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Our Heritage: Our Future

Polk County Public Schools in central Florida includes 37 elementary schools identified by the state as being in need of Improvement. The district serves a growing number of Spanish-speaking migrant students whose knowledge of American history is limited. To meet the needs of elementary and secondary American history teachers, Our Heritage: Our Future will offer a dual-track program of professional development. Track 1 (Grade 5) teachers will participate in a summer institute consisting of a 3-day colloquium, a day with a historian, and a 5-day field study; a 2-day spring training on using Reader's Theater and primary sources; a 1-day fall seminar on a history topic; a 1-day curriculum alignment workshop; regular online "meet the historian" mini-courses; and lesson development activities. Track 2 (Grades 8 and 11) will involve teachers in a variety of day-long and after-school professional development events and collegial learning. Track 1 will include 144 teachers (one 36-member group a year for 4 years, followed by a year of collegial work and delivery of district wide professional development). Following the same pattern of cohort engagement, Track 2 will expand the district's existing teacher-leader development network. In addition, eight to 12 teacher leaders will revise district curriculum maps based on new Florida American History standards. Our Heritage: Our Future will involve teachers and students in reading and experiencing American history to help them become more informed, productive citizens. Classroom instruction based on the Learning-Focused Strategies model will emphasize vocabulary in context, visual tools such as graphic organizers, and Reader's Theater. Teachers will create lesson plans and materials for district-wide dissemination.