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Programs > Multicultural Education > ETM Reports


Instructional Resource and Materials Evaluation


By the authority of the Maryland State Department of Education, the Maryland State Education That Is Multicultural Advisory Council offers these guidelines and a resource evaluation to assist local school systems in their assessment of the multicultural appropriateness of various books and other materials used in schools for students. These contents have been developed according to criteria emphasized in the Maryland State Education That Is Multicultural Regulation (COMAR 1 3A.04.05). Local school systems may use this instrument in assessing resources or as a guide in developing their assessments.

Research has demonstrated that student achievement rises and that students better retain information and concepts when their school experiences and materials incorporate their own backgrounds and include similar persons or similar groups. This also promotes higher expectations, greater self-esteem, enhanced academic achievement, and increased potential for success in school and beyond. Students gain a more realistic understanding of the varied roles, capabilities, and interconnectedness of their ancestors, peers, and others. Equally important, however, this approach enables all students to develop an awareness of those outside of their immediate communities and of society-at-large.

Guidelines for the Evaluation of Instructional Materials

Each school system has the responsibility for providing climates of learning, programs, and materials that give all pupils full and accurate information concerning the role of diverse cultural groups in the development of the United States, their legitimate place in the history of our nation and the world, and of their contributions to all fields. It is the responsibility of schools to affirm the intrinsic value of each individual regardless of diversity factors, including race, ethnicity, region, religion, gender, language, socioeconomic status, age, and disability. Educators should provide materials in classrooms, library media centers, resource rooms, and instructional materials centers that reflect diversity among people as well as address the needs and experiences of the cultural groups they serve. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide criteria and context for the evaluation and selection of resources and materials.

"Instructional materials" are defined as a variety of materials in any format which influence the student's learning and the instructor's teaching. They include, but are not limited to, textbooks, library books, periodicals, pamphiets, art prints, study prints, pictures, transparencies, films, filmstrips, slides, videocassettes, videodiscs, audio cassettes, sound recordings, compact discs, computer software, CD-ROMS, and electronic resources.

The effectiveness of instructional materials depends upon the manner and the degree to which they meet the needs of teachers and students. Any evaluation must examine usage, scope of print and nonprint collections, frequency of the removal of biased and outdated materials, and procedures that promote ease of use and accessibility. No collection should be evaluated solely on the basis of recent additions to the print holdings.

Criteria for Guidelines

These guidelines manifest the following concepts and criteria related to Education that Is Multicultural.

A. Instructional resources which assist students in demonstrating an understanding of and appreciation for cultural groups.

Knowledge encourages cultural acceptance and understanding. Exposure to a wide variety of cultural experiences establishes a factual base concerning history, beliefs, and values and allows students to learn about themselves as well as others. Resources should help foster unity by examining our commonalities as well as our differences and thereby promote mutual respect. Materials that meet this criterion afford students an opportunity to learn about the contributions of the diverse groups, including their own, that make up our domestic society and the world's.

B. Selection of multicultural resources includes all of the following minimal criteria.

(1) Materials that avoid stereotyping, discrimination, bias, and prejudice.

This criterion calls for the exclusion of any resource that contains discriminatory overtones. No materials that contain insulting implications toward specific cultural groups should be present. The challenge for those making selections is to recognize materials, particularly on culturally sensitive issues, that work toward common cooperation and understanding and do not distort history.

(2) Materials that reflect the diverse experiences relating to cultural groups and individuals.

Collections should include resources that defy stereotypes by addressing the breadth of experiences within each cultural group and the relationships between cultural groups. Materials should illustrate the fact that every group has it achievers, philosophers, writers, artists, architects, and political leaders and also maintain that each individual has power to create change in her/his own environment.

(3) Instructional materials in all content areas that represent society as multicultural.

This requirement ensures that multicultural resources are incorporated in all subjects so that multicultural activities will be integrated throughout the curriculum and not presented in isolation.

(4) Human resources to help students demonstrate an understanding of cultural diversity.

In addition to print and nonprint sources, those responsible for building collections of instructional materials should not overlook human resources within the community, those individuals whose life experiences and backgrounds bring a multicultural perspective as well as an immediacy and authenticity to the topic at hand.

Guidelines for Resource Selection

In establishing guidelines for resource selection, materials that meet high standards of quality and encourage critical thinking and literary appreciation remain a priority. Connections to classroom curriculum and specific educational objectives are another essential consideration. In addition, attention should be given to the following:

1. Illustrations. Illustrations are important because many people, especially children with developing reading skills, form impressions based on the visual presentation of ideas. It is important that illustrations avoid portraying characters as stereotypes or caricatures. Thought should be given as to whether members of cultural groups, including female characters or persons with disabilities, are depicted in passive or inconspicuous ways. An assessment should also be made to determine if the illustrations are being used to accurately portray a certain culture or as a stereotypic representation.

2. Fiction and poetry. Novels and poems display a wide use of literary devices, such as irony, imagery, metaphors, and stereotypes. These elements communicate meanings to students in often subtle, yet most effective, ways. Often implicit, erroneous messages may be received by students. Therefore, these types of literature should be analyzed for background, purpose, language, and messages about various groups. These factors should also be explained carefully when such materials are presented to students.

3. Life Style. Presentations of lifestyles should be examined for accuracy. They should also seek to avoid oversimplification or the implication that racial groups are limited to any one lifestyle or socioeconomic condition. There should also be an awareness of how the family structures and relationships of various groups are portrayed in materials.

4. Language. Words are powerful tools and convey meaning through inference and overtone. Evaluators need to be sensitive to language which is subtly sexist or racist. They need to be aware of the ways in which words and phrases reflect biased perspectives.

5. Heroes. Those involved in building collections of materials should analyze characters portrayed as heroic to determine if there is a representation from all diversity groups. The characters should reflect those qualities deemed heroic by the cultural group they represent.

6. Effect on Student's Image of Self and Others. All students seek to find images and words that accurately reflect their own experiences, heritage, and culture. Of course, students want to, and should, see themselves, their ancestors, and other members of their diverse group in a positive light. Materials should also present accurate portrayals of history, including inequities experienced by various groups.

7. Author's/Illustrator's Background and Perspective. Authors and artists have their own cultural heritage and context. Evaluators should be aware of the background and experiences of the creators of instructional resources and of the qualifications and authority they bring to their work.

8. Copyright Date. A recent copyright date is no guarantee of sensitivity to education that is multicultural, but it may provide more sophisticated and relevant treatment than is generally found in older resources.

Local school systems may obtain additional information on assessing instructional materials by contacting the Maryland State Department of Education, Equity and Assurance Branch.

Note: Regulations which mandate that materials on African-American history appropriate to all ages and reading levels in a school be collected and made available in every public school library or media center remain in effect. Maryland Code (1978, 1992 Repl. Vol.) Sec. 7-106.1 of the Education Article. Maroon Vol.

The above information is based in part on Building Library Collections: Policies and Procedures for Evaluation and Selection of Instructional Materials. MSDE, 1992. Revised 1995.

Education That Is Multicultural Resource/Materials Evaluation Checklist


The following checklist can be used to assist staff in recognizing bias and highlighting unbiased materials. Particular attention will be given to the following forms of bias: EXCLUSION/INVISIBILITY, STEREOTYPING, IMBALANCE/SELECTIVITY, UNREALITY, FRAGMENTATION/ISOLATION AND LINGUISTIC.

Read each item and circle either Y for Yes, N for No, or NA for Not Applicable, depending on your assessment of the particular content indicated. Following each section, there is space to make additional comments.

It is recommended that reviewers reflect members of diverse groups.

RESOURCE/ MATERIAL TYPE: _____________________

TITLE: ________________________________________

AUTHOR: ______________________________________


DEFINITION: The complete or inappropriate exclusion of a particular group or groups from representation or consideration in the text and/or illustrations. Materials should reflect the historical roles and contributions of members of diverse groups.

1. Are people shown from more than one race or nationality? Y N NA
2. Are people of more than one ethnic or cultural group shown? Y N NA
3. Are males and females included in equal numbers? Y N NA
4. Are individuals with disabilities depicted in active roles? Y N NA
5. Have older, middle-aged, and younger characters been included? Y N NA
6. Are people of different income levels (socioeconomic) included? Y N NA
7. Are different types of family structures (two-parent, one parent, extended family, etc.) included? Y N NA




DEFINITION: A stereotype is an oversimplified generalization about a particular group, race or sex, which may carry derogatory implications, unrealistic perceptions, and false conclusions.

1. Are members of each group shown in a variety of careers? Y N NA
2. Are members of a group involved in varied types of activities and roles? Y N NA
3. Are members of a group from varied socioeconomic backgrounds? Y N NA
4. Are people from different neighborhoods/geographical settings depicted? Y N NA
5. Is the information on the groups depicted in a stereotypical or negative way? Y N NA
6. Do the text and illustrations depict members of a group in a realistic manner and not in exaggerated situations? Y N NA



Only one
interpretation of an issue, situation, or group is presented; thus, the knowledge of students regarding a varied perspective is restricted.

1. Is there a balanced account of the events or situations? Y N NA
2. Does the material reflect contrasting points of view? Y N NA
3. Does the material provide equitable coverage of the perspective of each group? Y N NA



DEFINITION: Materials that ignore the existence of prejudice, racism, sexism, discrimination, and intergroup conflict. Controversial topics are glossed over.

1. Do the materials paint an accurate picture of the group? Y N NA
2. Do the materials give the reader comprehensive information on the subject topic? Y N NA
3. Do the materials ignore the existence of controversial topics such as racism, sexism, prejudice, conflict, with regard to the group or topic? Y N NA



DEFINITION: Implies that the history, experiences, and situations of certain groups are somehow entirely unrelated to those of the dominant cultures. The dynamic relationships and contributions of these groups to the development of our current society are ignored.

1. Is the information about a particular group placed in separate chapters or sections away from the main body of information? Y N NA
2. Are the history or contributions of a particular group inappropriately omitted from the discussed topic or theme? Y N NA
3. Does this material indicate or imply in any way that a particular group made no significant contribution to the program? Y N NA



DEFINITION: The use of language as a conveyor of biases and negative attitudes about a particular group.

1. Are the words used inclusive of male and females equally, e.g., firefighters, rather than gender-biased words like "fireman"? Y N NA
2. Does the language describe differences within groups as well as the difference between groups? Y N NA
3. Do the word choices create negative attitudes? Y N NA



1. Does the biographical material indicate that the author or illustrator is qualified to deal with the subject? Y N NA
2. Is there something in the author's/illustrator's background experience that qualifies the individual(s) to write this book? Y N NA
3. Would the author's perspective on a people or topic unjustly make students feel insulted, negative, inferior, etc.? Y N NA



Please provide an overall rating for the material based on its inclusiveness, fairness, and accuracy related to diverse groups. In your rating, determine if this material or resource is appropriate for use with students. In summary, question whether or not the material represents a multicultural perspective, and if it portrays diverse groups in a manner that does not insult, demean, or distort members of those groups.


1. Highly Recommended ___

2. Recommended ___

3. Not Recommended ___


Contact Information
Maryland State Department of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Maryland State Department of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
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