“18 loafers you’ll love!”
“8 ways to end a toxic marriage!”
When we see numbers, we tend to have an automatic “buy in” response. Take the two headlines above. Social media enthusiasts encounter virtual lists like this all the time. And, if it catches our eye, we might click on it and take a quick look. What’s the harm in getting a peak at those 18 loafers or 8 tips? Our casual encounter with lists such as these hardly has us questioning their veracity–whether 18 or 8 adequately capture the range of loafers or tips available. The number itself tends to frame our thinking in such a way that we unquestioningly accept there are no more (or fewer) than 18 possible lovable loafers in the world! And I am probably out of luck if tips 1-8 don’t help me end that marriage.
Cecilia Rios-Aguilar is Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Higher Education Research Institute in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Rios-Aguilar’s research is multidisciplinary and uses a variety of conceptual frameworks—funds of knowledge and the forms of capital—and of statistical approaches—regression analysis, multilevel models, structural equation modeling, GIS, and social network analysis—to study the educational and occupational trajectories of under-represented minorities, including English learners, immigrant, and low-income students. Dr. Rios-Aguilar has published her work in several journals, including Teachers College Record, Language Policy, Community College Review, and the Journal of Latinos and Education.
Is your daughter going to be multilingual? Are you speaking to her in Spanish only? Is she also learning Hungarian? These are the kinds of questions I get asked after giving birth to a beautiful daughter. The answer I give is the same: I hope my daughter becomes fluent in multiple languages. However, the reality is that my daughter is growing up in a state that has enacted restrictive language policies. This concretely means that she will be taught exclusively in English. English, historically and presently, is the dominant language of the U.S. and the principal language of schooling. Yes, it is hard to believe that in some states through out the U.S. (including California where I currently live), schools and educators impose their language ideologies—a set of beliefs or feelings about how language(s) should be learned and used—on children and youth’s educational and occupational trajectories. The most contradicting fact is that very early on, educators restrict students’ opportunities to become bilingual (or multilingual), and later on, the job market will end up rewarding individuals who are multilingual (read the new book by my colleagues Callahan and Gándara titled, “The Bilingual Advantage: Language, Literacy, and the U.S. Labor Market,” for more info on this topic). So why restrict students’ opportunities to learn and speak in multiple languages when they are young? Is there hope for all kids in the U.S. to become multilingual?
Dr. Flores has a Ph.D. in Urban Education from the CUNY Graduate Center. His research combines critical applied linguistics and critical social theory to analyze the historical and comtemporary role of language education policy in reproducing relations of power.
Dr. Flores has collaborated on several studies related to the education of Latino emergent bilingual students in US schools. He also served as project director for the CUNY-New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals, a New York State Education Department funded initiative that seeks to improve the educational outcomes of emergent bilingual students through an intensive seminar series for school leaders combined with on-site support by CUNY faculty.
He currently serves as the principal investigator of the Philadelphia Bilingual Education Project (PBEP) that seeks to examine the historical and contemporary cultural politics of bilingual education in the School District of Philadelphia and to provide professional development support to bilingual teachers throughout the district.
What does it mean to be bilingual? Most people would answer this question with some variant of the ability to use two languages. However, if you step foot into the typical American public school you might think it means lack of ability in any language. In my many years of work with schools I have come across a plethora of terms that are used to describe bilingual students in the process of learning English. At best these terms ignore the emergent bilingualism of these students (e.g. “limited English proficient” or “English Language Learners”). At worse they position their bilingualism as a barrier to their learning (e.g. “non-nons” and “semilingual”). In addition, I have never come across terms to describe bilingual students who are English proficient. Their bilingualism becomes invisible as they are simply classified at best as “English proficient students” or at worst as “monolingual English speakers.” To be bilingual in many US classrooms is to be deficient. Read more
Steven Z. Athanases is professor in the School of Education at University of California, Davis. He holds a PhD from Stanford and received postdoctoral fellowships from the Spencer and McDonnell Foundations. Athanases draws upon nearly a decade of public school teaching as a touchstone for his work. His teaching and research, honored by various organizations, focus on diversity and equity in English teaching and teacher education. He received a 2015 Faculty Citation Award for career achievement in leadership in the furthering of equal opportunity and diversity objectives within the UC Davis community. Athanases has written about infusion of multicultural content in curriculum and student voice in instruction. A recent project examined processes and values of preservice teacher inquiry in culturally and linguistically diverse, mostly high poverty classrooms, with many English language learners. A second project with several colleagues examines school- and classroom-level factors that appear promising in meeting the needs of lower-income Latina/o youth at several high schools with missions and signs of success in fostering college-going cultures. A current project focuses on self-reflexive inquiry into language as a means to explore ways to leverage one’s resources from one’s linguistic and cultural autobiography for use in teaching. Athanases can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We need to locate, nurture, and guide the budding intellect of adolescents in urban schools. This requires learning activity that makes the present challenging and engaging, with larger purposes that link to futures of continued learning and action. Challenging curriculum benefits from what Cole (1996) calls prolepsis, linking future actions with the present, placing the end in the beginning. Rather than focusing activity on bite-size chunks that prepare for some distant meaningful learning, teachers can design activity so students access rich potential of larger goals within focused present action. Why wait to take on the big ideas?
Dr. Moore is a senior scholar and senior program area director for youth development at Child Trends since 1982. Dr. Moore was the founding chair of the Effective Programs and Research Task Force for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. She currently serves on the Evaluation Advisory Committee for the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, and the evaluation and research committee for Big Brothers Big Sisters. She is currently working on multiple evaluation projects, including evaluations of Abriendo Puertas, Pregnancy Prevention Approaches, Personal Responsibility Education Program, and Trauma Systems Therapy for KVC. Dr. Moore earned her Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Michigan.
Educational achievement is not only critical to later workforce success; but education contributes to adults’ physical, mental, and social health as well. Unfortunately, educational success is not assured, especially for children from families and communities that are economically and socially distressed. These students tend to have numerous unmet needs that interfere with their school success.
Amelia Marcetti Topper has been a part of the education community for over 16 years as a teacher and researcher. She is a doctoral candidate in Arizona State University’s Education Policy and Evaluation program, specializing in Higher Education. Her current research is on issues of access and equity in higher education from the perspective of the capabilities approach, a human development framework. Her dissertation project uses survey, interview, visual elicitation, and participatory ranking methods to explore the tension between perceptions of community college “student success” between students, faculty, and administrators. She holds a Master’s in Leadership in Teaching from Notre Dame of Maryland University and a Bachelor’s in Philosophy and the History of Mathematics and Sciences with a minor in Classical Languages from St. John’s College.
The Equity Alliance’s recently published blog post by Dr. Stuart Rhoden calls attention to the growing number of families who are choosing to opt their children out of taking mandatory state standardized exams. Dr. Rhoden argued that opting out is damaging to our students by sending the message that it is okay to give up when faced with a hard task, and that families need to work within the system to bring about changes in accountability measures instead of removing themselves from it out of protest. As I read his commentary, I was struck by his reliance on a popular and pernicious narrative dominating current discussions of what it takes for students to be successful. This type of language, which often uses terms like grit, persistence, perseverance, and sacrifice, is perhaps as damaging as our high stakes testing climate to the education community in that it glorifies the talents and commitment of the individual above all else. On face value, these words feel right; we want our children and our students to be able to navigate obstacles and not be defeated by setbacks. At the same time, we owe it to them to thoroughly understand the assumptions that underlie these concepts about learning and success, and question their real usefulness in explaining what goes into student outcomes – before we apply them.
Stuart Rhoden, Ph.D. is originally from Chicago, IL. He has been in education for over 15 years. He worked in Washington D.C. and Chicago on education policy and advocacy. He also was a high school teacher in Chicago and Los Angeles for a number of years. For the past five years, he has been a lecturer teaching on issues of culture and diversity, education policy, education philosophy and youth cultures in colleges both in Philadelphia and Phoenix. He currently lives in Phoenix, where he is a full-time Instructor at Arizona State University Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
In the past three or four years, there has been a grassroots movement across the country created by some progressive educational groups surrounding students “Opting out” of mandatory high-stakes state test. My opinion of this is that it is a copout. Until we change the system at broader systemic levels, we are not adequately preparing our students to succeed if we tell them they can opt-out of assessments along the way. This goes well beyond the “work harder/smarter” or “bootstraps” mentality that is often cited as code for structural inequality, but rather my perspective stems from an insistence that students can shine in an inequitable system as it is currently constructed. What is equally important is that as the adults; including educators, policy makers and researchers, need to consider more appropriate ways to analyze positive academic achievement, as well as strive towards creating more accurate measures of student achievement. The student’s role, while important, should not focus on being change agents of systemic inequality (that should be left to the adults), but rather beacons of light who consistently overcome systemic inequality. Read more
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Aydin Bal is an assistant professor of special education at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. Professor Bal studies racial disproportionality and capacity building in local education agencies for systemic transformation. His recent research projects aims at developing culturally responsive intervention methodologies for ecologically valid, socially just, and sustainable transformations in schools. As a practitioner, Professor Bal has worked with youth from historically marginalized communities and refugees who experience behavioral difficulties. He is directing a statewide research project, Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.
Youth from nondominant cultural and linguistic backgrounds are disproportionately exposed to exclusionary and punitive school disciplinary actions (e.g., detention, suspension, and expulsion) and placed in special education for emotional disturbance (Donovan & Cross, 2002; Losen & Gillespie, 2012). The racialization of school discipline has a long history (Children’s Defense Fund, 1975). These disparities hold today, with African American, Latino, and Native American students disproportionally subjected to harsher punishments for less objective reasons such as disrespect, insubordination, or excessive noise (Skiba, Michael, Nardo, & Peterson, 2002; Losen & Orfield, 2012). Racial disproportionality in behavioral outcomes has been a major social justice problem that contributes to unacceptable and detrimental consequences in the lives of nondominant youth, their families and teachers and the society as a whole (Noguera, 2003).
Melanie Bertrand is an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. She holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles, and served as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Southern California. Her research employs micro- and macro-level lenses to explore the potential of student voice to challenge systemic racism in education.
(Photo Credit: Deanna Alejandra Dent)
“The claim we found is that students don’t have access to culturally relevant textbooks. I feel that if textbooks will have stories about my culture, I’ll feel more engaged with the class.” — Alma, Latina high school student
Alma made this statement to an engrossed audience at an educational conference in 2011. She and other Students of Color were presenting research findings from a study they implemented on access to educational resources—like textbooks and technology—at their urban high schools. After Alma left the podium, another student spoke about the surveys and interviews the group conducted to arrive at the claim, showing a PowerPoint slide with the following quotes from high school students:
“The only thing the history book mentions about Black culture is slavery.”
“The history I know is about White culture; I don’t know [anything] about my culture!” Read more
Shirin Vossoughi is an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, where she draws on ethnographic methods to study the social, cultural, historical, and political dimensions of learning and educational equity. As the daughter of Iranian immigrants, she is personally invested in the development of educational settings for youth from migrant, immigrant, and diasporic backgrounds. Building on her work as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and the Exploratorium, Vossoughi is currently studying equity-oriented after-school programs that blend scientific inquiry, literacy, and the arts. She takes a collaborative approach to research, partnering with teachers and students to study the conditions that foster educational dignity and possibility.
Test scores. Accountability. Global economic competitiveness. Grit. These words dominate the current discourse of educational reform. They embody cultural assumptions and values about children’s needs and capacities, about what teaching and learning should look like, and about what they are for. The rigidities they impose on the everyday lives of teachers and students are often justified through the hollow appropriation of “equity” and “Civil Rights.”
But there are other words, those closer to the human experience of education and what it could be for: relationships, love, ideas, questions, social analysis, history, community, intellectual respect. Words that signal another set of values, dreams of another kind of world. Read more