by district curriculum specialists. Each participating teacher will research and create two lessons with the help of a content specialist and a master teacher. Participants who fulfill their grant obligations may apply for a $750 grant, which they can apply toward personal professional development opportunities and classroom resources. A new cohort of 30 teachers will be involved in the program's core activities each year and will be encouraged to continue their participation in the mentor network. The goal of the program is to teach students to think critically about what it means to be an American. Interactive instructional strategies will emphasize critical thinking in response to primary source documents. Lesson plans and resources focused on traditional American history will be presented by teachers at local, state, or national events and will also be uploaded to a digital library and made accessible to history teachers nationwide.

Grantee Name:McAllen Independent School District
Project Name:McAllen ISD Project TEACH
Project Director:Mick West
Funding:$1,671,671 over 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:50
Number of School Districts Served:1
Grade Levels:K-11
Partners:University of Texas Pan-American, Museum of South Texas History, Law Focused Education, Inc., Plimoth Plantation, National Humanities Center, Colonial Williamsburg, Learners Online
Topics:Year 1: Colonial America and the American Revolution (1500-1783)
Year 2: Founding of the American Republic and the Young Republic (1783-1865)
Year 3: Political Reform, Sectional Controversy and War (1865-1920)
Year 4: Depression, Prosperity and the New Deal (1920-1950)
Year 5: Postwar and the New Millennium (1950-present)
Methods:Colloquia, seminars, summer institutes, historical site visits, mentoring

McAllen Independent School District in southern Texas serves mostly Hispanic students, a fourth of whom are classified as English Language Learners. Five of the district's 34 schools have not achieved Adequate Yearly Progress: the average Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) score for these five schools is 55 percent, compared to the state average of 72 percent. Most history teachers in the district have minimal credentials in the subject area and few opportunities for professional development. McAllen ISD Project TEACH (Teachers Engaged in American Culture and History) will target low-performing schools and engage 50 teachers annually in four 2-day colloquia, eight 3-hour seminars, and a 4-day summer institute. At least half of the teachers will participate in a 5-day historical site visit each year. The project will also provide support and tuition for five participants interested in pursuing a master's degree in American history. Themes explored in Project TEACH will include complex political, economic, and social dynamics that have shaped America from colonial times through the present. Through training, observation, and feedback, teachers will implement an instructional strategy called document-based questioning. Participating teachers will also share their work with colleagues face-to-face and online, mentor other history teachers, and use Texas's Web-based curriculum management tool to align classroom instruction to district curriculum. The teachers will create thematic “toolbox libraries” for classroom use.

Grantee Name:Navasota Independent School District
Project Name:The Mystery and Power of History: More than Words on a Page
Project Director:Dawn Marie Zak Baletka
Funding:$1,669,693 for 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:40
Number of School Districts Served:3
Grade Levels:5-12
Partners:Texas A&M University, George W. Bush Presidential Library, National Council for History Education, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Topics:Year 1: Colonization, Settlement and Communities (1607-1763); The Revolution and the New Nation (1763-1815)
Year 2: Expansion and Reform (1801-1961), Crisis of the Union: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
Year 3: The Development of Modern America (1865-1920), Modern America and the World Wars (1914-1945)
Year 4: Contemporary America (1945-1976)
Year 5: Contemporary America (1976-2012)
Methods:Summer academies, colloquia, seminars, lectures, workshops, field studies

The Navasota, Bryan, and College Station Independent School Districts in Brazos Valley, Texas, serve a growing number of English Language Learners. Overall, student scores on state reading and math assessments are below the state average, surveyed students' interest in history is low, and most history teachers do not hold a history certification. The Mystery and Power of History will offer intensive professional development throughout each year of the program, beginning with a 3-day colloquium and continuing with lectures, workshops, guided readings, 1 to 3-day seminars, opportunities for teachers to attend weeklong historical immersion experiences in the field and/or 5-day summer institutes sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and several evening platform discussions led by scholars. Participants can also receive support for obtaining a history certification. The Mystery and Power of History will accommodate 40 teachers, each of whom will commit to participating for one or more years and completing at least 75 percent of the professional development activities offered. The thematic goal of the project is to deepen teachers' and students' understanding of how the principles of liberty and democratic government have helped to shape America's social, political and legal institutions. Instructional strategies derived from Historical Habits of Mind will enhance students' higher order thinking skills and their knowledge of American history. In addition, teachers will use technology to enhance history education. The program will develop a group of master teachers and mentors who can facilitate professional development and sustain a Professional Learning Community among teachers of history in all three districts.

Last Modified: 09/10/2009