Langston Tingling-Clemmons, affectionately called Mr. TC, is an 8th and 9th grade U.S. history teacher at Jefferson Academy. He graduated from Bucknell University with a bachelor's degree in history and Spanish. He also has a master’s degree from Lehigh University in education. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Langston Tingling-Clemmons, affectionately called Mr. TC, is an 8th and 9th grade U.S. history teacher at Jefferson Academy. He graduated from Bucknell University with a bachelor's degree in history and Spanish. He also has a master’s degree from Lehigh University in education. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Word in Black is a collaboration of 10 of the nation’s leading Black publishers that frames the narrative and fosters solutions for racial inequities in America.

As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the College Board continue to collude in the erasure of African-American history from state and national education standards, D.C.-based educator Langston Tingling-Clemmons remains hopeful about local efforts to update social studies standards. 

For years, Tingling-Clemmons, a U.S. History teacher at Jefferson Middle School Academy in Southwest, begrudgingly developed D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) curricula from standards that center a Eurocentric historical perspective.  

Such experiences compelled Tingling-Clemmons to join his colleagues in developing an African-American History elective that’s available in all District public high schools. 

Tingling-Clemmons, in his 13th year as a teacher, has also remained intentional about making connections between history and current events for his students, many of whom hail from the Greenleaf Gardens Apartments, located in a gentrified community not too far from Nationals Park. 

As the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) trod along on the social studies standards revamp process, Tingling-Clemmons wants them to consider making African-American History a mandatory course. 

When it comes to U.S. history, Tingling-Clemmons said that students must be able to explore history from their perspective and in a manner that channels their fervor for racial equity and justice. “It does the kids a disservice [when eighth grade U.S. history starts at European exploration],” he said. 

“I would love to see the Reconstruction standards have some connection to the present day,” he added. “Oftentimes, students ask why something is important. This would invite teachers to bring in things happening around the country and in the community. It would help bridge discussions and help students see why history is important.” 

Deliberation Continues on Social Studies Standards 

The District’s new social studies standards are scheduled to be finalized by the 2024-2025 academic year. A revamp of this magnitude is 20 years in the making. 

As explained on OSSE’s website, the new social studies standards focus on media literacy, increasing student civic engagement, and preparing young people for an information-driven society. 

The standards aren’t relegated to curricula and specific instructional material. Instead, they focus on time periods throughout American and world history. In elementary school, students will learn about ancient civilizations, the First Nations preceding the United States’ founding, and the foundations of modern society. 

Middle school students will explore world geography and American history up until the Reconstruction Era. In the eighth grade, students will be able to participate in activities intended to increase their civic engagement. 

Meanwhile, high school students will have more opportunities for historical and social science-based analysis through the exploration of global history, U.S. history, and D.C. history, the aspects of which focus on the self-determination of marginalized groups. 

Earlier this month, state board members conducted a working meeting with State Superintendent Dr. Christina Grant. They discussed the standards, which OSSE drafted in alignment with the guiding principles compiled by SBOE’s social studies standards advisory committee. 

Since December, SBOE has collected community feedback, via a public comment portal. On Feb. 10, that portal will close. Shortly after, SBOE members will conduct its monthly public meeting to once again discuss the social studies standards and explore areas of improvement. 

As of last week, more than 220 comments have been submitted, with input running the gamut. While some people have been supportive of these ongoing efforts, there has been a push for further decentering the Eurocentric historical perspective. 

SBOE Representative Ben Williams (Ward 1) echoed similar sentiments. He said the social studies standards in some areas such as World History still have Eurocentric foundation and lack representation from Latinos and Asian Americans. Williams said the same of the LGBTQ community’s inclusion in D.C. history.  

Another area of concern for Williams centers on the degree to which OSSE will incorporate public input in its revisions to the revamped social studies standards. Williams also said that the nearly 170-page document could’ve been delivered in an easily understandable manner, especially to Spanish speakers who only had a week to review a translated version. 

While he applauded OSSE’s efforts, Williams questioned how the agency will integrate the standards into the curriculum. At this point, they haven’t made that clear, Williams told The Informer. 

“We don’t need to rush the process,” said Williams, who’s also an A.P. Government and D.C. History teacher at Capital City Public Charter School in Northwest. 

“We need to listen to constituents and experts and continue to take the advice of the social studies standards advisory committee. We should continue to update these standards in the next couple of months so when they’re rolled out in SY 2024-25 they’re righting the wrongs of how social studies standards and instruction has traditionally been in the United States,” he added. 

At an event celebrating OSSE’s expansion of high-impact tutoring, Grant commended SBOE and community members for their help in revamping the social studies standards. While she didn’t speak directly to DeSantis’ recent policy changes, Grant expressed gratitude for the work being done locally. 

“The standards you see published today represent guiding principles given to us by the State Board and the herculean levels of work done by D.C. educators to think through the unique approach to teaching both American history and D.C. history,” Grant said. 

“I’m excited about tweaks in the standards, particularly in the eighth grade, which will be an action civics year where students will take their learning and apply it directly to the challenges they face in D.C. and as they think about issues both nationally and abroad,” she added.

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *