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How This State Is Creating an Asian American Curriculum—and Why It’s Doing So

The demand for K-12 curriculum on the lived experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has grown nationally in the last three years, with at least five states passing legislation requiring such instruction.

In Connecticut, a state law passed in May 2022 required that a K-8 AAPI curriculum be taught in public schools by the 2025-26 school year. That fall, Jason Oliver Chang, an associate professor of history and Asian and Asian American studies at the University of Connecticut, put together a curriculum lab with peers, school teachers, and high school students.

Members of the curriculum lab developed model lessons and professional development plans that the state department of education can use when building the K-8 curriculum. The materials, delivered to the state agency on Jan. 15, are aligned with state social studies standards revised last fall. This is intended to help teachers incorporate AAPI studies more easily while also meeting state standards.

“What we’re hearing from some teachers is that they often struggle with getting students to understand the standards because the materials they’re using, the texts that they’re using, are either abstract, or have a different relevance, and so there’s an added sort of translational work that needs to happen in the classroom to talk about how to get to the standards and learning objectives,” Chang said.

Now the curriculum lab is working with local schools to pilot the lessons.

“We know that this is going to be a kind of forever project and that we will be continuously working to improve and expand and deepen lessons,” Chang added.

Through the model lesson plans, Chang and others in the curriculum lab hope that teachers and students can better connect with local AAPI communities in a culturally relevant way and students can learn skills required by state standards.

In the meantime, Chang is also working on certifying high school teachers to teach his introduction to Asian American studies course in high school for dual credit as part of the University of Connecticut’s Early College Experience program.

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