With me in her womb, my mother crossed the U.S.-Mexican border in the trunk of a car to unite with my father and brother in the U.S. This family history and life beginning set the tone for my schooling journey as a Xicana scholar activist. I declared a Math major during my first year at Pomona College, but when I realized that I was one of the only women in my first math class, and most yet, of Mexican ancestry, I shifted my area of focus to the history and policy of education for Mexican Americans. In the process, I nurtured my own identity and re-awakened my voice in a land scarce of cultural diversity. I began to learn more about my heritage and ground my voice through the perspective of my family, hence my research interests.  As a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, I examine computer science education, from a sustainable perspective informed by indigenous peoples. I ask: How may ancestral knowledge systems inform the study of computer science? How might the melding of ancestral knowledge and computer science education lead to new understandings of how to nurture our young people’s positive identity formations and critical consciousness around computer science explorations? Responses to these questions have significant implications for promoting social and environmentally sustainable approaches to living, learning and dying. As digital media inextricably influences our lives, my work disrupts the common assumption that computer science alone could be a solution to most any complex problem in society. I received my Doctoral Degree in Urban Schooling from the University of California Los Angeles, where I conducted research on culturally responsive computer science education with the support of the National Science Foundation. I am the recipient of a grant awarded to a team of educational activists to “Mobilize Ancestral Knowledge, Computer Science and Student Inquiry for Health in the Schooling Community of El Sereno,” funded by UCLA Center X. I have published with Psychnology, Learning, Media and Technology, ACM Inroads, Power and Education, Theory, Culture and Society and SAGE Reference Publications. I enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, river tubing and biking with my four-legged companion, Canela.

I had never seen my Pa cry more tears of joy than the day my parents surprised us with our first PC. With a combined annual income of $20,000 for a family of five, my Mexican immigrant parents sacrificed so much to give us the best chance at an academically successful future. Shooting stars darted above us with excitement as we unpacked the computer system from the back of my father’s 1978 Chevy truck. My older brother took the lead in setting up the mysterious digital box. We all watched as he wrote the first command on the MS-DOS screen. Fast-forward two decades. My brother is a computing professional. Somewhere along the way, my sister and I developed the fear of breaking the computer if we were to punch in the wrong code or click on the wrong application, so we resorted to word processing, practicing our typing skills and playing solitaire.

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Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a Faculty Affiliate of the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Since 2007, he has served as an Associate Director for the University Council of Education Administration (UCEA).  In addition to educational accomplishments, Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig has held a variety of research and practitioner positions in organizations from Boston to Beijing. These experiences have provided formative professional perspectives to bridge research, theory, and practice.  His current research includes quantitatively and qualitatively examining how high-stakes testing and accountability-based reforms and market reforms impact urban minority students. Julian’s research interests also include issues of access, diversity, and equity in higher education.  His work has been cited by the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, USAToday, Education Week, Huffington Post and other print and electronic media outlets. He has also appeared on local and national radio and TV including PBS, NBC, NBCLatino, NPR, Univision, and MSNBC.  He obtained his Ph.D. in Education Administration and Policy Analysis and a Masters in Sociology from Stanford University. He also holds a Masters of Higher Education and a Bachelor’s of History and Psychology from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. He blogs at Cloaking Inequity, consistently rated one of the top 50 education websites in the world by Teach100.

For a scholar, hiding research behind journal pay walls and subscriptions is safety. As comfortable and warm as cuddling up with a blanket and a book in front a fireplace on a cool fall evening. Should faculty only focus on this traditional notion of scholarly activity in 2014? In 2006, I came to the University of Texas at Austin as a junior faculty member fresh out of graduate school. The department was in a period of transition at the time, as the previous generation of scholars was heading into retirement. One of the aspects of this transition that caused me to ponder the future role of my research was the stacks and stacks of out-of-date journals and books in the hallways that the departing faculty had left behind. I pondered what should and would become of my research in the short-term and the long-term? Read more

Josephine Peyton Marsh is the Professor in Residence at ASU Preparatory Academies (ASU Prep) and an Associate Professor of Literacy Education at the Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.  She received her Ph. D. from the University of Georgia in Reading Education after over a decade of teaching literacy to students in grades 5-12.  Since arriving at ASU, Dr. Marsh has taught undergraduate and graduate literacy education courses, mentored doctoral students, and served as a college administrator.  She has also consulted with local school districts about infusing literacy instruction into content-area teaching.

Her past research interests included adolescent literacy and issues related to gender, identity, and literacy.  Her current research focuses on school transformation and how teachers, administrators, students, and parents work together to create schools that prepare students for college and career success and to be contributors to their communities.  In particularly, her research concentrates on just-in-time literacy professional development, communities of practice for professional growth, and student perspectives on engaged learning. 

Somewhere along the way, as an associate professor and literacy education researcher, I became aware of the lack of impact my research seemed to be having on school literacy instruction.  My research was interesting to me (and the few others who read it), but did little to inform schools about teaching children and adolescents to read and write or use literacy to learn content and think critically.  I began to question why publishing in prestigious journals was rewarded at the university, but unread or unused by educational practitioners.  So, for a few years, disillusioned and confused, I became an administrator for the college of education at Arizona State University (ASU). It was a good place for me until I found ASU Preparatory Academies (ASU Prep), a university sponsored PK-12 charter school district that began fully operating in 2010. The district consists of two PK-12 campuses —ASU Prep-Phoenix, an urban Title I school of 1100 students near Arizona State University’s downtown campus and ASU Prep-Poly, a suburban school of over 600 students on ASU’s Polytechnic campus. For more detailed information see http://asuprep.asu.edu/about.

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Paul C. Gorski is an associate professor of Integrative Studies in George Mason University’s New Century College, where he teaches classes on class and poverty, educational equity, animal rights, and environmental justice. He recentedly designed the new Social Justice undergraduate program and minor there as well. He has been an active consultant, presenter, and trainer for nearly twenty years, conducting workshops and providing guidance to schools and community organizations committed to equity and diversity. He created and continues to maintain the Multicultural Pavilion, an award winning Web site focused on critical multicultural education. Paul is serving his second term on the board of directors of the International Association for Intercultural Education (IAIE). He has published four books and more than 40 articles in publications such as Educational Leadership, Equity and Excellence in Education,Rethinking Schools, Teaching and Teacher Education, Teachers College Record, and Teaching Tolerance. Prior to his current position Paul taught for the University of Virginia, the University of Maryland, and Hamline University. He continues to publish and present in education-focused forums on topics including white privilege and racism, anti-poverty education and economic justice, and multicultural organizational transformation. He lives in Washington, DC, with his cats, Unity and Buster.

For years I have been dissatisfied with many popular frameworks for talking about diversity and equity in schools, nearly all of which—cultural competence, cultural proficiency, intercultural communications, multiculturalism—tend to  put culture rather than equity at the center of the conversation. Sure, every educator should learn as much as possible about the cultures of individual students. But knowing a little bit about Mexican or Mexican American culture does very little to prepare us to see and respond effectively to bias or inequity—especially to the most subtle bias and inequity.

Nowhere is the “culture” obsession more dangerous than in the ways in which teachers generally are taught to think about poverty. This is especially, devastatingly, true given the baffling popularity of the “culture of poverty” approach for understanding low-income students’ experiences. I call it baffling because the idea that we can assume anything at all about a student based on a single dimension of her or his identity or that all people in the hugely diverse population of people in poverty universally share the same beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors is nonsensical.

The excerpt below, taken from my recent book, Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap (Teachers College Press, 2013), describes what I call Equity Literacy, a framework first used by my super-genius colleague, Katy Swalwell, to describe a kind of literacy youth should learn in school. I built on her conception of Equity Literacy to include the skills and consciousness with which teachers ought to be equipped in order to create equitable learning environments for students and families in poverty.

Introducing Equity Literacy

I came to define Equity Literacy as the skills and understandings that enable us to recognize, respond to, and redress conditions that deny some students access to the educational opportunities enjoyed by their peers and, in doing so, sustain equitable learning environments for all students and families.

The Equity Literacy framework borrows some of its principles from other approaches for thinking about diversity in schools including resiliency theory, diversity pedagogy theory, funds of knowledge theory, and cultural proficiency. What distinguishes Equity Literacy, broadly speaking, from these and other popular frameworks is Equity Literacy’s recognition that the problem is not primarily cultural. The issue before us, as we attempt to create more effective learning environments for low-income students, is not culture, but equity. I can learn everything I want to know about this or that culture, but doing so is not going to help me spot subtle bias in learning materials or help me realize the injustice at play when schools eliminate arts and music programs, which are known to help low-income students achieve academically.

The Ten Principles of Equity Literacy

The principles of Equity Literacy are the consciousness behind the framework. Each principle is based on research about congruence between what educators believe about, and their effectiveness working with, low-income students and families. Read more

Dr. Kent Paredes Scribner has been the superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District, the largest high school district in Arizona, since 2008. Dr. Scribner has led several successful educational initiatives during his tenure, thus far. He implemented the mission of “Preparing every student for success in college, career and life,” and the District has responded. Each District school was rated either Performing, Performing Plus, Highly Performing or Excelling by the State of Arizona’s “Arizona Learns” system in 2011. In 2013, Phoenix Union’s upward trajectory continued as they yet again increased the number of “A” and “B” schools in the Arizona Department of Education’s Accountability Rankings. Honors and Advanced Placement course-taking has more than doubled. The Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) curriculum has been introduced on every comprehensive campus. The number of students both applying for earning acceptance to college has dramatically increased. Financial resources offered to Phoenix Union students has skyrocketed as well, going from $17.8 million in merit scholarships in 2009, to over $40 million in merit scholarships in both 2012 and 2013. In October 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Scribner to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Scribner is frequently called upon by business leaders, community organizations and educational institutions to share his expertise on urban education, speak at conferences, conduct media interviews, and serve on numerous committees. Born in Los Angeles, California, Scribner earned a B.A. in Latin American Studies from Carleton College in Minnesota, a M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from Temple University and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Arizona State University. He began his education career as a high school Spanish teacher in Philadelphia. He moved to Arizona in 1992 and became a graduate research assistant at Arizona State University, where he examined issues of quality and diversity in Phoenix Union regarding the district’s court-ordered desegregation. Before he joined Phoenix Union, Scribner, was the superintendent of the Isaac Elementary School District in Phoenix from 2003 to 2008. Scribner, who received the Excellence in Educational Leadership Award from the University Council of Educational Administration in 2008, is married and has two children.

Education practitioners are faced with questions about how best to help their students reach their full potential. How do we motivate our youth to succeed in their current school environments? How do we encourage them to become involved in their respective communities? How do we ensure that this smart, enterprising generation of young people grows into thoughtful adults who pursue their dreams and aspire to make a difference in the world?

Frequently, educators grasp at a new program, a new curriculum or a new “shiny thing” to accomplish the lofty goals we have for our students. As a leader of a large urban district, I have seen numerous policies, curricular changes and partnerships come across my desk that attempt to address diversity, motivation and student preparation for today’s competitive global economy. It is extremely challenging to sort through and decide which initiatives can be effective and implemented successfully.

How do we as teachers and leaders motivate our students in a world of both great diversity and great “connectedness”?  Read more

Rico Gutstein is a mathematics education professor in the Curriculum and Instruction department of the University of Illinois at Chicago. He writes and teaches about critical and Freirean pedagogies, and mathematics and urban education policy. Rico has taught middle and high school mathematics in Chicago public schools and is the author of Reading and Writing the World with Mathematics: Toward a Pedagogy for Social Justice (2006). He also co-edited Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers (2nd Ed) (2013). Rico is a founding member of Teachers for Social Justice (Chicago) and is active in the movement against education privatization. 

My practice and research focus on teaching and learning mathematics for social justice (“critical mathematics”). For me, this means to prepare students to learn and use mathematics to study social reality and fight injustice, so that they can change what they believe is wrong. Because of that, I always consider how these processes within schools and classrooms interconnect with the broader sociopolitical contexts in which we live. This stance leads me to write this blog post by drawing on Fanon and Freire, who always studied the dialectical relationships between phenomena. And, I write it from the perspective of an activist scholar, living and working in Chicago, an often-violent city whose culturally and spiritually strong and resilient working-class communities of color are under the devastating attack of neoliberal capitalism—austerity, school and health clinic closings, massive displacement and gentrification, environmental racism, and much more. If my views seem extreme or constrained it may be because the stark polarization and ever-increasing inequalities are front and center for so many of the city’s residents—injustice is everywhere in the air here.

Fanon, a revolutionary and psychiatrist, analyzed the terrible violence of colonialism inflicted upon Algerians during their war of independence from France (and the psychic damage to the French perpetrators as well). He wrote that ground-down, oppressed people sometimes take out their righteous anger on wrong targets and wreak havoc on themselves and their community. This is beyond tragic. Read more

Darold H. Joseph is a member of the Hopi Nation and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Disability and Psychoeducational Studies program at the University of Arizona, with a minor in Language, Reading and Culture. Mr. Joseph is known by his Hopi name Bahusompe (Spider Weaving a New Home) in his village of Moenkopi and also represents the Isswungmuy (Coyote Clan). He has previously served as a Elementary Special Educator and a Junior High and High School Special Education Administrator in the Hopi community. Through his experience Mr. Joseph has learned the relevance and importance in representing underrepresented communities such as Hopi in academic spaces to advocate for research and practice relevant to American Indian communities both in general and special education settings. His current research involves understanding the relationships between indigenous knowledge systems and Western educational paradigms, utilizing the historical lenses of indigenous ways of being and the impacts of colonization to further understand the development of cultural identity of American Indian youth with disabilities.

I am a Hopi community member named Bahusompe (Spider weaving a new home) from the village of Moenkopi on the Hopi reservation. I am a part of a community that shaped much of my cultural schema through hard physical work and a spiritual connection to place. Tending to the cornfields, working with livestock, and participating in ceremonial traditions are part of what makes me a member of my community and shapes my value of giving back to community. My decision to pursue higher education meant learning to negotiate and sacrifice pieces of my cultural schema to navigate the “institution” in order to be “successful” (whatever successful meant) by moving from my rural community to an urban university setting. I completed my dual degree in elementary and special education, partly because my mother was a special education teacher and also because I have a brother who is Deaf/Hard of Hearing. There were many times I had to choose not to return home to help with the cornfields and livestock nor to participate in ceremony, in order to complete my undergraduate program, followed by a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership. I then returned to my community on the Hopi reservation and served as a special education teacher and administrator. Read more

Ananda Marin is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. She earned her Ph.D. in Learning Sciences from the School of Education & Social Policy at Northwestern. She has over a decade of experience working with families and students in community centers, museums, and community colleges. She served as Assistant Dean of Student Services at Harry S. Truman College where she worked closely with the Office of Instruction on classroom redesign projects and retention efforts. At the Chicago Children’s Museum she participated in the exhibit development process and co-facilitated a supplemental reading program with partner schools. Her current research focuses on the intersections between culture, development, orientations to the natural world, and science teaching and learning. In her dissertation she examined the relationship between attention, mobility, and learning about the natural world. She is currently engaged in a collaborative research project between the American Indian Center of Chicago, the Menominee Language and Culture Commission, Northwestern University, and the University of Washington. This community-based design research project aims to create science learning environments based on youth and families’ community practices. As a project member, she has served as a researcher, curriculum designer, and teacher.

Diversity in the sciences is essential if we are to address issues related to the use and distribution of natural resources in innovative and equitable ways. Today, conversations around environmental sustainability, food sovereignty, and climate change are prevalent in many Indigenous communities. For Indigenous peoples meeting the challenges posed by climate change is directly related to participation in the sciences among tribal members and descendants. However, American Indian and Alaska Natives are under-represented in the sciences. Educators and researchers have generated multiple theories to explain this under-representation, including the high rates at which Native students drop out of high school, limited mentorship opportunities, and limited post-baccalaureate funding [i].  While these explanations are informative and point us towards possible solutions, I have come to see success in the sciences through a different framework. Since 2005, I have participated in a community-based design research project. This collaborative project engaged community members and university researchers from the American Indian Center of Chicago, the Menominee Nation, Northwestern University, and the University of Washington in the design of culturally-based science programming. This work has taken a different approach to Indigenous representation in the sciences and asked how epistemologies, or ways of knowing, embedded in instructional environments and materials may impact achievement and ultimately career paths in the sciences among Native students [ii]. Read more

Dr. Verónica Nelly Vélez is an Assistant Professor and the Founding Director of the Education and Social Justice Minor at Western Washington University (WWU). Before joining WWU, Verónica worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and the Director of Public Programming at the Center for Latino Policy Research at UC Berkeley. Her research interests include Critical Race Theory and Latina/o Critical Theory in Education, the politics of parent engagement in educational reform, particularly for Latina/o (im)migrant families, participatory action and community-based models of research, and the use of GIS technologies to further a critical race research agenda on the study of space and educational (in)opportunity. Verónica presents workshops nationally on how to employ GIS critically in educational research and visual literacy projects seeking social and spatial justice. In addition to her scholarly work, Verónica serves as a consultant for several grassroots and non-profit organizations throughout California, building upon her work as a community organizer for over 15 years. She received her Ph.D. in Education from UCLA with a specialization in race and ethnic studies, under the mentorship of Dr. Daniel Solorzano. Verónica is the proud daughter of a Mexican (im)migrant mother and a Panamanian (Im)migrant father, whose journey to provide her and her sister with a quality education fundamentally inspires Verónica’s work for social justice.

When my graduate school advisor encouraged me to take a course in geographic information systems (GIS), I happily obliged.  Although unclear at the time how GIS’ ability to analyze and display data on a map would assist my work as an educational researcher on issues of equity and opportunity, or as a grassroots organizer focused on political advocacy in Latina/o immigrant communities, the thought of building a new, and unexpected, skill set was enough to motivate me to enroll.  Surrounded by my graduate school peers in urban planning, geography, and public policy, I was awe-struck by the high-tech visual spectacle of GIS maps and the possibilities for creatively applying its analytical tools. My peers’ professional interests in using GIS for neighborhood revitalization projects and city planning provided me opportunities to consider GIS as an effective visual tool for communicating data to diverse groups of stakeholders. Not only did GIS make data accessible through maps, it made it easier for targeted audiences to connect with the maps by displaying data in a relative context and in a familiar format, given the accessibility and use of maps in everyday life. GIS thus made possible, at least in theory, the inclusion of voices in key decision-making (e.g., policy or otherwise) that had previously been absent. Yet despite my growing appreciation of GIS as an innovative data visualization and communication tool, I still questioned how its strengths would translate into practice—my work in education.

Fast-forward several months to a planning meeting of a group of Latina immigrant mothers in Los Angeles County. Originating from Mexico and Central America, the mothers had come together organically to raise concerns about their children’s schools and mobilize community-based reform.  Over the course of ten years, they had inserted themselves in school decision-making by joining school site councils and district-level task forces, among other things.  School board elections were around the corner and the mothers were organizing a community forum to bring together elected officials, candidates, and community members to address concerns of educational opportunity and access for the school-aged population living in a particular neighborhood within their school district, comprised mainly of Latina/o and African-American families.  For years as an ally to their efforts, I witnessed the mothers rebuffed at school board meetings when they highlighted the relationship between race, space, and educational opportunity.  At these meetings, they courageously shared example after example of how their own children were denied access to gatekeeper programs and courses (e.g., gifted and talented education programs, courses required for college), if such were even offered in their children’s schools.  Their pleas were written off as anecdotal and unsubstantiated by district officials.  The mothers knew about my “mapping” class and approached me with an idea:  Can maps help us show that race and ethnicity continue to impact the opportunities our children receive in schools?  Given their experiences, the mothers saw potential in GIS.  Despite their own critiques of how data were used at district-level meetings to silence the everyday conditions and practices that marginalized their children, they believed that GIS, with its convincing displays of information, could be re-imagined for legitimatizing their narratives and centering their voices in school decision-making. Read more

Dr. Cecilia Rios-Aguilar is an Associate Professor of Education at the School of Educational Studies. 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 Latina/os, English learners, low-income, and immigrant and second-generation students. Most recently, Dr. Rios-Aguilar and her colleague Dr. Regina Deil-Amen, received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to conduct the first study to assess how community colleges adopt and use social media technology for strategic purposes.


In 2008, William Tate (past president of AERA) used maps to describe the geography of opportunity in two metropolitan regions of the United States that were engaged in efforts to transform their local political economies. His maps helped visualize that urban centers consisted largely of census blocks where residents bachelor’s degree attainment was much lower compared to places where biotechnology centers were strategically located. This finding (combined with other spatial patterns he found) strongly suggested that an uneven geography of opportunity was present in these regions. Tate, then, urged educators and scholars to think more critically about the way geography affects educational and occupational opportunities, particularly those of under-represented students (and their families and communities).

Tate’s findings and logic have extended to various locations and to many different social and educational outcomes.  For example, using census data, scholars have created maps to show that low-performing schools, non-prestigious colleges and universities, and low-income and immigrant families are all concentrated in specific areas usually characterized as “deprived”, “undesirable”, or “not-so-hot” places.

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