WEST NEWBURY — Superintendent Justin Bartholomew and Assistant Superintendent Brent Conway are pleased to provide an update on the development of a new, more culturally responsible and inclusive history and social studies curriculum for the entire Pentucket Regional School District.
Over the past year, members of the district have been working to update the curriculum in order to meet the new history and social studies standards set by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The new standards create an added emphasis on teaching students civic responsibility; focus on including more diverse materials and discussions to create a more accurate representation of different genders, races and cultures; and include more lessons on local history and indigenous groups. These changes by the state were the first revisions since 2003, though much of the content still reflected the original 1997 version even after the revision.
Using the new standards as a foundation, district officials and teachers from all Pentucket schools met to review the current curriculum to find the gaps and needs in order to align with the new guidelines. The group was co-chaired by Assistant Superintendent Conway and John Siegfried, History Department Chair for grades seven through 12. A survey was also completed by staff and families in the district.
“Our goal is to help shape students into ethical and morally responsible community members by focusing on teaching them civic responsibility and important historical periods that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve in the past, including ones that bear particular importance for people of color and women,” said Superintendent Bartholomew. “These updates to the curriculum for all of the district’s students will help us to achieve that goal and ensure they are receiving an in-depth and thorough education in world history.”
Some of the key changes include:
- Helping students from kindergarten to second grade develop a sense of self and their role in the local and global community by teaching them civics and promoting a global understanding of different cultures.
- Updating the curriculum for third through fifth grade students and providing professional development opportunities for those teachers to present content and guidelines on how to discuss topics such as racism and the historical treatment of indigenous people.
- Purchasing biographies and accessible texts for grades one through three on historical figures and world cultures that represent greater diversity and match content standards.
- Performing an equity audit of texts and materials for grades three through 12 for content connections and diverse representations of factors such as race, gender and culture and to build broad content knowledge.
- Ensuring that all high school classes use the practices of Social Studies, such as organizing and using information from primary and secondary sources, so that students have thorough exposure and expectations to those practices throughout their four years.
- Creating cross-curricular connections to English language arts from kindergarten through grade 12 to help bolster students’ writing and research skills for both subjects, including the adoption of Modern Language Association (MLA) 8 format for all research projects and papers.
- Training staff in restorative justice practices and circles to facilitate broader conversations around social justice, equity and other challenging topics in current events.
To view a full summary of the committee’s report, click here.
Over the next approximately 16 months, work will be done to implement the curriculum, starting with the purchasing of textbooks and e-editions of textbooks for students.
“These new materials will support a critical step forward for our district, and provide our students with the knowledge and support they will need to become informed and thoughtful citizens,” Assistant Superintendent Conway said. “It is vital for our children to know and understand the history of all people and cultures, and we’re especially proud to include more lessons about the indigenous groups of Massachusetts and the Pentucket region.
Assistant Superintendent Conway gave a presentation about the new curriculum to the Pentucket School Board on Tuesday, June 16. To view the presentation, click here.