Creating connections, community, curriculum
By Lizandaa Alburg
New Jersey has a variety of representative curricula: Amistad, Holocaust, LGBTQIA+, Persons with Disabilities, and effective as of September 2022, Asian American and Pacific Islanders. Yet the efforts to teach these curricula are typically confined to their respective “monthly celebrations” or reduced to “heroes and holidays” rather than exploring the beautiful diversity of New Jersey and the valued inclusion of all voices.
Execution of representative curricula is, in many districts, at best inconsistent and at worst nonexistent. Members express a desire to learn more, yet are unsure of where to turn for high-quality, vetted, representative materials that teach students and celebrate our shared experiences.
The NJEA Consortium, with funding from a National Education Association (NEA) Great Public Schools grant, is poised to change all of that.
What is the NJEA Consortium?
On April 1, 2022, NEA awarded NJEA a three-year grant: Cultivating Community, Action, Justice, and Understanding through the NJEA Consortium: Connections. Community. Curriculum.
The consortium is composed of NJEA staff members and three cohorts of member design-teams. It is partnered with more than 25 colleges and universities, museums and historical commissions, and social and racial justice advocacy organizations. The consortium will lead an innovative initiative that intends to infuse historically marginalized identities into K-12 teaching and learning. Curriculum alone is not enough; the consortium will also focus on developing high-quality professional learning for members and foster meaningful community conversations that will prepare all stakeholders to understand, embrace and celebrate New Jersey’s diversity.
Why is the consortium needed?
According to the Education Law Center, New Jersey’s schools serve a student population that is among the most diverse in the nation. Without curricula that speak to this diversity, we risk alienating a huge segment of our student population and misinforming the rest, perhaps with dire consequences.
Representative curricula help create schools where children feel valued, safe, and engaged. Such environments have been shown to promote student well-being, increase academic achievement, and close opportunity gaps. Valuing the diversity of classmates prepares all students for a future where they will interact with a multiplicity of communities throughout their lives.
The NJEA Consortium: Connections. Community. Curriculum.
Over three years, the consortium, in partnership with NJEA members, content scholars and community stakeholders, will identify thematic connections and create integrated curriculum resources, collaborate to foster instructional practices that teach and affirm our humanity and that of others, and unite communities by providing all stakeholders the opportunity to see themselves reflected in teaching and learning using a three-pronged approach:
• Connections via professional learning: opportunities for immersive professional learning experiences as well as sustained learning journeys at conferences. These experiences may include travel to historical sites, lectures and workshops given by subject-matter experts, and training in the facilitation of a project-based, problem-solving World Peace Game.
• Community engagement via collaborative partnerships: engage and amplify stakeholder voices through community-based discussions and projects that aim to increase partnerships, identify locally based allies and leaders, and enhance community awareness of our connected humanity.
• Curriculum via representative curricular resources: curation, design and distribution of high-quality, representative curricular resources, enhancing educator awareness of these resources, and increasing educators’ content knowledge. Professional learning experiences and journeys will be partnered with facilitated artifact collection and representative curriculum design sessions for maximum impact.
“The PDII team is committed to bringing our long-standing vision of representative curricula to life throughout New Jersey and beyond,” said Dr. Chrissi Miles, the director of the NJEA Professional Development and Instructional Issues (PDII) Division. “With the financial support of the National Education Association, we will approach and address this challenge from the ground up—immersing educators in professional learning experiences, partnering this learning with facilitated curriculum design, and working closely to elevate and amplify the diverse voices and perspectives in all of our communities. Throughout the journey, we aim to cultivate leaders who can continually spread education, awareness and support for representative curriculum efforts and the power of the association to impact the common good.”
This a great opportunity for members to develop leadership, build understanding and take action to ensure all our students see themselves reflected in the curriculum.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Lizandaa Alburg is an associate director in the NJEA Professional Development and Instructional Issues Division. She can be reached at email@example.com.