Teachers, students benefit from professional development in history, study indicates
Contact: Rene Abadie
HAMMOND – Both teachers and their students seemed to benefit significantly from a professional development program aimed at teachers of American history offered over the past several years by the Tangipahoa Parish School System, Southeastern Louisiana University and other partners.
The Teaching American History program, funded by two grants from the U.S. Department of Education totaling nearly $1.9 million, provided approximately 2,000 teachers in 15 area school systems with enhanced history and social studies content, as well as new curricula and innovative teaching strategies intended to increase student performance.
A recent performance report on the program showed that student passing performance – measured by Louisiana Education Assessment Program (LEAP) tests – among certain core teachers participating in TAH increased significantly.
Results for the Core Teacher Cohort found 90% of all students taking the spring 2010 LEAP assessments passed, reflecting a 22 percent increase in passing rates, according to the report.
“There is definite evidence that teachers’ participation in the TAH project’s professional development activities has positively impacted student academic performance,” said Ann Trappey, TAH project director with the Tangipahoa Parish School System. “Analysis of scores of students taught by the core teachers shows significant increases at all grade levels. We were ecstatic when we saw the 2010 spring test results for the teachers who had attended our summer institutes.”
In the project, area social studies teachers were invited to participate in weekend seminars, summer institutes and other programs designed to refresh their knowledge of American history and to introduce them to new teaching materials and methodologies. Workshops included field trips to the Louisiana State Museum, the National World War II Museum and the Historic New Orleans Collection. The 2010 summer institute involved a field trip to various civil rights sites in Alabama and to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum and Library in Atlanta.
The programs are offered to teachers at no personal costs and also include a stipend and the opportunity to earn continuing education units and advanced college credit. William Robison, head of the Department of History and Political Science at Southeastern and the project’s academic coordinator, said teachers have earned over 20,000 hours of continuing learning units and over 1,000 hours of graduate credit.
“Over 100 of the participating teachers have become ‘highly qualified’ under the definition of the No Child Left Behind Act, and about a dozen have earned a master’s degree in history, with more in the pipeline,” he said.
“History teachers – and social studies teachers in general – have never had this sort of opportunity before,” he said. “They are so incredibly grateful that someone is offering them help and valuing what they do. Working with them has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my career.”
The TAH project is partnered with 15 area school systems, including Central Community School System, City of Baker, City of Bogalusa, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Washington, West Baton Rouge, West Feliciana and Zachary Community School System. Tangipahoa Parish is the facilitator of the grant.