Current News

Communities for Just Schools Fund

We are pleased to announce that Teaching for Change has received a two-year grant from the Communities for Just Schools Fund (CJSF), a donor collaborative that supports community-led organizations working to ensure healthy school climates. Teaching for Change and Critical Exposure are the two DC grantees for CJSF’s place-based initiative. We will use our funding to launch a social justice teacher network in the D.C. metro area. Read more.

D.C. Teacher Published in Rethinking Schools

We are pleased to announce that Ellen Royse, a teacher from our Stories from Our Classrooms social justice writing course, had her article published in the spring 2017 edition of the Rethinking Schools journal. The article, “‘I See Birds Everywhere I Go’: Engaging urban students in the natural world” begins as follows: I grew up in rural Kentucky, where the outdoors was an endless source of entertainment and intrigue. I played in the creek in the summer and wandered through the woods year-round. Read more.

Arkansas’ Howard Zinn Witch-hunt Fizzles

Last week nearly 700 Arkansas teachers and school librarians received copies of books by Howard Zinn—thanks to a right wing state representative. Well, not exactly. But here’s the story. Recently, Republican Kim Hendren introduced legislation that would prohibit teachers in all public schools or state-supported charter schools from including any books in their curriculum by—or even “concerning”—the historian Howard Zinn, author of the classic A People’s History of the United States, who died in 2010. In response, the Zinn Education Project… Read more.

Teaching for Change Offers Black History Month Briefing on the Hill

At the invitation of Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), Teaching for Change offered a briefing for Congressional staff on teaching the grassroots history of the Civil Rights Movement, beyond the traditional narrative. It was a Black History Month event, held in the Cannon House Office Building on February 28, 2017. The invitation noted, Julian Bond described the master narrative of the Civil Rights Movement as, “Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, and the white kids came down and saved the day.” This master narrative… Read more.

2017 Food Justice Youth Summit

Yuckity, Yuck. Would you eat our school lunch? Do you wonder how far food travels to get to your plate How can we convert a food desert into a thriving oasis? Tired of youth voices being ignored? These are some of the questions and issues addressed in student-led workshops at the 2017 Food Justice Youth Summit, an annual event hosted by Capital City Public Charter School to share student research, ideas, and recommendations on food justice issues as they work with other youth and food justice activists to build… Read more.

D.C. Students Stand with Standing Rock

This month, high school U.S. history teacher Bill Stevens taught his students at the SEED Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. about the issues at stake in the historic struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux to block construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. To introduce this history, he used the “Standing With Standing Rock” role play from the Zinn Education Project website. During the lesson, students took on the roles of five groups with different positions on the pipeline. They prepared a presentation… Read more.

Bring Filmfest D.C. to Your Classroom

Teaching for Change is partnering with Filmfest DC: The Washington, DC International Film Festival for a sixth year to spread the word about the international film festival and to bring filmmakers for several films into D.C. classrooms in April. We have found that the visits are most useful if (a) there is time for students to view the film in advance of the visit, (b) the students prepare questions for the director, and (c) the theme of the film connects with a topic the class is studying already. Visits can be… Read more.

Protecting DC’s Immigrant Students

So, this is happening now, at DC’s public schools: Parents threatened with deportation; Parents late to pick up kids because of immigration officials at their door; Immigration officials visiting metro stations during school drop off and pick up; Student attendance dropping as a result of fear. As you may recall, in February Teaching for Change and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs asked the mayor, along with other DC education leaders, to declare our public schools sanctuaries for all; assign personnel to handle concerns… Read more.

Author Zetta Elliott to Middle Schoolers: The World Needs Your Stories

On Friday, February 10, 2017, author Zetta Elliott captivated nearly 100 middle school students at D.C.’s LaSalle-Backus Education Campus (DCPS) with her stories about coming of age, the foster care system, friendship, addiction, mystery, and more. Teaching for Change arranged the visit to LaSalle-Backus, a partner school for the Tellin’ Stories parent organizing project. Elliott’s award-winning books feature young Black and brown protagonists whose stories interweave present day urban living with… Read more.

You’re invited to a Teacher Workshop at NMAI-DC: Why Treaties Matter

Are you a DC/MD/VA teacher who wants to know more about Native American history, culture, and how treaties are relevant today? Join the National Museum of the American Indian and the Zinn Education Project to uncover engaging approaches to connect content from the exhibition Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations to your classroom curriculum. Read more.

Arkansas Bill Attempts to Ban Books by Zinn in Schools

As reported in the Arkansas Times, pending legislation would prohibit any publicly supported schools in Arkansas “from including in its curriculum or course materials any books or other material authored by or concerning Howard Zinn.” This is not the first attempt to ban books by Howard Zinn in public schools. In 2010, Governor Mitch Daniels tried a similar move in Indiana. In 2011, A People’s History of the United States was removed from schools in Tucson, Arizona as part of the ban on Mexican American Studies. Read more.

Why We Can Be Hopeful

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) veteran and chairperson of the SNCC Legacy Project Courtland Cox shared with Teaching for Change why we can be hopeful in these political times. Cox said, “A divided America is a good thing.” Listen to this seven minute video clip to hear why. Read more.

Documenting the History of Phenix High School

Teaching for Change is pleased to have helped the George P. Phenix High School Alumni Association create their website, Our web designer, Mykella Palmer-McCalla, worked with the alumni association to design and build the site. Phenix High School was founded by the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) to educate Black students in preparation for college. The new school was intended to be a “teaching laboratory” for college students. The Hampton Institute students were required… Read more.

Why I Teach: We Must Teach Children to Defend Themselves

At the February convening of the Stories from Our Classrooms writing course, teacher alumni Ellen Royse and Amy Rothschild and current participant Shayna Tivona shared how they used their teacher voices on behalf of democracy. “Earlier this month, our friends and family across the country had trouble reaching their Senators to express their views on Betsy DeVos’s nomination for Secretary of Education. Those of us living in D.C. don’t have voting senators, but we do have proximity… Read more.

Sanctuary Schools Resolution in D.C.

In the current political climate in which the President is threatening to increase harassment of immigrants and deportations of undocumented immigrants, we must publicly demonstrate our commitment to all our students and families—especially those without legal documentation. Ask DC Public Schools and local education agencies (LEAs/charter schools) operating within the District of Columbia to stand as sanctuary schools… Read more.

DeVos is in… What next?

Billionaires like the new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, are using their wealth to infuse conservative ideology into our national education policy and into our schools. They know that the lessons children learn in school will impact their lives and civic participation. As Carter G. Woodson said in 1933, “There would be no lynching if it did not start in the schoolroom.”We are appalled by the confirmation of DeVos, but we are also fired up by the activism of the countless educators, students, parents, and the public… Read more.

Act Now: Reduce the Weight of Test Scores on D.C. Schools

The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2016 (ESSA) gives states the opportunity to reduce the extreme weight on test scores to rank schools, which was the cornerstone of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. ESSA allows D.C. to select more meaningful measures of school success, but the current proposal from D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) sets standardized test scores at 80% of a school’s overall rating, with the remaining 20% primarily on attendance and re-enrollment rates. Read more.

Teaching Islam in a Catholic School

This article is by Gregory J. Landrigan, one of the teachers in the 2015-16 Teaching for Change Stories from Our Classroom course. “Most of my students had questions about logistics. What sort of lunch should we bring? Can we please not wear our uniforms? Will we be back by the end of the day? Then I called on Jonathan, “So when we get there, I mean while we are at the Mosque, are we going to pray?” It was the perfect question. Jonathan understood that prayer transcends… Read more.

Black History Month

Reverend Barber’s words highlight why it is all the more important to study Black history in February and all year long. “We need some moral fire to help us see clearly how this history shapes our present reality. I’ve heard too many people say over the past several months, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before.’ If you didn’t see it, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening. Donald Trump is not the first candidate to play on our worst fears or use divide-and-conquer tactics. One hundred years ago, Woodrow Wilson… Read more.

Women Make History

One of the least recognized stories of the Civil Rights Movement is the role of women. This is true despite the fact that women were responsible for many of the achievements of the Movement. They developed strategies, marched in demonstrations, attended mass meetings, registered voters, taught in freedom schools, wrote searing critiques of societal structures, organized boycotts, and risked their lives. What’s more, the participation of women crossed racial and ethnic lines. Unfortunately, in the more traditional… Read more.

Cautionary Words about Far Right from 1962

SNCC veteran Timothy L. Jenkins wrote an open letter about the far right, published in the Mississppi Free Press on August 18, 1962. It is relevant today. This time last year found a small group of students and myself from the deep South strenuously engaged in trying to persuade the Wisconsin Meeting of National Student Congress to adopt the strongest possible statement in support of enfranchising Negroes throughout the South. In the strongest worded resolution, we decried the vicious and hypocritical practices variously employed… Read more.

Protests: Sites for Education and Organizing

Our colleague Bruce Hartford, a veteran of the southern freedom struggle who manages the invaluable website, wrote about how to do education and outreach at protests. He has given us permission to post and share this useful advice. “I’ve recently participated in several protests aimed at building resistance to Trump and Trumpism. But from what I could see, there appeared to be little conscious effort to use those demonstrations as organizing tools in effective ways that were second nature… Read more.

Teaching about Martin Luther King Jr.

“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism… Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.”—Dr. Martin Luther King. Get lessons and resources about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement beyond “I have a dream.” Read more.

Resistance 101: A Lesson for Inauguration Teach-Ins and Beyond

Young people are looking for ways to make sense of our current political moment and resist injustice. The student protests across the country since the election have been inspiring. Now students need the opportunity to learn the history of people’s movements in order to deepen their protests into organizing that can win real change. To help introduce a history of resistance, Teaching for Change has created Resistance 101, a lesson for middle and high school classes to use for Inauguration Day Teach-Ins… Read more.

Inauguration Day Social Justice Teach-In

Teachers in New York are organizing a day to #TeachResistance. The Ethnic Studies program at Lewis & Clark College is holding a teach-in to learn, discuss, and act. In her keynote at the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME), noted educator Linda Darling-Hammond said, “It is time for teach-ins at every school.” Let us know about activities planned for your school or community. To assist these efforts, Teaching for Change is preparing a #TeachResistance lesson for middle and high… Read more.

Be Proud of Who You Are

“The day after the election, students were in tears,” explained DCPS principal O’Kiyyah Lyons-Lucas. “Several parents have asked me to become the guardian of their children if they are sent out of this country.” Lyons-Lucas reaffirmed the school’s commitment to supporting each child, but she could not assure the families that they would be safe. The president-elect campaigned on a promise of deporting thousands of people, therefore telling them “don’t worry” is not an option. The fear of being kicked out of the country… Read more.

Fun and Learning at People’s History Trivia Night

On December 2, the Zinn Education Project hosted a packed house for our first-ever People’s History Trivia Night fundraiser. Everyone enjoyed themselves, while learning non-trivial people’s history. The event was co-sponsored by and held at Busboys and Poets (14&V) during the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference.Classroom teachers and other friends of the Zinn Education Project formed teams, created team names, and responded to questions. Team names included Tribe Called Zinn Read more.

How Discrimination Shapes Parent-Teacher Communication


Still, despite widespread recognition that communication from school to home is valuable, most research to date has centered on parents reaching out to educators. With the NYU study, the focus is on the reverse: communication patterns that originate with children’s teachers. Matthew Lynde Chesnut, a social-studies teacher at Kennedy High School, in San Antonio, Texas, confessed surprise at how much the findings “relate to my own shortcomings as a teacher” at a school with a 98 percent Latino student body. Read more.

Post-Election, School Collaborates with Parents to Create Safe Space


The morning after the election, Principal Alethea Bustillo arrived to a school full of distraught staff and worried students. She spent much of the day checking in on every classroom in the building. The public elementary school (DCPS) serves mostly Latino and African American families in one of D.C.’s most racially and economically diverse neighborhoods. Bustillo noted,  “What I saw made me really hopeful. The teachers were talking with the kids in a positive way and were allowing the kids to talk about… Read more.

Teaching Radical Hope


The young people marching near our office in D.C. (and around the country) have given us what author Junot Diaz describes as “radical hope,” the hope that was deferred last week. They also have given us tens of thousands of reasons to carry on. In his essay in the New Yorker, Diaz added,  “And while we’re doing the hard, necessary work of mourning, we should avail ourselves of the old formations that have seen us through darkness. We organize. We form solidarities. And, yes: we fight. To be heard. To be safeRead more.

Wind Me Up Maria: A Go-Go Musical


We were overjoyed to hear that one of the students from a “Teach the Beat” class, Myiah Smith, is the star of the new musical, “Wind Me Up Maria: A Go-Go Musical.” High school teacher Bill Stevens wrote to tell us that Smith, now at Georgetown University, learned a lot from reading The Beat and from the author visit by Charles Stephenson when she was a student at SEED Public Charter School last year. Stephenson visited the school as part of Teaching for Change’s “Teach the Beat” program… Read more.

Between Families and Schools: Creating Meaningful Relationships


Teaching for Change is pleased to announce a new edition of Between Families and Schools: Building Meaningful Relationships. The publication addresses two key questions facing schools today: “How do we get more parents involved in our schools?” and “How do we enhance collaboration and communication between parents and teachers?”Between Families and Schools is based on the findings of an action research project on family engagement, complete with stories, suggested actions, and questions… Read more.

African American Art and History


On October 13, 2016 Teaching for Change was honored to partner with the Smithsonian American Art Museum for Art and the African American Experience, a program for teachers in celebration of the 2016 grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The goal for the evening was to share classroom lessons on African American art that challenge and transcend traditional textbook narratives. National teacher of the year, Jahana Hayes, expressed in her opening… Read more.

“One of the Best Nonprofits” According to Catalogue for Philanthropy


We are pleased to announce that the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington has selected Teaching for Change for the 2016-2017 catalog. The mission of the Catalogue is “to create strong and vibrant communities by connecting caring citizens with worthy community causes.” The Catalogue is distributed to tens of thousands of potential donors each year. Read more.

KidsPost Says Slavery was a “Mistake”


The September 14 edition of the KidsPost featured an article on Colin Kaepernick and other athletes who are taking a knee during the National Anthem. While we commend the Washington Post for addressing this topic in the kid’s section of their paper, their approach mis-educates the reader. Here is the explanation by Fred Bowen in the KidsPost for why people have spoken up throughout U.S. history: The United States is a great country. But countries, like people, make mistakes. The United States has made plenty… Read more.

A People’s Collection and Narrative: NMAAHC


The board and staff of Teaching for Change offer our profound respect and heartfelt appreciation to everyone who worked tirelessly and against all odds to build the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). We’ve seen first hand how precious objects from people’s attics and ancestors can now tell a story for the world to learn from. Here are just a few examples of contributions from our colleagues in the D.C. area to NMAAHC. Read more.

Abolish Columbus Day Campaign


As the school year begins, an inspiring struggle is playing out in North Dakota. Led by the Standing Rock Sioux, Indigenous people from across the United States, Canada, and Mexico are gathering to oppose the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which would threaten to contaminate the Missouri River. Dave Archambault, chairperson of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, explains: “[I]t is a pipeline that is threatening the lives of people, lives of my tribe, as well as millions down the river. It threatens the ancestral sites… Read more.

Teaching About the #NoDAPL Water Protectors


One of the greatest organizing efforts to protect land, human rights, and the future of this planet is taking place this month in North Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux, joined now by members of more than 200 other Native American tribes and other allies, are taking a stand to oppose the Dakota Access pipeline, which threatens to destroy sacred land and contaminate water supplies in the region. Read more.

Back to School with New Social Justice Books


This summer we’ve had a chance to check out some new titles for elementary, middle, and high school students. We share them here with you. We also encourage you to join us in following the Reading While White (RWW) blog. In celebration of their first anniversary, RWW will review an #OwnVoices title each day for the month of September. They explained, “Rather than talking about what’s wrong in children’s and YA books, we’re going to talk about what’s right. Read more.

Athletes, Protest, and Patriotism

NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner” has provoked a national conversation about athletes, protest, and patriotism. We share resources below for learning more about the history of protest in sports, the Star-Spangled Banner, and the Movement for Black Lives. Kaepernick explained why he will not stand for the anthem: I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color… Read more.

Teaching About Elections


This year’s presidential election is filling the airwaves with hate speech, both subtle and overt. While shocking and scary, it is sadly not new. Institutionalized racism, classism, sexism, and xenophobia have permeated elections throughout U.S. history. To help provide that historical context, we share below some lessons, articles, and books for the classroom about elections and voting rights. Read more.

Stories from Our Classrooms: A writing course for D.C. area social justice teachers

This course is for D.C. area teachers who are eager to write about their own classrooms through a social justice lens. One Sunday each month teachers meet to write and revise stories with the goal of each participant preparing a piece for publication. Teachers receive coaching through a variety of writing exercises, and participants provide ongoing feedback to each other. In addition, guest authors attend some of the sessions to share insights and experiences related to… Read more.

Américas Award 2016 Ceremony and Workshop

America Awards

The 2016 Américas Award ceremony will be held on September 22 from 2:30 – 4:30pm at the Library of Congress Mumford Room. The award winners are Out of Darkness by Ashley Perez and Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. The ceremony is free and open to the public. School groups are welcome. In conjunction with the award, there will be a K-12 teacher workshop with award-winning author Alma Flor Ada on September 22 at 6:30pm. A $25 registration fee includes dinner and a book. Read more.

Why I Volunteered at Teaching for Change


My name is Andy Grayson and I am a third grade classroom teacher in Alexandria, Virginia. This summer I began volunteering with Teaching for Change, an organization that I became familiar with after attending a district workshop focused on incorporating accurate Central American history into classroom curriculums. I attended the workshop in early November, at a time when I was beginning to feel distant from my curriculum, as if it was running away and I was chasing after it. Read more.

Teaching for Change 2016 Summer Reading and Writing Challenge


Teaching for Change challenges young people to read as many books as they can over the summer – especially multicultural and social justice books. We also encourage young people and their caregivers to examine the representation of Native Americans and people of color in the Scholastic catalog. Share our resources for examining books through the lens of critical literacy, and this summer set a goal to submit a letter to the #StepUpScholastic campaign. Read more.

G is for Gentrification


In Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, public schools that served predominantly low-income students and students of color are seeing massive demographic shifts as wealthier and more formally educated families are attracted to the school neighborhoods. Gentrification can add to the challenges traditionally marginalized families—namely those from Black, Latino, immigrant, and low income communities—face when engaging with schools. Read more.

My Third Graders Love Reading “Wilfredo”

Third grade teacher Andy Grayson wrote to tell us that he was thrilled to share Wilfredo: Un niño de El Salvador/A Boy from El Salvador with his students. He learned about the free downloadable book in a Teaching for Change workshop sponsored by the Alexandria City Public Schools. “After reading Wilfredo, I observed increased discourse and engagement from a wider range of students. Students whose families have immigrated from Central America were eager to make connections.” Read more.

Nation’s Largest Teachers Union Endorses Teaching “Climate Justice”


In May, the Portland, Oregon school board passed the country’s first comprehensive “climate justice” resolution. In July the country’s largest union, the National Education Association (NEA), voted at its national convention to support the Portland resolution and to encourage state and local affiliates to create and promote climate literacy resolutions in their own communities, using the Portland resolution as a model. Read more.

Third Graders Assess and Improve Diversity of Classroom Library


Third grade students at High Tech Elementary North County in San Marcos, California completed an investigation into the diversity of our classroom library. Our investigation question was: How diverse is our classroom library? We created a data set, and compared the groups using number lines, fractions and percentages. Read more.

Virginia Middle School Students Critique Lack of Diverse Books


Sixth and seventh grade reading students at Gunston Middle School in Arlington, Virginia researched the lack of diversity in children’s and young adult books and designed action projects. Read more.

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