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Democratic Vistas: The Expansion of Freedom and Equality in American History

In the Shelton, Trumbull, and New Haven Public School Districts, secondary school students have scored well below average on Connecticut's reading and writing exam, and in New Haven, only a third of the students who took the 2008 U.S. history exam scored at or above proficiency. To strengthen the quality of instruction in U.S. history, Democratic Vistas will offer eight history forums each year, supplemented by two follow-up workshops on pedagogy. Other activities will include several day-long field trips to regional historic sites, a week-long summer institute, online networking, classroom observations, and coaching. Over five years, Democratic Vista will serve at least 320 teachers. Annually, up to 160 teachers can participate in one of three ways: (1) participate in all activities and create a unit plan for graduate course credit or a stipend and Continuing Education Units; (2) participate in individual activities and study instructional strategies; or (3) participate in the summer institute and receive graduate course credit or a stipend and Continuing Education Units. The program will challenge history teachers to increase student interest and knowledge in traditional American history by making connections between the past and present, Connecticut and U.S. history, and history/culture and the arts. Instructional strategies will focus on concept-based teaching and development of historical thinking; the lesson design frameworks of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (Understanding by Design), and differentiated instruction. To sustain a Professional Learning Community of teacher leaders, the three partnering districts will create an online space for blogging, networking, and sharing curricular units, projects, assessments, and other resources.