Teachers Schooled in HistoryGAMBIER, Ohio (October 11, 2007) The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $996,792 grant to Cleveland, Ohio, schools for a three-year program driven by Kenyon historians Peter Rutkoff and William Scott to improve the teaching of American history.
Rutkoff, Robert A.Oden Jr. Professor of American Studies, and Scott, professor of history, will flesh out the bare-bones knowledge of American history as now understood by ninety fifth- and eighth-grade teachers in the Cleveland schools. Those teachers are certified for kindergarten-through-eighth-grade instruction but most of them had little training in history in college.
"We will transform the teaching of American history in the largest school district in the state confronting the greatest difficulties in the country," Scott said. "But those difficulties are the same that every urban district confronts."
The goal of the Teaching American History grant project is to provide Cleveland with sophisticated American history teachers, he said, using a model that can be copied by other districts. "They will sustain it in the future," Scott said. "We will have planted the seeds, but they will carry on. We will have given them the means to do it."
Rutkoff and Scott will work with thirty teachers in each of the program's three years and Kenyon will serve as an ongoing resource. The teachers will spend a summer week at Kenyon, with mornings focused on content and afternoons dedicated to teaching techniques that will engage students, including, for example, hands-on work with art, music, and three-dimensional building projects.
Three master teachers in history will work with the professors in drilling the Cleveland teachers, who have been "indifferently trained in American history," Scott said. "They really aren't that familiar with the content."
The Cleveland teachers will reconvene for a week of further study in a classroom at the studios of WVIZ, a Cleveland public-television station that will provide electronic and media resources. The teachers will also meet one day a month for six months during the school year to share their classroom experiences.
The project was conceived by the Kenyon professors working with James Templeman, the Teaching American History coordinator for Cleveland schools, and Rita Bigham of WVIZ. The group borrowed from the teaching methods used at the Fieldston School, an elite private school in New York City.
The project will be tuned to state and federal academic-achievement standards, Templeman said, and its success will be measured through standardized testing.
"This provides them with very good, well-directed content from Peter and Will," he said. "Those guys are good. They know how to engage teachers, to ask provocative questions, to get people to think."