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Illinois now requires public schools to teach LGBTQ+, Asian American and pre-enslavement Black history. Are teachers ready? 

Unit 4's International Prep Academy teachers Christina Cañas (left) and Abby Heras attend a workshop on Asian American children's books on Aug. 1, 2023 at the University of Illinois College of Education in Champaign.

CHAMPAIGN — 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 UIUC education professor Asif Wilson. 

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. That may very well be true, but the people that we found, felt generally supported,” Wilson said.

The I3 program is a partnership between the Illinois State Board of Education and the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. 

The partnership lasts three more years. Wilson hopes to find more funding after that to eventually reach every teacher with the training.

Emily Hays is a reporter for Illinois Public Media.

Emily Hays

Emily Hays

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.

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