CSU Long Beach -- November 17, 2003

3 Area School Districts Partnered with CSULB Receive 'Teaching American History' Grants

The History Department at California State University, Long Beach and three of its partner school districts have been awarded $2.86 million in “Teaching American History” grants by the U.S. Department of Education to improve how U.S. history is taught at the K-12 level.

The three grants went to the Compton Unified School District ($967,996), the Garden Grove Unified School District ($959,014) and the Long Beach Unified School District ($936,910), and all three of their respective projects include the History Department at Cal State Long Beach as a major partner.

“No one imagined we would get grants for all three proposals. I mean, those three grants represent more than what many entire states received,” said Donald Schwartz, CSULB professor of history and academic coordinator for the Teaching American History projects. “Each project has its own particular focus, but all three will bring college history professors in a close working relationship with high school, middle school and elementary school social science teachers.”

The Teaching American History grant program supports three-year projects to improve teachers’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation for American history through intensive, ongoing professional development. Projects must be in partnership with organizations that have extensive knowledge of American history, including libraries, museums, nonprofit history or humanities organizations and higher education institutions.

The Long Beach Unified project will focus on recruiting under-performing students and developing a unique, two-year advanced placement history course for them. Program administrators will work very closely with another partner on the project, Gerder Lerner Institute for American History, a consortium of professors of American history based in New York.

“Traditionally, advanced placement courses are for the brighter students, but the purpose of the Teaching American History grant projects are to address the needs of under-performing students,” Schwartz explained. “During the first year, we are going to focus on skills development and help give them the tools to be more successful in the second year when they will be focusing more on content.”

The Garden Grove district will have two other partners involved with its project. The Education Department of the Federal Reserve Bank will assist with the program’s focus on economic issues throughout American history, and the Center for Civic Education will provide curriculum training on democratic principles and the U.S. Constitution.

And, the Compton district’s project will focus on heroes and crucial turning points in American history. A emphasis on biography will be an important component in this project.

Overall, 114 school districts in 38 states received $98.5 million in grants through the program, including 17 districts in California. “Teaching American History grants are a powerful tool for teachers,” U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said when he announced the grants. “For three years, they link together our nation’s history teachers with professional historians and other experts. We do this because teachers who have a deep and vast knowledge of their subject are better able to inspire their students, to fully engage their minds and to imbue them with a lifelong taste for learning.”

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