New Haven Public Schools and Students for Educational Justice (SEJ) have been awarded a grant that will support building a community of teachers, teacher educators, youth, and student organizers committed to advancing anti-racist pedagogy, curriculum, and practice within K-12 public schools in Connecticut.
The $600,000 grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation will support the work of the district and the community-based organization, SEJ, and their project, the Anti-Racist Teaching and Learning Collective (ARTLC). SEJ is a youth-led, intergenerational organizing body that drives efforts for racial and educational justice throughout Connecticut. SEJ brings together students, youth organizers, teachers, and teacher educators to build shared capacity to transform K-12 education in Connecticut. ARTLC was founded in 2019 following legislative efforts to pass Public Act 19-12, which requires public high schools in Connecticut to include African-American and Black studies, as well as Puerto Rican and Latinx studies, in their educational programs. New Haven Public Schools and SEJ will be sharing the award, with $272,168 coming directly to the district and $327,832 going to SEJ. Assistant Superintendent Ivelise Velazquez will serve as project manager for the district.
“We are grateful to the Nellie Mae Education Foundation for their help in advancing culture change in our schools,” said district Superintendent Iline Tracey. “We believe that equitable opportunities create the foundation necessary for every child to succeed. Our strategic plan states we will provide school experiences that are culturally relevant, and this effort will require the commitment and insights of the entire community.”
Four NHPS teachers active with ARTLC worked with district administrators to develop a two-day virtual conference held in August, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: From Theory to Action. Building on that foundation, the district, ARTLC and SEJ have developed year-long professional learning opportunities for teachers and administrators, as well as forums for students, families, and members of the community. These grant-funded opportunities will include:
Anti-Racist Teachers Institute: a 12-week series led by NHPS teachers that will train 40 educators each year, who will then lead communities of practice in their own grade-level teams and schools that focus on anti-racist, culturally relevant practices.
Culturally Relevant Leadership Seminar: a 10-part series led by administrators with teachers, students and others to identify policy, pedagogy, and practices that should be revised to align with the values embedded in the district’s Policy for Race and Equity, which was adopted in November 2020.
Bi-monthly gathering of SEJ and Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR) with advisors to express recommendations for how current district policy, pedagogy and practice should change to better serve, engage and prepare students to be critical thinkers and advocates for social justice.
Family and Community Racial Equity Forums: monthly gathering for family, community members, students, and NHPS staff to review the district’s progress and prioritize policies and practices that should be changed to move the district closer to equity.
After participating in the institute, seminar and forum sessions, teachers, administrators, students, family and community members will facilitate the same trainings at their own schools and establish new communities of practice with a growing group of anti-racist educators.
"Partnering with ARTLC and SEJ has strengthened my work as an educator in profound ways, because it brings youth and educators in conversation with one another, and this inevitably leads to better curricular and pedagogical practices,” said Nataliya Braginsky, a social studies teacher at Metropolitan Business Academy and a member of the ARTLC steering committee. “I am so glad that this grant will allow NHPS to build upon these relationships in order to have a greater impact on our schools and our classrooms.”
Organizers estimate that by the end of the third year of programming, anti-racist training will have been provided to between 125 and 150 teachers and 200 students, and every NHPS teacher, administrator and student will have been reached through school-based trainings and communities of practice.
In addition to the institute, seminar, and forum sessions, the grant will fund conferences in the second and third years to allow educators, students, administrators, and community members to reflect on the year’s work, share lessons learned, and engage in further study.
“The backgrounds and experiences of students are at the heart of culturally relevant teaching,” said Rashanda McCollum, Executive Director of SEJ. “It is essential that students be critically engaged in curriculum and pedagogy that focus on anti-racism and that elicit and build upon their own experiences.”