Connecticut is first state to require high school courses on Black and Latino studies

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut has become the first U.S. state to require all high schools in the state to offer courses on African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies, according to the office of Gov. Ned Lamont.

The high schools will have the option to offer the course in the 2021-2022 school year but will be required to offer it starting in fall 2022.

Last year, Lamont signed the requirement, Public Act 19-12, into law. And last week, the Connecticut State Board of Education unanimously approved the curriculum for the course.

The curriculum will provide high school students a better understanding of the African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino contributions to United States history, society, economy and culture using an inquiry-based approach, which includes both content knowledge and student identity development.

“Identities matter, especially when 27% of our students identify as Hispanic or Latino and 13% 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.”

Students at New London’s C.B. Jennings Dual Language Elementary school learn about different cultures early on, and many in that school system and in Norwich may be applauding the new legislation.

“It’s great to see … a standard practice as opposed to relying on teachers’ enthusiasm and passion for exposing children to Black and Latino studies,” said Tamara Gloster, Norwich assistant superintendent of schools. 

Norwich is a K-8 school system and will now be enhancing its curriculum to prepare students for the new high school studies and give them guaranteed experiences now, such as in the area of civil rights.

“We’re looking to encompass and expand upon that through studying Cesar Chavez and his leadership as it relates to civil rights and how that impacts on other countries,” said Gloster.

“For me, I recall taking in college a course on Latino studies, and it just made me feel seen,” Cardona said in September. “It made me feel seen.”

He said he also felt proud, a feeling he hopes high school students will soon share. 

The new curriculum is two-pronged. It focuses on content knowledge as well as student identity development. 

“What we want to do is provide that opportunity for all students to learn about the contributions of Latinos and African Americans in a way that they see that they do add to the fabric of our country,” said Cardona.

And he says that they are a part of American history.

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