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Chicago Schools to Teach African-American History in Core Courses


This post originally appeared on the Curriculum Matters blog. 

More than two decades after Illinois enacted a law that requires public schools to teach African-American studies, the 404,000-student Chicago school district announced a new curriculum guide for incorporating the subject into core classes.

According to last week's press release from Chicago Public Schools, the curriculum "supports schools in ensuring that every student:

  • is knowledgeable of and appreciates the richness of the African and African-American cultures and their contributions to the building of our society—locally, nationally, and globally;

  • is exposed to African and African-American histories that span beyond the typically-covered topics of slavery and the Civil Rights movement and will now include the African-American perspective throughout history; and

  • is taught this history over the course of the entire year and across disciplines—not just during Black History Month or in a social science course."

The Chicago Tribune reports that until now, African-American history "has been taught sporadically in Chicago, often coming up only during Black History Month or to mark the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday." (The same could be said for many other districts around the country.)

Annette Gurley, the district's chief officer of teaching and learning told the Tribune, "There are teachers who are doing this within regular plans, but the problem was that it was not being done districtwide." She said the law only requires a single unit be devoted to African-American history, but the curriculum, which will be in schools next month, integrates it "throughout the year for all subjects." (When I requested a copy of the new curriculum, a CPS spokesperson responded that "the actual guides are not public.") 

This is the second major curriculum announcement out of the Windy City in the past two weeks. In conjunction with Computer Science Education Week, CPS said it will add computer science as a core subject, rather than an elective, for high school students.

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