8 things to watch out for as you design culturally responsive teaching

Help teachers reflect on the instruction they're providing and better connect with students.

Many K-12 leaders are now doing the important work of infusing culturally responsive teaching and other equity-focused practices into their classrooms. Superintendents and their teams can tap into some fresh guidance in choosing new tools to make the curriculum relevant for all students.

The tools educators can use to evaluate culturally responsive materials are detailed in a new analysis by EdReports, the nonprofit that provides free reviews of instructional materials. The guidebook breaks down some of the challenges of reviewing resources that help teachers adjust their craft and their curriculum. One of the nonprofit’s goals is to help teachers reflect on the instruction they’re providing and better connect with students, says Courtney Allison, EdReports’ chief academic officer.

“People are looking at representation, at whether or not students can see themselves in the materials,” Allison says. “We’re hoping educators can use this information to understand what’s out there and how the tools are being used—and not have to build anything from scratch.” 

EdReports’ analysis doesn’t rate the products as good or bad but describes what is provided by each tool. For instance, there is a wide variety in the language used to describe similar practices in many of the materials, says Allison, who acknowledges there has been pushback against culturally responsive teaching in some communities. “The controversy is coming from the words,” Allison says. “No one disagrees with the idea that teachers should be able to connect with students and that students should be able to see themselves within their learning.”

There are now more tools for evaluating culturally responsive practices in English language arts. For a broader look across the curriculum, there are tools such NYU Steinhardt’s scorecards, the Great Lakes Equity Center’s Assessing Bias in Standards and Curricular Materials and Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction.

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Here’s what EdReports has to say about the 15 tools its evaluators analyzed:

  1. Tools rarely provide guidance on how to rate materials and do not give examples of what educators should be looking for.
  2. More than half of the tools analyzed do not include definitions or contextualize concepts of culturally responsive practices.
  3. A limited number of tools offer guidance on meeting the needs of students from specific ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
  4. A majority of tools cover student agency, student choice and social justice.
  5. Tools vary in how they identify equitable representation in materials.
  6. Several of the tools are based on teachers’ feedback.
  7. More than half of the tools analyze resources that support multilingual learners.
  8. Tools are evenly split between those that were subject-specific and those that are for general use.
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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