Program trying to improve teaching of U.S. history

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Jackson High School will receive almost $1 million over the next three years for a program aimed at training area American history teachers.

A byproduct of this professional development program will be higher student achievement levels, said organizer and grant writer Linda Nash, and stronger American history lessons in the classroom.

Jackson will act as the lead agency, meaning the school will hold seminars and act as the fiscal agent for the grant funded under the federal No Child Left Behind act. Jackson is partnered with Southeast Missouri State University and 11 other area schools, including Scott City, and will involve 25 secondary American history teachers from those schools.

Nash, a retired Jackson teacher, said the program will try to focus on smaller schools.

Participating teachers will be paid $300 a day for the 13 days spent on the program and all expenses will be paid by the grant. It requires a great deal more time and energy than just those 13 days, Nash said. For example, each teacher will be required to read 15 books and develop lessons plans.

During the 13 days, teachers will spend five days in history seminars with area professors and experts in January, February and April. They will spend eight days in July in a scholars on-site travel program where the teachers will travel to Washington, D.C., to visit Monticello, Mount Vernon, the National Archives and the Smithsonian.

Nash said students often ask, "What can I do with a history degree? I don't want to teach."

She said she hopes the program will help teachers better answer that question by exposing them to archivists, museum curators and other professions.

"We hope as we travel around the country and go to for example the sites we're going to be seeing people doing all kinds of things with history," Nash said.

Nash said the program will allow students to be better prepared before they take the Advanced Placement American history exam by better preparing the teachers. At the end of an Advanced Placement class students can take a test and earn college credit. Those students whose high schools do not have AP classes can still take the test and have the option of working with a teacher to help them prepare.

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