Boulder Valley’s Equity Council is recommending a coursework audit, creation of an ethnic studies course and providing more resources and training to teachers as the district works to diversify its curriculum and create more inclusive schools.
The council will present its recommendations at a special school board meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday. To watch the livestream of the meeting on BV22, go to bv22.viebit.com.
Mike Gradoz, Boulder Valley’s assistant superintendent of human resources and the district liaison for the Equity Council, said the group looked at making cultural celebrations more consistent and meaningful by including them in the curriculum, as well as looking at diversifying the curriculum itself.
Black students, for example, don’t want to only see themselves in the curriculum through lessons on slavery, he said. They want to learn about Black historians, inventors, authors and artists.
Students also want more substance, not just to celebrate another culture one day a year but to learn about it in a way that “brings those people in history to life,” he said. Bringing in people “who actually lived that culture when we teach about culture,” is another request.
About 40 people initially joined the Equity Council when it was created in September, while about 20 of the members worked on the cultural celebrations and curriculum issue this spring.
The council is a long-term effort to bring together community, families and students to discuss and make recommendations on “large decisions related to equity,” according to Boulder Valley officials. The school district created the council in consultation with the Colorado Education Initiative.
Specific recommendations around the current issue include incorporating multicultural food in the district’s weekly school lunch menu, as well as creating posters to share information about the food’s history and influences.
Another suggestion is to use school libraries and hallways to showcase different cultures, rotating displays and highlighting art and music. A school cultural awareness club could support the effort so what’s showcased reflects the cultures and diversity of the school community, the council recommended.
The council also is asking the district, schools and individual teachers to avoid scheduling tests, quizzes and project due dates on important holidays or celebrations and to offer accommodations if it’s unavoidable.
District guidelines about holidays and cultural celebrations, according to the council, should be co-created with school district community members and incorporate youth voices and feedback from focus groups. Examples that could use guidelines include Black History Month, Native American Heritage Month, Pride Month, Jewish holidays and Ramadan.
On the curriculum side, the council wants a task force that will audit class syllabi for representation of diverse authors, characters and content. The goal would be to present the audit data to the school board and the Equity Council by December.
The council also recommends starting a second task force in fall 2022 that would develop an ethnic studies course and district standards that “center (on) the histories, stories and culture of people of color and marginalized people.”
A platform for educators to share resources across the district, as well as for the district to compile, review and maintain a clearinghouse of resources, is another request. The district also should create exemplary “culturally responsive learning classrooms” for teachers, families and students to visit.
For teacher training, the council suggests both requiring and incentivize training around culturally responsive teaching, cultural celebrations and curriculum design. Areas the council wants to see addressed include low expectations for students of color, inconsistent rigor and substance of cultural assignments as compared to core classes and cultural competency for teachers.
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