Minneapolis Public Schools officials admit they failed to vet literacy training materials that exhibit racial and cultural stereotypes.
Earlier this month, some teachers received training to prepare them to use a new early literacy curriculum. They received â€œLittle Booksâ€ that they could use to teach literacy skills to the districtâ€™s kindergarten through second grade students.
But the books contained images that teachers found offensive. A book titled â€œLazy Lucyâ€ showed a black girl on the cover, and another book called â€œNieko, the Hunting Girl,â€ with a picture of an American Indian girl and her father.Â
“Due to staffing shifts and the desire to get a program in place for the new school year, the books were not comprehensively vetted,â€ said Interim Superintendent Michael Goar in a statement. “We now know this was a mistake. We regret that this happened. We will do better.”
The books were part of a larger curriculum that the district purchased inÂ July from a Utah-based company called Reading Horizons. The district paid the company $1.2 million.
The district says they immediately pulled the books after teachers raised concerns, and no students were exposed to the materials. DistrictÂ officials also say they have asked Reading Horizons to write new books.
â€œTeachers will be central to that conversation,â€ said Chief Academic Officer SusanneÂ Griffin.Â â€œThese revisions wonâ€™t just be for Minneapolis, but for districts across theÂ country.”
Teachers and community members were also upset that the district contracted with a company that identifies one of its core values asÂ â€œfaith.â€ The Reading Horizons website says a employeeÂ survey showed its employeesÂ â€œbelieve in a higher purpose of life. We seek to do His will and to achieve balance in our lives.”
The district says what was describedÂ â€œas employee responses to an inquiry about core values should not be characterized as corporate values.”
â€œThe values are not promoted through the program,â€ Griffin said.Â
David Branch, a former administrator, wrote on the districtâ€™s Facebook page thatÂ â€œthis is anÂ embarrassment that cannot be fixed by changing the books.”
â€œShow that you have courageous leadership and take action to not work with thisÂ company,â€ Branch wrote. He posted the pictured example above on Facebook.
Goar said for the time being the district willÂ continue to work with ReadingÂ Horizons.
â€œResearchÂ shows this program has been successful inÂ improving student outcomes across theÂ country, including outcomes in diverse districtÂ like ours.”