JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - Mississippi is rich in history. It's a subject the Mississippi Department of Education requires students in schools across our state to learn about through mandatory courses in grades K-12.
We sat down with members of MDE to learn more about the tools that are used during the courses and what's next in the teaching and learning process.
"Throughout K-12 social studies, civil rights is a strand that runs throughout the framework. So, beginning in kindergarten, they get a piece of civil rights, and it builds from year to year," said MDE Office Director and Curriculum Specialist for the Office of Secondary Education Jennifer Nance.
Mississippi history roots deep within civil rights soil. It's a state where racial discrimination caused death and destruction.
It's a place where Medgar Evers was gunned down during the height of his fight for equality.
From segregation to Freedom Summer, Mississippi blues and cotton production, Mississippi's history is all outlined in textbooks recommended by MDE. Some of the text books are newer. Some are older.
"In high school, we have courses that are centered around civil rights. We have African American History, Minority Studies, which are electives for high school students," said Nance.
For more than a year, team members within MDE have been revising the social studies curriculum for grades K-12.
Nance said the team worked with classroom teachers, administrators and post-secondary instructors to find a fitting formula to revamp the program.
"In March, our standards will go to the board for board approval, and they will go out for public comment. They will go back to the board in May for final adoption," said Nance.
The next school year, 2018 to 2019, will be the pilot year where teachers will be able to take the new standards and transition between the new and old to teach students about history in our state and our nation.
This includes the civil rights movement, civics, economics and geography. For the 2019-2020 school year, teachers will be able to implement the new standards.
"Our curriculum at the department of education for secondary are on a six to seven-year curriculum cycle. So, it was time to redo those standards," said Nance. "We wanted to make sure we incorporated technology. We wanted to make sure we incorporated everything from just revising to bringing in the new and latest and greatest to social studies in Mississippi."
Each school district encompasses a superintendent and independent board that makes final decisions regarding what textbooks are supplied for the school after looking at MDE's recommendations. It varies as to when a district receives brand new textbooks, depending on the board and superintendent's approval.
With technology at the forefront, Executive Director for Elementary Education and Reading Nathan Oakley said teachers have options while teaching history to students in different formats.
"We do address Mississippi history requirements. They will often use texts that have been reviewed and that are aligned to Mississippi standards," said Oakley. "Districts will also use additional resources. They may use speeches from the civil rights era. They may use the Martin Luther King speech or letters he wrote. In some cases, they will use additional resources, such as videos of speeches. Resources that may be useful in a classroom setting to drive conversation, to drive discussion and questions from students."
Another vital artery vibrant with an overflow of Mississippi's history is the newly-constructed Mississippi Civil Rights Museum settled in the heart of the state's capital city. Now, students and teachers will have remote access.
"In conjunction with the new civil rights museum that's opening, we are going to be offering for social studies high school teachers a three-day seminar this summer so they can come and have intense training on how to have those conversations in your classroom, how do these work into the standards and then actually getting to go visit the museum to see how they can incorporate that with their field trips with high school students," said Nance.
For the new standards coming within a few months, you can expect them to be more tech savvy, thorough and a setup for success.