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We will broadcast special coverage of both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, starting with the RNC tonight at 8.

Illinois now requires public schools to teach diverse histories. Are teachers ready?

A mural of diverse silhouettes
Tracy J. Lee
/
Special to NPR
Since 2019, Illinois has expanded its social studies standards to include LGBTQ+, Asian American, and pre-enslavement Black history in its public schools.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Over half of Illinois teachers surveyed say they are ready to fulfill new state history requirements, according to a University of Illinois study.

Since 2019, Illinois has expanded its social studies standards to include LGBTQ+, Asian American, and pre-enslavement Black history.

“Teachers generally feel prepared to meet the calls of the inclusive American history mandates – all of them, no matter how old or new. However, there are a number of teachers that feel unprepared,” said Asif Wilson, an education professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Wilson surveyed 600 teachers before they started the five-month professional development program he leads, I3: Inclusive, Inquiry-Based Social Studies for Illinois. Wilson said he expects to publish the study in about one month.

Wilson noted that the program attracts teachers from all over the state with a small stipend and the opportunity to meet their professional development requirements. He added that teachers, regardless of their location, have received strong support from both administrators and parents for teaching the updated curriculum.

“I think there are a lot of assumptions that once you get out of Chicago, schools in Illinois are really contested spaces, and everyone’s scared what to teach and how to teach it," Wilson said. "That may very well be true, but the people that we found, felt generally supported.

The I3 program is a partnership between the Illinois State Board of Education and the University of Illinois. The partnership lasts three more years and Wilson hopes to find more funding after that to eventually reach every Illinois teacher with the training.

Emily Hays is an education reporter with Illinois Public Media in Champaign, Illinois.