Shorewood School District works to implement equity and social justice into curriculum; forces teachers to take part in equity training


The Shorewood School District adopted an “Integrated Comprehensive Systems (ICS) for Equity” plan in 2020. The school district explains on its website that the plan consists of “Four Cornerstones” that are “Focus on Equity,” “Align Staff and Students,” “Transform Teaching and Learning,” and “Leverage Funding and Policy.” The goal of the plan appears to be training educators so that they teach students in a more equitable manner. This includes changing “district policies, procedures, and funding” to focus on equity. The school district states that the plan “addresses racial inequities across race, ethnicity, social class, ability, gender, sexual/gender identity and their intersections.”

The school district appears to state that teachers are forced to take part in “professional development and capacity building” training to implement equity. The school district’s website explains that the plan is expected to be “operationalized and implemented at each school, throughout the system, and supported by administration and the school board.” In the first year, teachers will be trained in six topics according to the plan:

  • The History of a Marginalized System and Our Current Models: “Staff will focus on understanding the history of marginalization in the context of schooling pertaining to race, ability, language, social class, religion, gender, sexual/gender identity, and their intersections.”
  • Shift from Deficit to Assets-Based Thinking, Language, and Practice: “Staff will explore the differences between deficit and asset-based thinking. Deficit thinking in education is the practice of holding lower expectations for students with demographics that do not fit the traditional context of the school system. Asset-based thinking focuses on students’ strengths and building learning around those strengths.”
  • Equity Begins with Us: Identify Development for Systems Change: “Staff will work through their own identity development, reflecting on their personal identity and how their identities including race, gender and ability have been developed over time. Using personal reflection, staff will consider and evaluate the ways their identity and journey of identity development informs their daily practices.”
  • Apply the Equity Research: “Staff will analyze data and results of studies related to: heterogeneous classrooms, inclusion of students with disabilities, education of students labeled gifted, integration of students who are linguistically diverse, ability grouping, tracking, RtI, the link between poverty and education, and addressing LGTB identities. Staff will challenge their own assumptions, beliefs, and practices in ways that are responsive to what the research shows around equity.”
  • Equity Non-Negotiables: “Together, staff will develop a collective list of potential equity non-negotiables that will be adhered to throughout the District as the grounding principles from which all work is guided by. An organizational non-negotiable is an expectation derived from a set of principles or beliefs that is core to the mission of the organization and not open to interpretation or modification.”
  • The Equity Audit as the Driver of Equity Change: “Shorewood School District will carefully inspect its entire educational system, collecting data on staff, students, partners and volunteers, and examining how all of these people experience the system. This data will be used to set equity goals for the next five years.”
The school district explained that there were four cornerstones to implement the “Integrated Comprehensive Systems for Equity” plan.

The school district appeared to change its motto in recent years to “Equity, Growth and Excellence for All.” The district’s goal “is focused on integrating equity into our five district pillars.” These pillars are “Academic Mastery,” “Character and Citizenship,” “Wellness,” “Facilities,” and “School Staff.”

The Shorewood School District also offers resources for parents on discussing racism, including links to articles titled “Talking to Children about Racism: The Time is Now,” “Poems of Protest, Resistance, and Empowerment,” and “Why White Students Need Multicultural and Social Justice Education.” One resource is a document from the school district called “Equity Lens On Systems Thinking.” In the document, the organization UBUNTU Research & Evaluation provided the school district with three recommendations.

  • Shorewood Public Schools should have a social justice curriculum that promotes equity by addressing racism, sexism, adultism, and other forms of systematic oppression.
  • Shorewood Public Schools should create and utilize anti-racist pedagogy across the district.
  • Shorewood Public Schools should address the culture of fear that has prevented classroom teachers, school administrators, and district leaders from addressing issues of inequity and injustice.

The school district has appeared to partner with UBUNTU Research & Evaluation to implement equity into the local schools. UBUNTU Research & Evaluation explains on its website that the organization consists of a “team of unapologetically black women, femmes, and non-binary folks working as transdisciplinary strategists committed to disrupting systematic oppression through evaluation, facilitation, and education.” The organization even has a resource called “Reading for White People” that has a list of recommended books to read. Books included on this list are A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, Critical Race Feminism, and But I’m NOT Racist!: Tools for Well-Meaning Whites.

UBUNTU Research & Evaluation’s website also includes blogs with titles like “A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Racism Go Down” and “Black Youth Need Sex Education.” The blog about sex education appears to push for “black youth” to be taught about sex in a different manner than people considered “white cisheteronormative.”

This is not the way that black youth need to be taught about sex. We have already come to a consensus that education in general needs to be decolonized, but why not our perspective of sexual and reproductive health, and the teachings of it. This education shames and ignores the possibility of queerness, exploration, and non-monogamy.

UBUNTU Research & Evaluation published a blog on sex education promoting “queerness, exploration, and non-monogamy.”

The Shorewood School District also shares “Equity News” with parents discussing current events and ongoing initiatives by the district. In June 2021, the school district posted an article about “LGBTQ+ Pride Month” that ensured parents the district “will continue to further efforts in our schools to create a welcoming, safe, and inclusive learning environment for our transgender, nonbinary, and all LGBTQ+ students.” The article has a reading list aimed at elementary school students celebrating “Transgender & Non Binary Identities” and “Gender Expression.” The school district also passed a resolution “in support of transgender, nonbinary, and all LGBTQ+ students.”

The school district provided a reading list “aimed at elementary school students” celebrating “Transgender & Non Binary Identities.”

In February 2021, the school district published an “Equity News” article supporting Black Lives Matter in a “Week of Action.” The school district published a statement in the article claiming that supporting Black Lives Matter is about acknowledging “the work that must be done to eradicate racial inequities” and about focusing on “social justice” within the curriculum.

The school district issued a statement on dedicating a week to supporting Black Lives Matter.

The school district’s article celebrating Black Lives Matter also included a link to resources from the organization “Black Lives Matter at School.” The group’s website describes the organization as a “national coalition organizing for racial justice in education.” In the resource link provided by the school district, Black Lives Matter at School provides curriculum material for educators, such as lesson plans for the “Transgender Day of Remembrance.” The organization also demands for “ethnic studies” to be taught in K-12 curriculum.

In the link provided by the school district, the Black Lives Matter at School organization provides curriculum material for educators to use in the classroom.
Black Lives Matter at School has a list of demands that includes mandating “ethnic studies” in K-12 curriculum.

The school district has several work groups aimed at pushing equity into the local schools. The first is the “Diversity Work Group” that supports “improved school experience and achievement of our African American students, students of color, and students who have historically been marginalized by and within educational systems.” Another is the “Equity Work Group” that meets once per semester. A “Response to Intervention Work Group” is also aimed at “achieving academic and behavioral success” in part through “cultural responsiveness.”