Anti-Racist Curriculum & Instruction

University of Rochester — Goal 2 Initiative Anti-Racist Curriculum & Instruction

The development and implementation of new anti-racist instruction is currently underway at the Center for Urban Education Success at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, in conjunction with school districts and community partners, to ensure all students have similar learning experiences. The curriculum continues to be taught in Monroe County classrooms this school year, beginning with grades 8, 11 and 12 and aligning with the U.S history curricula and New York State standards. As the United States continues to experience an increase in social-justice movements and demonstrations across the country, local school leaders recognize the necessity to engage students in rich learning experiences about Rochester’s history with issues of equity and social justice. In Monroe County, the city and suburbs are segregated by race and class—and its school district borders mirror and entrench these great divides. According to a 2020 EdBuild report, Rochester has the most economically segregated school district border in the nation, walling off the high-poverty education system from its affluent suburbs that surround the city. Rochester’s deep history of extreme segregation spans two centuries. 

Initiative Differentiators

This robust anti-racist instruction is new to most school districts across Monroe County, and will impact approximately 24,000 students per year. Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020, Shaun Nelms ‘04W (MS), ‘13W (EdD), associate professor and William & Sheila Konar Director of the Center for Urban Education Success at the Warner School of Education and superintendent of East High School, challenged all Monroe County superintendents to use common instruction that would cover the civil unrest, segregation, and racism of Rochester from the 1960s to present day. The Monroe County Council of Superintendents welcomed and accepted the challenge earlier this year. 

The University acknowledges its position in Rochester and is leveraging resources to create a more culturally responsive and equitable community. 

Key Interventions and Milestones

As part of the county-wide initiative, the team of educators is working together to implement culturally-responsive sustaining practices, which are grounded in Gloria Ladson-Billings’ early work on Culturally Relevant & Responsive Pedagogy, to help lead and steer the county-wide initiative. It is a framework that recognizes the importance of leveraging students’ cultural references and experiences that are traditionally excluded from mainstream settings in all aspects of learning. It rests on three fundamental goals: teaching must yield academic success; teaching must help develop and sustain positive cultural identities; teaching must support students’ ability to recognize, understand, and critique inequities.  

Expected Impact

The initiative was piloted in Monroe County classrooms in spring 2021, with grades 8, 11 and 12 and aligning with the U.S. history curricula and New York State standards, and will continue to be taught during the course of the school year. There are approximately 24,000 students in grades 8, 11 and 12 throughout Monroe County who will have access to Rochester's anti-racist curricula. The initiative strives to have 100% of teachers in Monroe County trained by Center for Urban Education Succerss staff by the end of 2022, with lessons implemented in all classrooms.