The Minneapolis school board has voted to put an end to its relationship with Reading Horizons, the company behind a controversial literacy curriculum that included books with racial stereotypes.
The program, built around the phonics method, was set to roll out into classrooms this fall as part of an effort to promote literacy to around 8,000 kindergartners, first and second-graders.
However, some of the books portrayed pictures and content found by teachers, parents and administrators to be racist and to reinforce negative stereotypes. One such book was called “Lazy Lucy,” which featured a young girl from Africa. The children did not see the primer, writes Tim Nelson for MPR News.
A number of angry parents came to the board meeting with many waving signs and lining up to speak, which caused the board to vote to remove the books from area classrooms.
“I know that many of you are frustrated and rightfully distrust us,” said chairperson Jenny Arenson. “Tonight, we’re going to repair those errors and we’re going to create a plan to prevent future harm.”
As a result of the vote, the board’s relationship with Utah-based Reading Horizons was terminated immediately. It is unclear whether or not the board will be able to obtain a refund for the $1.2 million the district has spent so far on the program, writes Beena Raghavendran for The Star Tribune.
“I’m the first one to recognize that our team failed to do a number of different things … in terms of purchasing protocol, inability for us to recognized derogatory materials and take appropriate steps and so forth,” said Michael Goar, interim superintendent of Minneapolis schools. “If we had done our job, clearly, the board would not be in this predicament.”
Prior to the vote, Goar had admitted that the books had not been looked at beforehand and had been returned to the manufacturer with the expectation that they would be revised.
Goar went on to say that he was unsure what the school board’s next move would be, as it does not want to go back to using a curriculum that did not work, nor does it want to interrupt the current learning taking place.
Tyson Smith, the president of Reading Horizons, also apologized for the situation. He added that he does believe the company can help district schoolchildren, and that he wishes the company would have had the chance to fulfill promises it made to help improve reading skills. Smith said that the company was trying to fix the issues raised.