D65 working board meeting gives updates on new social studies curriculum


Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

The Evanston/Skokie District 65 Education Center, at 1500 McDaniel Avenue. At a meeting of the district’s Finance Committee, school board members discussed potential budget cuts to address a $1.9 million shortfall in the FY22 budget.

Olivia Alexander, Reporter

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board members discussed development updates for a new social studies curriculum that centers racial equity at a Monday board meeting.

The anti-racist curriculum is set to involve nine equity components informed by the Illinois State Board of Education’s Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Standards, adopted last December. The equity components include interrogating systems of oppression, leveraging student activism, social justice orientation and prioritizing historically marginalized students.

Board President Anya Tanyavutti said she saw the meeting as an opportunity to set an important vision for acknowledging harm and trauma that has occurred within the district.

“We have the opportunity to truly set a vision for putting those ideals into action, so that we can change people’s lived experiences,” Tanyavutti said.

Board members also discussed including an intersectional land acknowledgement honoring Indigenous and enslaved people at the beginning of each board meeting. The resolution will be brought to a vote March 22.

Tanyavutti invited a panel of BIPOC activists and community leaders to share their thoughts on the resolution’s importance and discuss ways to implement its goals.

During the discussion, D65 mother Juanita Montoya, who helped initiate the Latino Quest club during her time at ETHS, said students won’t hear board members reading an acknowledgement at a meeting. Instead, she said she’s interested in understanding the statement’s impact on helping her children feel welcome in the district.

“I really, really want (the resolution) to pass and be the spark that sets the rest of the fire going,” Montoya said. “But I am really interested in hearing how this is going to translate into the classroom.”

Megan Bang, a Northwestern University professor of learning sciences as well as D65 parent and grandparent, said she thinks the land acknowledgement, paired with a new social studies curriculum, could effectively implement ethnic studies in K-12 education.

However, she warned those in attendance that the goal would take work and she encouraged board members to establish a realistic timeline.

“You are talking about transforming the very essence of public education,” Bang said. “That is going to be a re-education of the entire town of Evanston, and that’s not going to come easy, but if you don’t have the right timeline, you are going to set people up for failure, and that actually does more harm.”

Jamila Dillard, hired this year by District 65 to restructure its social studies curriculum, led an update on her team’s effort. She said the new curriculum intends to teach the entire timeline of African history — starting before slavery and continuing to the present day — and is on track to be complete by June.

Dillard said the team found little to no evidence in a district-wide survey that the state board’s newly designated equity components were present in the district’s current social studies curriculum.

Referring to a timeline that began in January, Dillard said the critical review of curriculum recommendations is complete, development will start in the next two to three weeks and strategic planning for implementation of a social studies curriculum centering anti-racism will follow.

Dillard’s curriculum update emphasized the importance of discussing BIPOC history outside of colonization and oppression. Dillard said the team is focusing on weaving movements such as Black Lives Matter into the curriculum so students will encounter them daily, rather than incidentally.

“Every story is not just the oppression of our people, but actually how great our people are,” Dillard said. “I want to ensure that we’re getting a full picture… of each culture, and so that’s what we’re aiming to do with this.”

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