This story appeared in print as part of “Real Models: CPS Grows Their Own Minority Teachers”

Nikki McGruder, executive director of the Diversity Awareness Partnership – Columbia and member of the Worley Street Roundtable, has been conducting a diversity audit of Columbia Public Schools, which began with sitting down with every CPS principal to find out about each school’s current landscape — what the makeup of the school is, what diversity training exists within the school, and what diversity curriculum looks like within the school.

This is part of Superintendent Peter Stiepleman’s vision for CPS: “We Are One,” a slogan the district uses to promote unity. McGruder says the district needs to go beyond saying “we are one” and begin implementing it through policy and procedure. This must occur at the individual, instructional, and institutional level.

McGruder says individual teachers must assess their personal experiences with diversity and assess whether their lesson plans recognize and respect all points of view and backgrounds. CPS as an institution must be active and passionate about recognizing and appreciating its diverse constituents — something that goes beyond one or two multicultural nights per year.

“We are at a point of transition in our history,” McGruder says, referencing the United States Census Bureau’s projection that racial and ethnic minorities will make up more than 50 percent of America by 2050. “The demographics are changing.”

McGruder wants to provide “culture kits” and readings to supplement existing social studies lessons in the classroom and Skyping with local professionals of color, known as community champions. Some of these plans could be implemented immediately, while others, like the culture kits, will take time to develop.

McGruder says they would first focus on younger grades in the first year of implementation, and the curriculum and kits will look different at each grade level.

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