Report by Paula Antolini, August 30, 2021, 10:01PM EDT
In December 2020 Governor Ned Lamont signed a new law – Public Act 19-12 – that directs all regional and local boards of education to include an elective course of studies at the high school level that provides students with a better understanding of the African-American, Black, Puerto Rican, and Latino contributions to United States history, society, economy, and culture. The Connecticut State Board of Education unanimously approved the curriculum for the course, which was a final step needed to implement the requirement.
This makes Connecticut the first state in the nation to require all high schools in the state offer courses on African-American, Black, Puerto Rican, and Latino studies.
High schools may offer the course in 2021-2022 and will be required to offer it during the school year that begins in the fall of 2022, according to a Lamont press release.
“Increasing the diversity of what we teach is critical to providing students with a better understanding of who we are as a society and where we are going,” Governor Lamont said. “Adding this course in our high schools will be an enormous benefit not only to our Black and Latino students, but to students of all backgrounds because everyone can benefit from these studies. This is a step that is long overdue, and I applaud the work of the General Assembly, State Board of Education, and everyone at the State Education Resource Center whose collaborative work helped get this done.”
“Identities matter, especially when 27 percent of our students identify as Hispanic or Latino and 13 percent identify as Black or African-American,” Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said. “This curriculum acknowledges that by connecting the story of people of color in the U.S. to the larger story of American history. The fact is that more inclusive, culturally relevant content in classrooms leads to greater student engagement and better outcomes for all.”
The adopted curriculum focuses on a two-pronged, inquiry-based approach, including both content knowledge and student identity development. It utilizes Connecticut’s Social Studies Framework themes and inquiry-based approach already familiar to social studies teachers to deliver a content rich and personalized learning experience. The Connecticut State Department of Education partnered with the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to develop the curriculum.
The development process was guided by a 150-member advisory group comprised of educators, administrators, higher education professors and scholars, national researchers and historians, representatives from education and community organizations, and studies and families. The group organized into nine committees with specific tasks. The work of each committee was facilitated by a SERC liaison to ensure seamless communication and workflow between committees.
Additionally, an expert review panel was convened, consisting of ten national and state-level experts to review course deliverables as they were developed and provide critical feedback and resources. Other opportunities for stakeholder involvement included providing feedback through surveys and focus groups.
“I am extremely proud of the passage of this bill,” State Senator Douglas McCrory (D-Hartford), co-chair of the Education Committee, said. “It was a humbling experience to hear students passionately call for the Black and Latino studies curriculum, and I thank them for it. Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,’ and I hope this new curriculum will facilitate a greater understanding and appreciation of the many contributions made by Black and Latino Americans.”
“I am excited to see implementation of this bipartisan legislation that will give students a more realistic view of their heritage and the many accomplishments of their ancestors,” State Representative Bobby Sanchez (D-New Britain) said. “This curriculum, which is a year-long study of Black and Latino history, will lead to better racial relations in our communities and a more inclusive state for our children and theirs. At public hearings, last year students explained how history classes didn’t reflect their heritage. Now, high schoolers will have that opportunity.”
“I am so proud of how the state came together to make this legislation I brought forth come to fruition,” State Representative Bobby Gibson (D-Bloomfield, Windsor) said. “This history is for everyone. Our nation is at a point where we must change the one-sided narrative of how we view history. Racism stems from the lack of knowledge and respect for one another. Perhaps if our children grew up knowing more about the amazing accomplishments of our people, the actions of this past summer would not have had to happen. We would be doing an injustice to our children if we didn’t do our part to help them to understand each other more.”
“SERC’s mission has always been about access and opportunity, and our team is proud to have been part of this moment affirming our students’ racial identity and ensuring it is at the forefront,” Ingrid Canady, executive director of SERC, said. “Our coordination of this endeavor involved an advisory group of racially diverse, passionate, and committed individuals from across Connecticut and we have made history together because we passionately believed it could be done. Even through challenges like the pandemic, the group never backed down because we knew that every single student in Connecticut needs to understand the history of people of color in the American story which has been denied by textbooks for too long.”
To learn more about the curriculum and the next steps for district implementation, visit pa1912.serc.co.