Culturally Relevant, Antiracist Education. Inclusive, antiracist, LGBTQIA+ affirming curriculum and teaching practices grounded in what works best for students.
Increasingly, LAUSD is prioritizing an education system that is culturally affirming, actively antiracist, and bias-aware. At the same time, there is a mounting public challenge to antiracist pedagogy, inclusive curriculum, and the accurate, culturally responsive teaching of history. Given the rich diversity of LAUSD, the district must accelerate its work to build a culturally relevant education system. Teachers in Los Angeles demand micro-credentials for antiracist instruction, high quality professional development, and investments in culturally relevant curriculum.
Los Angeles teachers want culturally relevant, antiracist education.
As educators, we recognize the importance of fully inclusive, antiracist, LGBTQIA+ affirming curriculum and teaching practices that are grounded in what works best for students. We understand the need to shift our pedagogy, curriculum, and professional development to create a learning environment that is welcoming, representative, and affirming for all our students so that they can thrive in our classrooms and beyond. The evidence is clear that culturally relevant, antiracist teaching practices, when implemented effectively, can provide students with a range of social and cognitive benefits. Effective implementation of these important shifts will require educators receive intentional support, training, and resources that are all aligned and supported by our schools and district. Making these changes in our classroom will also require us, the educators in the room, to do our own individual work to identify and address biases and areas of weakness that show up in our pedagogy and our students’ performance.
Over the last decade and across thousands of conversations, listening sessions, surveys, and polls of LAUSD teachers, the issues of teacher practice, pedagogy, and curriculum have been consistent. In fact, in the data analysis that drove our policy agenda¹, this is the fourth most common topic of interest for E4E members over the last decade. In the last three years these issues have become even more important, ranking in the top three areas of focus for E4E-LA members.
Previous efforts in LAUSD
LAUSD has long prioritized culturally relevant, antiracist education, but efforts have been inconsistent and ineffective.
Los Angeles Unified School District’s efforts to move towards a culturally relevant, antiracist education have been extensive, but are not delivering the results our students need. LAUSD has rolled out a number of initiatives to implement culturally relevant education over the last 20 years, including the 2000 launch of the “Blueprint for Implementation of the Action PLan for a Culturally Relevant Education.”
The goal of all of these efforts have been to improve educational achievement for all students, and for Black students in particular. So far, these efforts have shown some promise for Latinx students in LAUSD, where performance has improved and achievement gaps between Latinx and white students have decreased. For example, from 2003 to 2019 on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) Latinx students in LAUSD’s 4th grade math scores increased by 9 points (211 to 220) and narrowed the distance from the scores of their white peers by 8 points (from 30 to 22 points). During the same time period, the gap between the scores of Latinx students and white students have also closed gaps in 4th grade reading (4 points), 8th grade math (5 points), and 8th grade reading (10 points). These improvements are important signs of progress, but fall short of what our students deserve after 20 years of effort. For Black students in LAUSD, achievement gaps have worsened over most subject areas across the same time period. For example, achievement gaps for Black students grew in 4th grade math (1 point), 4th grade reading (6 points), and 8th grade reading (3 points).
The results of LAUSD’s efforts over the last 20 years have fallen short of their ambitions and of our student’s needs. To make matters more alarming, the data we do have is from before the pandemic — a crisis that is having a disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx students who, for example, were less likely to be engaged in online learning.
Knowing these persistent opportunity and achievement gaps, LAUSD created the Department of Access, Equity, and Acceleration with the mission that “all students of color and in poverty will demonstrate that they can achieve at the same level as their grade level peers.” This department, along with the LAUSD Plan for Black Student Achievement, is intended to drive additional support, resources, and training away from campus police towards more culturally relevant and antiracist schools.
The additional resources and renewed focus on creating a culturally relevant and antiracist educational environment is welcomed by educators, but the long history of ever-changing efforts and mixed results tell us that this renewed investment and focus will only work if there is a comprehensive and aligned plan to improve pedagogy, professional development and curriculum in our schools.
Start with Curriculum
Educators and researchers say the shift towards antiracist teaching needs to begin with high quality, culturally relevant curricular resources
According to a survey from The Brookings Institute using the Rand Teacher Panel, between 43 and 53 percent of teachers use materials produced by external organizations (such as publishers’ materials) at least once a week;72 to 80 percent use materials developed by themselves or their colleagues at least once a week; and 90 percent use Google to find lessons. Teachers spend an average of 12 hours per week searching for or creating their own materials. E4E’s own survey of over 500 LAUSD teachers tells us that these trends are especially true for content related to race. Only 36 percent of teachers report receiving guidance or materials about race relations from their school or district. In short, too many teachers are spending time trying to find high quality, inclusive resources for their classroom — time that could be used to focus on differentiating and delivering content to their students or building relationships with families.
High quality, culturally relevant curriculum is critical to improving student learning, especially in marginalized communities. A research review conducted by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and the Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education, which focused on curricula choices in grades K-12, found that the cumulative impact of high quality curricula can be significant, particularly in the upper grades, adding years of additional learning. TNTP’s Opportunity Myth report demonstrated that access to high quality materials is inequitable, with only 38 percent of classrooms serving predominantly students of color provided no grade-level assignments (versus only 12 percent of classrooms serving predominantly white students). This tells us that LAUSD students don’t have access to curricular tools that are high quality or that are culturally relevant.
We know that a new curriculum alone won’t change practices in our classrooms. This shift must be coupled with strong professional learning for educators that is job-embedded and content-focused. A 2019 meta-study of professional learning programs, conducted by Harvard professor Heather Hill and her colleagues, found that “programs post stronger average effects when they feature professional development paired with new curriculum materials.” This research backs up what E4E-LA members have consistently said about professional development – too often it is focused on a one-off instructional skill and not grounded in the content that needs to be delivered.
To effectively begin the shift to a truly culturally relevant, antiracist education system, LAUSD needs to begin by ensuring that all classrooms and teachers are using a culturally relevant, high quality, standards-aligned curriculum. Once a core curriculum has been purchased or developed, the district can support the implementation of this curriculum through aligned professional development and coaching.
What actions does LAUSD need to take to shift to a culturally relevant curriculum?
Teachers overwhelmingly want an education system that is culturally relevant and antiracist.
E4E-LA believes LAUSD should ensure our curriculum is culturally relevant and rigorous by…
- Developing — with the support of educators, families, and the broader community — a clear rubric for ensuring all curriculum is aligned to grade level standards, culturally relevant, and accessible to all learners
- Auditing all curriculum that is currently being used to ensure it meets the rubric
- Investing in new curriculum, when necessary, to ensure all teachers have a core curriculum that meets the district’s rubric standards
- Creating a high quality curriculum for the newly mandated ethnic studies class required to graduate in California
E4E-LA believes LAUSD should invest in professional development to support educators to shift their pedagogy to be culturally relevant and antiracist by…
- Ensuring all professional development is grounded in a high quality, culturally relevant curriculum
- Creating a micro-credential for antiracist teaching and making this micro-credential accessible to all teachers within the district
- Expanding coaching and hybrid positions for teachers who have demonstrated mastery in antiracist teaching to support other educators across the district
E4E-LA believes that LAUSD needs to make these changes immediately to take advantage of the unprecedented resources available through federal recovery dollars.
- LAUSD should spend a portion of the over $4.6 billion dollars it is receiving from the federal government to implement the recommendations above
- UTLA should demand, through the bargaining process, that all teachers have access and training to implement high quality, culturally relevant curriculum
E4E-LA’s history of advocacy for culturally relevant and antiracist education:
E4E-Los Angeles has worked to build a more culturally relevant education system since our founding in 2011:
- In 2013, E4E-LA released and advocated for Building For The Future, which fought for changes to attract and retain teachers in LAUSD’s hardest to staff schools.
- In 2014, E4E-LA released and advocated for The Equity Movement to support the effective implementation of the School Climate Bill of Rights.
- In 2015, E4E-LA released and advocated for One School of Thought, which called for high quality and culturally relevant curriculum and teacher leadership roles designed to support the implementation of the new standards.
- In 2016, E4E-LA built on our common core campaign to push for curricular resources and professional development to ensure all student populations had the tools to access the new standards.
- In 2018, E4E-LA launched and advocated for the collective leadership necessary to uplift all schools. During this campaign we fought for restorative justice and social-emotional practices in all schools, access to high quality instructional coaches, and investments in family and community engagement.
- In 2020, E4E-LA began an effort to push the district to develop a micro-credential to support antiracist teaching.
As demonstrated, during our decade of work in Los Angeles, E4E has advocated for the district to attract and retain a diverse and excellent work force in hard to staff schools, to establish a standard-aligned culturally relevant curriculum, to strengthen teacher development and pathways, and create an affirming positive school climate. These individual efforts have all improved the learning environment for children, but right now we need a comprehensive push, utilizing federal resources, to ensure every student feels welcomed in our classrooms, represented by our curriculum, and supported by an antiracist educator.
After ten years of working in Los Angeles, E4E analyzed our data from thousands of conversations, listening sessions, dozens of surveys, and our representative poll of LAUSD teachers to determine what issues have been most consistently raised as priorities for educators over the last decade. To do this, we coded all notes, polls, and survey data across different content areas and then grouped them into meta categories. This data analysis included 2,318 data points from LAUSD teachers.
Through this data analysis we found that the meta category of teacher practice, pedagogy, and curriculum was the fourth most common issue area raised by educators in the last decade and was even more prevalent in the last three years, repeatedly landing in the top three issue areas raised by E4E-LA members.
Data included in this category includes any data related to instructional practices and approaches to learning (both individual teacher practices and opinions on curriculum policy decision); access to grade-level materials and content, learning acceleration versus remediation; and issues pertaining to antiracist teacher practices in classrooms, curriculum and pedagogy.