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NYU Metro Center Confronts Anti-Equity Efforts Exacerbating Inequality And Harm


As anti-equity efforts sweep across the country, it is not uncommon to be accosted by a host of bans, restrictions, and newly minted laws that exacerbate inequality, harm, and discrimination for members of vulnerable and historically marginalized communities. Iowa lawmakers are among the most recent legislatures in the United States to implement book bans in school, and prohibit instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation with the passage of Senate File (SF) 496

According to a recent National Public Radio report, since January 2021, “... 35 states have introduced 137 bills limiting what schools can teach with regard to race, American history, politics, sexual orientation and gender identity.” This constant and pervasive intrusion into public education intends to censor educators, purposely interrupt the accurate and honest teaching of the nation's historical past, and undermine designs on equity and a more inclusive society.

In direct opposition to those attacks on public education and historically marginalized communities, NYU Metro Center continues to confront these vicious attacks and prioritizes equity in schools, districts, and communities across the country. The following instances highlighted below demonstrate but a portion of the consequential work that effectuated NYU Metro Center to create an inclusive educational system that invites all our children to achieve their best possible academic, socioemotional, and cultural development.

Matt Gonzales, Director of the Education Justice Research and Organizing Collaborative (EJ-ROC) at NYU Metro Center recently joined the discussion on Roland Martin Unfiltered–online broadcast news program–to refute commentary made by former United States Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos. In offering a rationale for low 8th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores in history, the former Secretary assailed Critical Race Theory (CRT), Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and “woke” approaches to history like the 1619 Project. The unflappable Mr. Gonzales addressed and countered this pervasive far-right wing narrative. Matt proclaimed that “the [far] right wing’s anti-CRT talking points are not rooted in fact, but rather fear and racism.” Matt went on to attest to the fact that these far right attacks on public education are not anything new, “... there have been culture wars in education for the past 50 years.” The EJ-ROC Director reasoned that it is important that we understand who is funding these right wing groups to go out and disrupt school board meetings and the like. Matt would go on to conclude his comments on the topic by encouraging a greater level of awareness, participation, and activism. Mr. Gonzales insisted that the public-at-large remain aware of news and current events impacting public education.

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Matt reminded the online audience that “... over 35 states in the country have passed legislation that [restricts] instruction about race and LGBTQ students with the goal of undermining public education and opening the door [for profiteering] from school privatization.” 

Earlier this month, Schools Chancellor David Banks announced he would be moving the Department of Education (DOE) away from the “balanced literacy” approach used by most New York City Schools to teach reading and writing. This methodology encourages students to engage authentic texts and write original pieces, using context clues to infer words and subsequently meaning of the corresponding text. The DOE School’s Chancellor has endorsed a new initiative dubbed “New York City Reads,” which prioritizes students utilizing phonics sounds and bridging to build vocabulary. Chancellor David Banks' new phonics-focused reading curriculum would obligate all New York City Schools to make use of one of three specific curriculum publisher options, one of which being Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt (HMH)’s Into Reading.

The curriculum materials being mandated by Chancellor Banks have faced criticism for being harmful to students. This criticism was initially raised by Chalkbeat NYC, and would then be acknowledged by other publications, like New York Times, and television news outlets, such as Spectrum News New York 1. Each of those media mentions refer back to critical and impactful research conducted by Education Justice Research and Organizing Collaborative (EJ-ROC) at NYU Metro Center. The Lessons in (In)Equity report found that HMH’s Into Reading curriculum  “...not to be culturally responsive and ‘used language and tone that dehumanized Black, Indigenous and characters of color, while encouraging empathy and connection with White characters.’”

NYU Metro Center’s Lessons in (In)Equity Report analyzed three of the nations most widely used ELA curriculum (including HMH’s Into Reading). Researchers from the Education Justice Research and Organizing Collaborative (EJ-ROC) worked with a diverse team of public school parents, students and educators to analyze the curricula for the study. This community research team found that each of the three curriculum used superficial visual representations to signify diversity, especially skin tone and bodily presentation, without including meaningful cultural context, practices or traditions. All three curricula were dominated by one-sided storytelling that provided a single, ahistorical narrative. Analysis by EJ-ROC researchers determined all three curricula provided little to no guidance for teachers on engaging students’ prior knowledge, backgrounds and cultures or reflecting on their own bias, beliefs and experiences.

Not only was HMH’s Into Reading curriculum found not to be “culturally responsive”, but it was ultimately deemed to be “culturally destructive,” communicating harmful messages to students of all backgrounds, especially Black, Indigenous, students of color, LGBTQIA+ students, and students with disabilities. What is the harm meted out by the Chancellor’s new “Reading Mandate” to the over one million diverse children attending DOE schools throughout the city’s 5 boroughs, when they are forced to engage this “culturally destructive” curriculum?  

Know that NYU Metro Center stands with you. Whether it is raising objections to a new but harmful initiative, as is the case in mandating a “culturally destructive” curriculum to a student populace that is largely comprised of students of color–85% to be exact–we stand with you. Or refuting manipulative narratives that undermine public education–we stand with you. Or even collaborating on a range of projects to improve educational equity in the work to strengthen community, broaden access and opportunity, and create an inclusive educational system where all of our children can thrive–NYU Metro Center stands with you.  

NYU Metro Center was founded some 45 years ago to examine and find solutions for the problems facing the country’s public schools, especially as they affect low-income and minority children. We remain committed to the tenets of educational equity and school transformation. NYU Metro Center will continue to partner with, support, and be a resource for school districts, communities, and vulnerable populations in the pursuit of academic excellence and social justice for all our children.