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Fighting Inequities of Design

A Conversation with Shaun Nelms

By Valerie L. Marsh


From his perspective as superintendent of the East Upper and Lower Schools in Rochester, New York, and as director of the University of Rochester’s Center for Urban Education Success, Dr. Shaun Nelms shares his experience of growing up in a nearby segregated city and discusses inequitable education, his district’s partnership with the University of Rochester, and the need for culturally responsive and sustaining (CR-S) education (New York State Education Department [NYSED], 2018; Paris, 2012) to transform structural racist school cultures, particularly in underserved communities and segregated cities. During this conversation with Dr. Valerie Marsh, Nelms’s colleague and the assistant director of their research center, Dr. Nelms discusses what it takes to expand CR-S education (NYSED, 2018; Paris & Alim, 2014) beyond one school and into one of the most segregated counties in the nation. In order for CR-S pedagogy to achieve true equity, it must be for all students, not just those attending school in urban areas. Dr. Nelms speaks about how he, his fellow superintendents, and others have collaborated to make CR-S theory a reality in their region (Paris, 2012; Paris & Alim, 2014). 

Keywords: culturally responsive and sustaining education, antiracism, curriculum, equity, school transformation


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