Equitable Curriculum

Equitable Curriculum & Instruction

Open Sourced, Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Curriculum & Instruction

Guided by theories of Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (Paris & Alim, 2014), Understanding by Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005), and learning standards (New York State Education Department, 2017), we’ve developed resources which give teachers and curriculum designers tools to create and implement learning experiences that are rigorous and inclusive of all students.

East High’s Elevated Educator website provides access to unit plans that are culturally sustaining for students of color.

Watch video introduction to the website.

This  Visioning Document is an example of how a school can use a rubric to guide and evaluate culturally relevant-responsive-sustaining (CRRS) curricula and instruction. At East High (Rochester, NY), it is used to provide clear, specific descriptions and examples of five core elements of CRRS pedagogy in practice.

This companion document, a  CRRS Analysis Chart, can be used as a template to give feedback to teachers about the ways in which their work might be considered CRRS. (add icon for these two links and left justify.)

Antiracist Curriculum Development

In the wake of a summer of violence (2020) against unarmed Black men, CUES Director Dr. Shaun Nelms is  leading a regional effort to make systemic changes in educational policies and to create an antiracist curriculum to help students learn about and discuss Rochester’s issues with racism and injustice.

‘Words Matter’ sample unit from the curriculum: ‘Words Matter’: 8th grade history


The following school districts (all in New York State) have committed to developing, training teachers, and implementing the curriculum in their U.S. History classes:

Monroe BOCES 1 • Monroe BOCES 2 • Greece • West Irondequoit • RCSD • East Irondequoit • Spencerport • Rush Henrietta • Brockport • Fairport • Gates-Chili • HFL • Pittsford • East Rochester • Kendall • Penfield • Hilton • Wheatland-Chili • Churchville-Chili • Brighton • Holley

See Dr. Nelms’s presentation on CUES’ work developing antiracist, CR-S curricula:

Instructional Resources

The provision of the highest possible quality of instruction to all students is at the heart of equitable education. We work with schools to drive this curricular and instructional transformation.  The tools below are research-supported and feature their application at East High. They can also be used as templates at other schools.

This Learning Principles Template helps school leaders and personnel align their school’s philosophy of learning with evidence. Once completed, it undergirds the use of other tools (below).

Derived from the work of John Hattie (2009), the Instructional Foundations Overview Tool is a tool for designing, delivering, and evaluating high quality instruction.


Teachers and leaders can use the Lesson Quality Checklist to evaluate their work and give themselves feedback. The framework describes critical elements in lesson design.

Mission-Aligned Curriculum

This model builds on the Understanding by Design (Wiggins & McTighe) curriculum model.  We innovated the bottom row as a conceptualization of how ‘daily lesson plans’ fit into curriculum. Using this model, each content area contributes to a wide variety of learning experiences that aggregate to ensure that a school’s community achieves its mission.


Challenging the Autonomous Wall: Literacy Work in an Urban High School by Joanne Larson, Eleni Duret, Jennifer Rees, & Jessica Anderson for the Journal of Literacy Research (2021).  This article explores how one urban high school under threat of state closure developed a multifaceted literacy program to transform the teaching and  learning of literacy in a novel university/school partnership.

Sarcasm as Pedagogy of Love: Exploring Ironic Speech Acts in an Urban High School English Classroom by Joanne Larson, Timothy Morris, and Kristen Shaw for the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (2019). This article explores how two urban high school teachers build a trusting community through sarcasm.

Videos from Curriculum Work at East High School

When East High and the University of Rochester began their partnership in 2015, a major aspect of the transformation plan was to redesign curricula in every department, at every level.

By utilizing research, professional learning focused on curriculum writing, the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework, and a model led by teachers working as coaches, East High (Rochester, NY) spent several years writing, implementing, reflecting, and revising curricula that puts students at the center of learning while also increasing rigor. In this video, several East teachers, coaches, and East’s Chief Academic Officer describe their curriculum development process and candidly reflect on the experience.

East teachers are creating instructional units that culminate in presentations of student work – at school, after school, and in the local community. In this video, East’s Chief Academic Officer explains the purpose behind and student response to these performance tasks, which are working their way into curriculum across disciplines at East.