From Alums, Lessons In Integration

This year, Boston Public Schools (BPS) has decided to implement a curriculum that teaches students about the process to integrate the city’s schools through a system of busing. Teachers have been asked to teach about the new curriculum, which was sent out in February, at least once before the end of the academic year. The instruction will be part of the permanent curriculum beginning next year, however, it is will not be mandatory. Rather, it is a recommended practice.

Two alumnae of the Lynch School of Education, Kerry Dunne, LGSOE ’12, and Kavita Venkatesh, LGSOE ’07, helped to shape the new curriculum for the city. Venkatesh, who is scheduled to complete her Ph.D in the Lynch School this year, is the executive director of instructional research and development for the city, and Dunne is the director of history and social studies for the district, in Venkatesh’s department. Venkatesh supervised Dunne and her assistant directors, Natacha Scott and Josue Sakata, as they wrote the lesson plans.

Dunn, Scott, and Sakata worked with many community partners and teachers in the district, like Brighton High School and the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, in order to compile relevant information for the curriculum. The material is constructed in two parts: a resource gallery and specific lesson plans for elementary, middle, and high schools.

“They are really intended as resources that teachers can pull apart,” Dunne said. “They can use one of the lessons, but not the other, they can modify them as they see fit.”

Lately, there has been a lot of media attention concerning the anniversary of the buses, Dunne said. From 1974 to 1988, BPS was ordered by the courts to desegregate the schools through a system of busing. In response, Boston citizens protested and held marches, primarily between 1974 and 1976. The curriculum is a way to give teachers tools to educate their students, Dunne said.

“Anyone who had been a teacher in Boston or who knows of our curriculum knows that it’s something we need to talk about,” Venkatesh said.

Many teachers in Boston do already teach about busing and segregation. The district, however, has never made it an official part of the curriculum. Doing so ensures that students are learning about segregation as a topic that is relevant to their own school system, not just as something that happened in the southern United States, Dunne said.

“We’ll probably be generating a lot of conversation,” she said. “This is a step forward in discussing school segregation as a national topic, not just a regional southern topic.”

The curriculum will teach students that Boston did have these segregation and desegregation issues, Venkatesh said. She said that students will be able to see how the busing situation relates to schools today.

The high school student curriculum will consider the legacy of busing in the district through the use of primary and secondary sources and document analysis. Middle school students will use visuals and charts to examine the de-facto segregation in the city. Students in grades two through five will explore images, primary sources, and audio to be made aware of the desegregation events.

“I think that it’s the beginning of a much bigger conversation that students should be engaging in anyway,” Venkatesh said. “This is the personal history of their school, or their neighborhood, or their parents, or their grandparents. It’s also something that we know has happened, and that we continue to see.”

Dunne encourages students and educators to talk to people who lived in Boston, or were teachers in the school district during this time. To put together the curriculum, the team used different accounts of history, including letters from students who were in sixth grade at the time, and what the experience felt like for them.

“It definitely was an emotional time,” Dunne said. “There is still a lot of perception of unfairness in that the city of Boston.”

Both Dunne and Venkatesh found that their educations at BC emphasized the idea of social justice in order to move forward in education. In its mission statement, the Lynch School emphasizes enhancing the human condition and making the world a more just place.

“The view of educators as people who need to hold personal justice as an ideal that they aspire to certainly resonated with me,” Dunne said. “It was an idea I heard often at the Lynch School.”

Featured Image / Heights File Photo

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About Carolyn Freeman 155 Articles
Carolyn Freeman was the Editor-in-Chief for The Heights in 2016. You can follow her on Twitter at @carolynrfreeman. She drinks her coffee iced with chocolate soy milk.