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July 8, 2002

American History Teachers Re-Focus on the Subject at Innovative Summer Institute

Baltimore, Md. – Forty elementary, middle and high school teachers from primarily high-need public schools in Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford Counties will be spending two weeks of their summer vacation back in school. They will be working to strengthen their American History teaching skills as part of the Teaching American History in Maryland Program, funded by a $1 million U.S. Department of Education grant.

During the ten-day Summer Institute, which is conducted by the Center for History Education, teachers will become students. They will each take one of three graduate-level courses -- Revolutionary America, Women in 19th and Early 20th Century American History, and The U.S. in Depression and War -- developed especially for the program by UMBC historians. They will participate in intensive workshops with Master Teachers and sharpen their skills at special presentations by National History Day and Maryland Public Television. Working with technology specialists, they will learn the best practices for using new media resources in the history classroom. Highlighting the program are research sessions with the Maryland State Archives, B&O Railroad Museum and National Archives and Records Administration.

“History teachers have been left without the support of the wider historical community for too long,” says Dan Ritschel, director of the UMBC Center for History Education and associate professor of history. “We have assembled our new partnership of educators, historians, media experts, and public history institutions in order to provide that support, offer the expertise and resources to enrich the teaching of American history, and help spark in students the love of the subject which we all share.”

The program will support a total of 135 teachers over the next three years. In addition to the Center for History Education Summer Institute, the participating teachers will receive mentoring and personalized research assistance from the historical organizations as they begin to implement their new teaching strategies over the course of the 2002-2003 school year. Their enhanced lesson plans will reside on Thinkport, Maryland Public Television's interactive website for K-12 educators, launching in March 2003.

American History is a key area of concern in the education community. The 2001 National Assessment of Educational Progress (aka The Nation's Reportcard) showed that slightly more than forty percent of high school seniors demonstrated basic knowledge of U.S. History. Sixty-five percent of eighth graders and sixty-seven percent of fourth graders were at or above the basic level. The problem is particularly pronounced among minority populations. In the 2001 test, 44 percent of black fourth-graders, 79 percent of whites and 71 percent of Asians scored at or above basic level.

“We'll seek to tackle these disappointing levels of student achievement by providing history teachers with the comprehensive support and historical resources offered by our new partnership,” says Ritschel.Program partners include the UMBC Center for History Education, Baltimore County Public Schools, National Council for History Education, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Maryland State Archives, Maryland Public Television, B&O Railroad Museum, National History Day, and National Archives and Records Administration.

About the Center for History Education
Since 1998, the Center for History Education (CHE) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County has sought to strengthen and invigorate the teaching of history in Maryland schools through innovative professional development programs and resources for elementary, middle and high school educators. Summer institutes and in-service workshops assist K–12 educators in enriching their history instruction. The graduate courses in U.S. and World History education incorporate rigorous content, proven teaching methods, technology integration and research experiences. In working with teams of master teachers, historians and other history professionals, participants increase their own content knowledge and develop new instructional materials for their students. All content is aligned with the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program outcomes, Core Learning Goals, and state history standards of the Maryland State Department of Education. For additional information about the CHE, please visit the center's web site at

About UMBC
UMBC is a medium-sized, selective, public research university situated on 500 acres between Baltimore and Washington, DC. UMBC has an enrollment of more than 11,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences and engineering. A campus community rich in cultural and ethnic diversity, UMBC promotes cutting-edge research and creative activity. The campus is home to the nationally-known Meyerhoff Scholarship Program, the Shriver Center, and a number of major research centers. UMBC is a member of the University System of Maryland and is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. For additional information about UMBC, please visit the university's web site at

Posted by dwinds1 at July 8, 2002 12:00 AM