Monday, October 6, 2003

Washington College, Public Schools Partnership Wins Nearly $1 Million Federal Grant To Improve Teaching Of American History

Chestertown, MD, October 6, 2003 — Kent County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bonnie Ward announced today that Kent County Public Schools will lead a coalition of Eastern Shore school systems (including Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot and Worcester counties) in partnership with Washington College's C. V. Starr Center and the Sultana Projects, Inc. to create an innovative professional development program for primary- and secondary-level American history teachers. A three-year $951,909 Teaching American History grant from the U.S. Department of Education will fund the program, to be called the Washington's Legacy Project.
“Helping students understand our past will ensure a vibrant democratic future for our community and our nation,” said Dr. Ward. “We are excited about the project because teaching American History is so crucial to perpetuating the democratic ideals set forth by our nation's founders, none of whom is more well known than George Washington. This project has the potential to inspire approximately 250 teachers and the 25,000 students in their classrooms in eight counties across the Eastern Shore. It will create a network of resources, both collegial and institutional across our rural region. Until now, that rural nature made it difficult to access top American history scholars and provide teachers with high-level professional development experiences. The Eastern Shore is rich in revolutionary and African American history, we now have the partnerships in place to take full advantage of these rich aspects of our regional and national history.”
“Clearly there is no better partner for the Washington's Legacy Project than Washington College, which lists our first president as a founding patron,” said Dr. Ward. “We have a history of strong partnerships with Washington College through our Professional Development Schools, which are helping train the teachers of tomorrow. Those teacher interns will also benefit from the professional development provided through the Washington's Legacy Project. We also have an established partnership with Sultana Projects, Inc., which has become a living history classroom for our students.”
Washington College President Dr. John Toll said: “The Washington's Legacy Project promises to be a significant step toward ensuring that our young people have a deep and abiding understanding of our nation's past so that—individually and collectively—they can be fully involved, engaged and informed citizens as adults.”
“Through five decades in higher education, and eight years as the president of this historic institution, I have witnessed how education transforms young people into active citizens concerned with the future of their communities, their nation and the world,” said Dr. Toll “Teachers of history give our young people a deep understanding of the past that enriches their present and inspires their dreams for the future. It is here that the Washington's Legacy project will make a difference for hundreds of teachers and tens of thousands of students in our region.”
“The Project partnership of the C. V. Starr Center, Kent County Public Schools and the Sultana Projects has secured a grant of nearly $1 million from the Department of Education to fund high-level professional development for teachers of American history in eight counties on the Eastern Shore. In fact, this is the largest grant given in Maryland for this type of program,” said Dr. Toll.
Dr. Joan Buffone, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Kent County Public Schools, said: “The federal government began sponsoring Teaching American History grants three years ago. Through the project public and private school American History teachers from the participating counties will be able to enroll in a number of unique professional development experiences. These will include an annual Teaching American History conference for Eastern Shore Teachers. The project will also provide a graduate course in Teaching American History, summer institutes and Saturday seminars. Professional development activities will be held at the C. V. Starr Center, aboard the Schooner Sultana (a historically accurate replica of a 1768 British schooner), at Mount Vernon home of George Washington and at the Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.”
“There is clear evidence that teacher training improves student performance in learning American History,” added Dr. Buffone. “Bringing history to life for our teachers through high quality professional development, will enable them to provide authentic learning experiences for their students.”
The Washington's Legacy Project is based on extensive educational research. It will create a multi-layered resource network for Eastern Shore history teachers. At the first level is the partnership between the public schools and higher education. In addition, there is a layer of community partners including the C. V. Starr Center, Sultana Projects, Inc., Mount Vernon and the Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. An additional resource layer is created by the many opportunities for collegial networking between teachers who will have access to a professional website to talk with history scholars and colleagues to exchange ideas and share successful teaching techniques and classroom best practices.
Kent County Public Schools provides public education to the student's of Maryland's smallest county. The small county has been cited for innovative programs by the Learning First Alliance in its case study “Beyond Islands of Excellence: What Districts Can Do to Improve Instruction and Achievement in All Schools.” Last year, Kent County Public Schools won a Gold Maryland Quality Award for its application of the Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Excellence in Education.
The C. V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is an innovative forum for new scholarship about American history. Drawing on the special historical strengths of Washington College, the Center explores the early republic, the rise of democracy, and the manifold ways in which the founding era continues to shape the fabric of American culture. The Center is interdisciplinary, encouraging the study of traditional history alongside new approaches, and seeking to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large. For more information about C. V. Starr Center events and programs, visit the Center online at, or call 410-810-7156.
Sultana Projects, Inc., based in Chestertown, is the non-profit organization that raised money to build and maintain the Schooner Sultana and the educational programs conducted aboard this reproduction of a 1768 Royal Navy vessel. The modern Schooner Sultana functions as a teaching facility for experiential education programs focusing on colonial American history and environmental science. More than 5,000 students and their teachers experience these programs aboard the Sultana each year.

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