Boxed Curriculum and Social Justice Dilemma

Boxed curriculums have been carefully designed and curated by teams of teachers who are all more than qualified. These curriculums are great, for certain people. They are designed to be “one size fits most”. What happens if your school is not ‘most’?

My school district is the home to thousands of students, the majority of which are Hispanic and not performing at grade level. Most have an apathy for ELA and sometimes school in general. A lot of my students know two languages, work jobs, and take care of siblings before and after school. My students are brilliant human beings. According to state and national standards they are “at risk”. In order to help my students get the best education possible, my district started using a free version of a boxed curriculum called Engage NY. Immediately, teachers noticed these materials were notstudents friendly. In 8thgrade, we were expected to read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat Young Reader’s Edition by Michael Pollan. These texts are great, but they are not 8thgrade level texts, at least not in my district. My students worked with these texts and we made it through successfully according to the tests, but they were not engaged in their learning. They were remembering what I told them to and struggling to connect. After giving an end of the year survey to assess school climate we also noticed that our students did not feel our curriculum represented them. I knew they had a point.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, my district is getting a new curriculum for the fall. We wanted to look in-depth at three curriculums: Wit and Wisdom, Springboard 2018, and Engage NY Going through curriculums I noticed a few things. The first thing I noticed was the reading/Lexile levels of all of the curriculums. They are all higher than what I would choose for my students. I would prefer to use one text that is complex and a multitude of texts that my students would be able to explore and understand on their own.

After realizing that I would not be able to find a curriculum that worked like that, I started to look at a second success criteria: perspectives. I wanted to find a curriculum where the characters and perspectives are as diverse as those in my classroom. According to several researchers and teachers, students are more apt to push themselves deeper into their learning when they have background knowledge and can see through that character’s perspective. Check out this article by Matthew Lynch because I could not sum up why diversity in the classroom in needed better than he already has.

I went through these three curriculums as they are represented on EdReports and took note of a majority of the texts used in the curriculums and organized them into categories based on race of primary character or perspective. There is no doubt these curriculums have diversity, but there are holes. It was interesting to me to see exactly where those holes are.

Perspective of Primary and Supplemental Resources
Curricula White African or African-American Hispanic or Hispanic- American Other Unknown
Springboard 2018 ·  Excerpt from the Odyssey by Homer

·  “Where I Find My Heroes” by Oliver Stone from McCall’s Magazine

·  “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman

·  “Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts” by Bruce Catton

·  The Giver by Lois Lowry

·  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

·  Excerpt from Night by Elie Wiesel

·  Life is Beautiful, film directed by Roberto Benigni

·  Excerpt from Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

·  “A Man” by Nina Cassian

·  “Private Eyes” by Brooke Charlton

Engage NY ·  To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

·  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare

·  Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand

·  The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat, Michael Pollan (Young Readers’ Edition)

·     Ain’t I a Woman?” Sojourner Truth

·     A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School, Carlotta Walls LaNier and Lisa Frazier Page

·     Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration, Shelley Tougas

·  Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhha Lai

·  “The Vietnam Wars,” Tod Olson

Wit and Wisdom ·  All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque

·  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare

·  In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae (poem)

·  EPICAC, by Kurt Vonnegut (short story)

·  The War to End All Wars, by Shari Lyn Zuber [Cobblestone article] (historical account)

· The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander (John Newbery Award)

· Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip Hoose (John Newbery Award)

· Filthy McNasty, by Horace Silver (musical selection)

· The Block, by Romare Bearden (painting)

· Slam, Dunk, & Hook,by Yusef Komunyakaa (video)

·  What is Love? Five Theories on the Greatest Emotion of All, by Jim Al-Khalili, Philippa Perry, Julian Baggini, Jojo Moyes, and Catherine Wybourne (opinion piece)
*this chart is categorized by the main characters of the story. Most stories have multiple races represented but the main characters or the perspective the story is told is representative of their category.

I chose to analyze based off of these three main categories because these are the three main races of found at my school. I want my curriculum to connect to my student’s identity: race, age, and gender. Race is the most pressing issue to me because I know that each culture has a story to share that deserves to be heard. It was also important to me because I felt like the last curriculum I was assigned to use did not recognize my students. Once I broke down the texts and categorized them I still noticed that the Hispanic column was sadly empty.

From what I have seen these curriculums are not equitable.Just as a disclaimer, I am not an expert at all of these texts and this is not a full picture of these three curriculums. I am going off of information found on Google, my brain, and, the one thing all of these curriculums have in common is that there is no Hispanic-American literature! Considering this is the majority of my students, I am upset. There is no possible way that there are no credible stories coming from the Hispanic perspective. I have already used Gary Soto, Matt De La Pena, Meg Medina, and many more other Hispanic authors in my classroom and I know they have incredible educational merit. Why are authors like these not being represented in curriculum? They use the same universal themes and literary techniques as any of the other authors. The argument can be made for new vs classic texts, but literary techniques are literary techniques.


Well, I’m triggered. How do I teach any of these curriculums with fidelity if I am morally not ok with the fact there are no Hispanic perspectives included?

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