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Museum Initiative Boosting Academic Achievement

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In the Wednesday, September 20, 2011 edition of the Wall Street Journal, former Lockheed Martin CEO put forth the notion that studying history can boost our literacy in science, math, politics, and business.  He specifically mentions the National History Day program as a leader in creative history education that emphasizes critical thinking and research skills.  He then cites findings that show that students who participate in the History Day program consistently outperform their peers not only in history, but in reading, math, and science as well.

In January of this year, the findings of an independent evaluation on the impact of the National History Day program were released.  The evaluation looked at schools in a wide variety of geographic regions and parental income levels.   The school districts participating in the study included Aldine Unified School District in Texas, Paterson School District in New Jersey, Chesterfield County Schools in South Carolina, and a large urban/suburban district in Colorado.  At all of these schools, students participating in NHD outperformed their peers in standardized tests, classroom performance, and independent writing assessments.  Locally, two students from Metairie, LA scored Mastery on their LEAP test despite being English as Second Language students who have been in the United States for less than 4 years.  Download reports that give a full overview of the NHD Evaluation methodology.

Why does it work?

It is not surprising that students participate in NHD perform better in all subject areas.  Critical thinking, analytical reading, and problem solving are all skills that NHD emphasizes, and they are all skills that easily roll over to other subjects.  There is also a real world component to NHD.  Students from Louisiana attend contests at The National WWII Museum and several other museums around the state.  While at the contests, they spend 10-15 minutes discussing their work with judging teams made up of history professors, museum staff members, and graduate students.  Each judge looks at the projects in a slightly different way and offers valuable advice for the students involved.  Students receive their feedback forms on the Monday following the contest, and most students take the forms and use the information to improve their projects for the next round.

The act of revisiting one’s work and making improvements is a skill that is necessary in just about every career.  NHD has its profound impact because it emphasizes that skill and brings in outside experts to provide the feedback.  The result is students who to utilize the resources available them and who are unafraid to approach problems from different angles.  These skills are necessary to our next generation of professionals whether they are historians, engineers, or doctors.

Find out more at http://louisianahistoryday.org.

This post by Louisiana History Day Coordinator Nathan Huegen.

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