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Newark school district adds new project to its relationship with Stanford History Education Group

December 6, 2015
The skyline of Newark, N.J.
The skyline of Newark, N.J.
To help mark Newark's 350th anniversary, Stanford education scholars will be working with the city's teachers to craft lessons about its past.

The following is a news release issued by Newark Public Schools on Oct. 26.

Newark Public Schools announced that it is expanding its “Reading Like a Historian” curriculum in celebration of the 350th anniversary of the city. The district recently held a professional development training session showing educators how to incorporate lesson plans highlighting the role of African Americans throughout history into the social studies curriculum.  In honor of the 350th anniversary, the district plans to work with Stanford Graduate School of Education, Newark 350 Board members, local historians and educators to design lesson plans to help students better understand African American history and Newark history through important historical events.

“Thanks to Reading Like a Historian and our history teachers, students will have a better understanding of important historical events,” said Christopher D. Cerf, Superintendent of NPS.  “I am thrilled that we will be further incorporating African American and Newark history into the social studies curriculum, especially as Newark’s 350th anniversary is approaching. I hope the lessons they learn this year will inspire them to be a part of the rebirth and regeneration that is currently underway in this city.”

Junius Williams, the director of the Rutgers-Newark’s Abbott Leadership Institute and chairman of Newark Celebration 350, emphasized the important role history education will play in the celebration of the anniversary. “We are happy the Newark Public Schools has accepted our invitation to join in the celebration of Newark’s history in such an important way. Our work as the NC350 Board will be that much more meaningful if educators, local historians and history makers, engage NPS students in the interpretation of Newark’s history in an ongoing fashion. NC350 wants young people to understand how history impacts upon the present and future. We look forward to working with the Superintendent and his staff to design an exciting course”.

NPS launched its Reading Like a Historian program three years ago in an effort to improve history education and understanding.  Reading Like a Historian supplements teachers’ lesson plans and empowers students to understand history through historical inquiry and investigation.  Students are given a series of primary documents that outline different or conflicting points of view about a historical event. It is offered to students in grades 6 through 8 as well as to students in Newark’s high schools.

“Programs like Reading Like a Historian are so important because they encourage our students to consider important historical questions and come to their own answers after examining rich primary sources,” said Caleb Perkins, who is the Special Assistant for Curriculum at NPS, “The professional development is preparing high school teachers to incorporate Reading Like a Historian into their lesson plans in the coming weeks and months in order to help students better understand historical events like Newark and the Great Migration of the 20th Century that brought so many African Americans to communities in the north like Newark.”

Read a related story about how Los Angeles Unified School District has adopted Reading Like a Historian.

Roger Leon, Assistant Superintendent at Newark Public Schools, summarized the effort. “This collaboration is part of our team’s larger effort to engage community members in the work of our schools. We look forward to working with teachers and our local partners to build more like it as the 350th anniversary approaches.”

The City of Newark recently kicked off Newark Celebration 350 with a family fun festival in Military Park. The year-long celebration will include a series of over 50 events and projects throughout the city in 2016.

The broader Reading Like a Historian curricular program is supported by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), which is a group of education and history advocates who are researching how history is taught and understood in the classroom. 

To learn more about Reading Like a Historian, visit: https://sheg.stanford.edu/. The program passed more than 1 million downloads of its lessons in early 2014, and an article documents how it is being adopted worldwide. To learn about its first pilot in San Francisco Unified School District, visit https://ed.stanford.edu/news/stanford-developed-history-lessons-grades-6-12-adopted-worldwide.