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Reading, Writing, and Speaking About American History

Florence School Districts One to Five are located in northeastern South Carolina. All five districts are in restructuring, and 31 percent or more of students in each district scored below basic on the state social studies test in 2007. To help history teachers gain the content knowledge they want, RWS will offer online graduate-level courses on a traditional semester schedule and through intensive study in 2-week summer institutes. Participants will conduct online discussions about history teaching, attend mini-institutes on examining student work and assessment and, in Year 3, become mentors to nonparticipating teachers to help them improve their knowledge and instructional practices. One cohort of 50 teachers drawn from all school levels will complete the 5-year program. Each year, half will take the online course and the other half will participate in the intensive summer institute. RWS aims to develop teacher-historians through increasing participants' knowledge of significant events, principles, historical thinking, and special topics, and by encouraging the practices of collaboration, curriculum design, and reflection. The graduate-level courses will focus on the eras and topics of American history outlined in the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the state's social studies curriculum framework. Other activities will focus on curriculum and instruction designed to build literacy skills and to engage both teachers and students in American history content. The project will result in a collection of teacher-created, technology-driven instructional units to be shared locally and nationally through the RWS Web site, which will also offer teaching resources and links to a variety of primary documents.