Voices from America's History (Voices)
The districts in this grant cover west-central West Virginia, a mainly rural region that has little ethnic diversity, experiences low income levels, and relies on many teachers who do not have a "highly qualified" status in history. Historians and specialists from partner institutions will lead field experiences, conduct colloquia, and provide guidance on using primary resources and diverse instructional media such as art and music. Voices staff and master teachers will provide professional development in content and pedagogy through summer institutes, online learning communities, classroom modeling, and the introduction of project-based learning, all of which incorporate state-adopted 21st Century Learning Skills. Voices aims to improve mastery of history content by initially targeting the lowest-performing schools and focusing on elementary teachers, who generally have had few opportunities to learn vibrant history instruction skills. Middle and high school teachers will be added during Years 2 and 3. Themes to be explored include the catalysts for, the relationships among, and the outcomes of major events and periods in American history. Voices will have teachers do what they will expect students to do: examine, analyze, and synthesize historical knowledge by reviewing primary and secondary sources, working in learning communities, and creating projects. Teacher-created lesson plans will be among the materials and supports designed to sustain the improvement of history teaching. Other products will include an American History Education Resource Center at each partnering institution of higher education, Web-based Professional Learning Communities, and a cadre of teachers from all grade levels who can help their colleagues learn new methods for teaching American history.