Who says staff development can’t be a form of subject-area scholarship?
The U.S. Department of Education, often criticized for focusing too narrowly on math and reading test scores, this year awarded grants to 121 school districts to create professional development programs for history teachers on the use of primary sources, according to The Washington Post. The grants, given for three-year periods, range from $500,000 to $1 million.
In past years, schools have used the money to give teachers opportunities to study documents with university professors, visit museums and historical sites, and—a nice touch—read books by important historians.
According to the Post, the Teaching American History program is part of a trend to expand teachers’—particularly elementary teachers’—historical knowledge and encourage them to move beyond textbooks in their lessons.
“Elementary teachers are generalists. And, as a result, they tend to stick with books,” Alice Reilly, social studies coordinator for Fairfax County schools in Virginia, told the Post. “We want kids to look at history like historians and ask, ‘Why would a historian consider one document versus another?’”
Application dates and requirements for 2009 grants are expected to be posted on the program’s Web site in October.
A version of this article appeared in the September 10, 2008 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook