Why is Sanger Unified stepping into Universally Designed instruction? That is a great question. Across the state, educational leaders are acknowledging that there is a growing achievement gap for students in historically marginalized cultures, ethnicities, support need groups, and social backgrounds (ELD Framework, page 881). In Sanger Unified, our students have experienced first hand the effects of having to overcome a myriad of challenges and obstacles. While the majority of educators will be the first to acknowledge that our students' backgrounds, culture, and overall story is one of their greatest strengths and what we admire so deeply about having them in our classroom, our instructional design hasn't always been as quick to match that value. Across the state leaders are finding that designing instruction toward a hypothetical average learner type isn't designing toward any student at all (see The End of Average). That is way we in Sanger Unified are taking active steps toward putting our belief in the value of our students' diversity into action as we adjust our instructional design to mirror that same belief system. Our students' diverse strengths, backgrounds, and obstacles are our greatest strength as a district not our greatest liability.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a lens educators look through when designing lessons, educational environments, and learning opportunities that presents concepts through several modes of representation, keeps users engaged through several historical avenues of engagement, and allows students to make their own decisions for showing their understanding (www.cast.org). UDL loves analogies, so here it goes! Imagine you live in a large city and you don't have a mode of transportation other then city transit. Now imagine you have to get to the city hall, and in this large city there is only one bus route to your destination, but you live far off that bus route and would have to walk a great deal just to get to the line. How would that feel? How long would it take for you to write a strongly worded letter to the city planners requesting that your tax dollars be used to invest in several routes that start at different areas of the city but would still connect you to city hall, downtown. If we aren't careful that situation is the very same one our students face but they have to travel a very long way to get on the route that takes them to instructional understanding and for some the walk is just too far or they don't have the tools, skills, or ability to know which way to go. We are the city planners of instruction and it is within our power to design routes for our students that value who they are and still get them to access the standards that they need to be college and career ready. We are just so excited to start this journey in Sanger Unified, and don't worry we'll find a route for you to jump on board that factors in your needs along the way.
More to come!!
Sanger unified school district
Curriculum & Instruction department