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UD Professors Jill Flynn (left) and Bill Lewis have worked
together to develop an online toolkit to help secondary English and
language arts teachers incorporate equity and social justice into their
lessons. The project was supported by the Partnership for Public
Education and the Gates Foundation.
prospective teachers often want to include topics about equity and
social justice in their classrooms — and are expected to do so under
national education standards — but adding new material to their already
crowded instructional schedules can be daunting.
Now, however, a project developed at the University of Delaware aims
to provide middle- and high-school language arts teachers with resources
they can easily make part of their current literacy curriculum. The
research-based project is led by Jill Ewing Flynn, professor of English,
and William E. Lewis, professor of education, and is supported by UD’s Partnership for Public Education and the Gates Foundation.
“Jill and I have written together for some time, and we’ve always had
a social justice focus,” Lewis said. “This project seemed like a great
opportunity to show teachers how they could incorporate social justice
and equity into the work they were already doing. The goal is to provide
kids with a variety of texts and prepare them to read challenging texts
— all part of the literacy curriculum.”
The result, Flynn said, has been a toolkit known as EquityQTS,
which is accessible on a publicly available website and consists of
resources that teachers can readily fit into their existing lesson
plans. In developing the toolkit, she and Lewis worked with UD English
education alumnae Taria Pritchett, a high school English teacher and
Brandywine School District teacher of the year, and Casey Montigney, a
middle school English teacher and member of the Delaware Professional
“We think we’ve devised a good framework that will help teachers by
making their planning easier and without adding more burdens to their
classroom work,” said Flynn, who teaches undergraduate methods courses
and coordinates student teaching in UD’s English Education program.
The EquityQTS resources are focused around a framework known as “Quad
Text Sets.” It’s a system that many educators already use in building
their students’ reading, writing and comprehension skills as they
prepare to read a challenging classic text such as To Kill a Mockingbird or more contemporary texts like All American Boys or The Hate You Give.
Before assigning students to read that “target text” itself, teachers
select two simpler texts — one of them video- or visual-based—on a
related theme or topic. These texts enable students to build their
background knowledge of the subject so that they are more prepared and
engaged when they read the target text. A fourth text is then chosen to
help students make connections to the target text and to extend their
understanding of issues of equity and social justice.
As Flynn and Lewis now work to share the resources with teachers,
they’ve published an article about their project in the current edition
of Literacy Today, the online magazine of the International Literacy Association.
In the article, “A Framework for Teaching Equity,” the researchers
write that, by using high-quality young-adult literature in a strategic
way, teachers “can expose students to multiple perspectives, build the
background knowledge needed to critically engage with issues of equity
and provide students with a volume of challenging texts that build their
“We all want students to have engaging, challenging texts to read
while developing social justice and equity awareness,” said Lewis, who
teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in English language arts in
UD’s School of Education.
“But we also know that teachers have a lot on their plates already. So
we designed this to fit into the existing curriculum, not to be an
add-on for teachers.”
For Casey Montigney, who worked on the project as a Christina School
District teacher and is now an instructional coach helping other
teachers in the district, EquityQTS builds on the quad text system that
she knows educators are already using. By focusing on social justice and
equity when choosing texts for their lesson plans, teachers can give
their students a wider view and broaden their perspectives, she said.
“The goal is for students to be able to read and understand a
rigorous text for their grade level,” she said. “Those skills and the
concepts are what’s important. And students today, even middle school
kids, want to talk about social justice issues. They’re aware of what’s
going on in the news, and they want to learn more about it.”
Flynn and Lewis hope that teachers in other subjects such as social
studies might also find the resources useful in their own classrooms.
Social justice and equity are currently part of some national
educational standards as well as accreditation standards for teacher
The researchers met recently with a Delaware Department of Education
official, who invited them to make a presentation at an upcoming meeting
of the Literacy Council, a group of literacy specialists from school
districts around the state.
“We want to spread the word that this resource is available to them,”
Flynn said. “We know that teachers want to cover these issues and that
they can use support.”
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Article by Ann Manser, photos by Office of Communication and Marketing and iStock
Originally published April 29, 2022