Curricular Unit Information

Unit Title: School Segregation Across America 
Course: Social Studies Block 
Grade Level: 5th 
Unit Length: 10 days 
Length of Class Period: 45 minutes 
Personal Stake:
School segregation was a serious and widespread issue in American history, impacting schools across America, from the deep south to the west coast.  This unit explores cases of school segregation that came before and after Brown v. Board of Education in an effort to demonstrate to students why it is important to desegregate schools and how it has impacted our society as a whole. There is a big emphasis on creating an awareness of how school segregation affected most Americans, white, black, Latino and Asian, throughout the twentieth century. 

Unit Topic:

The big ideas students should develop surround the issue of school segregation and its impact on non-white people. Students will be presented with different case studies and be asked to draw conclusions regarding the fairness of segregation.  

 The unit will be divided into three sections:

  • School Segregation post-Brown v. Board of Education (Little Rock 9)
  • School Segregation in California (Lemon Grove Incident & Mendez v. Westminster)
  • School Segregation in D.C. (Bolling v. Sharpe)

Throughout the 10 lessons we will be addressing the following overarching objectives (with daily objectives that contribute to the mastery of these objectives):

  1. Compare and contrast how school segregation impacted African Americans and Latinos by examining 3 different court cases.
  2. Evaluate our current school system by comparing it to the 3 cases of school segregation.  

DCPS Content and Skills Standards:


5.14 Students describe the key events and accomplisments of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. 

  • 5.14.4 List and describe the steps toward desegregation 
5.16 Students identify major waves of immigration and demographic changes in U.S. history and descirbe the diverse nature of American people and their contributions to American culture.
  • 5.16.2 Describe the lives of African Americans, including an explanation of their early concentration in the South because of slavery, the Great Migration to Northern cities in the 20th century, and ongoing African immigrant groups, and where they have tended to settle in large numbers.
  • 5.16.5 Distinguish between waves of immigrant Latino groups and identify the push and pull factors that stimulated their transnational movement.

Common Core Standards (connections):

RI.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

RI.5.2 Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

RI.5.6Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.

RI.5.7 Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.

RI.5.9 Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Methods of Inquiry:
The ultimate goal of this unit is for students to wrestle with the idea of school segregation and the impact it had on America as a whole, and that it continues to have on us today.  Students will be presented with three different court cases dealing with school segregation, and relevant supporting primary and secondary sources.  

During the course of the unit students will be asked to:

  • Engage in collaborative whole group, small gorup and pair discussions using the primary and secondary sources, text, and previous classroom discussions.
  • Evaluate and criticize the actions and decisions made by individuals during the history of these cases 
  • Investigate how segregation has affected our school and community by examining school demographic data and comparing it to community demographic data.
  • Compare and contrast the 3 situations using graphic organizers 

Ideally it is expected that students will be able to understand that school segregation was not a "black issue" only, but people from all backgrounds, including Latinos, Asians and Native Americans. A personal connection will be made by introducing students to different cases that impacted students of Mexican descent. 

By creating this personal link, students will be able to better understand how segregation impacted people and determine why it is important to us today.  They will also be able to make an even more personal connection by examining their own school and determining how segregation impacts them. 

Essential Questions:
How does school segregation impact non-white people?

  • How do different people experience segregation?
  • Why is school segregation important to us today? 
  • When and why is it right for the government to separate people based on peoples color or class? 

Assessment of Student Learning:
Students are expected to gain a deeper understanding of school segregation across America and be able to discuss and compare and contrast the similarities and differences between school segregation that affected African Americans to "Spanish" or Mexican children.  

Diagnostic Assessment:

Using a KWL students will brainstorm what they know and what to learn about Civil Rights and more importantly school segregation.  After completing the KWL chart, they will be given the definition of segregation and complete a quick write answering the question of "How does school segregation impact people?"  

Formative Assessment:

Students will complete 5 BCRs that focus on the different topics covered during the unit.  Topics include:

  • The Little Rock Nine 
  • Lemon Grove Incident 
  • Mendez v. Westminster 
  • D.C. then and now
Students will also be asked to participate in a number of in-class small group and whole class discussions that focus on the primary and secondary sources used. 

Summative Assessment: Note the summative assessment will be edited, revised and completed after the units lessons are done, during writing instruction. 

The summative assessment is a 5-paragraph essay answering the question: 

"Compare and contrast how school segregation impacted students, from African Americans to "Spanish/Mexicans"."

Students will be strategically grouped when examining primary sources, also when examining text.  Depending on proficiency level, they may be paired with peers or with the teacher in small groups.

Graphic organizers will also be provided to help in organizing ideas.  

For students receiving Special Education services, and for whom it is appropriate, their summative assessment will be formatted to meet their needs (in most cases shortening of the assignment and/or additional scaffolding).

Community and Cultural Resources:

  • Chapman University Leatherby Libraries
  • The Historical Society of Washington DC
  • Library of Congress
  • Los Angeles Times Archives 
  • National Archives at Philadelphia
  • National Park Services 
  • Neighborhood Info DC
  • San Diego History Center
  • Washington Post Archives 

Daily Instruction:
The curricular unit is divided into three parts: 1. Little Rock Nine, 2. School Segregation in California, and 3. DC and Segregation.  Below is an overview of the lesson layout. 

Day One: Introduction to Segregation

Day Two: Little Rock Nine

Day Three: Little Rock Nine

Day Four: Little Rock Nine

Day Five: Segregation in California: Lemon Grove Incident

Day Six: Segregation in California: Lemon Grove Incident 

Day Seven: Segregation in California: Mendez v. Westminster School District  

Day Eight: Segregation in California: Mendez v. Westminster School District

Day Nine: DC and Segregation

Day Ten: DC and Segregation