Catholic Quincy Notre Dame High School adopts critical race theory-based Savvas “Culturally Responsive Learning (CRL) Initiative” “ESSER funding alligned” curriculum


In August of 2021, Quincy Notre Dame High School—a Catholic school under the direction of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois—began using the “myPerspectives English Language Arts” curriculum from Savvas Learning Company LLC’s “Culturally Responsive Learning (CRL) Initiative.”

Parents contacted Parents Defending Education expressing concern about the critical race theory framework used in the “myPerspectives” curriculum. Parents said they were told by school officials that “Quincy Notre Dame got ‘Title I’ funding for implementing the new ELA curriculum.” Title 1 is the federal program responsible for administering Covid-19 relief funds in K12, called the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief program (ESSER).

Savvas advertises its “myPerspectives” curriculum as “ESSER funding aligned”

“myPerspectives English Language Arts” curriculum

Savvas “launched” “myPerspectives” in September of 2020 as part of its “Culturally Responsive Learning (CRL) Initiative.” Gloria Ladson-Billings, a critical race theorist and original author on culturally responsive education, sits on the initiative’s advisory board.

Gloria Ladson-Billings

Ladson-Billings is the author of the articles “Toward a Critical Race Theory in Education” (1995) and “Just what is critical race theory and what’s it doing in a nice field like education?” (1998). She is the author of the book “Critical Race Theory in Education” (2006).

Her work criticizes concepts such as “colorblindness, meritocracy, deficit thinking, linguicism” and what she refers to as “other forms of subordination” in education. She believes education should be “race-centered” and recommends infusing curriculum with critical race theory by focusing on “ethnic and social identities” and teaching that society has “systemic inequities”.

Critical race theory via Ladson-Billings’ “culturally responsive learning” framework is the foundation of Savvas’ “myPerspectives” curriculum.

Gloria Ladson-Billings

Savvas’s “Culturally Responsive Learning (CRL) Initiative”

Savvas’s CRL Initiative, according to a September of 2020 press release, is “making real changes” to “foster student voice.” Savvas wants students to “see themselves reflected in what they learn.” Savvas says its CRL Initiative “builds on the national movement for social justice.” “Culturally responsive learning must be woven into everything we do at Savvas.”

Savvas and Pearson Education

Savvas Learning Company is a rebranding of education-publisher Pearson’s K12 curriculum and instructional materials business. Pearson sold Pearson K12 to Nexus Capital, a private equity firm, for $250 million in 2019. Bethlam Forsa is Savvas’s CEO.

Savvas’s ESSER funding guidance

After Congress passed the first Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) in the spring of 2020, Savvas published a “Guide to Federal COVID-19 Relief Bills for K12 Education” to provide “essential information about the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund and how it can be used.” 

The guide includes information on:

  • “Funding available through the three federal stimulus bills: CARES, CRRSA, and ARP”
  • “How to leverage Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to implement evidence-based, equity-driven strategies in your district”
  • “Which Savvas programs align to allowable activities under ESSER”

Page 8 of the guide explains how private schools can access ESSER funds for “technology” and “curriculum development” for “remote learning, hybrid learning, or to address learning loss.” Savvas promotes its “myPerspectives English Language Arts” as “aligning to allowable activities under ESSER.”

“The Grants & Funding Team at Savvas Learning Company is here to help school leaders and classroom educators navigate education funding options to address local needs.” 

Quincy Notre Dame High School

At Quincy Notre Dame High School (QND), parents speaking to Parents Defending Education said they were told by school officials:

“QND’s English Language Arts ELA department chair recommended the adoption of the Savvas “Culturally Responsive Learning (CRL) Initiative” curriculum” and that “Quincy Notre Dame got ‘Title I’ funding for implementing the new ELA curriculum.”

According to a post from the school’s official Facebook page, the ELA department chair was hired as an English teacher in September of 2019 after having previously taught as an English professor at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri.

QND English curriculum

QND began using Savvas’s “myPerspectives” curriculum for all English classes in August 2021.

Parents contacting Parents Defending Education expressed concern about the political nature of the new curriculum.

Prior to adopting Savvas “myPerspectives,” QND’s English classes read classic literature, according to parents. QND bills itself as a “college prep” school and mentions its “rich tradition of academic excellence” in the school’s admissions materials.

Quincy Notre Dame High School was founded in 1867.

QND Freshman English class

In the first semester of the 2021-22 academic year, ninth graders at QND read from the Unit 1 myPerspectives text titled “American Voices.” The “American Voices” text uses the word “immigrant” 69 times, “immigrants” 50 times, and “immigration” 25 times.

Ninth graders were required to read six short pieces and the novel “The Hunger Games” in the first semester:

QND Freshman English readings

  1. “A Quilt of a Country” (essay)
  2. “The Immigrant Contribution” (essay)
  3. “American History” (short story)
  4. “The Writing on the Wall” (blog post)
  5. ”With a Little Help from my Friends” (memoir)
  6. “The Moral Logic of Survivor’s Guilt” (editorial)
  7. “The Hunger Games” (novel)

QND Freshman English assignments

Ninth graders were required to complete three assignments in the first semester:

  1. Essay assignment: “Write a Nonfiction Narrative. All three Whole-Class readings deal with issues of cultural diversity and citizenship in the United States. After reading, you will write your own nonfiction narrative about the topic of American identity. How does your generation define what it means to be an American today?”
  2. Podcast assignment: “You have read about immigrants’ experiences as they strove to adjust to the United States. Work with your group to develop a podcast that addresses this question: How do the realities of immigrants’ experiences reflect or fail to reflect American ideals?”
  3. Handbook assignment: Creative “Hunger Games” project.

Parents at QND have complained about the curriculum to school officials. They say the school has cancelled plans to teach the Unit 3 myPerspectives text titled “Power, Protest, and Change.”

QND continues to use Savvas’s other myPerspectives units, including Unit 1, American Voices. The school also uses Savvas’s biology curriculum.

Quincy ESSER funding

The state of Illinois received $5 billion in ESSER federal funds for elementary and secondary schools.

Parents Defending Education has not yet determined the amount of ESSER funds QND received.

Based on a response to a public records request conducted by Parents Defending Education, the neighboring public school system, Quincy Public Schools in Quincy, Illinois, which hosts five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school, received $3,098,057 in ESSER funding as of May 1, 2022. Quincy Public Schools also uses Savvas curriculum.