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October 3, 2007

Stanford and George Mason to launch $7 million history education project

By Lisa Trei

Stanford University's School of Education and George Mason University have been awarded $7 million by the U.S. Department of Education to establish a virtual "Federal Clearinghouse for History Education" to help teachers become more effective educators and teach K-12 students why history is relevant to their daily lives.

The online project, which will be launched in part by the end of this year, is headed by education Professor Sam Wineburg, chair of the history education group at Stanford's School of Education, and Roy Rosenzweig, the Mark and Barbara Fried Professor of History and New Media at George Mason University.

"This collaboration puts Stanford on the map as the address for history education in the United States, if not for North America and beyond," Wineburg said. "With this clearinghouse, the federal government has recognized the absolutely central role that history plays in creating a literate citizenry, poised to face the challenges of the future with knowledge and intelligence."

Rosenzweig added: "This is a great opportunity for George Mason and Stanford to use their extensive and complementary experience and expertise to create a long-term, valuable resource for K-12 history teachers across the country."

Deborah Stipek, dean of the School of Education, said the project will make a difference in how history is taught in this country. "This multimedia website will make available materials that will help teachers make history come alive for students and foster their understanding of history as an active process of inquiry and analysis rather than facts to remember," she said.

The five-year award, announced Sept. 28, will be used to give American history teachers access to a wide range of resources collected in a central source. The project's main goal is to help teachers get access to online materials—ranging from original historic texts to effective strategies for using those documents in the classroom—to strengthen their work as history educators.

"Exploiting the potential of the Internet, teachers will find a range of multimedia resources to improve their practice, including ways to connect historical content to state standards, debates on the history curriculum, briefs on the latest research in both history education and historical scholarship, and online videos of successful classroom teaching practices," Wineburg wrote in a statement about the grant. "This effort is a marriage between scholars who are pioneers in digital history and scholars doing pioneering work in how students learn history."

The clearinghouse project, which was selected in a national competition, is based on a collaboration that Wineburg and Rosenzweig launched in 2005 to build a website called "Historical Thinking Matters." The website, funded by a $500,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, focuses on key topics in post-Civil War U.S. history and is designed to teach students how to read primary sources critically and how to critique and construct historical narratives. Topics covered include the Spanish-American War, the Scopes Trial of 1925, Social Security and the New Deal, and Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Clearinghouse website

The clearinghouse will expand on "Historical Thinking Matters" to include the following:

  • History Education News, a monthly online newsletter, will highlight the latest developments in history education and also will be published in print twice a year. Subscribers will be able to tailor news received based on what grades they teach.
  • History Content will provide access to online primary sources; quality websites and online exhibits; reviews of secondary literature; online lectures; local historical sites and museums; and the opportunity to "ask a historian" to answer specific questions. Material will be organized by time period, topic and grade level.
  • Teaching Materials will include a searchable database of state standards; vetted lesson plans; support materials; elementary, middle and high school guides for working with primary sources; and a lesson plan finder.
  • Best Practices will highlight the latest, most effective practices for classroom teaching, historical thinking and effective assessment.
  • Policy and Research will include discussions about history education policy issues and emerging scholarship. The clearinghouse will commission policy briefs and convene a monthly discussion on topics of concern to history teachers. Nineteen scholars, including Stanford history Professors Clayborne Carson and David Kennedy, and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Diane Ravitch, will participate in the Policy and Practice Roundtable.
  • Professional Development will provide information about distance learning, from formal courses to free online history lectures and summer workshops. Material will be sortable by location and date.
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    Lisa Trei, News Service: (650) 725-0224,


    Sam Wineburg, School of Education: (650) 725-4411,

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