Academic Learning

Culturally responsive-sustaining to interrupt historical inequities in teaching and learning.

In New York City, we are committed to deepening and expanding our shared commitment to equity and excellence to ensure that every student will be ready for the next stage of their education, and ultimately, their career and their future as empowered agents of change in their communities and world. To that end, these resources look at what it means to be a culturally responsive-sustaining educator with the goal of interrupting historical inequities in teaching and learning. Included are resources to support students in understanding and interrogating existing systems of inequity, challenging historically dominant narratives, and thinking critically about society and building a more just and equitable future.


  • Supportive Environment Framework: Equity and Student Voice
  • Instructional Leadership Framework: Know Every Student Well; Use Shared and Inclusive Curriculum, Strengthen Core Instruction

The Instructional Leadership Framework interweaves Advanced Literacies and Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education to provide leaders with resources for planning, organizing, and streamlining their schools’ work in order to ensure that every student in NYC experiences instruction that supports them in developing advanced literacy skills in learning environments that affirm students’ strengths and their racial and cultural identities, while developing students’ abilities to connect across cultures and think critically.

The Instructional Leadership Framework is anchored in three instructional priorities: Strengthening Core Instruction, Knowing Every Student Well and Using a Shared and Inclusive Curriculum. Improving educational outcomes for every student hinges on the implementation of all three priorities as they are designed to be interconnected and complement one another. A successful implementation of these priorities to accelerate learning for every student cannot be achieved for all students in our system absent Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Education Practices. Culturally responsive classrooms invite students to collaborate and connect across differences to co-construct and deepen knowledge. This is why creating a Safe, Affirming and Supportive Environment by Setting Rigorous Expectations for Every Student is at the core of the Instructional Leadership Framework.

Overall Essential Questions

  • How do we leverage teaching and learning to support students, educators, and families in the current moment?
  • How can we support students of all ages to make sense of current events through the context of systemic racism? 
  • How do we create school environments that cultivate a sense of empowerment and self determination so students see themselves as leaders capable of effecting change in their communities?
  • How do we decenter historically dominant narratives in our curriculum and instruction?
  • How do we develop synchronous and asynchronous classroom environments that prioritize students’ well-being and agency?
  • How can we prepare to discuss racism and systemic inequality across all grades and content areas?

Academic Learning Supports

How can I maintain a culturally responsive-sustaining classroom environment in a remote setting?

NYSED: Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework This framework “helps educators create student-centered learning environments that: affirm racial, linguistic and cultural identities; prepare students for rigor and independent learning, develop students’ abilities to connect across lines of difference; elevate historically marginalized voices; and empower students as agents of social change.

NYU’s Culturally Responsive Curriculum Scorecard and Foundational Book Lists This toolkit from NYU’s Metro Center provides resources and guidance for students, families, and educators to meaningfully create culturally responsive environments. Page 15 provides a list of foundational books everyone should read to increase equity literacy in these areas. At the time of publication, the list did not include Dr. Gholdy Muhammad’s excellent book, Cultivating Genius. 

Facing History: School Closures and Online Learning: Creating Community, Centering StudentsThis recorded webinar provides strategies for creating community and maintaining a student-centered classroom environment virtually.

Teaching Tolerance: Online Teaching Can Be Culturally Responsive In this article Dr. Rachael Mahmood outlines some of the strategies she is using in her virtual classroom to build learning partnerships, center students, and support communal learners

NYCDOE: Building Partnerships with Families and Students These resources support teachers, during remote instruction, in fostering positive partnerships with the families of our most marginalized students, including Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color and students belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community. Each resource helps teachers ground the development of these partnerships in critical love, centering on humanity, and through the lens of the Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CRSE) framework. Teachers will be engaged in critical reflection of their mindsets, identities, and pedagogical practices to identify areas that need to be shifted based on the communities they serve during remote learning and in other methods of instruction.

How do I cultivate a current events practice in the classroom?

NYCDOE: Current Events and Civics EducationThis resource provides guidance on the connection between instructional practices, current issues and events, and the civics classroom.

The New York Times: Teaching Ideas and Resources to Help Students Make Sense of the George Floyd Protests This robust compilation of teaching ideas and resources supports educators in contextualizing the protests following the murder of George Floyd. Also included are student-facing articles, podcasts, and other media. 

News Literacy Project The News Literacy Project is a national education nonprofit offering nonpartisan, independent programs that teach students how to know what to trust in the digital age.” Partnered with the NYCDOE initiative Civics for All, The News Literacy Project platform Checkology is available for free to NYCDOE classrooms. 

Facing History: George Takei: Standing Up to Racism, Then and Now This recorded webinar features George Takei discussing “his family’s wrongful incarceration during World War II, and the anti-Asian racism on the rise today” 

Curriculum - How can I de-center historically dominant narratives?

NYCDOE: Hidden Voices: Untold Stories of New York City History The Hidden Voices project was initiated to help NYC students learn about and honor the innumerable people, often “hidden” from the traditional historical record, who have shaped and continue to shape our history and identity. Guidance for authentically incorporating diverse perspectives is also included in the resource.

NYCDOE: Passport to Social Studies The NYCDOE Passport to Social Studies program is a comprehensive instructional resource that integrates the NYC Social Studies Scope & Sequence and the New York State Social Studies Framework and reflects the Next Generation Learning Standards to support strong social studies teaching and learning. It was designed to incorporate principles of quality social studies instruction, historical thinking, diverse representation, and multiple perspectives.

Fresh Air; I Can’t Breathe, Racism and White Supremacy This archive can be used as primary source classroom material and includes “interviews with authors like James Baldwin, activists like Bobby Seale, and artists like Nina Simone as they discuss their struggle for humanity against American racism.” Also included are first-hand account reflections “from a Black police officer and a Black lawyer as they reflect on the fight for justice.”

Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University, #DocuHistory: 13TH The resource list included on this site provides materials for teaching about the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African Americans.

Using Photographs to Teach Social Justice Teaching Tolerance's 12 lessons using photography to teach social justice.

Civics Education - How can I empower and amplify youth voice in my classroom and society?

NYCDOE: Civics for All Curriculum Guides K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 Civics for All supports schools in developing a school culture that empowers and prepares the whole student as an active and engaged community member. The Civics for All curriculum guides include guidance on quality civics instruction, lesson plans divided thematically, project plans designed to enhance student understanding, and a comprehensive step-by-step guide for engaging students in community-based real-life action projects

NYCDOE: Vote: An Instructional Guide to Elections As part of the Civics for All initiative, this guide provides avenues for all NYCDOE high school students to become further civically engaged in their communities. The included activities encourage and support students to identify issues that are important, learn how to contact government officials, and get involved in their communities. Resources are included that allow for greater exploration of political party platforms, current candidates for elected office, and options for civic engagement for non-voters.

Mikva Challenge: Project Soapbox Project Soapbox is a series of lessons to help students identify an issue they care about and develop and deliver a persuasive speech on why others should care about that issue as well. Project Soapbox was developed by Mikva Challenge as part of their Issues to Action curriculum and appears in the Take Action! component of Civics for All.

NYCDOE adapted from Teaching Tolerance: #USvsHate: anti-hate, bias, and inequality resources The #USvsHate project, created by Teaching Tolerance, is a nationwide anti-bias initiative to amplify student voice and push back against messages of bias, bigotry, and hate. Working with organizations including the American Federation of Teachers, Facing History and Ourselves, Teaching for Change, Rethinking Schools and others, #USvsHate offers an extensive curated collection of lessons, allowing students to strengthen their capacity to thrive in an increasingly diverse democracy. Educators will find resources for working with students to build an inclusive school community and to understand—and push back against—various forms of hate. Those looking specifically for lessons on topics like racism, antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia and more will find a wide variety of lessons for students at all grade levels.

Anti-Racist Education - Where can I find resources and strategies to build my anti-racist teaching practice?

Teaching Tolerance: Bringing Black Lives Matter Into the Classroom This feature introduces ways to discuss Black Lives Matter across all grade levels

NCTE: There Is No Apolitical Classroom: Resources for Teaching in These Times This list of resources is for Literacy teachers working to speak out against racism and bias in their classrooms

WNET Education: Anti-racist Resources: For Families, Educators, and Students This blog post features student-facing resources for all ages as well as resources for families having conversations about cultural awareness, race, and racism

ASCD: How to Be an Antiracist Educator In this article Dena Simmons offers five actions for teaching for an anti-racist future

Anti-Racist Lesson Plans & Resources for Educators Organized by grade band, this open source resource document provides a range of resources to support lesson planning and resources for educators

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