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School board member to host townhall on ‘culturally responsive instruction’

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Loree Y. Williams, Woodbridge representative on the Prince William County School Board

Loree Y. Williams, is the Woodbridge District  representative on the Prince William County School Board

Less than two weeks after parent concerns about how issues of race and equity are handled in public schools helped Republican Glenn Youngkin win the Virginia governor’s race, one local school board member is hosting a town hall meeting tonight that aims to better explain the role of “culturally responsive instruction” in Prince William County schools.

School Board member Loree Williams (Woodbridge) announced the townhall – “Culturally Responsive Instruction: The Power of an Inclusive Educational Experience” – during the Wednesday, Nov. 3 school board meeting, which took place a day after Youngkin won the state’s top office with 50.57% of the vote.

But Williams said the townhall meeting had been in the works before the election and was an idea brought to her by Prince William County parent Makya Little, who serves on Virginia’s African American History Education Commission.

In an interview last week, Williams said she believes it is the school board’s role to help educate the public on relevant school issues and  hopes the town hall meeting will be an opportunity to better explain a CRI, a concept that has long been a focus of Prince William County schools.

“There’s been a lot of public outcry … but no one has been able to say this is what culturally responsive instruction actually is,” Williams said.

According to the school division’s website, culturally responsive instruction is “a set of attitudes, communication patterns, beliefs, skills and framework of researched-based strategies that recognizes the importance of including students' cultural references in all aspects of social and academic learning.”

In action, CRI might include recognizing and including different cultural traditions, holidays and even foods into the school division’s calendar and lunch menus  -- as well as helping students of all backgrounds feel more at ease at school, which enables deeper learning, experts say.

Although sometimes confused with critical race theory, in part because "culturally responsive teaching" and critical race theory share the same acronym – CRT – the two are not the same, Williams said.

Critical race theory is a graduate-level academic theory that examines how systemic racism is ingrained in the country’s history. During the campaign, Youngkin vowed to “ban” critical race theory from Virginia’s public schools even as state and local school division officials insisted that critical race theory is not part of the public school curriculum.

Culturally responsive instruction, however, aims to ensure that schools, curriculum and instruction strategies are more inclusive as a way to close long-standing achievement gaps and foster higher-level learning.

In response to concerns that Virginia’s schools were not meeting that goal, the General Assembly passed a law earlier this year that mandates African American history training for teachers and sets new inclusivity standards for educators. 

After the law passed, the Virginia Board of Education added “culturally responsive teaching” to its list of performance standards for teachers. The new standard calls on teachers to demonstrate a commitment to equity and classroom strategies that result in culturally inclusive learning environments. The law calls on all Virginia school divisions to work the standard into their teacher evaluation protocols.

Williams said that while the state standard is new, the goal of culturally responsive instruction in Prince William County schools has been around for “several years.” 

She further said she believes the concept is important for a school division in a county as diverse as Prince William. More than 70% of the county’s schoolchildren are members of different minority groups, and the county is the 10th most diverse in the nation, according to the 2021 U.S. Census.

To better explain what culturally responsive instruction looks like in local schools, Williams said she wanted to include diverse perspectives and thus included panelists involved in the state-level effort as well as a Prince William County teacher and high school student. 

The meeting is open the public but will not be live-streamed via the school division’s YouTube or cable channel. Face masks will be required of all who attend in compliance with the county and school division’s rule that masks must be worn in all schools and county buildings.

“I think it’s important that people, if they have the time and interest, come out, and we will do our best to listen and learn from each other,” Williams said of her goal for the event. “That’s really the key.”

Reach Jill Palermo at jpalermo@fauquier.com

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(3) comments

weouchere

Another libturd moron. What a shame.

someone

How long until all academic grading standards are deemed culturally insensitive and must be abolished? This "culturally responsive" idiocy is a harmful waste of time & money. We have too many students that graduate from high school that can't read, write or comprehend basic math. What's in store for them? For us? When it comes to intelligence, everyone is NOT the same. They never were and they never will be. Thank goodness for that. Some things cannot be changed. That is a hard reality. A logical adult acknowledges and accepts that reality.

Faithmy

Just pure garbage. Teachers are suppose to teach FACTS. This is pure garbage dressed up as culture. Here is a hint, there is ONE culture in America. It’s the AMERICAN culture. Get in, blend in, adopt this country’s culture or leave.

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