Local educators push for anti-racist curriculum after ‘insensitive’ slavery worksheet in Pittsford

Education

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — There is a renewed push for an anti-racist history curriculum for schools in Monroe County after a teacher in Pittsford used a racially insensitive worksheet in her classroom. A similar worksheet was previously used in the Webster district.

Some educators say it’s not just about teaching students, it’s also about teaching, teachers.

East High superintendent Shaun Nelms said while the worksheet, pulled from an outside site, that circulated in local Pittsford and Webster classrooms was disturbing, he wasn’t surprised by it.

That’s why he’s helped create new, historically accurate curriculum for Monroe County schools.

“This will give teachers a different vantage point and viewpoint to know when they’re looking at outside resources how to vet them to ensure they’re culturally relevant and sustaining,” Nelms said.

He said the new curriculum covers 1964 through present day and was created for grades 8, 11, and 12, when U.S. history is primarily taught. He said after districts implement it, they have the option to extend it across other grades.

To fill in the gaps, Nelms and his colleagues at the University of Rochester Warner School also created elevatededucator.org. This is a resource made up of lessons from East teachers. Any teacher in any subject area or grade level can use it to embed history in different ways around different content areas.

He said the site is available to use and all superintendents in the county are aware of it.

Many teachers are being trained in the new curriculum now, but what about college students earning their education degree? Angela Thompsell teaches history at SUNY Brockport and said New York State doesn’t specify which history students need to be certified.

“A lot of people don’t think they need a strong understanding of social studies to be an elementary school teacher,” said Thompsell. “We need to bring American history more into the teacher curriculum and into the classroom more and to encourage candid discussions as well. If we shy away from it we end up perpetuating misinformation because we’re trying to shield them too much.”

Nelms said the county curriculum is being piloted by some teachers now. He said 150 teachers have been trained in the past two weeks and part two is happening this week. He said everyone will be teaching the curriculum by next spring.

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