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West Contra Costa Unified School District Teaching American History

This district on the northeast corner of the San Francisco Bay area includes five cities and six unincorporated areas. One-third of the ethnically and linguistically diverse students are limited English proficient, and the area faces many social and economic challenges—lack of funding for history professional development being one. Teachers will attend a 10-day summer institute, four days of follow-up activities and a three-part historian lecture and book study series. Ongoing support will happen in online discussions and monthly meetings where teachers will have opportunities to collaborate on lesson study, share resources and discuss problems and successes. Participants will attend the California Council for the Social Studies conferences, where they will learn and present. Two 3-year cohorts of 34 teachers each, one for Grades 8 and 11 and one for Grade 5, will give priority to teachers from underperforming schools. A master's cohort of 15 teachers will pursue the higher degree, and all history teachers will participate in the lecture and book series. As they study the content for the grades they teach, project teachers will be exploring themes that take them deeper into political, cultural and economic turning points and help them understand local connections to national history. Teachers will learn historical inquiry skills and content-related teaching strategies, such as the use of primary documents, artifacts, firsthand accounts, illustrations and site visits—all intended to translate freshly mastered content into classroom lessons. Project-generated materials will be reviewed, shared through meetings and conferences and posted on three Web sites that reach local, state and national audiences.