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What Districts Can Do To Support Educators in Teaching Honest History


Tool 33: Proactively communicate your district’s support for teaching honest history.

Tool 34: Identify state standards and course mandates that support the teaching of honest histories.

Tool 35: Support educator use of strong curricular and instructional practices for teaching honest history.

Tool 36: Identify allies in the district and the community who can share their support for teaching honest history.

Tool 37: Support school leaders in teaching honest history.

Educators have identified district support as a crucial lever for teaching honest history. While anti-LGBTQ+ bills and policies to restrict honest history (typically referred to as “anti-CRT,” an acronym for “critical race theory”) have been introduced across the country, and several have even passed into law, some districts have taken stances in favor of inclusive education. Other districts, however, have remained silent or folded under pressure against teaching honest history.

District office personnel play important leadership roles in protecting educators who teach honest history. In the ASCD article “How Leaders Can Create Clarity on Race and Curriculum,” an equity officer from a Southern school district explained the importance of district support, sharing that districts “have to continue to push back against the opponents of this work by really talking about what it is that we’re doing … to make sure that every young person that is involved in the school system has an adequate opportunity, has adequate access, and has everything they need to be successful.”

For district-level staff members, here are five tools that you can use to support educators in teaching honest history.

Tool 33: Proactively communicate your district’s support for teaching honest history.

Districts should share clear, matter-of-fact communication about how honest history supports students and what teaching honest history looks like in classrooms. For examples, district staff can review the Learn From History Coalition guide Minimizing Misinformation About History and Social Studies.

Tool 34: Identify state standards and course mandates that support teaching honest histories.

“An honest retelling of United States history includes events and experiences of all people who shaped it. To challenge the traditional narrative—one steeped in white supremacy and American exceptionalism—is to challenge power. Hence, the agitation we’re witnessing around what teachers teach and how.”

From “Teaching the Past To Improve the Future” by Coshandra Dillard

Educate yourself and your school administrators and teachers about state standards and other mandates. This helps staff understand their legal obligations and provides guidance for what content educators should include in their curricula. Some states have legal requirements about teaching inclusive history. Additionally, many professional, nationally recognized institutions, such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Council for the Social Studies, have written position statements in support of the responsibility educators have to teach honest history.

Tool 35: Support educator use of strong curricular and instructional practices for teaching honest history.

Many educators need support in learning promising practices for teaching honest history, which can include curricular resources, pedagogical choices and inclusive classroom cultures. Districts play a vital role in providing professional development and support for school administrators and teachers, such as bringing in historians or experts in history to speak at districtwide professional learning events.

Learning for Justice provides professional development options including virtual workshops, learning cohorts, facilitator guides and self-guided learning.

Tool 36: Identify allies in the district and the community who can share their support for teaching honest history.

There is broad support for schools to teach about the true history of the United States, including the history of racism. Consider working with a diverse cross section of community members to galvanize support. These groups can speak at school board meetings, advocate for legislation that supports inclusive history and help educate the broader community about the importance of learning hard history. Many community members are invested in ensuring that students have the freedom to learn, and they can be powerful allies.

Tool 37: Support school leaders in teaching honest history.

When requesting support for teaching honest history, teachers are most likely to approach their school leaders first. District staff can help school leaders in advocating for teaching honest history by providing specific messaging that school leaders can use to communicate to the school community, families and caregivers, and the public. Additionally, district staff can help school administrators by providing professional learning on teaching honest history as well as curricular resources and guidance on difficult topics.

For more information on supporting teachers, we encourage school and district staff to read other sections of this guide.

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