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ACPS Joins Montpelier, Charlottesville Area Community Foundation to Elevate Teaching and Learning of Nation’s History

DATE: July 24, 2019
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
PHONE: 434-972-4049

Albemarle County Public Schools Joins Montpelier, Charlottesville Area Community Foundation on $299,500 Program to Elevate Teaching and Learning of Nation’s Untold History

(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – A new partnership between the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, James Madison’s Montpelier, and Albemarle County Public Schools will elevate the teaching and learning of historical events and issues that have shaped the development of the nation and the Commonwealth over the past 400 years.

In a statement last week, the Community Foundation said it has awarded a three-year grant of $299,500 to the Montpelier Foundation. The grant will support the school division’s teachers in collaborating with Montpelier to create a social studies curriculum that will improve the teaching and learning of untold history.

The school division has described its goal of developing a more comprehensive and historically accurate social studies curriculum as “Reframing the Narrative.” It said this will provide teachers with experiences, language and frameworks for discussions around a broader, more complete teaching and learning of history that will address the legacies of racism, slavery and inequity.

“Students learn best not from taking notes, completing worksheets, or memorizing a textbook, but from student-initiated primary source research that connects to facts, offers the widest possible range of perspectives, accepts no conventional beliefs without evidence, and is dedicated to the full knowledge yielded by authentic, unvarnished learning experiences,” wrote Superintendent Dr. Matthew Haas in support of the grant application.

“With the support of such exceptional community partners as James Madison’s Montpelier and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, this program can change the role of education in race relations today. While its formative ideas were born in the wake of the tragic events of August 2017, it carries a universal applicability that can change not only our community, but communities across our nation,” Haas wrote.

John Hobson, the division’s social studies lead coach, said the new program has three components:

  • Professional development workshops for social studies teachers at Montpelier that will leverage Montpelier’s cutting-edge work in public history;
  • Curriculum development sessions in which teachers will design strategies for integrating workshop content into student classroom studies; and
  • Student field trips to Montpelier to complement classroom learning with on-site experiential learning experiences.

“Research tells us that conscious or unconscious bias can exist in the learning process,” Hobson said. “That’s important because often an important story is told from limited points of view. This not only can result in inequitable learning outcomes among students of color, but also an incomplete understanding of our nation’s history by all students. Our goal is to add the voices and perspectives of all participants impacted by historical events to our knowledge base,” he said.

Montpelier’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Kat Imhoff, said, “We’re honored to receive this grant from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation as a statement of their commitment to the importance of whole truth history and its place in our schools. We’ve always wanted to use the history of James Madison’s Montpelier to have relevant conversations about race and culture, and what better place than right at home in Charlottesville. Since we partnered for Let ‘Em Shine two years ago, we’ve been working with the school division on ways to make change on a broader scale, and we’re thrilled to finally have the opportunity and the resources to have a positive impact on thousands of students.”

The grant builds upon the school division’s continuing relationship with Montpelier. In February of this year, the school division held a professional development program for 25 social studies teachers at Montpelier that included its Mere Distinctions of Color exhibit, which tells the story of those enslaved at Montpelier. It also encompassed a tour and discussion of Gilmore cabin, which provides a representation of the life of an area African-American family in the Reconstruction-era following the Civil War.

In 2017, high school students visited Montpelier and met with historians and researchers to discuss the students’ Let ‘Em Shine project, funded by the National Writing Center. In examining the role of community monuments, students researched and made recommendations for the recognition of little-known community heroes.

In its proposed concept to Montpelier and the Community Foundation, the school division said, “We already have taken concrete steps toward establishing and nurturing positive systems of racial equity, such as the approval of an anti-racism policy and the establishment and use of an equity checklist in approving division policies. We recognize the importance of an anti-racist curriculum—one that deals honestly with issues of race, both past and present, and makes it clear that every student is a fully welcome member with full access to the learning community.”

Montpelier, the division said, is a “natural partner in this effort: a site where the compromises of the Founders, the legacies of slavery, and the failure of society over the past two centuries appear in stark relief.”

Hobson said that over the course of the next three years, the school division will invite educators, administrators, and community stakeholders from other school divisions and organizations to participate in the project. That includes, he said, collaborating to extend the learning benefits of the project beyond Albemarle County.

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