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AHA Project to Determine What Happens in History Classrooms

Over the past two years, U.S. history classes have been at the center of public debate and discussion.

Conservative pundits and politicians have said that teachers are “indoctrinating” students to hate America and making white students feel ashamed of themselves. Teachers and school leaders have roundly denounced these claims, explaining that they don’t have an agenda outside of teaching kids to identify historical evidence and make arguments.

At the same time, examples of history lessons gone wrong—gamified simulations of the Underground Railroad, for example—continue to surface in local news reports, a reminder that some students are getting watered-down, ahistorical versions of the harder chapters of the American story. In the worst case scenario, these kinds of activities can reinforce racist power dynamics and traumatize students.

These examples show that despite all the angst over history class, it’s very hard to know exactly what’s happening in classrooms writ large. Now, one new project aims to change that.

The American Historical Association, a professional organization for historians, educators, and others in the discipline, is conducting research into how schools choose materials and set instructional priorities in secondary history classes.

The AHA’s analysis will look at decisionmaking across the system, said Nicholas Kryczka, the research coordinator on the project. Kryczka and his team plan to examine state standards and legislative actions that dictate what teachers should—or should not—cover in classes. (That’s similar to a recent thread of Education Week reporting, which has documented how recent political discourse has resulted in changes to state standards in FloridaLouisiana, South DakotaTexas, and other states.)

But the AHA project will go one step further: The team will also interview district curriculum coordinators about how they select materials and organize professional development. The project will also include teacher surveys. The AHA will release a report with the findings at the end of the two-year effort.

Read entire article at EdWeek