DPS changes history curriculum after criticism from principal

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DENVER — The largest school district in Colorado is changing its U.S. history curriculum after a high school principal publicly criticized the district about it at a school board meeting.

Stacy Parrish, Northeast Early College principal, spoke during public comment at the Denver Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Nov. 21.

“I’m pretty mad,” Parrish told the Board, “But as a Native American leader in DPS, I am not nearly mad enough.”

Parrish was talking about the eighth grade U.S. history curriculum. She described it as teaching – for the most part – from the perspective of European settlers and not Native Americans, including the Klamath Tribe, of which she is a member.

“I learned that genocide, slaughter and the cultural annihilation of millions of Native Americans could also be (couched) as positive social, geographic and economic motivations,” Parrish told the Board.

She told FOX31 she first brought the concerns to DPS more than a year ago.

“It was always the really standard response of, ‘Thank you for your feedback, we’ll make sure this individual or this department really hears that.’ And that was it,” Parrish said. “As a school leader, you can imagine we just grow really uneasy when we don’t see change happen, when we’re told be patient. We need it to be addressed right now.”

So Parrish, who has been with DPS for eight years and a principal for four, decided to go the school board.

“I was really speaking from the heart that day,” Parrish told FOX31. “I was speaking from my values.”

After the meeting, Parrish said district leaders, including those who work with the curriculum, talked with her about her concerns and said they would be addressed.

DPS’ leaders would not talk about the issue with FOX31 on-camera, but said the district will change the curriculum.

DPS also sent this statement to FOX31:

“With equity as our core identity, we are engaged in an ongoing review process of our social studies curricula. Our high school U.S. History curriculum has already been through an internal audit with a diverse group of teachers and the Culturally Responsive Education team. This was completed in summer 2019. The Social Studies team is currently making revisions to the curriculum scope and sequence to incorporate the audit findings. Those revisions will be completed by the 2020-21 school year. In addition, this team is now working on a review of our 8th grade U.S. History curriculum.

We believe that it is imperative that our curriculum reflects our students and our core value of equity. It is also imperative that we receive feedback from our community and appreciate when people raise concerns as we must all work on tackling historical patterns of inequity.

Recently we were given feedback regarding a performance task that was part of a unit of study. This performance task has been removed and is being re-written to address the feedback that was received and to maintain the integrity of the standards. Performance tasks were designed by a team of teachers facilitated by the central social studies team.

Our goal is that we have constant, consistent, on-going reviews of curriculum resources. The recently created Culturally Responsive Education department and the Curriculum and Instruction department are currently revising our internal processes of curriculum review.”

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