Curriculum Changes Within TCAPS In Response To Black Lives Matter

Isabelle Baumann, Editor

   During the Black Lives Matter movement that took place this past summer, a petition created by former Traverse City Central High School student,  Ashley Ko,  encouraged TCAPS to make changes to the curriculum in order to implement more diversity and inclusivity into the classrooms. These changes are relevant now more than ever during Black History Month (BHM)  as it is essential for students and staff to learn more about other cultures and their histories to become open-minded and educated citizens. 

   In the petition Ko made, she stated that since TCAPS is one of the least diverse school systems in Michigan, they have an important role in combating systemic racism and promoting anti-racism within schools. 

   “Students who graduate from these schools must be able to understand the racial injustices within the United States and the role they play in upholding systemic racism,” Ko said. 

   To make sure these changes were successfully implemented into the curriculum, the TCAPS Board of Education created a committee that was made up of many staff members across the district.  Andrew Phillips, the director of the curriculum at TCAPS, explained how these changes were implemented and the district’s response to the petition.  

   “First, we listened.  Then we developed a plan to involve more staff, students, parents, and the Intermediate School District in a committee, called the Social Equity Task Force, to help us determine next steps forward,” Phillips said. 

   Phillips explained that even before the petition, the district has always been listening to feedback and working to address areas of the curriculum in need of improvement. 

   “We’re always looking for feedback to improve our curriculum. Feedback usually revolves around making changes to content we use, or assessments. We also look for issues related to equity as we review new curriculum material, but the petition certainly raised awareness about how important that work is,” Phillips said. 

   Phillips also explained how the changes in curriculum that are happening within TCAPS are not just a local trend, but rather a national rise in awareness. 

   “Since diversity and more perspectives are not just a TCAPS thing, but really, a national rise in awareness, as we review new curriculum products, we always ask for information on what they have done to include diverse authors or different perspectives on important historical events.  For example, if you look at the authors in My Perspectives, you’ll see that there is a range of authors from diverse backgrounds included,” Phillips said. 

  Phillips believes that these changes will work to better not just the students, but the school community as a whole. 

   “Education makes us all better. That’s what I’m learning. I’m 43 years old, and through this work, I am learning things related to equity and social justice that I hadn’t known about. I’m looking forward to teaching others what I have learned… not just students, but adults that work with students,” Phillips said. 

   Overall, the new curriculum hasn’t been created yet but Phillips has still seen positive results with the changes they have implemented so far. 

   “We don’t have a new curriculum yet, but I have seen incredibly positive results now that we have a ‘go to’ committee for equity topics. As the word is getting out that we have this group, stakeholders from around the district are forwarding me resources and asking if they too can be part of this work,” Phillips said.