The Assyrian Policy Institute welcomes the addition of 12 new Assyrian language courses to the Illinois State Course Catalog, making the Illinois State Board of Education the first in the nation to recognize Assyrian as a World Language.
The Illinois State Course Catalog includes all state-approved courses for K-12 education that are eligible for state funding and assigns course codes. Public high school districts across Illinois can now choose to offer accredited Assyrian language instruction based on an identified need through a district vetting process. This need will represent student or public interest in a particular study.
Niles Township High School District 219 is poised to become the first public school district in the nation to offer Assyrian as an accredited World Language, which would enable students to choose to study Assyrian in order to fulfill World Language requirements for graduation and college admissions. District 219 serves more than 4,600 students from the villages of Lincolnwood, Skokie, and parts of Morton Grove and Niles—which are home to one of the largest Assyrian-American communities in the United States.
In September 2022, District 219's Curriculum Standards and committee voted to recommend the addition of new Assyrian Language and Culture courses. The CSSI committee is responsible for reviewing requests for new courses and making recommendations to the District 219 Board of Education regarding approval. The proposed curriculum was developed by Assyrian staff members at District 219 in conjunction with the World Languages Department.
Approval from the Board of Education is required before the new courses can be implemented. At the Board's October 11, 2022 meeting, the proposed Assyrian language course will be discussed among other new course proposals. It will then go to a vote at the Board's November 1, 2022 meeting. To stream the October 11 meeting online, attendees should click this link.
"This is a tremendous moment for Assyrian-Americans in Illinois and across the country, who are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the November vote," said Atour Sargon, API Vice Chair. "We are very optimistic that the Board of Education will see the value of this proposed course offering and will vote in a manner that is equitable, inclusive, and informed in order to meet student needs."
Sargon added, "We are grateful for the principled leadership of State Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz whose advocacy led to ISBE's state-level approval of the Assyrian language courses and helped our community clear a critical hurdle in this process."
"We commend the steadfast commitment of District 219 administrators and staff to bring this course to fruition," Sargon said. "Seven years ago, we weren't sure that this was a real possibility given the many obstacles to overcome—and yet thanks to their determination and leadership, we now have a date on the calendar and a blueprint for other districts. Now that we know what's possible, the question becomes, what's next?"
The Assyrian Policy Institute strongly advocated for the addition of Assyrian language courses to the Illinois State Course Catalog and mobilized community members to help advance this initiative. In December 2021, API representatives joined Representative Gong-Gershowitz and District 219 administrators and staff in a meeting with the Illinois State Board of Education to advocate for accredited Assyrian language instruction in public high schools.
If accredited Assyrian language instruction is successfully launched in Illinois, it increases the likelihood that other states will implement Assyrian language curricula in their schools. Click here to view the State Course Catalog.