2020/08/11

"At this place in time with all the challenges in education, curriculum is the lever to make sure we're addressing equity. It's about equitable access to high level learning."

When Sonja Santileses, Baltimore City Public Schools CEO, said these words at EdReports’ 2020 virtual summer training, the Zoom chat box exploded with vigorous agreement from the 250+ educator reviewers in attendance. Educators intimately know what’s at stake for students. In recent months, many are recognizing that low income and students of color are more impacted by unequal access to quality content and resources—a reality that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

As educators prepare for an uncertain return to school, they are evaluating the aftermath of last school year’s closures. Despite the best efforts of districts, remote learning had consequences for all students. The impact on students of color was far greater. According to a recent analysis the average student could fall seven months behind academically, while Black and Hispanic students could experience even greater learning losses, equivalent to 10 months for Black children and nine months for Latinos.

Disparities based on race and income are not new. Inconsistent access to high-quality content is widespread. In a single school year, the average student spends 581 of 720 available hours on assignments that are not high-quality. This is particularly significant for students of color and students living in poverty who have less access to high-quality standards-aligned materials and are less likely to be in classrooms with grade appropriate assignments than their peers.

The importance of this moment and the need to act urgently to support students was present throughout our summer training. On the final day of our virtual conference, we asked reviewers to comment on the connection between high-quality materials and equity. Reviewers offered their own powerful experiences and insights from the classroom and every level of district work. In their own words, read more about why materials matter for equity and why the stakes for students are so high.

1. Quality materials ensure access to the content all students need to thrive in college and careers. 

  • "The standards are equity. By giving our students standards-aligned instruction with the appropriate supports, we are giving them the tools they will need to be successful in the world. Quality curriculum helps with this preparation!" - Shanita Rapatalo, NJ
  • "High-quality curriculum allows for students to build knowledge and skills that will prepare and provide opportunities for critical thinking and discourse to engage with the world successfully. Thus we get to the heart of equity and empowerment." - Nychelle Toussaint, CA

2. Quality materials provide coherent content and quality instruction across all classrooms.

  • "Quality curriculum matters more now because of the COVID-19 crisis. Appropriately, there is a lot of focus on logistics—busses, classroom configurations, how to take temperatures—but very little discussion about how we are going to continue to have coherent, quality instruction." - Stacey Shaddix, NC
  • "High-quality curriculum is one step in helping to assure that all students have access to the same content. Instructional materials that help build teacher content knowledge and pedagogy also increase the equity in classrooms and across schools throughout the district." - Mandy Boudwin, LA

3. Quality materials support English language learners and students with learning differences.

  • "Quality curriculum helps to ensure all learners, especially students with English as a second language or with learning differences, receive quality instruction and supports." - Afua Boahene, NY

4. Quality materials allow students to experience and learn from diverse perspectives while valuing all voices.

  • "Quality curriculum should benefit everyone. Students of all races, genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations should see themselves in the curriculum they are exposed to." - Sara Coombs, IL
  • "A quality curriculum addresses equity by engaging ALL students. It provides opportunities to enrich conversations on different perspectives and challenges our belief systems." - Britt Waterfield, MD

5. Quality materials raise expectations for all students through access to grade-level content.

  • "High-quality curriculum means high-quality expectations regardless of the teacher.  It reduces the ‘educational lottery’ where student success is dependent upon which teacher they get." - Robyn Nuttall, MT
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