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

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We obtained permission to reprint in our blog series a letter written by Rae Paris. The letter was originally published in 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

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

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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

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Lisa Lacy Lisa Marie Lacy was a former Special Education teacher who taught for six years in an urban school district in a large metropolitan area in the southwestern region of the United States. She is currently a doctoral student at Arizona State University in the Curriculum & Instruction-Special Education program. Lisa’s research interests lie in the area of identity and teachers’ beliefs and perceptions as they relate to inclusive education. She is interested in how teachers’ beliefs and perceptions are shaped by their lived experiences and cultural histories and have an impact on how they view students with disabilities in the educational setting. Additionally, she is interested in creating culturally responsive school/family partnerships for the betterment of all students.

I arrived at work in a harried state and frame of mind. I have so much work to do today and a ton of IEP meetings, these words ran through my head as I unlocked the classroom door and instinctively turned on the lights and walked to my desk and retrieved my phone messages. I put my book bag on the floor next to my desk, and checked my emails, one-by-one, quickly glancing at the clock on the wall. 8:45. I sighed, and mumbled come on to the computer as I waited impatiently for all ten pages of my IEP documents to print from my printer. I just had enough time to grab the student’s file and all other paperwork that goes into a student’s file that is going to receive special education services. Read more

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Dr. Urso earned her Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Arizona, her M.S. Ed. in Reading from the State University of New York at Oneonta and her B.S. in Special Education from the College of St. Rose. She has over 20 years’ experience teaching students in K-12 and adult populations in New York State. Dr. Urso has also worked extensively in the southwest training teachers and para-educators to work with students who have learning disabilities on Native American Indian Reservations. She has presented her research at national and international conferences. Dr. Urso believes we need to prepare teachers who are culturally competent and committed to social justice. She also believes our teachers must be highly skilled in effective, culturally responsive assessment, intervention and instructional techniques for children with disabilities. She is actively involved in supporting local school districts in their efforts to support students with learning differences. Currently, Dr. Urso is an Assistant Professor in the Ella Cline Shear School of Education at the State University of New York at Geneseo.

The Road to Intolerance is Paved with Good Intentions

As a parent, a long-time teacher in K-12 schools, and now as a teacher educator, I have taught about diversity, acceptance, and tolerance. I have supported the messages of our civil rights leaders, and highlighted the laws that provide equal access to education and constitutional rights for all our citizens.  I have encouraged my children and students, through example and education, that we are all members of one human race entitled to respect and equal rights. I realize that I have fallen short in my responsibility because I have neglected to teach my children and students how to stand up against intolerance and bigotry when they see it.  I have neglected to provide the time and attention to fully respond to my pre-service teachers’ confrontations with institutional racism and bias in the schools they work in. I would suggest we all have fallen short in our responsibility to help shape an inclusive philosophy in our future generations.  Several recent events have brought this matter to my attention that I wish to share with you. Last fall over the course of one month, five young people took their lives after being cyber-bullied or harassed for issues of sexuality, ethnicity, or gender. Early this year, a student at a public Utah high school attended a pep rally in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe; subsequent investigation into this racist incident revealed it was not an isolated occurrence in the district. Last month, a high school in Birmingham, Alabama held meetings with parents after racist comments were found written on a bathroom wall, a racist note was found in the mailbox of a teacher, and another note was found in a student’s locker.

These are not isolated incidents. Read more

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lisa picLisa Tolentino is a doctoral student pursuing a Media Arts and Sciences PhD through the School of Arts, Media and Engineering (AME) at Arizona State University. She works in the Embodied and Mediated Learning Group, working closely with high school special education teachers, designers, artists and researchers to develop digitally mediated environments to support social interaction, exploration, community and creativity in learning for students with autism.

When I think back to the years when my sister and I were children, I remember a time when I could still fully relate to her. In her youth, she was a lot like me: a very shy and sensitive child who was acutely in tune with the emotions of others. We both experienced complex feelings but lacked the words to express ourselves. We empathized on-demand, giggling uncontrollably at curious coincidences or weeping quietly while adults whispered of serious matters. And we both knew when someone was talking about us.

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Carol ChristineCarol Christine recently retired from her position as Clinical Associate Professor and Associate Division Director in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction in the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education at Arizona State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Language, Reading, and Culture at the University of Arizona in 1997. She worked in teacher education, primarily with faculty in preservice teacher education, from 1997 – 2009 at ASU. She was a founding member and Program Director of The Center for Establishing Dialogue in Teaching and Learning, a not-for-profit organization of teachers and schools, established in the Phoenix area in 1986. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Prospect Center since 1998. This work in Phoenix is described in a forthcoming publication from Teachers College Press, Jenny’s Story: Prospect’s Philosophy in Action by Patricia F. Carini and Margaret Himley — with Carol Christine, Cecilia Espinosa, and Julia Fournier.

Speaking of Children . . .

No matter what class I am teaching, at some time during the term I ask, “What is education for?” because I think the teachers who consider this question will look at the relationship they have with the other participants in the room accordingly. Is the purpose of education to prepare children for the work force or to be good citizens or is education for the personal growth and development of the individual? Or are all these interwoven? I want teachers to be aware of how different perspectives on the purpose of education influence curriculum, the role of teachers in classrooms, and how teaching and learning are assessed.
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