Making a Difference: A Guest Blogpost by Nancy McTygue, Executive Director, California History-Social Science Project

Originally posted on November 6, 2012 by Shennan Hutton

Let me be perfectly clear – the History Blueprint is not the magic educational bullet. I can’t promise that you’ll quadruple your test scores, end all your behavior problems, or magically get all your parents engaged when you use Blueprint materials. The project likely won’t help all students all the time everywhere without exception. It won’t cure cancer, end poverty, or make society more tolerant and charitable. I could make those claims, but I’m not a liar.

So what is it and why should you care? Here’s my one-sentence answer: 

The History Blueprint is a dynamic program of curriculum, innovative assessment tools, student literacy support, and teacher professional development, aligned with the Common Core State Standards, designed to revolutionize history instruction, and increase student learning and literacy.

Our theory is that if students have access to high quality curriculum, that supports their reading and writing development, and includes assessments that give teachers and parents critical data on student thinking, literacy, and content knowledge, we’ll go a long way towards improving the odds that they’ll actually learn something.

And while I refuse to over-promise, I absolutely hope and expect that it will make a difference. I hope that it helps some students better understand our past. I hope they’ll develop some reading and writing skills as they learn history. I hope they can better understand how an argument is constructed and how to evaluate the quality of one, using evidence, not just opinion. In short, I hope they learn content, develop literacy, and think more. 

Last spring we piloted our first unit, The Civil War, in 22 classrooms across California. The initial feedback we got from teachers and analysis of student work suggests that while we can certainly make improvements in the program, we’ve also begun to make real progress – many kids are learning history, understanding abstract texts, and writing arguments that demonstrate critical thinking. I’m thinking that’s a good enough reason to care, right?