Over the past few years, our conversations related to critical race theory, book bans and inclusive curriculum have shifted to thinking about the impact on students. Creating inclusive and welcoming spaces for students to learn about their identities and others is essential to ensuring that they will be prepared for a diverse and global workforce.
As we think about the impact of curriculum decisions, we also need to think about teachers and school leaders and their ability to feel a sense of belonging in their classrooms as they strive to engage students in differences and prepare them for a life outside the classroom. An inclusive curriculum gives students the ability to learn and understand different perspectives and who they are is also valued and celebrated.
The Hunt Institute, along with seven partners, is leading the 1 Million Teachers of Color campaign. Our goal is to increase the number of teachers of color by 1 million and leaders of color by 30,000 over the next decade. This is a significant goal that will take work from parents, local, state and district leaders and policy makers to ensure that our classrooms are representative of the students we serve.
It was not lost on me or my colleagues that this project was changed by many factors; teacher salaries, resources and licenses to name a few, and that there are many obstacles. Teachers capable of teaching an inclusive curriculum is also a method of retention. Imagine having a classroom where the history and culture of yourself or others in the school or your classroom cannot be taught or discussed. This lack of inclusivity often leads to teachers feeling undervalued in their schools. District leaders should ensure that all educators receive bias training and provide space to learn more about the exclusionary systems that create barriers for teachers of color.
Ultimately, creating inclusive classroom spaces benefits students and teachers and provides opportunities for them to create practices and curricula that are relevant to the communities and classrooms they serve. . As policy makers and district leaders make decisions related to curriculum standards, it is important to remember that representation matters. Advocating for culturally responsive education helps make learning more relevant and supports students and teachers in engaging students to enhance their knowledge of diverse people and perspectives.
Creating spaces where professional development can take place for educators leading to more inclusive practices in the classroom is essential to recruiting and retaining teachers and leaders of color. Policy makers should work to invest in appropriate materials and training and ensure that materials are representative of the communities they serve. Tracking and collecting data to track the diversity of the educator workforce is also essential to making intentional policy recommendations that work to increase the retention of educators of color.
Hiring teachers and school leaders trained in culturally responsive curriculum is one strategy to improve or implement measures that address inclusive curriculum and classroom practices. Research shows that this very skill benefits all students, and that’s what matters most. Prohibiting educators from providing inclusive education defeats the entire purpose of preparing students for success. Limiting their ability to learn and engage across differences is essential to ensuring the success of our education system.
Our work at The Hunt Institute aims to engage with lawmakers across the aisle to facilitate conversations that move the needle on educational equity. Conversations about teacher diversity and culturally relevant curriculum are important to our work, and to the development of today’s students.
Helping students and educators connect with the most important parts of who they are as people not only creates a welcoming learning environment but also allows everyone to feel valued and included in the most important aspects of their development — education.
Javaid Siddiqi, Ph.D., is president and CEO of The Hunt Institute. With more than two decades of experience in education, he previously served as a teacher, principal, school board member and Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia.