The onset of a global health crisis paired with national protests for racial justice across the country and the acknowledgement of systemic racism in the United States is leading schools, educators and district leaders to reexamine their approach to teaching and learning.
Madison Metropolitan School District is part of this growing movement to ensure that their educational practices are centered on equity and that all students are recognized for the brilliance they bring to their school communities.
“Our students of color deserve no less,” explained Cindy Green, executive director of Secondary Programs and Pathways at MMSD. “We have a moral obligation as a school district and as a community to ensure we are creating school systems that every student sees themselves in.”
Cindy partnered with the district’s newly designed, Instructional Acceleration group ahead of the 2020-2021 school year to develop anti-racist educational resources and curriculum for teachers to utilize as part of their ongoing effort to improve the overall MMSD student experience while striving to dismantle systemic racism in the classrooms.
“As schools are starting to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew we needed to take this opportunity to do school differently. We couldn’t go back to business as usual,” said Cindy. With COVID-19 plus the continual racial unrest and protests from the summer, the current climate created a perfect storm for us to take this anti-racist work further for our students and staff.”
In Summer 2020, more than 150 MMSD staff of every professional background from school security officers and social workers to current students and district administrators were invited to join the Instructional Acceleration group. This profound group of educators and employees united cross collaboratively to review the district’s current anti-racist practices, learning materials and curriculum.
Collectively, they worked together for an entire summer to develop an extensive list, or inventory of multicultural educational resources designed to help both teachers and students create inclusive classroom spaces, acknowledge and challenge bias and racial inequities and navigate difficult conversations about race.
“Our work this summer really focused on creating systems, processes and curriculum that are actively anti-racist", said Kaylee Jackson, executive director of Curriculum and Instruction at MMSD. “We looked at professional learning opportunities for staff and questioned individual learning materials to ensure the content we’re presenting to our students is indeed anti-racist.”
New to MMSD, Kaylee Jackson joined the district in the summer of 2020. Kaylee connected with Cindy Green to immediately begin working with the Instructional Acceleration group on the anti-racist resources for educators. Kaylee believes the education system is imperfect and in order to dismantle racism we need to start from within.
“If we truly want different results for our black and brown students, as leaders we need to actively engage in conversations to identify where we have systems, practices and beliefs within our own hearts and minds that are rooted within white supremacy culture,” said Kaylee.
MMSD educators and staff now have a comprehensive anti-racist curriculum with lessons, videos, vocabulary, audio projects, downloadable learning materials and a wealth of resources accessible to teachers to bring more structure and intentionality to topics about race, biases and social justice.
The district will continue to offer professional development opportunities for teachers and staff centered in equity and racial justice, and MMSD teachers and staff are currently working on a system to share, upload, and access anti-racist teaching aids for their classrooms at all grade levels. Teachers are regularly having conversations with their students about inclusion and feeling a sense of belonging and community.
Cindy Green’s work with the Instructional Acceleration group over the summer showed her that MMSD staff and our students are eager to create spaces where students of color, particularly, feel welcomed and compelled to share their culture and experiences with their peers and school community.
“We recognize that we still have a long way to go, but our teachers and staff are dedicated to building a school culture that is anti-racist,” said Cindy. “We’re going to honor our commitment to our school community because our students deserve the bet that we can give them; a school culture that is anti-racist, centers racial justice and equity and nurtures their hard work, individuality and brilliance.”
-Marlita Bevenue, MMSD Communications: firstname.lastname@example.org