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Open Educational Resources on American History

The Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) provides more than 50,000 secondary school teachers of American history and civics with free digital resources and professional development. With OpenStax, BRI has developed a free U.S. history digital resource that can be used by all high school students, including the 500,000 per year who take the Advanced Placement U.S. History exam. Available in early 2020, the resource’s 16 chapters will include personalized learning, real-time assessment, compelling stories, primary source documents, and point-counterpoint material on opposite sides of a question so that teachers can facilitate dialogue.

Unlike many teacher development efforts, BRI intentionally helps teachers inspire students to pursue the institutions of a free society. The Voices of History lesson plans teach character through stories of civic virtue and vice among heroes such as George Washington and villains such as Benedict Arnold. Documents of Freedom offers teachers a full-length set of course materials in the primary documents of the American Founding, and its lessons include tags for alignment with state standards. Professional development seminars build on these resources, and master teachers coach educators in pedagogy.

The Institute for Education Policy at Johns Hopkins University is analyzing the scope and sequencing of BRI’s history and civics curricula so that schools can evaluate how frequently, and at what grade levels, they are teaching core civics concepts, and so that teachers can integrate civic education with language arts—understanding the reading level of civics texts so as to better teach vocabulary, grammar, and communication skills.

The Institute for Education Policy also has developed plans for a longitudinal study of knowledge outcomes after changes in statewide civics curricula. The lack of long-term assessments of knowledge retention in civic education has limited what researchers know about what works. For example, after a statewide policy change in civics requirements, do students not only learn more but also retain what they learned into adulthood? Please contact the Roundtable if you are interested in supporting long-term retention studies.


Bill of Rights Institute


Annual expenditures: $5.5 million

President: David Bobb



Institute for Education Policy

Baltimore, MD

Deputy Director: Ashley Berner

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