Christine L. Compston, December 1994
Over the course of the past year, the National History Education Network (NHEN) has taken an active interest in federal education legislation, monitoring progress and reporting on those provisions likely to affect the quality of history teaching in this country.
The Eisenhower Professional Development Program, Title II of the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994, has been the focus of attention. This program will provide $320 million for the professional development of teachers in the core disciplines during the coming year. Since 1988, the Eisenhower Program has funded professional development in math and science, and under the current legislation, $250 million is "protected" for those two subjects. However, the $70 million now available to the arts and humanities acknowledges the need to improve the quality of teaching in all the disciplines.
Spurred on by federal legislation, states have been working to develop curricula frameworks that meet national goals and local needs. Although the network has not been in a position to participate in drafting state history/social studies guidelines, NHEN and some of its member organizations—the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the World History Association—submitted reviews of a social studies curriculum proposed for Ohio. Unfortunately, our efforts seem to have had little impact; the final document continues to emphasize citizenship over scholarship and treats world history as incidental to United States history.
The network continues to serve as a clearinghouse for information about history education. The quarterly newsletter regularly publishes articles on successful collaboratives, descriptions of materials that have been developed for use in the classroom, and announcements of workshops, summer institutes, fellowships, and meetings. A membership directory/resource guide contains descriptions of educational activities of the network's member organizations.
The History Teaching Alliance (HTA), no longer a source of funding, has continued to support the establishment of collaboratives. To that end, it serves as a clearinghouse for information about successful projects, arranges sessions on history education for national conferences, and assists with the design and development of proposals. The alliance is currently developing a handbook on how to establish and sustain a local collaborative.
Building on the link between HTA and NHEN, the network session at the annual meeting of the AHA will focus on collaborations between schools, colleges, and museums. Jane Christie, assistant director of education for the Connecticut Humanities Council and NHEN representative for CHART, will describe new approaches to university/elementary school/museum collaboration using the Hartford Public Schools as a case study. She will examine problems as well as the potential for systemic reform in this project.
Gordon McKinney will focus on National History Day's experiences in conducting summer institutes for secondary school teachers. He will discuss the nature of the institutes, requirements of funding sources, needs of teachers, and the philosophy behind the institutes as related to history teaching and learning.
Amanda Podany, interim director of the California History-Social Science Project, will examine the various formats—summer institutes, workshops, seminars, and conferences—for bringing teachers and university faculty together to explore topics in history-social science, to engage in research, and to develop leadership among the participants in order to have a wide impact on teaching in the discipline at all grade levels.
Membership in the National History Education Network is available to individuals as well as organizations. For further information, contact Christine L. Compston, Director, National History Education Network, Dept. of History, University of Tulsa, 600 S. College Ave., Tulsa, OK 74104-3189. (918) 631-2349. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.