January 19, 2023

New York City Educators Applaud David Banks’ Commitment to Reforming Inconsistent School Curricula Selection Process

January 19 (New York) —Educators, school advocates, and non-profit leaders gathered at CUNY Graduate Center on Wednesday night to meet with the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, David Banks and Deputy Chancellor of Teaching and Learning, Carolyne Quintana to present recommendations to improve the curricula selection process in New York City. The current process, educators argued, is an inconsistent, school-by-school approach that provides thousands of students with low-quality curricular materials that lack cultural relevance. 

“Many educators receive uneven support and training to implement the curriculum that is provided and are often forced to spend their own time and money to fill the gaps left by substandard resources,” said Evan Stone, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Educators for Excellence. “As schools continue to recover from post-pandemic learning loss, city leadership on improving the quality, cultural relevance, consistency, and transparency surrounding curricula is critical.”

Educators were therefore encouraged by Banks’ commitment to ensuring that curricula are better aligned to learning standards, and are more strongly embedded in training for teachers.

“I think that the entire system, and it’s a large and amazing system, needs more clarity, more direction, and we absolutely need to narrow those choices in terms of what we’re doing,” said Chancellor Banks. “We can’t just have a free-for-all, because the results we’re seeing now are a result of a free-for-all, so we’re going to be making adjustments to that.”

New York City Schools’ Deputy Chancellor of Teaching and Learning, Carolyne Quintana said that ensuring curricula are linked to professional development, and rooted in the science of learning, needs to be a priority moving forward.

“I know that as a system, we need to do things differently, grounded in what we know works,” Quintana said. 

Educators say this is an important first step, and believe that reforming the curricula selection process can help ensure materials are of higher quality, rooted in learning standards, and better meet the needs of students, as schools continue to recover from the pandemic.

“We constantly hear stories of resources failing to meet the needs of students,” said Deirdre Levy, an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn. “If we want students to succeed, we can’t just tell schools to figure it out – we need city leadership to create a vetted list of quality curricula that all schools or districts must select from and publicly report what all schools choose.”

Educators also said that Bank’s commitment to reforming the curricula selection process could help educators be better prepared to teach their material, citing how curriculum-based professional learning has been linked to improved student outcomes and results.

“I’m encouraged by the city’s willingness to lead on this, because a more consistent process will ensure that curricula are better embedded in educator training,” said Betty Nieves, a site coach at the UFT Teacher Center. “By giving teachers more stability, and putting educators in a better position to succeed, we’ll ultimately put our students in a better position to thrive.

Educators were also encouraged by the inclusion of cultural relevance, as a factor to be considered in any curricula selection process. The recommendations, released by educators, highlighted recent studies that show how culturally relevant curriculum can increase student achievement, decrease absenteeism and decrease dropout rates.

“We need to be very clear about what we mean when we say high-quality curriculum,” said James Antwine, a high school teacher in Brooklyn. “On top of being standards-aligned, a curriculum is not high quality if it isn’t culturally relevant, because if my students are not able to connect the content to their lived experience, then they’re going to fall behind.”

Designed by teachers, Learning In Our Classrooms is a set of recommendations for city leadership to improve curricula in New York City. The recommendations come after last year’s  Educators for Excellence teacher survey showed just 38 percent of New York City educators reported that curricula are high quality and well aligned to learning standards, 22 percent said their curricula are accessible, appropriate, and engaging for all learners, and only 33 percent said they have received training that enables them to implement their curricula effectively. 

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New York City Educators Applaud David Banks’ Commitment to Reforming Inconsistent School Curricula Selection Process