Curriculum & Instruction In Support of Equity

The district has established specific goals and is taking steps to ensure that our Curriculum and Instruction are supporting all our students.

Ensure our students receive a culturally responsive curriculum in all schools from grades Pre-K to 12.

- Build our capacity for curriculum development and instructional practices through the lens of equity and cultural responsiveness.


To address inequities in academic performance, we look at student data and compare it with the district, school, and classroom demographics to see which students are under or overrepresented. We use a variety of data points to assess student learning and growth, and proactively address achievement and opportunity gaps. For example, the district implemented an Early Literacy Screener for all kindergarteners which is reducing the percentage of students at risk of falling behind. During the summers of 2022 and 2023, we invited 1st through 5th graders to participate in the 4-week intensive "Summer Bridges" based on their math and literacy data and teacher recommendations. We served over 120 students and one-third were from historically marginalized groups.


We also monitor the percent of 11th & 12th graders in Advanced Courses and identify disproportionality that needs to be addressed. What we mean is that we are seeing an increase in percentages over time for most students; however, some subgroups (Hispanic, Special Education, Black, Low Income) need additional supports.


Programs are in place to address some of these disparities, including "Castle Scholars," an NHS program open for all students and targeting African American and Latinx/ Hispanic students who have shown an interest in challenging themselves in rigorous coursework.


Another promising new program called "Mentors Like Me" partners student mentors from the Castle Program and the NHS Black Student Union with Pollard students so they can discuss shared experiences, particularly in relation to race. The mentorship is designed to identify and use strategies for disrupting or reducing unconscious bias and also provide a transformative leadership opportunity for our high school mentors.

The work continues in the 2024 school year; Curriculum & Instruction updates will be posted at the close of this school year.


Please see below for historical perspective on the action steps carried out over the years to address Curriculum & Instruction through the lens of equity.


Action Steps:

  • Continued to Implement K-5 Racial Literacy Curriculum and aligning PreK to 12 anti-racist instructional practices.
  • Adopted the framework "Know Yourself, Know Your Students, Know Your Practice, Know Your Curriculum" to establish a common understanding of Culturally Responsive Teaching.
  • Fully developed a "Roadmap for Becoming A Culturally Responsive Educator" that continues to provide teachers and leaders with a framework and a common set of questions and resources to guide our work.
  • Facilitated communication between the REAL sub-committee, the K-12 Curriculum Cabinet, and the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) to ensure a thoughtful and coordinated approach. Here are 2 examples: Curriculum sub-committee presentation of the updated "Roadmap" document to the K-12 Curriculum Cabinet for review and feedback; Curriculum sub-committee presentation to the SLT for review and feedback.
  • Updated the  Library/Media selection policy.
  • NHS surveyed faculty in May 2021 in order to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of our current leveling system and to solicit ideas on how to improve equity in our level recommendations.
  • Needham Channel reported on the Elementary School Racial Literacy Curriculum, available for view at this link.
  • The 2019-2020 Needham Public Schools K-5 Curriculum summaries included an overview of the Racial Literacy curriculum, and indicated the skills and abilities that the staff help elementary students develop.
  • The Performance Matters data management system was explored as a way to support our work.
  • Evaluators were provided a list of "Look Fors" to use in providing feedback to educators.
  •  The librarians from schools across the district conducted a diversity audit of their respective collections during summer 2019. The diversity audit answered the question: "What percentage of my collection is written by someone other than the traditionally dominant voice?" It ensured that the collection contained a variety of representations from a range of authors as well as authors whose works reflect the perspectives of those who are marginalized. This audit helped to determine the number of titles and the representative percentages of the library collections that fall into specific categories: race/ethnicity, gender, GLBTQAI+, disability, religion, and voices. Moreover, it helped to hold librarians accountable to identify the weaknesses and fill gaps in their collections. It also challenged them to be more inclusive in their future selections and to continually examine their own internal biases and privileges.
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