The Critical HELP Framework

Dr. Ronald W. Whitaker, II

This post is created in partnership with @UDLPartners

An Overview

Are you wondering how you can have “deeper level” conversations that would push your teachers, staff, and educational leaders to grapple with institutional inequities? Are you also pondering how to employ equitable practices to deal with institutional inequities that might exist within your milieu? Then perhaps you should consider the CRITICAL HELP FRAMEWORK.

The Framework

The CRITICAL HELP FRAMEWORK is designed to push teachers and educational leaders to think more deeply about racism, institutional structures of inequity, and deficit mindsets that might exist within their context. The framework has an interdisciplinary focus because the issues that we are dealing with in educational spaces are multifaceted, therefore, the HELP FRAMEWORK integrates other perspectives into the conversation and intervention strategies.
The first part of the framework is the H, history.  As educators, we must continue to challenge our thinking and understanding of the world around us to ensure that we recognize the current context that each student is experiencing.  To do so, we must learn from others through listening to and reading about stories that differ from our own.  We must seek to understand the intricacies of our nation’s history and policies and how they have deliberately pushed some forward while holding others back.  As one way to continue on your learning journey, we encourage you to visit Facing History and Ourselves for a plethora of resources that support historical analysis. 
The second component of the framework is the E, equity.  We must move beyond the thinking that equality is sufficient.  It is not. “There is a difference between equality and equity. Equality means sameness, while equity is the commitment to being responsive to the particular circumstances of students and communities.” (Whitaker, 2020)


The third component of the framework is the L, Love: the importance of students experiencing a sense of belonging and its direct impact on student outcomes.   “Caring teachers expect (highly), relate (genuinely), and facilitate (relentlessly).” (Gay, 2018) “Regardless of the conditions that our students are dealing with, we will not view them from a deficit perspective but rather, we are fighting to remove the barriers.” (Whitaker, 2020)

The final component of the framework is the P, the practical application of programs, practices, and pedagogy.  “Curriculum, content, and teaching strategies, [that align with culturally relevant and sustaining pedagogies], for students of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds offer students opportunity and access to gain significant knowledge and skills in the classroom while upholding the unique ways that students learn, communicate, and interact.” (Whitaker, 2020)

Below are a number of organizations that have created classroom resources that are ready to use in your teaching tomorrow. 


about Dr. Ronald Whitaker, II

Dr. Ronald W. Whitaker, II is the Culturally Responsive Pedagogy Assistant Professor of Education at Cabrini University. In this role, he is intentional about incorporating culturally responsive tenets into Cabrini’s undergraduate and graduate educational programs. At Cabrini, he also serves as the Assistant Dean in the School of Education, Director of District and School Relations, and the Director for the Center for Urban Education, Equity, and Improvement (CUEEI).

For more information about Dr. Whittaker’s work, visit

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Sarah Misner is a Project Consultant in the Office of Professional Development at the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit. As a Project Consultant, she works in the areas of literacy and English language development and has served in this role since 2012. Sarah provides professional learning opportunities, technical support, and coaching. Some of her areas of focus include:
*Program mentor and instructor for the English as a Second Language Teacher Certification Graduate Program through the MCIU
*Certified trainer of Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS)
*IU point of contact for the Montgomery County ESL Council and Title III Consortium

Prior to serving in this role, Sarah works with students in kindergarten through eighth grade as a reading specialist and as an elementary emotional support teacher. She believes that through looking at the educational research and translating it into practice, we an better meet the needs of ALL learners.

Sarah has a Bachelors in Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Masters of Education form Arcadia University. She holds Pennsylvania Certifications in Special Educations PK-12, Reading Specialist PK-12, Elementary Education K-6, and Program Specialist English as a Second Language PK-12.

Follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahmisner23

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Erin's experience in the field of education has spanned the past 20 years of her life. Erin started her career at the Hatboro-Horsham School District as a Learning Support Teacher, primarily supporting middle school students in the area of mathematics. She was also a Special Education Coordinator. She currently holds a position in the Office of Professional Learning at Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, working primarily in the areas of UDL, STEM, and Inclusive Practices.

Erin holds a dual degree in Special Education and Elementary Education, a Master's Degree in Reading with a certificate as a Reading Specialist. In addition, she holds a Middle Level Math Certificate.

Making education accessible for ALL students is what drives Erin to share her knowledge and understanding with educators and administrators. Her innovative, hands-on professional development sessions will leave you wanting more! Her desire to model best practices in trainings is an effort to "practice what you preach" and provide you, the learner, with the best tools possible for instructing in your space and meeting the needs of all students.

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Jesse Gluckman is a Project Consultant who specializes in helping school personnel create classroom environments that emphasize growth for all learners. A strong believer in experiential learning, Jesse utilizes techniques that actively involve his participants so they can experience "learning by doing."

Before becoming a professional developer, Jesse spent 12 years in the classroom, mostly delivering science and math instruction at the middle school level, but he has a special place in his heart for students who have emotional difficulties. Jesse likes art, laughing, cooking, and most importantly...eating! Don't ever hesitate to open- and share- a snack during a workshop with him. His down to Earth and approachable demeanor will make you feel at home as he encourages you to share and learn both with and from others.

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseGluckman
Send snacks to: MCIU

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Lauren Benfield is a Project Consultant who is passionate about supporting all students and has prioritized that in her offerings. Her professional learning opportunities are interactive, reflective, and strategy-driven to guide participants from theory to classroom practice.

Prior to her employment at Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, Lauren taught for nine years at the secondary level, particularly in the areas of literacy and science. Utilizing her degrees in Reading and Special Education, her role as a project consultant focuses on Inclusive Practices, Literacy, and MTSS. Her hope is to collaboratively work with her participants in designing instruction that can meet the needs of all students. She will often share relatable stories during her presentations, some educational and some personal, and loves to learn from her participants and their experiences.

Lauren enjoys dancing, theatre, listening to true crime podcasts, and watching the newest released show on Netflix.

"When all students learn together, each student learns more."
Follow Lauren on Twitter @LaurenBenfield2