Anti-Racist Curriculum & Standards
Curriculum and Standards are fundamental, defining what knowledge and skills students are expected to learn. However, the persistence of an opportunity gap among groups of students points to significant inequities in the distribution of resources and opportunities among students.
What this Strand Covers
The Anti-Racist Curriculum & Standards strand discusses what we teach, focusing on lessons that integrate academics, anti-racism, and social, emotional, cognitive, and identity development to support learning, well-being, justice, and joy. Students thrive when they have access to challenging content and teachers who believe that they can meet high standards.
However, research suggests that students of color, those from low-income families, and those who are neurodiverse or emergent multilinguals do not yet consistently experience grade-level content, challenging and engaging instruction, nor high expectations. This has led to opportunity gaps in learning outcomes and in students’ preparedness for reaching their aspirations. When given the opportunity to do rigorous work, students consistently rise to the challenge. That is why anti-racism in our practice is inherently tied to academic standards.
Beliefs and succesS
- What do I believe about the ultimate purpose of school? Does my definition go beyond academics to include development for students’ well-being (e.g., social, emotional, cognitive, and identity development) and to recognize the power of education to disrupt inequity and transform students’ lives, communities, and the world?
- What opportunities exist to enhance lessons with students’ funds of knowledge, to offer authentic representations that affirm students’ identities and experiences (mirrors), and/or to learn about and from diverse cultures or perspectives (windows)?
- How routinely do I examine and adjust materials to ensure they are free of bias, oppression, racism, and underrepresentation?
- How have I planned opportunities for students to make choices during learning, to have voice, to see the relevance of their learning, and to take action to address inequity?
There are many ways to make these resources fit your needs (and probably plenty more ideas you could add!). Here are some suggested ways to think about your entry point.
To critically examine how the resources you use with students support them to meet academic standards and grow as individuals.
To support classroom educators to deepen their understanding of the materials and make adjustments that serve all learners.
To interrogate the role of curricular materials and academic standards in reaching equity in your school and make adjustments.
To have conversations with educators about your shared goals for students’ learning.
Even with good intentions, there is the potential to harm students. Our full framework identifies common risks to avoid in your planning. Here are a few examples:
Teaching only academic standards without supports for students’ social, emotional, identity, and cognitive development does not account for all that students need to thrive.
- Using standards-aligned materials that are biased or colorblind without making adaptations to remove bias and ensure relevance can perpetuate exclusion.
- Making shallow connections to students’ cultures that don’t meaningfully connect to or scaffold learning undervalues the importance of their identities as assets.
- Showing students how to complete processes rather than develop capacity to internalize and practice conceptual engagement, executive functions, problem solving, and self management denies them opportunities for deeper learning.
Ready to make changes in your practice? Head over to our action center!
Over the next year, we’ll be listening and learning with the goal of lifting up stories that make this vision more actionable. Using these practices in your context will help educators across the country learn more of what works for equity.
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