District school officials said yesterday they hope to introduce African-centered teaching at some schools by September, and at all schools by September 1992.
Curriculum officials outlined their preliminary plans for the program, which could substantially change the way the District's 81,000 students are taught.
Administrators expect to present the school board with a more detailed plan by early March, though it remains unclear how the plan will translate into the classrooms.
Education officials have not decided which schools will be part of the pilot program this fall.
The African-centered education plan includes a complete review of textbooks, the rewriting of curriculum this summer, teacher orientations and creation of a multicultural resource center, officials said.
"Students would be learning more about the role of Africans and African Americans and other ethnic groups in the making of this country and the world," said Frances Powell, the curriculum director for social studies. "I guess you could call it a multicultural curriculum with an African-centered focus."
Educators in many of the nation's largest cities and in the Washington suburbs are now assessing Afrocentrism, often defined as a move to purge bias in books and curricula that show Europe as the cradle of Western culture. To some, it means giving students a larger sense of African history and the achievements of African Americans. To others, it means offering proof that Egypt was where civilization dawned, and that Egyptians were black.
Afrocentric curriculum became one of the most politically volatile subjects facing the D.C. schools last year when Andrew E. Jenkins, who was then superintendent of schools, suggested that he was being ousted because the school board wanted to destroy the Afrocentric plan, which received $750,000 in funding for this fiscal year.
Yesterday, some proponents of Afrocentrism attending the committee meeting criticized the proposal for not being African centered enough in a school system that is 91 percent black.
"They undermined the whole issue," said Thelmiah Lee, a member of the advocacy group, D.C. Save Our Schools. "How can you talk about multicultural and deny the implementation of African American education?"
Board member David Eaton (At Large), who chairs the Committee on Alternative High Schools and Emerging Educational Programs, said he could not respond to such criticism because the Afrocentric effort is not yet finished.
Eaton pointed out that a Values Commission, which he chaired in 1988, called on the school system to infuse more multicultural and Afrocentric teaching into classrooms in hopes of heightening students' self-esteem and self-respect.
But Afrocentric education never has been precisely defined in the District public schools. Jenkins seized on the idea last year, partly as a drive to improve student self-esteem and lower the schools' dropout rate.
Some suggested that Jenkins used it as a shield to save his job when his troubles with the school board began.
Even as the idea is gaining attention among educators looking for ways to offset problems besetting minority youths, others question whether reorienting curriculum will improve academic performance.
Eaton said various task forces will be formed within the schools and the community to work on goals within the Afrocentric education plan.
He said those goals will include reviewing present history and geography textbooks, writing curriculum and setting criteria for selecting teachers.