Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing

Why Should Education Content Undergo a CRE Review?

April 19, 2021 Westchester Education Services Season 1 Episode 7
Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing
Why Should Education Content Undergo a CRE Review?
Chapters
Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing
Why Should Education Content Undergo a CRE Review?
Apr 19, 2021 Season 1 Episode 7
Westchester Education Services

Education content can benefit from a CRE Review to ensure it conveys concepts and practices that are culturally responsive and sustaining. In this episode, Sam Tucker, CRE Team Lead at Westchester Education Services will explain why education companies should have their materials reviewed and discuss Westchester’s review process.

Show Notes Transcript

Education content can benefit from a CRE Review to ensure it conveys concepts and practices that are culturally responsive and sustaining. In this episode, Sam Tucker, CRE Team Lead at Westchester Education Services will explain why education companies should have their materials reviewed and discuss Westchester’s review process.

Nicole Tomassi:

Welcome to Westchester Words, Education, Ed Tech, and Publishing. I'm Nicole Tomassi and in this episode, I'll be talking with Sam Tucker, CRE team lead at Westchester Education Services. In her present role, Sam leads a team of editorial professionals from a wide array of backgrounds and lived experiences who are able to competently assess education content to identify areas of concern that should be updated providing students and teachers with information that is more encompassing and reflective of all individuals. Sam, it's my pleasure to welcome you to Westchester Words.

Sam Tucker:

Hi Nicole. Thank you for having me on the podcast.

Nicole Tomassi:

So let's dive right in. Can you talk about your experience in the education profession and why it fuels your passion for ensuring that educational materials are inclusive?

Sam Tucker:

Yes. So I've been teaching for just over a decade. I taught ELA in South Korea for two years, every age from preschool to post-collegiate. And while I was in grad school, I began teaching college composition. So I've been lucky enough to collaborate with students of all ages. The last four years I've taught at a community college, which felt something like home because the environment is what folks often refer to as non traditional , which kind of mirrors my community. I grew up in a working poor military family, both my grandmothers immigrated to the US p ost w ar from Korea a nd Germany, and growing up my entire family insisted I get the best possible education and that it was the path to a better life. But as I spent so much time as a student and then as a teacher, I learned quickly that some people have access to certain kinds of education while others have none. And this broke my heart and i t, it made me angry. I guess you could say my passion is really bettering education for all, and it's a deeply personal one.

Nicole Tomassi:

Wow. That's a really interesting backstory, Sam, thank you for sharing that. Um, I want to take you back. I know you've listened to this episode, episode two of our podcast , um, in which Nilofer Ali , our resources manager provided an overview about the origins of culturally responsive and sustaining education. And in that episode, she explained the different levels of CRE reviews that Westchester conducts you've had a really active role in creating the framework and the rubric for the reviews. So what can you, can you talk a little bit about what that process entailed?

Sam Tucker:

Nilofer really got everything together before I came on board, she spent a lot of time researching the experts , um, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings. We looked at the Zinn education project , um, and , and really pulled from and learn from a variety of CRE-based frameworks . So I came on at a time where Nilofer needed another set of eyes on what she'd already lovingly created. She's wonderful. And I helped edit, move things around. Nilofer and I really have an amazing partnership, and I feel like that's a key part of culturally responsiveness collaboration. True equity must respond to the, of the collective, like beyond the individual o r beyond just one person. And I think that's really hard to accomplish without a classroom and a teacher and materials, all of it focused on building community. And of course, all of this, again, has to be based on work that many people have been doing long before Nilofer and I came together. Black people, indigenous scholars, people of color, and, and so it's really important to be connected to too many people i n many experts.

Nicole Tomassi:

So what I'm hearing you say is that you're basically, you know, kind of carrying the banner forward, you know, for everyone who has, you know , done research and, and poured their hearts and souls into, you know, creating a more equitable environment for everyone to participate in.

Sam Tucker:

Yes.

Nicole Tomassi:

Okay. So from what I understand about the CRA review process, that Westchester conducts, it always involves two reviewers. Um, so what I'm curious to know is why is it necessary from your point of view that there is more than one person to analyze the content and compare it against the rubric to identify what areas need improvement?

Sam Tucker:

Oh, this is, this is an important question. So reviewers are definitely by far the most important, important part of the process. Um, they bring a missing and necessary perspective to educational materials. Before I get to why we use two, I want to say, you know, unfortunately the publishing industry mirrors a lot of industry in the US, so we have hegemonic groups of people who often center their own lived experiences because that's a natural thing to do. But when you center one experience or we are only speaking to individual experiences, then we struggle to understand why or how difference and different lived experiences and perspectives is an asset. So our reviewing teams have intersectional identities, people who have experienced the world so much differently than what we are taught as the status quo and CRE demands acknowledgement first that not all people live the same experience. If we can make this, this reality of different experience, a foundational aspect of education in the U S we can increase engagement for all students, which is why we have two reviewers as a part of the process. We want as many eyes and perspectives and lived experiences to engage with these materials and be a part of the process of bettering them. Cause I really think we can grow students' success by making education relevant to their lives and their communities and their cultures. So all of this is to say the more viewers engaging with and critically assessing materials, the more difference in perspective we can offer clients. And the more we can disrupt perceptions of what is normal or traditional.

Nicole Tomassi:

Well, that definitely makes sense to me. I think, you know, I'm speaking from my own experience, you know, when you can see yourself or someone like you in the materials, you are more likely to be interested in it and engage with it and learn from it. Um, so I want to ask you, as you were building out the team of the CRE reviewers, were there certain qualities that you were seeking in those individuals who then became a part of this group?

Sam Tucker:

I'm really glad you're asking this question. It's, it's both an easy and a difficult question to answer. And I think it touches on , um , what I said before about difference being an asset and really about being transparent about those differences. So I'll just cut right to it. We need varied identities and cultural experienc,es. So it is absolutely crucial to collaborate with viewers who are black, who are indigenous, people of color, color, folks who can speak and relate to issues of class, disability, sexuality, gender, neuro-diversity, religion, the light, you know, the list goes on because again, educational materials tend to center one experience, and this is what makes people uncomfortable. But the truth is that experience tends to be white, Christian middle-class, patriarchal and hegemonic. That's why it's difficult to answer it because talking about identity as bluntly as I am now, and as we are now, Nicole , it makes people uncomfortable, but that's okay. And that's kind of the point we have to create space for difference. We have to be more comfortable with what is unknown or what is misunderstood because that's how we're going to create access for all. I think it's also very important that reviewers already have a connection to education, but perhaps in ways, one might not expect. Um, for example, some of our reviewers have spent a lot of time in the classroom engaging with and serving students directly. Others have long edited educational content or come from the academy with a handful of college degrees. Other reviewers even still are self-educated. Um, I have a few that don't have degrees and they home what they say, they call it home, unschool their children. So the variety there is really key. And the thing that all of the reviewers have in common is dedication to students and the rhetorical skills needed to communicate what is commendable and what is problematic , um, in all aspects of education, materials, and culturally responsive education needs.

Nicole Tomassi:

Okay. So I have just one final question for you. Um, as we wrap this up , what is there, what else is there that you would like listeners to understand and take away , um, about the CRE reviews that Westchester conducts and how it can be beneficial for their content?

Sam Tucker:

Hmm . Okay. So cultural responsiveness is it's often conflated with what we call concerns of sensitivity and bias, where reviewers or people in editorial departments, they're addressing insensitive and biased materials. And that that's a crucial aspect of this work, but I do find that sensitivity and bias work often facilitates a kind of an erasure in identity in materials or, or a tokenization. So culturally responsive education does address the same concerns, but in a very different way, because it's calling people in. It's about including the context and the knowledge and the perspective of many individuals instead of one , uh , I have a professor , um, in grad school that , that always taught me that equity is not an end point , but an ongoing process that calls for foundational change. And that's daunting. I get how daunting that sounds. But I think it's important to remember that this is how we're going to engage students. This is how we are going to create space for students to see themselves in. We're going to create agency for students in their own education and beyond. This is how we foster academic rigor and success for all students and create an education that they can carry outside of the classroom and back into their own communities.

Nicole Tomassi:

I think that's really a wonderful piece to end this on. Thank you so much, Sam, for joining me today to talk about CRE reviews and why it's something that companies should be considering for their existing content, as well as incorporating into any new materials that they're going to be creating.

Sam Tucker:

Thank you, Nicole, for giving me time and space to talk about the things that I love so well, and I am absolutely obsessed with

Nicole Tomassi:

It's, like I said, at the top, it fuels your passion. So, you know, it's, it's a great thing that you're pouring it into materials that are going to benefit so many. Um, so with that, I want to invite our listeners to join us next time when Sam will be back on Westchester Words. And , uh , in that episode, she will be having a conversation with Kaye Jones, who is the founder of her story in, and there'll be discussing some of the misconceptions that exist about CRE reviews. If you'd like to learn more about how Westchester education services CRE reviews can ensure your content meets the current standards for culturally responsive and sustaining education, head over to the culturally responsive education page on our website, Westchester Education Services.com. And while you're there, I'd also encourage you to view the content resources that we have available on our website about diversity, equity, and inclusion. So with that, I'd like to thank you for listening to today's episode of Westchester Words. You can follow us on your favorite podcasting platform to be notified about new episodes when they become available. In the meantime, feel free to send us an email at Westchester Words at Westchester ed services, that's E D S V C s.com to share your thoughts or comments about today's discussion or to let us know what content you'd like Westchester to cover in future episodes

Speaker 3:

Until then stay safe, be well and stay tuned.