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Becoming an American: Continuity Through Change

Brevard County, Florida, is home to the Kennedy Space Center and a range of technology industries, yet the district has never made Adequate Yearly Progress. More than half of Title I schools are in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, and few teachers have adequate history backgrounds. Becoming an American historians and scholars will support teachers as they research and discuss history during summer colloquia and workshops. Field experiences will immerse teachers in living history, and academy coaches (secondary teachers from a previous project) will mentor the participants. Early in their experiences, teachers will take online courses; by completion, they will be qualified to conduct such courses. Two groups of 40 elementary and middle school teachers will participate for three years (overlapping in Year 3), and selection criteria will favor teachers from schools with the greatest needs. The project theme is embedded in its name—Becoming an American: Continuity Through Change—and it will address the five turning points in American history named in the topics above. The project will focus on instructional strategies that include project-based learning, using technology and practicing differentiated instruction. Teachers will learn to identify historical patterns, establish cause-and-effect relationships, find value statements, establish significance, apply historical knowledge, weigh evidence to draw conclusions, and make defensible generalizations. The project's continuing impact on history teaching will come from its products, including a quasi-experimental study measuring student gains, teacher-created lessons on the project Web portal, classroom instruction that incorporates online lessons or virtual visits, mentoring of other history teachers in the district, and a teacher-designed standards-based student history assessment.