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).

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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[1] 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

We obtained permission to reprint in our blog series a letter written by Rae Paris. The letter was originally published in blackspaceblog.com. Rae Paris addresses the historic and recent events of police brutality. It has been signed by over 1,000 Black professors around the world.

Photo caption: Black students and professors, Beaumont Tower, Michigan State University, December 6, 2014.

The citation for the original publication is:

Paris, Rae. (December 8, 2014). An Open Letter of Love to Black Students: #BlackLivesMatter. Retrieved from http://blackspaceblog.com/2014/12/08/an-open-letter-of-love-to-black-students-blacklivesmatter/

Rae Paris is from Carson, California. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in The Common, Guernica, Dismantle, Solstice, and other journals. Her work has been supported by the NEA Literature Fellowship, and residencies from Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Hambidge Center, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook, and VONA. Her poem “The Forgetting Tree” was selected as Best of the Net 2013, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart. She teaches fiction at the Bread Loaf School of English, and lives and writes mostly in East Lansing, Michigan where she’s Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Michigan State University. 

We are Black professors.

We are daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, godchildren, grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, and mothers.

We’re writing to tell you we see you and hear you. Read more

 Nonie K. Lesaux is the Thompson  Professor of Education and Society at the  Harvard Graduate School of Education and  leads a research program guided by the  goal of increasing opportunities to learn for  students from diverse linguistic, cultural,  and economic backgrounds.  Lesaux’s  research and teaching focus primarily on  the cognitive and linguistic factors that  enable children and adolescents to read effectively.  Her research has included longitudinal studies investigating reading and language development among English language learners as well as experimental evaluations of academic vocabulary instruction.  She is currently a Principal Investigator of a longitudinal study investigating the interrelated dimensions of linguistically diverse children’s cognitive, socio-emotional, and literacy development. Her research on reading development and instruction, and her work focused on using data to prevent reading difficulties, informs setting-level interventions, as well as public policy at the national and state level. The practical applications of this work are featured in several publications written for education leaders and practitioners, including one book and one widely circulated state-level literacy report, the latter of which forms the basis for a Third Grade Reading Proficiency bill passed in the state’s House of Representatives.  Lesaux’s scholarship has resulted in two prestigious early career awards—the William T. Grant Foundation Faculty Scholars Award and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the U.S. Government.

It was inevitable that Janette and I would cross paths, as two scholars deeply committed to increasing opportunities-to-learn for children whose home language(s) include languages other than English–a population of children commonly referred to as English learners (ELs).  But I was even luckier than that.  I had the privilege of collaborating with Janette on some key projects.  Most recently, our work together revolved around an instructional approach that holds great promise for improving outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse students and reducing their disproportionate representation in special education: The Response to Intervention (RtI) model.   Together, Janette and I designed guidance, resources, and professional development modules to support educators as they shifted their instruction and assessment practices to fit this approach, using RtI as a platform for increasing learning outcomes for ELs.  We first tried this out with a large group of educator teams in the New York City schools and then wrote up some of this work for wider dissemination. I hold these memories dear, and am still engaged in initiatives to support the implementation of RtI in linguistically diverse settings, continuing to cultivate the progress toward equity that Janette championed.

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Rebeca Burciaga is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and a member of the Core Faculty for the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education at San José State University. Dr. Burciaga’s research centers on understanding and challenging educational practices and structures that (re)produce social inequalities for historically marginalized communities, including/specifically Latino students.  Her research in schools and communities spans over 20 years and includes mixed-methods research on pathways from preschool to the professoriate, the experiences of students who leave high school before graduation, and the ways in which geographic regions structure inequalities. She specializes the study of qualitative research methodologies including testimonio and ethnography. Her current research and teaching is focused on cultivating asset-based mindsets in teachers and administrators that work with youth of color.  Dr. Burciaga is a co-founder and co-coordinator of the Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz, a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a Ph.D. in Education from the University of California at Los Angeles.  Her research has been supported and recognized by the Spencer Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Institute of Health, and the American Association of University Women. Her most recent scholarship can be found in Equity & Excellence in Education, the Association of Mexican American Educators Journal, and the Educational Administration Quarterly.

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Adai Tefera’s research focuses on improving educational policies for diverse learners with dis/abilities. She is particularly interested in understanding the socio-historical, political, and cultural dimensions that shape policies and impact learning. A second strand of her research focuses on knowledge mobilization, an emerging field that aims to increase the impact and use of research by utilizing interactive strategies that target wide audiences, including educators, policy makers, community organizers, parents, and students. She is specifically interested in knowledge mobilization efforts that advance equity in education.

Taucia Gonzalez is a doctoral candidate at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University in the Curriculum and Instruction program with a concentration in special education. She is interested in expanding literacy practices for language minority students with learning disabilities. More specifically, her work examines how Latina/o language minority students engage in literacy across in- and out-of-school contexts.

Cueponcaxochitl’s research draws on decolonial and socio-cultural theories to examine Ancestral Computing for environmental, economic and social sustainability. Ancestral Computing for sustainability is an ecosystems approach to solving complex problems by interweaving Ancestral Knowledge Systems and computer science. She is a Xicana scholar activist who applies the interdisciplinary frameworks, coloniality of power and figured worlds, to analyze identity formations and civic engagement across learning environments (formal and informal). Her research informs various areas of work such as foundations, teacher preparation programs, curriculum studies and policy in computer science education.

Sarah Alvarado Díaz is a research assistant for Equity Alliance and a first-year doctoral student in the Learning, Literacies and Technologies program, with a special interest in students who are labeled as English language learners, as students who receive special education services, and in particular, looking at disproportionate numbers of English language learners being referred for special education services or being placed in special education programs.  Prior to coming to ASU as a full-time student she worked as an elementary school teacher in a South Phoenix school for sixteen years, where she worked with first through third grade students, and many years as a dual language teacher, in English and Spanish.  

This blog is written from the perspective of our four voices combined. You will see that the lines between our stories are blurred. Our combined experiences in policy and teaching in diverse settings is weaved into the voice of one person with four intersectional paths of theory and practice. Read more

 photo 6ad2eb24-cf56-4188-a860-8a2a7686f1c2.jpgWe obtained permission to reprint in our blog series an interview conducted by The American Educational Research Association’s Educational Change Special Interest Group (SIG). The interview was originally published in the SIG’s “Lead the Change Series: Q&A with Angela Valenzuela”. Angela Valenzuela speaks to our theme “Re(imagining) a Civil Rights Agenda in Educational Policy.” The citation for the original publication is:

American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group. (2014, September 1). Lead The Change Series: Q&A with Angela Valenzuela. Issue 42. Retrieved September 16, 2014, from http://www.aera.net/Portals/38/docs/SIGs/SIG155/42_Angela Valenzuela.pdf

Angela Valenzuela is a professor in Educational Policy and Planning at the University of Texas and holds a courtesy appointment in the Cultural Studies in Education Program within the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She serves as the director of the University of Texas Center for Education Policy and more recently as the new director of the National Latino Education Research Agenda Project. Her research and teaching interests are in the sociology of education, minority youth in schools, educational policy, and urban education reform. She is the author of Subtractive Schooling: U.S. Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring and Leaving Children Behind: How “Texas- style” Accountability Fails Latino Youth. Angela served as co-editor of the Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, as well as the Anthropology and Education Quarterly. She also founded and operates an education blog titled “Educational Equity, Politics, and Policy in Texas.” She can be reached at (valenz@austin.utexas.edu).

The 2015 American Educational Research Association (AERA) theme is “Toward Justice: Culture, Language, and Heritage in Education Research and Praxis”. What are key accomplishments, limitations, and possibilities of education research to advance justice? Read more

H. Richard Milner IV is the Helen Faison Endowed Chair of Urban Education, Professor of Education, Professor of Social Work (by courtesy), and Professor of Africana Studies (by courtesy) as well as Director of the Center for Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a policy fellow of the National Education Policy Center. His research, teaching and policy interests concern urban education, teacher education, African American literature, and the sociology of education. In particular, Professor Milner’s research examines practices that support teachers for success in urban schools. Professor Milner’s work has appeared in numerous journals, and he has published five books. His book, published in 2010 by Harvard Education Press, is: Start where you are but don’t stay there: Understanding diversity, opportunity gaps, and teaching in today’s classrooms http://hepg.org/hep/book/129/StartWhereYouAreButDonTStayThere, which represents years of research and development effort. Currently, he is Editor-in-chief of Urban Education and co-editor of the Handbook of Urban Education http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415634779/with Kofi Lomotey, published with Routledge Press in 2014. He can be reached at rmilner@pitt.edu.

Years ago, I provided a workshop with educators in an elementary school – educators, principals, and a small number of counselors.  I was invited to focus – in particular – on the role of poverty in education and to provide instructional strategies for educators that would assist them in better meeting the needs of students whose needs are grossly under-met in schools.  These students tend to be students of color (namely Black and Brown), those living in poverty, those whose first language is not English, and those whose first language is not English.  Although analyses of achievement gap patterns, graduate rates, enrollment in gifted and advanced courses, office and special education referral, and participation in school-wide clubs and activities demonstrate how Black and Brown children’s needs, in particular, in too many instances are not being met, my attempt to shepherd the educators in the workshop into real conversations about race, the salience and persistence of racism, and inequity was resisted.  Moreover, educators in the session wanted me to tell them exactly what to do with “those” children, who are very different than the children the educators taught in the past and “certainly” different from the times when the educators themselves were students.  I quickly learned my job was to focus on poverty exclusively and to tell those in attendance exactly what to do to raise their students’ test scores.

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Glenn Adams is Associate Professor of Psychology, Director of the Cultural Psychology Research Group, and Faculty Associate Director of the Kansas African Studies Center at the University of Kansas. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone before completing his Ph.D. in Social Psychology at Stanford University. His graduate training included two years of field research in Ghana, which provided the empirical foundation for his research on cultural-psychological foundations of relationship. His current work builds on this foundation in an attempt to decolonize knowledge production in psychological science and to articulate models of human development that promote sustainable ways of being and social justice for broader humanity. An enduring interest is development of a globally relevant psychology. Drawing on the theoretical perspective of cultural psychology, one sense of “globally relevant psychology” is a more position-conscious science that not only transcends the cultural imperialism of mainstream psychology, but also illuminates the socio-historical foundations of mind. Drawing upon the theoretical perspective of liberation psychology, another sense of “globally relevant psychology” refers to a science that addresses the concerns of humanity in general—how to maintain a peaceful, secure and viable existence in the context of uncertainty, economic and political violence and material scarcity—rather than the more self-indulgent concerns of a highly particular subset of people in situations of unprecedented material abundance. 

If you did a survey of Americans and asked them about the extent of racism in American society, then you would likely find that White respondents perceive far less racism than do people from the “Other” ethnic/racial groups that European settlers have historically dominated. Alternatively stated, White folks are more likely than peoples they have historically dominated to believe that American society and its mainstream institutions are colorblind or race-neutral. What accounts for this difference?

For one thing, research suggests that White folks believe in the colorblind neutrality of American society because they are motivated to deny the extent of racism. The idea that American society and mainstream institutions harbor elements of racism is threatening to the American ideology of “liberty and justice for all” that students recite daily when pledging allegiance to the flag. Many White folks (including myself) would rather not think that the institutions from which we disproportionately benefit are racist, so we interpret ambiguous events in a way that allows us to avoid such troubling thoughts.

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