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Boston City Council wants to review curriculum standards for city’s schools

Councilor Andrea Campbell said during a virtual council meeting Wednesday that the city's public schools are “really missing the mark with respect to teaching history that is truthful, that is honest.”
Councilor Andrea Campbell said during a virtual council meeting Wednesday that the city's public schools are “really missing the mark with respect to teaching history that is truthful, that is honest.”Keith Bedford

The Boston City Council wants to review curriculums across the city’s school system, with councilors saying there are major discrepancies in standards as well as disparities in classroom resources.

“We need to think about our curriculum holistically and district-wide,” Councilor Annissa Essaibi George said during Wednesday’s virtual meeting of the council.

The district’s students, she said, should not have “wildly different experiences because our schools are lacking certain resources.”

The matter was referred to the council’s education committee, which will hold a hearing to review the district’s curriculum standards and resources. Students, educators, and community advocates will be invited to testify.

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Councilor Julia Mejia said, “I’m happy to see that we’re going to finally address some of the issues around inequalities that have existed and persisted in the Boston Public Schools for far too long.”

In other business, the council is looking to explore “the existing challenges and barriers to fully funding an ethnic studies pilot program so that we have an effective foundation on which to build.”

According to a hearing order from Essaibi George, a former teacher in the district, “mainstreaming an ethnic studies curriculum for BPS is just one step toward building racial equity into our school system."

An ethnic studies program would provide opportunities to examine “the histories of people of color, the forms of power that shape our world and worldviews, and the societal shifts necessary to dismantle racism," according to the order.

Ethnic studies, said Councilor Kenzie Bok, needs to to not be “this optional, side thing, it needs to be an inherent part of our curriculum.”

“As a historian, I know how important it is for people to see themselves in history,” said Bok, who has a PhD in history and lectures at Harvard University. “And to have the stories of their own heritage woven in . . . where they belong in our story of the history of Boston and beyond.”

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Councilor Andrea Campbell said the district is “really missing the mark with respect to teaching history that is truthful, that is honest.”

She is hoping for a frank discussion regarding “what we teach and what we don’t teach, who decides what we learn, who decides what we don’t learn.”

“This is a critical moment in time in which we can have that deep conversation,” she said.

Wednesday’s meeting came amid a tumultuous time for the city’s schools. Last week, the Boston School Committee chairman, Michael Loconto, resigned in the wake of comments he made mocking Asian names of people who had signed up for public comment during a marathon virtual meeting about exam school admissions.

At that meeting, the Boston School Committee unanimously voted 7-0 to approve a proposal to drop admissions tests for the city’s prestigious exam schools for one year because of the pandemic, instead determining eligibility and acceptance by using grades, MCAS scores, and ZIP codes.

Earlier this month, after another jump in Boston’s coronavirus positivity rate, the city’s public schools canceled in-person instruction for thousands of high-needs students — the only group to return to school buildings so far this fall.


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.