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Project ATLAS: Analyzing Themes to Learn America's Story

In this area of south central Kentucky, many high school students have been performing below state average in history on both the state accountability test and Advanced Placement exams, and many high school history teachers have said they want to improve their history content knowledge and instructional skills. Each year, Project ATLAS: Analyzing Themes to Learn America's Story historians, scholars and educators will offer teachers 75 hours of professional development, including a 3-day theme-focused summer institute, a 1-day midyear workshop and eight 2-hour after-school network meetings. In addition, specialists will provide 18 hours of observation and instructional coaching for each teacher. The project's 41 participants, all eleventh grade teachers of history as a stand-alone course, will form a cadre that will stay together for the duration of the grant. Project ATLAS aims to give teachers a roadmap for a rigorous, content-based U.S. history course. As teachers explore historical eras through themes (see topics, above), they will also learn and practice four specific pedagogical skills: (1) creating effective assessment items, (2) implementing document-based questions, (3) utilizing Socratic seminars, and (4) integrating technology. In addition, teachers will use the lesson-study process (plan-teach-observe-revise-report) to collaborate on building a set of lessons that can be shared with other teachers; it will have the additional benefit of helping project teachers build a professional learning community to sustain their improvement beyond the grant period.