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The 21st Century Teaching American History Project

This northern New Jersey consortium has more than 157 schools in need of improvement. More than 28 percent of students are classified as disabled and many teachers are not highly qualified to teach American history. Coaching staff—historians and educators—will deliver 111 hours of training, plus eight hours aimed at helping nonparticipants implement curriculum created by participants. The project will offer three distinct 2-year programs, each designed to serve specific grade levels. Each year, each district will have five 2-hour afterschool workshops, one full-day training, a 35-hour summer institute, a regional event/conference to promote replication, on-site and online mentoring, and access to a Web site containing resources and other project products. Years 1 and 2 will involve 60 high school teachers; Years 2 and 3 will train 60 middle school teachers; and Years 4 and 5 will train 50 elementary teachers. The project theme is meeting the 21st Century challenge of helping the increasing numbers of immigrant, English as a Second Language, and disabled students reach proficiency in American history. The goal is systemic reform in a region where many districts have not updated their American history curricula for a decade. Teachers will practice such instructional strategies as historical inquiry skills, differentiated instruction, Understanding by Design, and literacy strategies that address the needs of struggling students. With an eye to replicating the project, leaders have a quasi-experimental design for pilot testing, evaluating and implementing 21st Century Teaching American History. They expect to end with a curriculum that organizes historical facts into big ideas, essential questions, and enduring understandings.