At least 17 states have prohibited the teaching of certain topics relating to race or gender in K-12 classrooms. Most of these states are in the South or the upper Midwest.
A new study by the Rand Corporation examines teachers’ awareness of and responses to limitations on how they can address race- or gender-related topics in their instruction. The authors found that teachers experienced limitations that infringed on their instructional autonomy, which included their choice of curriculum materials and topics for classroom discussion. These limitations originated from a variety of sources, including state, school, and district leaders and family and community members, and encompassed a wide span of topics, including, but not limited to race- or gender-related topics.
Roughly one-quarter of teachers reported not knowing whether they were subject to restrictions on how they can address topics related to race or gender, and only 30 percent of teachers in states with restrictions reported them as being in place. About one-quarter of teachers reported that limitations placed on how teachers can address topics related to race or gender have influenced their choice of curriculum materials or instructional practices.
The report offers several recommendations including:
* State and district leaders should collaborate with teachers when crafting local policies and guidance.
* School and district leaders should provide teachers with the appropriate guidance, resources, and supports to address contentious topics in the classroom and message their support for teachers.
* School and district leaders and educators should strive to engage families in productive conversations about race and gender.
* School, district, and state leaders should tie potentially contentious topics to concrete learning objectives and emphasize their educational benefits for students.
The full report, Walking on Eggshells — Teachers’ Responses to Classroom Limitations on Race- or Gender-Related Topics, may be viewed here.