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Northwest Louisiana: Exploring the American Experience

Louisiana's Caddo Parish has high percentages of minority students (67%) and students living in poverty (64%), and only four of the district's 11 high schools offer Advanced Placement courses in American history. The state does not certify teachers in American history, and the district offers no ongoing professional development to its 208 teachers of the subject. To address teachers' needs, graduate-level summer institutes, led by scholars, will meet for four weeks each year; content will align with grade-level expectations set out in the state standards (e.g., in Year 1, elementary teachers will focus on early explorations and colonization, middle school teachers will address the founding of the nation, and high school teachers will explore events from the Gilded Age to World War I). The institutes will be augmented by school-year workshops and other activities, enabling teachers to earn graduate credits and state continuing-learning units; they will also receive stipends, textbooks and primary teaching resources. The project will recruit 54 American history teachers at all grade levels, weighting selections toward underperforming schools; these teachers will stay with the project for the full five years. The project's dedication to raising the bar on rigor will have its school-year activities extend and expand on summer learning experiences. History education specialists from partnering organizations will conduct workshops that deliver content and pedagogy (e.g., staff from the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery will conduct workshops on how to use historic art to teach American history), and three master teachers—one for each school level—will provide instruction and mentoring.