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For more than 20 years, the State Historical Society of Missouri has coordinated the National History Day (NHD) educational program for Missouri students. New research shows this experience offers significant advantages for participants: NHD students perform better on high-stakes tests, are better writers, more confident and capable researchers, and have a more mature perspective on current events and civic engagement than their peers. According to the first national evaluation of the curricular program, participants show a greater ability to collaborate with peers, manage their time and persevere – all skills employers say are lacking in today’s workforce.
National History Day is a year-long academic program for elementary and secondary school students focused on historical research, interpretation, and creative expression. The Society coordinates nine regional programs, the state-level competition, and provides support for teachers and students throughout the school year. This year, more than 2,400 students from 102 schools will take part in National History Day in Missouri. The process of creating unique contemporary expressions of history enable NHD students to become writers, filmmakers, Web designers, playwrights, and artists.
Some of the important findings include:
•NHD students outperform their non-NHD peers on state standardized tests, not only in social studies, but in reading, science and math as well. For example, in 2008-2009 in Texas, twice as many NHD students achieved “commended performance” as non-NHD students (87 percent vs. 37 percent) on the social studies assessment of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). Also, at a South Carolina middle school where NHD was part of the curriculum for all eighth graders, students scored higher than students in a non-NHD middle school on the Language Arts, Math and Science segments of the 2008-09 PASS test.
•NHD students are better writers, who write with a purpose and real voice, and marshal solid evidence to support their point of view. NHD students outscored comparison-group students on both pre- and post-writing assessments, receiving more high scores (5s or 6s) on a 6-point scale, and fewer low scores. NHD essays had more sentence variety, richer vocabulary, a more authentic voice, and better organization.
•NHD students are critical thinkers who can digest, analyze and synthesize information. Performance assessments show that NHD students overall were significantly better than their peers at interpreting historical information, with an average of 79 percent vs. 61 percent correct.
•NHD students learn 21st Century skills. They learn how to collaborate with team members, talk to experts, manage their time and persevere.
•NHD has a positive impact among students whose interests in academic subjects may wane in high school. Analyses show that among Black and Hispanic students, NHD students outperform non-NHD students, posting higher performance assessment scores and levels of interests and skills. Compared to non-NHD boys, and to all girls, boys participating in NHD reported significantly higher levels of interest in history, civic engagement, and confidence in research skills, on both pre- and post-surveys.
The full report, National History Day Works, is available at www.nhd.org/NHDWorks.
Conducted by San Francisco-based research firm Rockman, et al, the study looked at performance assessments, surveys and standardized test scores to evaluate students’ research and writing skills, ability to interpret historical information, academic performance and interest in past and current events. Researchers then compared their evaluations of students who participated in National History Day (NHD) to their peers who did not participate in the program. The study, conducted at four sites around the country, found that on nearly every measure, NHD students’ scores or ratings were higher than their peers who did not participate in the program. The sites evaluated included school districts in urban, suburban and rural settings: Aldine Unified School District, Houston, TX; Chesterfield Co. Schools, Chesterfield, SC; a large public school district in Colorado; and Paterson Public Schools, Paterson, NJ.
About The State Historical Society of Missouri
Founded in 1898 by the Missouri Press Association and a trustee of the state since 1899, the Society is the premier center for the study of Missouri state & local history. With research centers on each campus of University of Missouri system, the Society collects, preserves and publishes materials that enhance research and support learning opportunities in Missouri studies and history of the Midwest. Visit: http://shs.umsystem.edu
About National History Day
National History Day (NHD) is a year-long academic program for elementary and secondary school students. Each year, more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide participate in the NHD contest. Students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historic sites. After analyzing and interpreting their sources, and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries. The products are entered into competitions in the spring at local, state and national levels where they are evaluated by professional historians and educators. The program culminates in a national competition each June held at the University of Maryland at College Park. Visit www.nhd.org