Teaching Reparations: Teacher Perspectives on Implementation of Mandated Curriculum on Racism and Police Violence
Jessica Marshall

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Northwestern University

Primary Discipline

Social Studies
As debates rage about the role of schools in grappling with the legacies of racism in the US, most research and policy advocacy has focused on what is in the curriculum. Yet we know little about what happens when these curricula become district requirements. What do these policies mean for the teachers and students whose diverse identities and perspectives shape teaching and learning? My dissertation provides an in-depth case study of a mandated curriculum designed to engage students in local history of racism, police torture and the struggle for justice. Through in-depth interviews with 40 diverse teachers who have implemented the Chicago Public Schools? Reparations Won Curriculum (RWC), I explore how this cohort of teachers conceptualized the learning goals of the RWC and how teachers? approaches to curriculum implementation were mediated by their perceptions of students? identities and histories, as well as their own. I contextualize teachers? meaning making about the sociopolitical context through use of RWC curricular materials, contemporaneous media coverage and public documents about its development, and my own experiences as a district leader and co-designer of RWC. The layered and complex reflections of teachers who have implemented such a curriculum can reveal how teachers make sense of and enact curricula, where additional supports are needed, and where teachers? innovations can advance our theories of learning. Absent a more nuanced view, we run the risk of one-size-fits-all professional development and the creation of curricular materials that are insufficient to support young people?s engagement in these important histories.
About Jessica Marshall
Jessica is a Ph.D. student in the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University. Her scholarship and work with educators focuses on developing meaningful civic and political learning experiences that take seriously the identities, lived experiences and dreams of young people, particularly those from marginalized communities. As a pre-doctoral fellow with the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Jessica launched a research practice partnership with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) where she led participatory design and analysis workshops with survivors, community partners, and classroom educators to inform the district?s revision of the Reparations Won Curriculum and aligned professional learning for educators. Prior to her doctoral studies, Jessica was a special education and social studies teacher in both Chicago and New York City public school systems. She served as the founding director of the CPS Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement where she led strategic initiatives to implement districtwide civic and financial education, expanded student voice structures, developed multiple curricula in partnership with educators and community, and worked with scholars to develop infrastructure for research in civics and social studies education. Jessica earned a B.A. in Sociology modified with Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Dartmouth College and an M.S. in Special Education from City College ? City University of New York (CUNY). She lives on the south side of Chicago with her wife, three awesome children, and their dog Pepper.

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