When our school district embarked on an equity initiative, some teachers had struggled to put it into practice. The initiative builds from the idea that ALL students are welcome as they are and that ultimately ALL students are provided tasks that demand production at higher levels of depth of knowledge (DOK3/4) so that they can communicate like a scientist, mathematician, historian, etc. The “meeting all students as they are…” aspect of the district initiative has been challenging.
To overcome the challenge, I worked with several high school history teachers as an instructional coach and The Color of Law has been eye opening for them. Groups of educators in the district gathered to read excerpts from Color of Law together and reflect on the history of segregation. It helped them collaboratively expand their lessons beyond the textbook and spark more interest all our students.
There are teachers who have lifted excerpts directly from The Color of Law and had students read them alongside the traditional textbook account of the New Deal. We’ve also begun to design activities that allow students to do some of the investigation of dejure discrimination and segregation right here in San Jose, California. The local library has quite a few online resources and our librarians are getting involved as we try to make our Gale Database more student accessible. One of the findings is the Chinatown that was once in the center of downtown and now is buried under the Fairmont Hotel. It’s truly becoming a collaborative project across our staff. We’re looking forward to more discoveries by students who are not only getting a “people’s perspective” but also finding history interesting and important today.