Friday, Feb. 26, 2021—In the Forbes.com article, “Baltimore’s Schools Chief Says Curriculum Is Key to Education Equity,” prominent education journalist and author Natalie Wexler details Baltimore City Public Schools' switch to knowledge-building curricula and interviews the school system's CEO, Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises. In the article, Santelises calls Wit & Wisdom® a crucial “backbone” of curriculum materials that build knowledge in and achieve equity for Baltimore students.
Wexler writes that Santelises’ message about changing to a knowledge-building curriculum “has significance not just for Baltimore but for any district or school hoping to improve its game and make its offerings more equitable.” Wexler details highlights from Santelises, including:
Evidence-based, knowledge-building curriculum promotes equity: Students must learn mainstream history and culture along with content that more directly relates to their own experience, Santelises said. "Children from economically under-resourced communities," she said, "need to have and feel the power of being able to tap into the collective knowledge base that drives academic success in this country as well as the knowledge of how they themselves and their communities contribute to that larger narrative." Having both kinds of knowledge, she said, "reinforces the idea that you belong in the room. In a lot of ways you have a fuller knowledge, because you understand what the mainstream narrative has, and what the mainstream narrative is missing."
No single ready-made curriculum can do all of that, she said. Wit & Wisdom has provided a crucial "backbone" of curriculum materials that build knowledge in a thoughtful sequence—and ideally teachers help students connect their own lives to whatever they’re studying. But the district has also supplemented Wit & Wisdom with a social studies curriculum it created called "BMore Me," which highlights the role of Black and brown communities in Baltimore’s history.
Wexler quoted additional benefits Santelises cited of curriculum “that puts rich content in the foreground, including history, science, and art.” Building knowledge about the world helps students discover their passions. A good curriculum allows teachers to adapt to their strengths, such as delivering lessons to the whole class or working one on one, and adapting to circumstances such as virtual schooling, Wexler writes.
Wexler ends with an observation from Santelises that knowledge-building curriculum should become more representative of communities of color. Wit & Wisdom presents authors and literary protagonists of color, taking a “mirrors and windows” approach in which students see both themselves and others. The curriculum’s creators continuously evaluate the marketplace for new voices to elevate for the richest student experience.
Kyair Butts, 2019 Baltimore City Public Schools Teacher of the Year, describes the “mirrors and windows” approach of Wit & Wisdom. He also writes about how a knowledge-building curriculum breaks barriers.
The most recent test results showed increases for Baltimore students in every grade in English language arts, with students at multiple schools achieving double digit and high single digit percentage point increases. Some of the biggest increases came at some of the most historically under-served and under-resourced neighborhood schools.
About Great Minds: Great Minds PBC is a public benefit corporation and a subsidiary of Great Minds, a nonprofit organization. In addition to Wit & Wisdom, the company offers Eureka Math®, PhD Science®, and Geodes® books for emerging readers, developed in collaboration with Wilson Language Training. Great Minds in Sync™ adapts the materials for remote or hybrid learning. Learn more at greatminds.org.
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Chad brings more than 23 years of experience in communications to Great Minds. He has served in three state education agencies, which included time assisting New Mexico’s secretary of education with the adoption of new education reform initiatives; serving as the communications director at the Washington, D.C., Office of the State Superintendent of Education; and working as an assistant to the Florida Commissioner of Education. Chad also worked at the U.S. Department of Education from 2004 to 2009 and served as the deputy assistant secretary for media affairs and strategic communication during his final two years there. Chad is a native of Bloomington, Ill., and graduated from Florida State University.