Monday, January 26, 2009

Crossroads: A K-16 American History Curriculum

Crossroads is a K-16 curriculum in American history with a strong civics emphasis. It begins with a series of historiographic essays for the teacher written by Pulitzer-nominee Richard B. Bernstein. Teachers and historians then collaborated in the development of a core curriculum for each of four levels: elementary school, middle school, high school, and university for pre-service teachers.

In 1992, The Sage Colleges (Troy, NY) and the Niskayuna School District (Niskayuna, NY) received a three-year grant from the Fund for the Improvement and Reform of Schools and Teaching (FIRST) of the U.S. Department of Education to develop a seamless K-16 curriculum in American history. The curriculum, called Crossroads, is composed of thirty-six units equally distributed among elementary, middle, and high school grade levels, as well as course syllabii for preservice social studies educators on the subjects of American history and history education. The curriculum is chronologically organized into twelve historical periods--each covered by a unit at each of the three grade levels.

Each unit begins with an essay on the history and historiography of the period written by the project historian, Richard B. Bernstein, an Associate of the Council for Citizenship Education at The Sage Colleges and an adjunct faculty member at New York Law School and distinguished historian. The unit plans were then written by teams of Niskayuna and Sage teachers after a year-long seminar in American history and historiography with Professor Bernstein. Following their preparation, elementary and middle school units were field tested within the Niskayuna District and in the Albany City School District. The middle school curriculum was also field tested in two Ohio districts. All units were reviewed by an advisory panel. The project is directed by Stephen L. Schechter, a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Council for Citizenship Education at The Sage Colleges, and by Henry E. Mueller, Niskayuna Middle School Social Studies Coordinator. The project is administered by the Council for Citizenship Education.

Developed by the Niskayuna-Sage partnership, the "crossroads" model of curriculum development begins with three strategic junctures of history education:

    (1) at grades seven and eight, where a natural "crossroads" already exists between elementary and secondary education, between childhood and adolescence, and between an interest in the concrete and a capacity to grapple with the abstract;

    (2) in the first year of postsecondary education, where students are taking surveys of American history, government, and education which can provide a critical juncture between secondary and postsecondary education; and

    (3) in capstone experiences of postsecondary education, notably social studies methods and student teaching, in which students experience another transition, this time between their undergraduate experience in postsecondary education and the prospect of a teaching career rich in lifelong learning experiences.

    For information on accessing Crossroads materials, please click here.