Aug 13, 2023
There a lot of new curriculum in CT schools for 2023
The new school year is bringing big changes to the K-12 curriculum in Connecticut. Here’s a peak at what’s new this fall and a preview of what’s to come in the years ahead. State law now requires
The new school year is bringing big changes to the K-12 curriculum in Connecticut. Here’s a peak at what’s new this fall and a preview of what’s to come in the years ahead.
State law now requires Connecticut schools to teach climate change within the science curriculum.
While climate change instruction has been common practice for as many as 90% of schools in the state, the new requirement mandates that all schools must teach climate change in accordance with the Next Generation Science Standards starting this fall.
The standards, which include elementary, middle and high school lessons, cover typical weather conditions, ecosystems, weather-related hazards, climate patterns, the impact of human activity and climate change solutions, among other topics.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has also developed its own resources for educators including publications on climate change in Connecticut.
“I’m thrilled this requirement is going into effect and, if taught boldly, hopefully, and realistically by devoted science teachers, all of our kids will be much better off,” said State Rep. Christine Palm, the vice chair of the Environment Committee, who championed the passage of the initiative in 2022.
Financial literacy is now an embedded component of the K-12 model curricula. CSDE’s K-2 and 3-5 math curriculum now features financial literacy lessons with an additional financial literacy-specific curriculum for sixth through 12th graders.
Under the new CSDE model curriculum, educators are encouraged to include at least one financial literacy lesson for each K-5 math unit. The department describes the hands-on, grade-appropriate tasks as building “concepts including income, spending, saving, investing, credit and risk.”
This year’s incoming freshman will be the first graduating class required to take a half-credit of personal financial management and financial literacy in order to receive their high school diplomas, as a result of legislation passed in the 2023 legislative session. CSDE said it is developing resources and guidance alongside local, state and national partners to implement the new graduation requirement.
“I am thrilled all students in Connecticut will learn financial literacy regardless of which school district they live in,” State Sen. Doug McCrory, the chair of the Education Committee, said after leading Senate passage of the financial literacy legislation in May. “This levels the playing field for all students no matter their background and provides them all with the necessary resources they need to function in society. Learning about financial literacy can be beneficial from the time you are 10 years old all the way until you retire.”
State Rep. Corey Paris, who was one of the introducers of the original bill, also underscored the importance of the new requirement.
“Financial literacy empowers marginalized communities and lays the foundation for building generational wealth, once unattainable to so many within Connecticut,” Paris said. “These classes help narrow the opportunity gap between students who are well-prepared for future financial realities after high school and those who are left basically to fend for themselves. We have one chance to teach them this important life skill before they leave our high schools.”
Starting this school year, Connecticut schools must include Native American Studies as part of their social studies curriculum. State statute stipulates that the instruction must focus on the Northeastern Woodland Native American Tribes of Connecticut, but the curriculum may expand beyond this emphasis.
CSDE said instructional resources for the new Native American Studies Model Curriculum are still under development in collaboration with the five state-recognized tribes in Connecticut: the Golden Hill Paugussett, Mashantucket Pequot, Mohegan, Paucatuck Eastern Pequot, and the Schaghticoke.
Parisi said that the five tribes have been a “tremendous partner” in sharing and curating resources and that the department is working to make those resources accessible to school districts.
“With implementing Native curriculum into our social studies curriculum, now all Connecticut students can learn about our roots through the voices of our people, not through the colonizer’s voice, but through the voices that have been left out, to tell our true, tragic, yet also very wonderful history,” Beth Regan, the vice chairwoman of the Mohegan Tribe Council of Elders, said at a press conference announcing the partnership between CSDE and the tribes last November.
In a press release issued in tandem with the event, Gov. Ned Lamont said the “curriculum is an important part of acknowledging our past and historical connections with our tribal nations. We are going beyond acknowledgment by building meaningful relationships with our tribal leaders and this curriculum effort is a prime example of that.”
Piece by piece, the Connecticut State Department of Education has rolled out its model math and science curricula for kindergarten through eighth grade — it’s the first time the state has ever been tasked with doing so.
“That is a new approach for the State Department of Education. Previously curricula wasn’t developed, that was a local control approach and process, though the state would provide guidance,” Irene Parisi, the chief academic officer for CSDE, said.
Parisi said the curricula were designed using Connecticut Core Standards approved by the State Board of Education in 2010 and the Next Generation Science Standards.
Parisi said the curriculum consists of overlapping disciplines between science, math and English language arts.
“There’s cross-cutting concepts as we say, which means it cuts across science and mathematics,” Parisi said. “But then there’s the core ideas that they have to develop.”
For example, core concepts in mathematics advance through the grade levels, Parisi explained.
“The idea of numeracy and measurement and geometry, this carries from kindergarten all the way through. Those topics continue and progress through each grade, but then increase in complexity as you go from grade to grade and they build upon those previous concepts,” Parisi said.
She explained that the science curriculum helps students develop engineering and data interpretation skills while facilitating learning through questions.
“With science, there’s an inquiry approach and just really engaging in those driving questions about science: What do you wonder? What do you notice? And what models can you create so that you can visualize?” Parisi said.
The Model Math Curriculum is now available for kindergarten through eighth grade and the Model Science Curriculum is available for third through eighth grade. All materials are available on GoOpenCT.org.
“GoOpen CT, that’s our commitment to be an open education resource state. And that platform is our digital library of all of our model curricula,” Parisi said. “Once we publish it, we make it accessible for all learners, adult and student and families, because we believe in sharing that information and providing access to all of the model curriculum.”
The CSDE said that in the near future, it expects the State Board of Education to adopt a new Elementary and Secondary Social Studies Standards for kindergarten through 12th grade. Once those standards are adopted, CSDE said the department will design and develop its model social studies curricula for kindergarten through eighth grade.
Per state statute, the combined K-8 model curriculum is due in January. The model, which boards of education may adopt for their students, must include instruction on Native American studies, Asian American and Pacific Islander studies, LGBTQ+ and gender identity studies; climate change, personal financial management and financial literacy, the military service and experience of American veterans, civics and citizenship, social-emotional learning, racism, cursive writing and world languages.
Starting with the 2024-2025 school year, state law will require boards of education to provide daily play-based learning in kindergarten and preschool. The law also states that boards must allow play-based learning for students in first through fifth grade.
Kate Dias, the president of the Connecticut Education Association said play-based learning was a “key piece of legislation” for educators this session.
“The focus on play-based learning as an approved pedagogy and an encouraged pedagogy, particularly in those early years, is really an effort to shift away from the standardization of those experiences that have fallen flat with our kids and really embrace the notion that children learn best when they are fully engaged and it is playful and it is joyful,” Dias said.
Play-based instruction must be “predominately” free from the use of mobile electronic devices and must meet the needs of students through games, free play and guided play.
The law defines free play as “unstructured, voluntary, child-initiated activities that are performed by a child for self-amusement and have behavioral, social and psychomotor rewards,” adding that it “may be structured to promote activities that are child-directed, joyful and spontaneous.”
Guided play places a “focus on learning outcomes and adult guidance” while including the “child-directed nature of free play.”
The statute identifies the “pedagogical approach” of play-based learning as one that “emphasizes play in promoting learning and includes developmentally appropriate strategies that can be integrated with existing learning standards.”
Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies will enter the required social studies curriculum in the fall of 2025.
The AAPI curriculum will teach students about the history of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in Connecticut, the region and the country, highlighting their contributions towards advancing civil rights from the 19th century to today. It will also cover AAPI communities in the economic, cultural, social and political development of the U.S., and AAPI figures in government, the arts, humanities and sciences.
“It was not long ago that I was a student in this state, and it’s not remiss on me to acknowledge how powerful it is to see yourself reflected in curriculum, to see yourself reflected in the classrooms and not just in the context of names and dates and history, but in the feelings of people that have come before you and their experiences, and the shared experiences that are overarching and unchanging,” said Megan Baker, the lead AAPI policy analyst for the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity, at an AAPI Education Studies Symposium held at the State Capitol earlier this month.
The 2025-2026 school year will also see the addition of civics and media literacy to the required social studies curriculum.
Civics education will encompass “the study of the rights and obligations of citizens,” according to statute. Media literacy instruction will include accessing, analyzing, evaluating, creating and participating with media and all its forms “by understanding the role of media in society, and building skills of inquiry and self-expression essential to participation and collaboration in a democratic society.”
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