Slavery worksheet used in Pittsford class came from online lesson source. So we bought the lesson. | WHEC.com

Slavery worksheet used in Pittsford class came from online lesson source. So we bought the lesson.

Berkeley Brean
Updated: April 21, 2021 08:13 PM
Created: April 21, 2021 05:40 PM

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WHEC) — News10NBC tried to get to the bottom of the controversial lesson plan on slavery that was used in a Pittsford fourth grade class.

It referred to slavery as a choice and that enslaved people made a "trip" to America. A similar plan was used in a class in Webster two months ago.

So, we purchased lesson plans Wednesday from the same source the teachers used. The lesson plan on Colonial Life wasn't available to buy. 

We could not locate any worksheet or lesson plan that was remotely similar to the ones used in Pittsford and Webster. The company that produced them told us they changed the language. 

Educators I talked to agree: teachers are still sharing and using lesson plans purchased before the changes. 

The worksheet used in one fourth-grade classroom in Pittsford in January says slaves "agreed" to work. The one used in Webster talks about "jobs." 

Both districts say the source of the material was The Classroom Nook. 

In an email, the owner of The Classroom Nook, Rachael Parlett, told us "the pictured worksheet does not accurately reflect any material available from The Classroom Nook... the worksheet shown contains very old portions of a unit on colonial America." 

So, I went online and through a website called Teachers Pay Teachers, I ordered The Classroom Nook lessons on the Civil War and Colonial Jobs.

The lesson plan on Colonial Life wasn't available to buy. 

Nothing in the material I went through matches the worksheets used in Pittsford and Webster. 

Brean: "It looks like there's this vast industry out there online where teachers can go and buy lesson plans. Is that true?"

Dr. Shaun Nelms, Supt. of East High, Dr. Ctr of Urban Education Success U of R: "Absolutely. There are sites everywhere where teachers can upload lessons to be sold, they can buy lessons."

Shaun Nelms wears a lot of hats. He's the superintendent of East High. He's also the director of the Center for Urban Education Success at U of R. He's developing a historically accurate and culturally responsive curriculum of American history before and after the 1964 uprising in Rochester and to goal is to get that curriculum in local schools.

"It's really designed to have people look at historical context and think about those contexts in ways that don't lead a kid or his teacher to a single path of inquiry. What are all the factors surrounding it?" Nelms said. "These kids will walk away 10 years from now not accepting the notion that people from the continent of Africa came here as voluntary workers and were treated well and placed in jobs."

Nelms is training 150 teachers now. He says they'll start getting into schools over the course of the next year, and Pittsford is one of the districts included. 

Wednesday, the Pittsford school superintendent's office shared this information with us: 

Pittsford Central School District is deeply committed to the forward movement of equity and inclusion in our schools. PCSD, along with all Monroe County school districts, has made a public commitment to this work and have made many advances. To cause a systematic change, the goal must be to create changes at the organization's highest levels first as policies make a direct impact on accountability and culture. 

This past year, PCSD reviewed its policies to be sure they map back to the District's Mission, Vision and Values. The most sweeping policy that was created and approved by the Board of Education in the Educational Equity and Excellence Policy #3422. This policy has direct implications for the District's strategic initiative.

Along with a review of policy, the District's curriculum and instruction leaders have been writing new curriculum for our social studies program. It has always been PCSD's approach to develop its own curriculum and not purchase or rely upon pre-packaged products. We take great pride in reviewing best practices found across the country and relying on our content experts who have a shared ownership in the material that is presented in our classrooms. This includes partnering with BOCES and the University of Rochester Center for Urban Education Success to develop common units of study for 8th and 11th grade Social Studies classes that will focus on how race, class, and inequities have shaped Monroe County from 1964 to today. In addition, work will begin this summer on revisions to our K-5 social studies curriculum units around the themes of equity, diversity, civic-mindedness, and social justice.

Piloting of the new curriculum inquiry units is expected to begin this fall, while other practical and large undertakings in the area of equity include: 

  • A new Board of Education policy that requires the examination of diversity in any new textbook selection 
  • Teacher training (with regular, timely reinforcement) regarding how to teach and respond to racially sensitive texts
  • Two-year "Diversity Audit" that our K-12 librarians conducted at our nine school libraries
  • Equality in hiring policies and practices
  • Increasing access to challenging coursework, and decreasing disproportionally in student achievement and discipline

After the broadcast of our story Wednesday night, The Classroom Nook owner Rachael Parlett emailed with this new information: 

“While we discovered that this resource had been modified and used improperly after it was published, we deeply apologize for the tone it set. We have updated this resource a number of times since it was first published to ensure it honestly depicts this dark time in American history, but we have taken the additional step to remove it from our platform to further evaluate its accuracy. We also ask anyone holding these older or modified versions to remove them from their plans and going forward we ask them to ensure their proper use in the classroom. Again, we absolutely apologize for the insensitive tone this has set.”


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