09/2011

What Content Do States Require?

In addition to comparing states using a standardized rubric, we took a closer look at the kind of content they required. Some states went into a surprising amount of detail in their civil rights-related requirements. Sometimes these details were specific to events in a state (e.g., the Tallahassee bus boycott in Florida); at other times, they did not seem to have a particular relationship to a state’s particular history (e.g., Massachusetts’ requirement that students learn about the Nation of Islam).

The table below shows all required details found in the state documents for all the states, ranked first by frequency and then listed by category. These details were included if they were mentioned in required content, regardless of context. This means the table fails to capture nuance in state standards; unfortunately, for most states there was little nuance to capture, as these requirements tended to appear in lists rather than as part of meaningful and well-constructed learning expectations.

There are a number of ways that this list surprises. Only 19 states require students to learn about Brown, while 18 include Martin Luther King Jr. Not even a quarter of states include requirements to learn about key legislation (i.e., the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act). Only four include the 24th Amendment as essential content. One state (California) requires students to learn about the Ku Klux Klan when they learn about the civil rights movement.21 This is consonant with the overall low state scores in the rubric’s “opposition” category and serves as some confirmation of the “sanitization” hypothesis advanced by Epstein and others.

States require students to learn about very few female figures in the civil rights movement. Although Rosa Parks is frequently included in suggested state content, only 12 states require students to learn about her. Only three states require students to learn about Watts and other urban uprisings in the “long, hot summers” of 1964-1968. And only one requires students to learn about the Kerner Commission. These latter omissions likely reflect periodization of the civil rights movement as well as the well-documented tendency of history standards to become more vague as they approach the present time.

In general, state requirements are few and scattered. Even when states agree about the need to teach the civil rights movement, they do not agree about the essential knowledge needed to understand the movement.

Specific requirements from state mandates

Ranked by frequency

Brown v. Board of Education19
Martin Luther King Jr.18
1964 Civil Rights Act14
Freedom Rides12
1965 Voting Rights Act11
Malcolm X11
March on Washington11
Rosa Parks12
Little Rock9
Sit-ins9
Tactics9
Montgomery Bus Boycott8
Armed forces desegregation7
Black Power7
NAACP7
Nonviolence7
Birmingham bombings6
Black Panthers6
Jim Crow6
Thurgood Marshall6
1968 Civil Rights Act5
24th amendment5
CORE5
Dixiecrats5
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke5
SCLC5
SNCC5
Stokely Carmichael5
A. Philip Randolph4
Civil disobedience4
Mississippi summer4
Selma-to-Montgomery March4
1957 Civil Rights Act3
de facto3
de jure3
George Wallace3
Jackie Robinson3
James Meredith3
Literacy tests3
Medgar Evers3
Poll taxes3
Watts, other urban uprisings3
Briggs v. Elliot2
Fannie Lou Hamer2
Lester Maddox2
Robert F. Kennedy2
Voter registration2
1965 ESEA1
A.G. Gaston1
Al Gore Sr.1
Albany Movement1
Andrew Young1
Autherine Lucy1
Bobby Seale1
Bull Connor1
Children’s March1
Clinton HS1
Constance Baker Motley1
Fred Shuttlesworth1
H. Rap Brown1
Hamilton Holmes1
Harry & Henrietta Moore1
Harry F. Byrd1
Huey Newton1
James Farmer1
Jesse Jackson1
John Patterson1
Kerner Commission1
Ku Klux Klan1
Maynard Jackson1
MFDP1
Oliver Hill1
Orval Faubus1
Robert Williams1
Roy Wilkins1
Ruby Bridges1
S.B. Fuller1
Sibley Commission1
Sweatt v. Painter1
T.R.M. Howard1
Tallahassee bus boycotts1

 

Listed by category, then ranked by frequency

LEADERS
Martin Luther King Jr.18
Malcolm X11
Rosa Parks11
Thurgood Marshall6
Stokely Carmichael5
Jackie Robinson3
James Meredith3
Medgar Evers3
Fannie Lou Hamer2
Lester Maddox2
Robert F. Kennedy2
A.G. Gaston1
Andrew Young1
Autherine Lucy1
Bobby Seale1
Constance Baker Motley1
Fred Shuttlesworth1
H. Rap Brown1
Hamilton Holmes1
Harry & Henrietta Moore1
Harry F. Byrd1
Huey Newton1
James Farmer1
Jesse Jackson1
Maynard Jackson1
Oliver Hill1
Robert Williams1
Roy Wilkins1
Ruby Bridges1
S.B. Fuller1
T.R.M. Howard1
Vivian Malone1
Whitney Young1
GROUPS
NAACP7
Black Panthers6
CORE5
SCLC5
SNCC5
MFDP1
EVENTS
Brown v. Board of Education19
1964 Civil Rights Act14
Freedom Rides12
1965 Voting Rights Act11
March on Washington11
Little Rock9
Montgomery Bus Boycott8
Birmingham bombings6
1968 Civil Rights Act5
24th amendment5
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke5
Mississippi summer4
Selma-to-Montgomery March4
1957 Civil Rights Act3
Watts, other urban uprisings3
Briggs v. Elliot2
1965 ESEA1
Albany Movement1
Children’s March1
Clinton HS1
Kerner Commission1
Sibley Commission1
Sweatt v. Painter1
Tallahassee bus boycotts1
TACTICS
Sit-ins9
Black Power7
Nonviolence7
Civil disobedience4
Voter registration2
HISTORY
Armed forces desegregation7
Jim Crow6
A. Philip Randolph4
de facto3
de jure3
Literacy tests3
Poll taxes3
OPPOSITION
Dixiecrats5
George Wallace3
Al Gore Sr.1
Bull Connor1
John Patterson1
Ku Klux Klan1
Orval Faubus1