Editor’s note: Perspectives for a Diverse America turned one on September 9! Check out this feature story on how the curriculum has grown and how it’s become a go-to resource for many educators.
Over the last two years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as an external evaluator for Perspectives for a Diverse America, Teaching Tolerance’s anti-bias curriculum. I’ve interviewed more than a hundred teachers and college professors who use the curriculum in their classrooms, and I’ve sat in dozens of classes all over the country to watch Perspectives in action. I’ve observed high school students make poster presentations on world-changing ideas, and I’ve sat crisscross applesauce with kindergarten students learning about cooperation.
These observations led to two reports that examine how teachers use Perspectives and capture their opinions on the curriculum. The first, published in 2014, looks at a large group of pilot teachers in five states: Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, New Mexico and Wisconsin. The second, published earlier this month, looks at a small group of teachers in Hawai‘i and how they’re using Perspectives in diverse ways.
Taken together, these reports show that Perspectives has tremendous promise to boost students’ academic achievement while promoting social emotional learning. And what’s more, Perspectives is easy to use—it actually saves time for busy teachers.
For those who don’t have time to wade through the reports, here are my five key findings.
meets teachers’ needs.
Across grade levels and diverse classrooms, teachers overwhelmingly agreed that
the texts, strategies and tasks that comprise the curriculum were useful,
rigorous and engaging for their students. Teachers also loved the structure of
the Integrated Learning Plan. New teachers said it helped them to learn
backward design, while experienced teachers said it was a good reminder.
- Perspectives builds
teacher capacity. Almost all
teachers, even those very familiar with the Common Core State Standards, reported
the curriculum helped them to implement the standards’ literacy shifts. All of
the teachers observed that the texts and strategies boosted students’ literacy
skills. Teachers also stated that the structure of the Anti-bias Framework
(ABF) helped them to identify and evaluate social emotional learning outcomes.
encourages meaningful class conversations. Pilot teachers reported that the curriculum
allowed them to have new and engaging discussions about the four domains of the
ABF: Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action. The curriculum made teachers feel
comfortable and confident discussing issues relevant to their students’ lives
and communities—even when those issues were controversial. Teachers found their
classroom communities improved after using Perspectives,
one of many reasons that all pilot teachers stated they planned to use the
supports performance-based learning and civic engagement. Teachers and students were all excited about the
final phase of the Integrated Learning Plan: “Do Something.” Even
teachers who were worried that it would take too much time told me that they
were glad they incorporated the final task into their instructional plans.
While I was on the road all over the country, I saw puppet shows and PSAs,
community art galleries, a school-wide campaign to end the “R-word,” and plenty
of glitter and glue in classrooms for a variety of art projects.
- Perspectives is as diverse as the United States. Usually, when you go out in the field to watch a curriculum in action, it looks pretty much the same from classroom to classroom. But teachers using Perspectives all made it their own, choosing texts, strategies and tasks that made sense for their students. The seven case studies in the Hawai‘i report show this most clearly—if you read those, you really get a sense of how much the curriculum facilitates differentiated instruction while providing structure.
I will always remember a special moment while visiting an Idaho classroom. The teacher read a poem—from the Perspectives Central Text Anthology—aloud to her class while they followed along. It’s called “i will be chosen,” and it’s about kickball. But really, it’s about what it’s like to be left out of a group and how it can feel to find your own identity. The students were rapt. At the end of the poem, the classroom burst into applause. One small boy stood up and said, “Read it again! That’s the best poem I ever heard!” All of the adults, myself included, teared up a bit. I am pretty sure we were all remembering that we teach because of moments like this.
Shuster is an independent education researcher and evaluator who has worked on multiple studies assessing curricular and co-curricular reforms.
- Perspectives for a Diverse Hawai'i - July 2015
- A Formative Evaluation of Perspectives for a Diverse America: Final Report 2013-2014
- Perspectives for a Diverse Hawai'i
- 'Perspectives': We Did Our Homework!
- TT Awardee Spotlight: Amber Strong Makaiau
- Teach with 'Perspectives for a Diverse America'
- New Webinar: 'Perspectives' Goes to Hawai’i
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