Another Step Toward a Culturally Responsive Curriculum
DISTRICT | July 1, 2020
Another Step Toward a Culturally Responsive Curriculum

Dear Fellow Educators,

Last year, the district announced a new Curriculum Equity Initiative to provide educators with an optional digital curriculum that will diminish the amount of time we spend curating engaging, grade-level appropriate content and curricular resources for our students. The curriculum is designed to be rigorous and inclusive of the rich cultural diversity of our students. It will also address diverse learning needs, including English learners and students with disabilities.

To ensure the feedback of teachers is reflected in this comprehensive curriculum, the district launched a Curriculum Collaborative in November 2019, which we serve on alongside over 300 of our colleagues. We were tasked with reviewing science and English language arts scopes and sequences, units of study, lessons, guidance documents, assessments, and supplemental resources against rubrics developed by the district, in partnership with Ed Reports. While these materials were a good starting point, we thought there was room for improvement and that they could be better tailored for our students.

For the science units, we first reviewed and completed rubrics assessing the content, which centered around Three Dimensional learning through the Next Generation Science Standards and equity for all learners. Then, we met as a review team to discuss our thoughts and decided on the most important areas that needed to be improved upon. We discussed adding hands-on activities, differentiation for texts given to students, providing more support for diverse learners, among many other ideas. It felt empowering to bring our experiences from the classroom to improve the science curriculum for all students in Chicago Public Schools.

For the English language arts units, there were many aspects of the drafted units that were great—materials that will empower students to develop positive learner identities, curricular resources that provide guidance around supporting English learners, and teaching tools that align to the learning outcomes and alleviate teacher prep time. But, there were other aspects of the drafted units that left our curriculum review team underwhelmed and wanting more. We kept coming back to the question, “What feedback can we give to ensure the publisher revises the unit to be more representative of all students in Chicago?” No easy task.

With feedback from the Curriculum Collaborative incorporated into the first batch of content, we are excited to share with you the content that’s been developed thus far with the hope that you will provide your feedback. Content is not yet ready to be used with students, but your feedback will inform additional revisions to the content and the technical ecosystem. Please check out this video tutorial which walks you through how to access and navigate the digital units and lessons. Once you complete the tutorial, you will have access to the draft units and lessons.

Curriculum review is a process, much like the process students take while developing a piece of writing. Your feedback will guide future iterations of the units to ensure they meet the needs of all students in Chicago. The full curriculum will be released in July 2021, but given our potential need for digital resources in the face of COVID-19, some resources will be made available for early use at the start of the 2020–21 school year. Notification will be given as soon as digital content is available for use.

For this curriculum to be culturally responsive and to reflect the children we teach every day, it’s critical for teachers across the district to capitalize on this unique opportunity to inform its development.

Jenna Kordelewski                                               Derek Gould
Curriculum Collaborative, Science             Curriculum Collaborative, English language arts
Irene C. Hernandez Middle School             Edgebrook School