The Madison High School History Department spent two weeks during the summers of 2007 and 2008 studying the United States Constitution at Princeton University under a one million dollar federal Teaching American History grant. The program, which will run for three consecutive years (October 2006 - September 2009), provides teachers with the graduate-level instruction and cultural enrichment, tracing the arc of constitutional history from the founding era through modern America.
The project features participation by 45 middle and high school teachers. In 2007-8 the emphasis was on the ideas and events that were instrumental in the American Revolution and in the construction, ratification, and implementation of the U.S. Constitution. In 2008-9 the focus was on constitutional issues surrounding slavery and secession and how the scope of federal authority changed as a result of the Civil War.
Each year included a two-week summer residential seminar hosted by the James Madison Program on the campus of Princeton University and culminated in four half-day professional development activites during the academic year. The National Association of Scholars, which serves as the program administrator, is responsible for the program's content, the selection of lecturers, and all other aspects of the project. The summer residential experience, attended by 6 of 8 members of our teaching staff, was universally praised by those in attendance. Teachers were provided weekly opportunities to discuss application of the course material to the MHS curriculum - this was particularly beneficial in light of the district-wide curriculum renewal process, which began for the social studies program during the 2007-08 school year.
As members of the North Jersey Consortium of schools participating in the program, Madison teachers were joined by those from Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District, School District of the Chathams, Cranford Township Public Schools, and North Hunterdon-Vorhees Regional High School. Teachers were provided campus housing and full board, tuition, books, and a generous stipend for participating in the program. The James Madison Seminar continues next year with the study of 20th century constitutional issues and challenges.