Leaders D (25%)
Groups F (0%)
Events D (17%)
History F (0%)
Opposition F (0%)
Tactics F (0%)
Content F (8%)
Grade levels F (0%)
Current events F (0%)
Civics F (0%)
Other movements A (100%)
Context D (25%)
Items the state requires
Leaders: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X. Events: 1964 Civil Rights Act, Brown.
GRADE F means Washington includes none or less than 20% of the recommended content and should significantly revise its standards.
Survey of Standards and Frameworks
The State of Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s K-12 Social Studies Learning Standards (May 2008) includes the “K-12 Social Studies Grade Level Expectations” (GLEs) and “Essential Academic Learning Requirements” (EALRs).
Elementary and Middle School
Washington has no requirement for the study of the civil rights movement at this level.
Grade 11 (Civics): The first EALR to discuss the civil rights movement is a civics mandate in grade 11. The associated GLE states that a successful student “analyzes and evaluates the ways in which the U.S. Constitution and other fundamental documents promote key ideals and principles.” Three of the eight given examples are related to the civil rights movement (Washington considers its examples to be mandatory but not exhaustive):
• Examines how the Brown v. Board of Education decision promotes equality as one of the goals of our nation.
• Examines how the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” promotes equality as one of the goals of our nation.
• Examines how the Civil Rights Act sought to extend democratic ideals.
History: The EALR requires students to understand and apply knowledge of history. The associated GLE requires students to understand how six themes help to define eras in U.S. history. One theme is “Movements and domestic issues (1945-1991).” One associated example says that a successful student “explains how the United Farm Workers, civil rights movement, and feminist movement help to define U.S. history after World War II as a time of social movements.”
Students are required to understand that there are multiple perspectives and interpretations of historical events. One GLE suggests, in part, that this requirement could be filled if students develop “a position after examining competing historical interpretations of the effect Malcolm X had on the civil rights movement.” Another movement-related example is found in an inquiry-based research component that has students evaluating and revising “research questions to refine inquiry on an issue or event.” An example provided is:
• After completing initial research on the role of the Supreme Court during the civil rights movement, [the student] critiques and revises a research question on the importance of the judicial branch.
This is the extent of Washington’s requirements or suggested content relating to the civil rights movement.
Washington’s standards lack breadth and depth. The state’s low score in all rubric categories is indicative of how much work it has left to do to set meaningful standards for learning about the civil rights movement. There are no requirements for learning about diverse leaders, other than the classic Malcolm X-Martin Luther King pairing. This requirement is not a substitute for content requirements that explore meaningful differences among diverse tactics and strategies that both make the movement come alive for today’s students but also open up new possibilities for civic engagement.
Washington requires no study of groups, no study of the history indicators and no study of white resistance or opposition to the movement. This latter omission misses an opportunity to educate students about racism and its manifestations while making it seem that the civil rights movement was somehow inevitable or easy.