Relevant Curriculum

Grade-level standards can be better attained when students are motivated and engaged in learning than when students are spending long periods of time in rote COVID-19-recovery activities. As school systems feel the pressure of learning recovery, many are trying to give students the opportunity to dive deeply into inquiry, problem solving, and discovery, demonstrating what they have learned through reflection and tangible work products. This current moment in history provides rich and important opportunities to give students the knowledge and tools to make sense of what is happening in the world and see their place in the larger context. When youth care about school, and have the right kind of supports, they can accelerate their learning and develop the executive function skills (e.g., planning, organizing, managing, prioritizing) and transferable real-life habits and practices that will help them to become more self-directed learners.

Guiding Questions  

  • How can curriculum help students engage with and feel connected to school and learning?
  • What strategies will help ensure curriculum is relevant and culturally responsive?
Examples, Tools and Strategies
Strategies Aligned Resources

Incorporate an equity lens

School districts across the country are incorporating an equity and inclusion lens into all aspects of education to promote equitable opportunities that help students thrive, inclusive of all in the school community. Buffalo Public School’s work on Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Education can provide a model for other districts to follow.

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) incorporated some of Buffalo Public School’s work into their Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CR-SE) framework + Add to Action Plan, intended to help all stakeholders incorporate four high leverage CR-SE strategies.

  • School leaders should reference page 34 for inclusive curriculum guidelines.
  • District leaders should reference page 39 for inclusive curriculum guidelines.

The Culturally Responsive Curriculum Scorecards + Add to Action Plan, designed by the NYU Metro Center, help parents, teachers, students and community members determine the extent to which their schools’ curricula are (or are not) culturally responsive.

Differentiate for multi-lingual learners

Ensure your curriculum meets the needs of your multi-lingual learners.

Share the English Learners Success Forum’s guidelines + Add to Action Plan with schools to modify instruction and materials to best meet the needs of English learners.

Provide anti-bias and anti-racist professional development

Provide continual professional development and support for teachers to ensure their pedagogy is anti-bias and anti-racist.

Listen to a podcast with Cornelius Minor, a Brooklyn-based educator and staff developer with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, as he talks about key themes in his book called “We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be.” + Add to Action Plan

Explore five things educators can do + Add to Action Plan to address bias in schools as identified by the National Education Association.

Intentionally build culturally aware and inclusive school climates

School districts must be welcoming and affirming environments where all can find themselves represented and reflected and all people are treated with respect and dignity. Students learn best when they are in environments in which they feel safe, supported, challenged and accepted. Leaders’ support of student-centered learning experiences that foster belonging and ignite student agency, identity and voice will build towards inclusive and affirming environments.

To improve school and district climates, the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments’ School Climate Improvement Resource Package + Add to Action Plan includes resources to meet a range of needs among those who are interested in improving school climate.

Watch an Edutopia video on Building a Belonging Classroom + Add to Action Plan.

Yale’s Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning provides actionable ideas + Add to Action Plan for helping students to learn by connecting new knowledge with prior knowledge and concepts in order to construct new meanings.

Embed diverse perspectives and social justice into the curriculum

Help students explore the historical roots and current evidence of social inequality and discrimination by engaging in classroom discussions. School-wide events can help facilitate larger community discussions. Inviting multiple voices representing non-dominant perspectives to contribute to the curriculum (through story, song, poetry, text, artifacts, or presentation) in ways that honor student identity, history and culture will engage the larger community and enrich the curriculum.

This NEA and Learning for Justice webinar + Add to Action Plan provides guidance on how to have meaningful conversations with students about race, racism and other important topics

  • This Let’s Talk guide + Add to Action Plan offers classroom-ready strategies you can use to plan discussions and to facilitate conversations about topics such as white privilege, police violence, economic inequality with your students

Join Black Lives Matter at School’s + Add to Action Plan annual week of action during the first week of February each year.​

Portland State University has curated a resource page dedicated to creating culturally responsive curriculum + Add to Action Plan.