University Relations and Marketing

Contacts:
Dr. Tom Rust, Department of History, 657-2891
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269

February 5, 2011

Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools will use donation from former senator to promote National History Day

Donation by Sen. Conrad Burns will help local middle school, high school teachers become more familiar with MSU Billings-based program

MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — The Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools will use money from a donation by former U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns to help Billings middle and high school teachers become familiar with and improve their ability to implement the National History Day approach in their classrooms. 

Burn’s passion for history education lay behind the decision, foundation representatives said. In 2009, the former senator donated $79,000 to the foundation to help support educational efforts among the Billings public schools.

“Senator Burns shared that he has a strong interest in history.  That led the (Educational Foundation for Billings Public Schools) board to research history programs within School District 2 that support excellence and innovation in the classroom.  National History Day supports both of those goals” said Krista Hertz, executive director of the foundation.

National History Day is a yearlong academic program for middle and secondary school students focused on historical research, interpretation, and creative expression. NHD students become writers, filmmakers, Web designers, playwrights, and artists as they create unique contemporary expressions of history. For more than three years, Montana State University Billings — with support from the Montana Association of REALTORS and the Montana State Historical Society — has run the program in Montana, coordinating the regional and state-level competitions and providing support for teachers and students throughout the school year.

This year, more than 1,000 students from 11 schools including 3 in Billings are taking part in the program.

“We’re excited that the foundation is supporting teachers in their efforts to expand Montana National History Day and we look forward to working closely with them,” said Dr. Tom Rust, assistant professor of history at MSU Billings and state coordinator of Montana National History Day.

The mission of the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools is to promote excellence in education by providing opportunities and resources to Billings public school students. The foundation works in cooperation with the public school system, but operates independently.  Through endowments, scholarships, grants and specific projects, the foundation provides opportunities and resources for students and educators in Billings Public Schools to promote excellence in education.  Major activities include: classroom grants, Partners in Education, Reading Rocks, Saturday Live and scholarships for students and teachers.

Montana is a relative new comer to the National History Day Program, starting in 2008 and having the first state competition in 2009.  It has grown dramatically in its three year history, from 48 participants in two schools during the 2008-09 school year to over 1,000 participating in 12 schools from Glendive to Corvallis this year.

A recent independent study shows that the program not only improved students’ understanding of history but also standardize test scores across the curriculum. Students who participate in the National History Day (NHD) educational program, coordinated by the History Department at MSU Billings, 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 independent national evaluation of the widely used curricular program.

Participants also show a greater ability to collaborate with peers, manage their time and persevere – all skills employers say are lacking in today’s workforce.

For more information on the Montana National History Day program, contact Rust at 657-2891.

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