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Circle of We: From Civil War to Civil Rights

Pinellas County, on Florida's west coast, has embarked on a high school redesign plan intended to improve the performance of all district high schools. To that end, the Circle of We project will be paying special attention to the 10 low-performing high schools in the district. The district's increased focus on academic rigor and student engagement will be reflected in the project's annual activities, which will include three 3-hour lectures followed by full-day colloquia, two day-long workshops, a summer institute, and an ongoing virtual learning community. Each year a cadre of 20 teachers, ranked by need, will be recruited to participate in 175 hours of professional development. In addition, teachers will receive tuition-free graduate coursework toward dual-enrollment certification. The project will examine the ideas behind "We the People" and how it has been debated, defined, defended, challenged, and redefined over the past 200 years. This examination will extend to the democratic principles of freedom, justice, inclusion, and equal opportunity that underlie our constitutional rights, and to the social, legal, and civic institutions that embody these principles. Middle school teachers who completed a similar TAH project in 2008 will open their classrooms so that the high school teachers can observe effective teaching practices, such as document-based questioning. Circle of We will create a Moodle site that will become part of a permanent infrastructure to support history professional development, and teachers who complete the professional development will constitute a high school cadre with period-specific content expertise and content-specific pedagogy.