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Educators detail CT's new social studies curriculum

A group of students sitting at desks inside a classroom.
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Education experts have updated the standards for social studies curriculums in Connecticut schools, following a 2021 directive from the state.

Some of the key educators who helped shape these new standards recently appeared on Connecticut Public’s “Where We Live” to preview the new standards that will educate students about LGBTQ+ issues, racism, media literacy, climate change and more.

One of the core parts of the curriculum is evaluating the past through critical thinking.

“Not just learn history, but investigate history,” Steve Armstrong, social studies advisor at the Connecticut State Department of Education, said. Those students will determine, “what are the important issues in American history and world history, and study them from multiple perspectives,” Armstrong said.

Tony Roy, president of Connecticut Council for Social Studies and a teacher in Bloomfield, said the new standards also prioritize curiosity and research among students.

“In today's day and age, we need to understand where bias is and where that's coming from, so they can make informed decisions,” Roy said. “It's really the cornerstone of our democracy is to understand ‘what are people trying to say?’ ‘What are my beliefs about that?’ And then, ‘how is it that I'm going to act upon what I've learned?’”

The Connecticut legislature’s directive includes statutes to include local Indigenous history, which began this year. It also includes a statute to include Asian American and Pacific Islander studies, which will be rolled out in 2025.

The curriculum standards are centered around six pillars: justice, representation, inclusivity, agency, global content and local connections.

Dr. Brittney Yancy, an assistant professor of History and African American Studies at Illinois College, was central to crafting these themes in Connecticut. Yancy said that the hope is that those skills will transfer beyond the classroom.

“To take into our communities, across the state right across our world, and have this kind of global perspective, where they have the language to make change; they are informed about the past and present, being able to make those connections and links,” Yancy said.

And the new curriculum applies to younger students, too, according to Dr. Michael Bartone, an assistant professor in literacy, elementary, and early childhood education at Central Connecticut State University. Bartone said the new standards allow students to guide the instruction.

“They want to have these critical conversations and research. They want to understand what's going on in their world,” Bartone said. “And what I hope they get at is, how do you become a person who doesn't take something at face value? And understands and researches the complexities of a world?”

Currently, the program is in its initial stages of professional development in some Connecticut schools.

Learn More

To hear the entire “Where We Live” episode about the state’s new social studies program, click here.

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. She has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.

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