4th grade worksheet in Pittsford on colonial slavery false, ‘highly insensitive in tone’

Rochester

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WROC) — A worksheet used in a Pittsford fourth grade class lesson on slavery during colonial times was “highly insensitive in tone” according to Pittsford Central School District Superintendent of Schools Michael Pero, who apologized in a statement Tuesday.

The worksheet for the lesson, which was used in the classroom in January, says slaves agreed to work for colonists in exchange for a trip to America.

Pero said in a statement that a parent brought this worksheet to the attention of district officials Tuesday:

Pero said the district will re-teach this topic, remove the worksheet from students’ notebooks, and provide them with the “correct, factual information on this subject.”

According to district officials:

  • The worksheet was part of one lesson used by a first year teacher and limited to use in one class, at one school.
  • The worksheet came from an online resource called “Classroom Nook.”
  • Classroom Nook is not a district-approved resource for materials.

A statement from Pittsford Central School District Superintendent of Schools Michael Pero Tuesday:

“It was brought to our attention this morning that in January, a worksheet was used in a fourth grade class lesson on slavery during Colonial Times. The worksheet (see attached) was in no way an accurate depiction of slavery during Colonial Times and was highly insensitive in tone.

We immediately met with the staff members involved in this lesson and have taken steps to remedy the situation. This will include a re-teaching of the topic of slavery during Colonial Times and removing this worksheet from student notebooks while providing them with correct, factual information on this subject. Furthermore, we are working with our fourth grade teachers across the district to be sure this worksheet is not being used in any other classrooms.

I would like to thank the parent who brought this to our attention. We have reached out to them in order to make a full apology for the use of this worksheet. We have also reached out to parents of the entire class to share this error and apologize for it.

This situation reinforces the significance and importance of working with our staff with regard to high quality resources, ongoing professional development and culturally responsive-sustaining educational practices. This is something we take seriously and are continued to continuous improvement.”

A worksheet similar to this one was observed in the Webster Central School District earlier this year. WCSD officials said in a statement to News 8 Tuesday:

The worksheet that you are referencing is similar to one that had been used in some of our classrooms two months ago. It was part of an elementary asynchronous assignment about life during Colonial times, specifically regarding enslaved people. This worksheet was not part of the district’s curriculum but was used as a supplemental resource.

While teaching about enslaved people is part of the New York State Social Studies Standards, the way the assignment was presented did not provide students with an historically accurate understanding of the experiences of men, women, and children who were enslaved in our nation. The task in its original form created confusion for students and minimized the dehumanization that defines slavery. 

As soon as this was brought to our attention, immediate and ongoing actions were taken to address the situation. Teachers and administrators were in contact with parents and students and restorative practices were utilized to address their concerns. 

A similar worksheet from Classroom Nook went viral in 2019. Nook officials then-claimed it was meant to be used as a “suggested answer key, intended to contain example student responses and used them as part of the teaching material.”

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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