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Caddo Parish teachers take final seminar before federal grant ends prematurely

Teachers from 25 Caddo Parish schools have begun a graduate seminar  at LSU Shreveport to enhance their expertise and ability to teach American and Louisiana history. The Teaching American History grant from the U.S. Department of Education has been the bread-and-butter program for the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities over the years. These grants totaled $2 million for Caddo Parish since 2005, and touched 370 teachers. LEH president Michael Sartisky said the current group of teachers will be the last ones through the program.

"With the federal budget cuts, they sunsetted not just our seminars, but they sunsetted the entire TAH program nationally. We lost two years of funding we had actually already won competitively," Sartisky said.

The LEH studies the ripple effect of the grant program. Sartisky said teachers at all levels dramatically improved their knowledge of history through the program. At the middle school level, he said, teachers improved their test scores by 98 percent after taking this graduate seminar. At a time of intense scrutiny of teacher and student performance, Sartisky said, it's a shame to see it going away.

"It just breaks my heart. And, if you'd talk to any of the teachers, you would hear similar sentiments," Sartisky said.

The across-the-board federal budget cuts coupled with the elimination of $2 million in state appropriations to the LEH have greatly curtailed its humanities training for teachers. Up to two years ago, Sartisky said the LEH was the most prosperous state humanities council nationwide.

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