Erin Sutliff


Spring 2021


Capstone Project

Degree Name



Julie Scullen

Content Expert

Erin Burns


Research shows that racism is alive and well in American school systems. From achievement gaps, to attendance, to behavior referrals and beyond, it is clear that Black and Brown students are not getting the equitable education they deserve. Educators need to step up and face race in order to truly address the inequities and white supremacy that plague our education system. They need to do their own reflection to check their privilege, do some learning, and take the important step of inviting critical conversations in their classrooms. When educators invite students to talk about race, they are centering student experiences, honoring their knowledge, and opening opportunities that may not otherwise be. They do not need to rewrite curriculum, they just need to be willing to check for blindspots and talk about them. In this project, I use Ladson-Billings’ deciphering knowledge approach to curriculum, which requires questioning what is left unsaid, who is telling the story, who has power, and what voices are missing. Using this approach students were invited to openly and critically talk about race while still meeting learning objectives in a pre-existing unit. This unit was taught in a distance learning format using an online learning management system with live classes online, however, would work in any setting. This approach to curriculum is one that is not limited by age or subject matter, and can be employed through careful planning, scaffolding, and relationship building. The goal of this project was to facilitate dialogue that allowed for healing, reflection, and transformation for both teachers and students. In this project I found that students were ready for conversations about race in the classroom, it is the teachers who need to catch up and be ready to talk about race. Simply talking will not fix racism in schools, but it will open the door to critical reflection which is the first step of making change.

Project Type



Curriculum, Literacy, Reflective Practice, Social Justice








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