November 4, 2002
02-386

VSU is working to improve high school students' knowledge of U.S.history

Valdosta State University will be working with the Coastal Plains Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) to implement the South Georgia History Project (SGHP). The Department of Education awarded an $806,715 grant to Coastal Plains RESA for the three-year project, which will help to improve teaching and learning of American history in South Georgia high schools.

The project will involve 45 high school American history teachers divided into three cohorts of 15 each. The Southwest Georgia and Okeefenokee RESAs are also affiliated with the project. The teachers will participate in a series of graduate courses, workshops and conferences over the three-year period.

Harold Chambers, director of Coastal Plains RESA, and Dr. Charles Walsh, assistant professor in Middle Grades and Secondary Education, will serve as co-principal investigators for the project.

"The focus of the SGHP is on developing the historical knowledge, skills and dispositions of teachers," Walsh said. "The components of the SGHP are structured to provide teachers with a real sense of professionalism regarding the teaching of U.S. history."

According to Walsh, the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that only 43 percent of high school seniors had a basic understanding of U.S. history.

"Fewer than half the students could tell the Declaration of Independence from the Constitution or name which part of the government passes laws," Walsh said.

This program will help students be better prepared for college-level work, and with the introduction of the State of Georgia's End of the Course Tests (EOCT) the need for a strong U.S. history curriculum in high school is becoming more evident.

"Students need to do more than memorize facts," Walsh said. "They must understand people places and events in history."

The SGHP is just one of many ongoing collaborations between VSU and the Coastal Plains RESA.

"The RESA and VSU collaboration is growing stronger and has reached another plateau," Chambers said. "It is wonderful to have the opportunity to work in such a capacity with VSU and the professional educators who are part of VSU."