Kara Finnigan, Ph.D. is associate professor of education policy at the University of Rochester’s (UR) Warner School of Education. She has conducted research and evaluations of K-12 educational policies and programs at the local, state, and federal level for more than 20 years through her work at the UR and prominent research organizations, including SRI International and the George Lucas Educational Foundation. She has written extensively on the topics of low-performing schools and high-stakes accountability, district reform, principal leadership, and school choice. Finnigan’s research blends perspectives in education, sociology, and political science; employs both qualitative and quantitative methods, including social network analysis; and focuses on urban school districts. Her current research, supported by the WT Grant Foundation and Spencer Foundation, focuses on the role of social networks in the acquisition, use, and diffusion of research evidence at the school and district level. Another line of her research funded by the Ford Foundation focuses on school desegregation policies. Finally, her research focuses on linkages between education, housing, health, and other policies to bring about regional equity. Finnigan began her work in education as a substitute teacher in Anchorage, Alaska. 

 Alan J. Daly, Ph.D. is Chair and Professor of the Department of Education Studies at the University of California, San Diego. He is also the founding Executive Editor of the new Sage Journal, Educational Neuroscience. Alan’s research and teaching are influenced by 16 years of public school experience in a variety of instructional and leadership roles. His research focuses on the role of leadership, educational policy, and organization structures and the relationship between those elements on the educational attainment of traditionally marginalized student populations. Alan draws on his theoretical and methodological expertise in social network theory and analysis in his work, and has multiple publications, and a book on the topic entitled, Social Network Theory and Educational Change. He has a second co-authored book entitled, Using Research Evidence in Schools, and another entitled, Thinking and Acting Systemically: Improving School Districts Under Pressure.

It will come as no surprise to most educators that improving underperforming schools is complex work, yet state and federal policymakers are only beginning to recognize this reality. As a result of the limited success under recent accountability policies, some scholars, including the two of us, have shifted our attention to the broader system in which schools reside. Rather than considering what each school is doing wrong or how it might do it better – as many of the prior policies did- we consider ways that central office staff and school site staff could build capacity to engage in a more dynamic and meaningful process of improvement because of the interdependence between these critical groups in educational change. In this blog we demonstrate how putting pressure on the parts of the system without ensuring this greater system alignment is futile.

To make this point stronger imagine you have been given a bicycle to reach a destination. Now picture getting on the bicycle and beginning to pedal but not getting anywhere. You look down and see that the frame looks fine, the tires are in place, so you pedal again but still nothing happens. As you look more closely you realize that there is no chain on the bicycle – without a chain of course the bicycle cannot move. In spite of years of accountability policies that have resulted in a multitude of reforms on the ground, these efforts have resulted in inconsistent performance and have not led to significant improvement. In essence, to leverage authentic and sustainable improvement to address complex challenges in our school systems, all of the parts must be aligned and yet we do little at the policy or practice level to ensure this is happening in a meaningful way. Our state and federal policy systems require a change in underlying assumptions (e.g., around the need for additional pressure to motivate educators) and leverage points (e.g., the school or teacher as the policy target) if they are to shift from maladaptive patterns, such as short term strategies or manipulation of test scores, to productive, sustainable large-scale efforts that reduce the current inequities in educational opportunity and outcomes. Read more

William F. Tate IV holds the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. His academic appointments are in education, public health, urban studies, African and African American Studies, and American Culture Studies. He serves as Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education. Tate has a particular interest in STEM attainment. Ongoing research projects include understanding the distal and social factors that predict STEM doctoral degree attainment broadly defined to include highly quantitative social sciences disciplines. His co-edited book titled, Beyond Stock Stories and Folktales: African Americans’ Paths to STEM Fields captures the direction of this research program. Also, his research has focused on the development of epidemiological and geospatial models to explain the social determinants of education, health, and developmental outcomes. His book project titled, Research on Schools, Neighborhoods, and Communities: Toward Civic Responsibility reflects his interest in the geography of opportunity in metropolitan America. He served as president of the American Educational Research Association and is a fellow of the association. In 2016, he was elected to membership in the National Academy of Education.

“Where did you graduate from high school?” Health Insurance as Education Reform [1]

“My ear hurts.” “It’s hard to breathe.” “I feel afraid and it won’t go away.” 

Imagine learning to read or doing a science project with otitis media or asthma. Picture taking a major exam while experiencing the symptoms of a crippling anxiety disorder. Many students miss classes, experience increased difficulties with illness, and go untreated because they lack the resources to secure a health care provider. Too many students do not have health care coverage. The 2011 US Census Bureau estimates indicate 9.4% of young persons under 18 (7 million) have no health insurance (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, Smith, 2012). Nearly 14% of children living in poverty are uninsured. The uninsured rates for African American and Hispanic children are 10.2% and 15.1%, respectively.

National health insurance trends for children suggest the need for careful examination of regions where underserved racial groups concentrate. St. Louis City, the only majority African American county outside of the traditional South (e.g., Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia), presents an instructive starting point for a discussion of health insurance coverage as St. Louis City and St. Louis County contribute more than 13,000 youth to this national problem (Jones, Harris, and Tate, 2015). This may seem an insignificant number; however, consider it in relation to the famous St. Louis question, “Where did you attend high school?”[2] Some locals use this crudely veiled question as a heuristic to quickly evaluate family social status. In a region severely bound in terms of upward income mobility[3], the question offers a powerful sociological lens since the response provides a gross approximation of family resources and residential status.

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William Perez (BA, Pomona College; Ph.D., Stanford University) is an Associate Professor of Education at Claremont Graduate University. His research focuses on the social and psychological processes associated with academic success and higher education access among immigrant Latino students. He is recognized as one of the nation’s leading academic experts on undocumented students. In 2009, he received the 2009 Mildred Garcia Prize for Excellence in Research from the Association for the Study of Higher Education for his book, We ARE Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream. He has been interviewed or quoted as an academic expert in various media outlets including NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Time Magazine, the LA Times, Hispanic Magazine, and NPR’s All Things Considered. He has received various awards for his research on immigration and education including the Stanford University Distinguished Scholar Alumni Award, the early career scholar award from the Hispanic Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association and the Fulbright Fellowship. His book, Americans by Heart: Undocumented Latino Students and the Promise of Higher Education, was selected for the 2013 Critics Choice Award by the American Educational Studies Association. For the past two years he has been selected for Education Week’s annual ranking of the top 200 university-based scholars in the U.S. who are doing the most to influence educational policy and practice.

President Obama’s 2012 executive action, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), has provided temporary legal residence and work-permits to about 750,000 young adults that have applied for DACA as of March 2015. That is less than half of the 1.6 million unauthorized immigrants age 15 or older that the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates are potentially eligible to apply1. Among these beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries are high school and college students, college graduates, and graduate students pursuing masters, doctoral, and other professional degrees.

While there is a growing body of research that describes the positive impact of DACA on higher education access and workforce opportunities, these studies often do not consider how unstable immigration status can be and that students can lose DACA at any moment. With the exception of naturalized citizenship, immigrants can lose their legal residence status for a variety of reasons including minor legal infractions and inability to pay for renewal fees. As of June 2015, 75 percent (377,767) of the DACA applicants eligible to renew their status had been approved or were in the process of being approved. However, that means that 95,111 (25 percent) of those that initially had received DACA in 2012-2013 have fallen out of status, including 32,140 that were denied renewal and 74,591 that had missed the window to apply for renewal.

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Dr. Keon M. McGuire is an Assistant Professor of Higher and Postsecondary Education in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Employing Africana frameworks, such as Black Feminist Theory and Queer of Color Critique, his research broadly explores Black undergraduate students’ intersecting identities as well as issues of race and racism in higher education. Dr. McGuire holds a joint Ph.D. in Higher Education and Africana Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and was a finalist for the 2014 Melvene D. Hardee Dissertation of the Year Award form NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Last September, when I was invited to contribute to the Equity Alliance blog by engaging the topic, Transcending College Access: Retention and Promotion of Students of Color, I could not anticipate the brave, thoughtful, and inspiring student led protests that emerged in the last five months and continues to sweep college and university campuses across our nation. Beginning with the courageous actions of a group of Black women who initiated University of Missouri’s student-led resistance movements[i] (e.g., MU for Mike Brown, Concerned Student 1950, Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike, and members of the football team refusing to play), which led to the resignation of (now former) Missouri University System President Tim Wolfe and (now former) Chancellor R. Bowen, student-led protests across the country are demanding new leadership, removal of racist artifacts, increase in diverse faculty and student populations, and recently the dismantling of a campus police department (UC Irvine). Read more

 

Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos is an associate professor in Education Policy and Evaluation in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers and Morrison Institute Faculty Fellow at Arizona State University. His primary area of research is school finance equity and adequacy in particular as it relates to traditionally marginalized communities. He has published in leading academic journals such as Review of Educational Research, Journal of Education Finance, The Urban Review and Journal of Latinos and Education. He is currently working as a school finance expert witness in the Martinez case and organizing an AERA 2016 presidential session entitled, Public Scholarship to Inform Public School Finance In a Culturally Pluralistic Democracy: A Town Hall Meeting.

Did you hear the news? The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is going to be reauthorized! Or is it? In July of 2015, the Senate and House both passed separate bills to reauthorize the du jour version of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. A Senate version, the “Every Child Achieves Act” (ECAA), is believed to be the most plausible to pass into law given President Obama’s eagerness to veto the House version coined the “Student Success Act” (SSA). Currently, leaders in the two chambers are conferencing to work through some of these bills’ key differences in an attempt to create legislation that will pass Congress. This would be the first ESEA reauthorization since 2002.   Read more

Professor Etta Hollins is well known in the field of teacher education as an innovative scholar, teacher, and consultant.  Prior to assuming her present position at the University of Missouri at Kansas City she was professor and academic chair of teacher education at the University of Southern California where she led the development of a doctoral program for the preparation of teacher educators and the development of the award winning synchronous online preservice teacher preparation program.  In the present position she designed and coordinates the graduate certificate in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, which is aimed at improving teaching practices for urban and underserved students in elementary and secondary schools.

Etta Hollins is the author of numerous articles, books, and other publications.  Her book Culture in School Learning has won two national awards and has been translated into Greek. The third edition was published in May, 2015.  Her book Rethinking Field Experiences in Preservice Teacher Preparation was published in April, 2015.

In 2015, Etta Hollins was a spotlight speaker for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, research speaker for the Association of Teacher Educators, and keynote speaker for the Maryland Cultural Proficiency Conference. She presently serves as a member of the accreditation council for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the research and policy advisory council for the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, and the teacher education advisory council for Salish Kootenai College.  She has served as senior advisor for the Journal of Teacher Education and on the advisory board for the American Educational Research Journal, Journal of Teacher Education, Review of Educational Research, Reading Research Quarterly, and Teaching Education. She has reviewed book manuscripts for Routledge Publishers and Teachers College Press.

Etta Hollins has received numerous awards and recognition for her work including lifetime achievement awards from the American Educational Research Association and Pittsburg State University, Kansas.  In 2015, she received the American Education Research Association Presidential Citation for her work in advancing knowledge of teaching and learning for urban and underserved students.

In the 2010-2011 academic year and for the first time in the nation’s history more than 80% of students who entered 9th grade graduated from high school, according to The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, as reported in The Condition of Education, 2015). However, a growing concern for education stakeholders is the underperformance of students in the nation’s public schools across all grade levels and populations, and in core subject areas.  For example, a 2013 report from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) indicated that in mathematics, 26% of U.S. 12th graders achieved proficiency.  In comparison, 7% of African American students and 12% of Hispanic students achieved proficiency in mathematics.  The 2013 NAEP report indicated that in reading, nationally 38% of U.S. 12th graders achieved proficiency.  In comparison, 16% of African American students and 23% of Hispanic students achieved proficiency in reading. The NAEP data show the cumulative impact of underperformance across grade levels in P-12 schools among all student populations within the United States, as well as the disproportionate and devastating impact on traditionally underserved ethnic minority students.

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Sharon L. Nichols is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio located in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Nichols has authored over two dozen books, journal articles and book chapters related to youth development and motivation and educational policy. She is coauthor of two books including, Collateral damage: How high-stakes testing corrupts America’s schools  (with D. C. Berliner, Harvard Education Press, 2007) and America’s Teenagers—Myths and Realities: Media Images, Schooling, and the Social Costs of Careless Indifference (with T. L. Good, Erlbaum, 2004). Her current work focuses on the impact of test-based accountability on teachers, their instructional practices and adolescent motivation and development.  

“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.

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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 frameworksfunds of knowledge and the forms of capitaland of statistical approachesregression analysis, multilevel models, structural equation modeling, GIS, and social network analysisto 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?

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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 szathanases@ucdavis.edu.

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?

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