The Culturally Responsive
Education by Design™ PLC

An equity-focused professional learning community to
build our collective efficacy to support historically
marginalized students
impacted by the pandemic.

January 17, 2022 - June 30, 2022

Participation is by application


The PLC is a 5½ month experience where we focus on helping students build
their brain power by building teacher capacity to use culturally responsive instruction to coach students to higher levels of cognitive engagement.

More than ever we need to ensure that every student becomes an independent learner who has the skill and stamina to complete any unfinished learning created by the pandemic.


Unfortunately, many educators have reduced culturally responsive teaching to a set of strategies that will
supposedly increase student engagement — with no
focus on improving instruction so that students “learn
how to learn.”

Our intent in the PLC is to build student capacity to
take on grade level content
rather than simply collect
novel, so-called culturally responsive teaching
strategies that lead to over-scaffolded instruction.

The Structure of the Culturally Responsive Education by Design PLC

The PLC is a combination of asynchronous and synchronous virtual
learning with a site team component.

Team Based

We invite teachers, coaches,
and leaders from the same
school to work together in
teams of 4 – 12.

Inquiry Focused

We engage in scaffolded inquiry
cycles, grounded in video analysis,
to get smarter about how to use
culturally-grounded instructional
practices, to help students level up
their learning.

Student Centered

We stay centered on helping
students become aware of their
ability to grow their brain power, and
give them new cognitive tools
congruent with collective learning

The research on the effectiveness of traditional
professional development is clear:

Typical stand-alone teacher training and professional development doesn’t lead to lasting change in teachers’ practice, nor does it impact student learning significantly.

This is particularly true when addressing issues of educational
equity and culturally responsive practice.


That is why professional learning communities, grounded in collective efficacy and
equity-focused inquiry, are the perfect structure for building skill, will, knowledge,
and capacity to use culturally responsive practices to increase learning.

We have structured the PLC so that 60%
of team time is spent carrying out
inquiry in classrooms and collaborating,
while 20% is used to learn new culturally
responsive instructional practices on
the CRE by Design platform.

The remaining 20% is spent getting
support from Zaretta Hammond and the
CRE by Design team and interacting
with other teams in the PLC community.
Given the impact of
the pandemic on
communities of color,
our focus is on schools
serving high numbers
of students of color

and English learners.


There are five key criteria for determining if it is a fit.


Participating schools have a student population that is 25%
or more historically marginalized students.
Why? Many predominately White schools are typically looking to diversify
their curriculum. We don’t focus heavily on curriculum development or
creating social justice lesson plans. We focus on how to teach, not just
on what to teach.


Each participant must be a willing member of a team that has
dedicated time for inquiry and collaboration.
Why? Our experience is that working with a team at your school site
keeps inquiry and teacher learning on track. All team members should
understand what this will require. No “volun-told” members, please!


The majority of team members are familiar with the tenets of
culturally responsive teaching, as well as with the Ready for
Rigor™ framework.
We are drawing on the core conceptual understanding of culturally
responsive teaching from Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain.
You don’t have to be an “expert” in CRT but we are expecting folks to not
be new to the concept of culturally responsive teaching.


Teams must be ready to engage in collaborative inquiry cycles.

A school cannot improve student outcomes by focusing on silver bullet or
turnkey strategies. That’s antithetical to responsiveness. Change requires
robust, equity-focused inquiry.


Teams must have the support of their administration

Having teachers and administration in sync is critical for long-term
learning and change, according to research. Having the support of school
administration means you have the time necessary to fully engage in this

Administrators who support this approach recognize that this is NOT
a quick-fix “train-the-trainer”model,
but is an investment in
teacher and student capacity-building toward whole child equity.

Here are what last year’s participants are saying about their experience in the PLC:

“The learning from this PLC has changed who I am as a teacher, it has reoriented and grounded my practice. The learning turned my focus back onto my students and working with them to create a space where all learners can thrive.”

Sarah Armitage
Hillsboro School District

“What we learned in the PLC helped students have their voices heard. After a long year of the pandemic and remote learning, helping students have their voices heard was critical. Zaretta’s work helped to not only bring students’ voices to the forefront, but to do it in a culturally responsive way, rather than the same old traditional, colonized ways of the past.”

Josh Zarling, Ed.D.
Tacoma Public Schools

“Students were beginning to connect new learning to old knowledge. They were also becoming more comfortable with sharing their thinking. Teachers were beginning to understand how to ask questions that help students through productive struggle versus telling them the answers.”

Felicia Geeter
Instructional Coach
Pontiac School District


I’m Zaretta Hammond, educator and amateur neuroscientist.

Since its publication, my book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the
Brain has touched the professional lives of nearly half a million educators.

As a result, more teachers and leaders have a better understanding of the need for learning partnerships with students and the need to help them become independent learners.

But honestly, we haven’t been able to close the knowing-doing gap in using culturally responsive practices to provide instruction that helps students build the skill to take on more rigorous content. In many cases we’ve reduced CRT to social-emotional relationship building, gamification, or more group work.

We have failed to help students expand their capacity to carry more of the cognitive load during instruction. And, that’s the only path to equity in the long run.

We need to get our students ready for rigor if we are to be successful in
reducing the long-term impact of the pandemic on their academic success.


The program is divided into three stages. Each stage is connected to an aspect of the Ready for Rigor framework. The modules provide the strategic knowledge and practice tools and tactics to coach students to higher levels of learning.

The goal is to build teacher capacity to move struggling students from dependent and compliant learning behaviors toward more cognitively independent learner behaviors that help improve their information processing skills.

Stage 1: Build the Foundation

The transformation journey starts here. Learn how to reimagine classroom structures, routines, and
practices so culturally responsive teaching (CRT) can take root. You’ll spend one (1) month working
through the first three modules.

Strengthen your understanding
of core concepts and key
design principles of culturally
responsive instruction.
We will learn to apply culture as
both a social-emotional lens
and a cognitive scaffold. You
will begin building a bi-cultural
lens that allows you to use the
three facets of culture to
access students’ funds of
knowledge and cultural assets
for deeper learning.
Implement the classroom
structures, routines, and
practices to position students
for acceleration. Create the
right conditions in your
classroom for culturally
responsive instruction to take

Stage 2: Close the Knowing-Doing Gap

The keyword for this phase is practice! During this four-month phase, you’ll aim toward mastery as you
learn to design instruction that helps students process information better and grow their brainpower.
You’ll spend three (3) months working through the modules.

Learn the basics of designing
instruction that uses
collectivist learning principles
to help students build their
learning muscles and make
content sticky.
Learn the coaching moves to
help students change their
learning moves through
formative assessment and
affirmative corrective feedback.
Learn to adapt practices for
your most underperforming
students and special education
students using the principles of
Multi-Tiered System of Support

Stage 3: Cultivate Authentic Integration

The watch word for Stage 3 is systems. In the final phase of transformation, you’ll learn to fine-tune your
practices and make culturally responsive instruction second nature through systems change. You’ll
spend one (1) month solidifying your ability to predictably move student learning.

Establish equity-focused
formative assessment
systems, processes, and
methods to grade for equity.
Refine the processes and
structures to support students’
transition to cognitively
independent learning.
Sharpen your practice and
share your learnings as you
engage in collaborative inquiry,
lesson study, and
action-oriented research.

The Culturally Responsive Education by Design PLC is a
unique program that integrates inquiry, the science of
learning, and culturally responsive instruction
in the
service of teacher and student capacity-building.

Here’s my guarantee: If by the end of 30 days
you and your team have actively participated in
inquiry and have documented your work, but
don’t feel the PLC is meeting your needs, I’ll
refund your investment.


“Better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral
clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try.”

― Atul Gawande, Surgeon and Author
Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance

Copyright © Zaretta Hammond, 2020 – 2021. All Rights Reserved.