Discussions

I write as an advocate for an equitable and high quality mathematics education for all students, in particular Latinx students as well as students from other non-dominant populations. My remarks represent my own professional experience as a mathematics instructor at the university level and as a researcher in mathematics education for over 25 years. My career in mathematics education began when, after receiving a B.S. in Physics, I taught Algebra courses as a lecturer in the Mathematics Department at San Francisco State University. I received my Ph.D. in mathematics education in 1992 and have been conducting research in classrooms since then. I have been involved in mathematics education at many levels: I have served as a member of the editorial panel for the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education and as the Chair of the AERA Special Interest Group for Research in mathematics Education (2004-2006). I am the author of many research articles and chapters in edited books. I teach a course that introduces future secondary mathematics teachers to evidence-based research in mathematics education and courses for Ph.D. students in mathematics education. My research for the past 30 years has focused on the study of the relationship between language and learning mathematics, especially for Latinx students who are learning English. I am originally from Argentina and my first language is Spanish.

Blog Topic: English Language Learners in STEM

Recommendations for Equitable Mathematics Teaching Practices for English Language Learners

  1. Introduction

English learners (ELs) are currently about five million students in the U.S. If we want these students to have access to equitable math instruction, we need to first move past deficit views of those learners and contradict common sense notions of what they need. Research suggests that EL instruction that supports student achievement has two characteristics: a view of language as a resource, not a deficiency; and an emphasis on academic achievement, not only learning English (Gándara & Contreras, 2009). Overall, research shows that students from non-dominant communities need access to curricula, instruction, and teachers effective in supporting academic success for this student population. General characteristics of such environments are that instruction provide “abundant and diverse opportunities for speaking, listening, reading, and writing” and “encourage students to take risks, construct meaning, and seek reinterpretations of knowledge within compatible social contexts” (Garcia & Gonzalez, 1995, p. 424). Teachers with documented success with students from non-dominant communities share some characteristics: a) high commitment to students’ academic success, b) high expectations for all students, and c) a rejection of models of their students as intellectually disadvantaged[1].

Research specific to mathematics (Moschkovich, 2012, 2013a, 2013b) suggests that mathematics instruction for ELs should:

  • Support English learners’ participation in mathematical discussions as they learn English (Moschkovich 1999, 2002, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c).
  • Focus on mathematical practices such as reasoning and justifying, not accuracy in using individual words, and address much more than vocabulary.
  • Treat home and everyday language as resources, not deficits. Draw on multiple resources available in classrooms—objects, drawings, graphs, gestures—as well as home languages and experiences outside of school (Moschkovich, 2000, 2014a, 2014b).

These recommendations are based on research that runs counter to commonsense notions of what it means to learn math and deficit views of students who are learning English. Read more

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Carrie Sampson is an assistant professor in the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University. Her research focuses on educational leadership, policy, and equity from three interrelated perspectives – democracy, community advocacy, and politics. Drawing from a range of critical theories and employing mostly qualitative methods, Dr. Sampson’s published work includes peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and policy reports on school boards, school desegregation, English learners, and community organizing in education.

Blog Topic: Schoolboard leadership and issues of equity

In School Boards We Trust? The Potential for Educational Equity in Public Education

School boards are the epitome of local U.S. politics. With more than 90,000 members governing nearly 13,000 school districts, school boards represent millions of constituents. In many ways, we entrust these policymakers with our children’s education. Yet, the question remains: Should we trust that school board members have the best interest of all children at heart?

Daily stories abound of controversies related to school boards. In Clark County, public debates lasted all night over the boards’ deliberations over revamping sex education. Making national news, students chained themselves to the dais amidst the board’s deliberations to eliminate Mexican American Studies in Tucson while one board member was featured on the Daily Show making inaccurate and discriminatory remarks about the program. In Salt Lake City, the only board member of color showed up to the board meeting dressed as “Frito Bandito” (a cartoon character depicting a stereotype of Mexicans as thieves) in response to presumed racial discrimination. School board meeting attendees in South Carolina started singing “Jesus Loves Me” to silence advocates of transgender bathrooms, which translates to a villanization of transgender students. These are just a few of the existing examples.

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At Montclair State University, Picower is the founder and Co-director of the Newark Teacher Project and the Faculty Lead for the Newark Montclair Urban Teacher Residency Program.  Through these nationally recognized programs, she works to prepare critically conscious and racially literate new teachers for urban schools.  She also co-coordinates the Critical Urban Education Speaker Series which brings nationally recognized leading scholars to MSU to share their research in ways that informs the practice of our local community. 

Blog topic: Teaching for social change: What does the research evidence show? 

Can we get you there from here? Political clarity in the teacher education admissions process

Allysa sat across from me, nervously twisting her curled hair as she introduced herself.  It was clear she had put time into her appearance for this admission interview for the elementary teacher education program at my institution.  As a faculty member, I regularly interview nice, young, predominately White women who dream of becoming teachers. When I asked her why she wanted to be a teacher, I could almost predict her response.  Her mother/sister/aunt/cousin had been a teacher.  She lined up her dolls as a child and played school.  She just loves children…

Answers to this question provide a window into aspiring teachers’ philosophy of education.  Responses such as Alyssa’s may point to a lack of a broader analysis of the political nature of education because teaching is framed as an individual act in which she is the one receiving the benefit.  In contrast, equity-minded educators often respond by naming the role they want to play in providing all children a quality education or ensuring equal educational opportunities, particularly, for students of Color or children underserved by schools.  Without this broader political analysis, teachers can uphold inequality because they are unaware of the issues of social justice at play within the context of schooling (Freire, 2018).

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Mildred Boveda is an assistant professor of special education and cultural and linguistic diversity at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. In her scholarship, she uses the term “intersectional competence” to describe teachers understanding of diversity and how students, families, and colleagues have multiple sociocultural markers that intersect in complex and nuanced ways. She designed the Intersectional Competence Measure to assess teachers’ preparedness for an increasingly diverse student population. Her research focuses on establishing the theoretical and empirical evidence of validity of the intersectional competence construct. Drawing from Black feminist theory and collaborative teacher education research, she interrogates how differences are framed across education communities to influence education policy and practice. Professor Boveda started her career as a special education teacher in Miami Dade County Public Schools. She engages in various professional activities that allow her to examine the research, practice, and policies involved with educating students with diverse needs. She is currently immediate past president of the Division for Diverse and Exceptional Learners of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and the chair of the Diversity Caucus for the Teacher Education Division of CEC.

Blog topic: The sociocultural construction of “problem” behavior: Understanding adult interpretations and reactions to children’s behaviors

“Have You Talked to Him?” Interrogating Adults’ Reactions to Children

I distinctly remember coming across Joaquin’s Dilemma, by Pedro Noguera, when I was a special education teacher in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. I was struck by the title of his analysis of the racialization of school-related behaviors. It was the first time I read an academic who wrote so candidly about being a father. Joaquin was Noguera’s teenaged son. A few years later, as part of a doctoral seminar, I read Beth Harry’s memoir, Melanie, Bird with a Broken Wing: A Mother’s Story. With utmost vulnerability, Harry revisited the years she advocated for her daughter while making sense of mothering a child with cerebral palsy.

I was a mother of two elementary school students when I first learned of these education researchers who, like me, are of Caribbean ancestry. It left an indelible impression to read the connections they made between their commitment to broadening access to high-quality education for all students and their embodied experiences as parents of minoritized children.

In my scholarship, I have included autoethnographic tracings—even referencing my parents’ and grandparents’ childhoods—to situate my philosophical orientations to equity research and education. This blog, however, is the first time I write about my children’s schooling. When I learned of the Spring 2019 theme, “Understanding adult interpretations and reactions to children’s behaviors,” I reflected on my family’s recent transition from South Florida to Arizona. Read more

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Dr. Valerie N. Adams-Bass is an Assistant Professor of Youth and Social Innovation in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. A developmental psychologist, she holds a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development from University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Education in Urban Education from Temple University. Dr. Adams-Bass’ expertise is in racial/ethnic socialization and racial identity processes of Black adolescents. She is most interested in examining how racial/ethnic socialization experiences are related to media exposure, inter-personal interactions and the social and academic experiences of Black children and youth. Dr. Adams-Bass has regularly trained youth development professionals to use culturally relevant practices when working with African American children, youth and families. Each spring she teaches an undergraduate course on Black media images and African-American adolescent identity. Dr. Adams-Bass has lived and taught in Namibia as a Volunteer Teacher for Africa and served as a Rotary Ambassador Scholar in South Africa where she participated in a community based research project with South African youth that resulted in a book of short stories, Food for the Ear, published in both English and isiZulu. She recently co-authored Hardly ever, I don’t see it: Black youth speak about positive media Images of Black men in Media Across the African Diaspora Content Audiences and Global Influences and is co-PI of a recently awarded grant to investigate shifting identities titled, The Changing Face of Race: New Black Immigrants in American Public Schools. She is an affiliate faculty member of the Racial Empowerment Collaborative at the University of Pennsylvania, the Samuel Dubois Center on Social Equity at Duke University, the Center for Race and Public Education in the South and the Youth-Nex Center to Promote Effective Youth Development at University of Virginia.

Riana Elyse Anderson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. She received her PhD in Clinical and Community Psychology at the University of Virginia and completed a Clinical and Community Psychology Doctoral Internship at Yale University’s School of Medicine. She also completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Applied Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania supported by the Ford and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations. Before joining the University of Michigan, she was an Assistant Professor in Preventive Medicine and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California. She uses mixed methods in clinical interventions to study racial discrimination and socialization in Black families to reduce racial stress and trauma and improve psychological well-being and family functioning. She investigates how protective familial mechanisms such as parenting and racial socialization operate in the face of risks linked to poverty, discrimination, and residential environment. Dr. Anderson is particularly interested in how these factors predict familial functioning and subsequent child psychosocial outcomes, especially when enrolled in family-based interventions. She has recently developed a five-session intervention entitled EMBRace (Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race) to alleviate racial stress and trauma in parents and adolescents in order to facilitate healthy parent-child relationships, parent and adolescent psychological well-being, and healthy coping strategies.

Blog Topic: Racial socialization and child development: Opportunities and challenges

More than Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmetic, Racial Socialization for Black Children

Outside of home, schools are typically the place children spend most of their time. School should be a place full of lively learning and discovery! But what if it’s not? Imagine, the following scenario.

While attending a family reunion this summer, I was approached by a bright, beautiful, young cousin who was interested in befriending me. I cut to the chase – what did she like about school? She told me math. Okay, what don’t you like about school?

Having not met her before, I was surprised at how forthright she was with the area of research I just happen to conduct.

“Well, my teacher is racist, so I’m not looking forward to having her next year.”

Why do you consider her to be racist, I inquired? My cousin explained that her teacher constantly skipped over the Black students to select the White students to answer questions.

My cousin is only 10 years old.

Research indicates that pre-kindergarten has the highest rate of expulsion for Black children[i], in comparison to their non-Black peer groups, and that teachers express and engage in racially biased practices against Black students in schools across the country[ii]. Many White educators maintain a colorblind perspective that people are the same and that they do not see race[iii]; teaching from the perspective that all children have the same opportunities and that they treat all of their students equally. A color-blind approach may shield practitioners’ ability to see disproportionate rates of racially-biased discipline or opportunities within their own classrooms to connect with students. For some teachers, it is an unconscious bias. Dr. Renee Navarro defines unconscious bias as “social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.” Students are keenly aware and observant of bias. Managing rejection is difficult, some students withdraw from classroom participation as a strategy for managing teacher racial bias.

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Dr. Catherine Bradshaw, Ph.D., M.Ed. (top right) is a Professor and the Senior Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Prior to her current appointment at U.Va., she was an Associate Professor and the Associate Chair of the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she maintains an adjunct faculty position and continues to co-direct two research centers. She holds a doctorate in developmental psychology from Cornell University and a Master’s of Education in counseling and guidance from the University of Georgia. Her primary research interests focus on the development of aggressive behavior and school-based prevention. She collaborates on research projects examining bullying and school climate; the development of aggressive and problem behaviors; effects of exposure to violence, peer victimization, and environmental stress on children; health disparities and disproportionality; children with emotional and behavioral disorders; and the design, evaluation, and implementation of evidence-based prevention programs in schools. She has led a number of federally funded randomized trials of school-based prevention programs, including Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and social-emotional learning curricula. She also has expertise in implementation science and coaching models. Dr. Bradshaw works with the Maryland State Department of Education and several school districts to support the development and implementation of programs and policies to prevent bullying and school violence, and to foster safe and supportive learning environments. She collaborates on federally-funded research grants supported by the NIMH, NIDA, CDC, NIJ, U.S. Department of Education, and the Institute of Education Sciences. She has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles and over 30 chapters in edited volumes. She was previously the Associate Editor for the Journal of Research on Adolescence and is currently the editor of Prevention Science. She is a coeditor of the Handbook of School Mental Health (2014) and the editor of Handbook on Bullying: A Life Course Perspective (2017). She is currently working on two other practitioner focused books – one focused on bullying and social-emotional learning, and the other focused on culturally-responsive behavior management practices.

Katrina Debnam, (bottom right) holds an joint faculty appointment in the Curry School of Education and the School of Nursing at UVA. She is a SON Roberts Scholar who studies youth violence prevention, health disparities, and school climate. As a researcher and scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health for over 13 years, she honed an interest in both a qualitative and quantitative approach to programs combatting adolescent dating abuse, adolescent violence prevention, school climate initiatives, health disparities, and faith-based programs that aim to improve young people’s lives. Debnam – who earned a psychology degree from Morgan State, an MPH from UNC Chapel Hill, and a PhD from the University of Maryland – is on the editorial board of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, a member of the Society for Prevention Research, and reviews manuscripts for a host of journals, including Prevention ScienceYouth & Society, and the Journal of Research on Adolescence. A member of the Maryland team that led the training and evaluation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in more than 800 public schools, she teaches a new course on mixed methods research to both nursing and education students.

More Guns Are Not the Solution: Arming Teachers with Tools for Prevention and Equity  

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018 may be viewed as a watershed moment in our history, similar to Columbine in April 1999. Following both tragedies, the nation was at odds about how to prevent such shootings from happening again in the future. How do we solve America’s gun problem in schools? Despite a surge of research supporting positive and prevention-focused school discipline alternatives following Columbine, many schools and districts nonetheless doubled down on zero tolerance discipline.

The zero tolerance discipline paradigm, which took hold in the early 1990s, has been tied to an unprecedented spike in the use of exclusionary punishments (i.e., suspensions and expulsions). These harsh discipline measures were found to be ineffective by an American Psychological Association Task Force, which noted that out-of-school suspensions lead to lost instructional time and increased risk of school drop-out and involvement in the juvenile justice system – a destructive trajectory referred to as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Notably, racial disparities in schools’ most draconian discipline practices have increased under zero tolerance, contributing to growing educational inequities experienced by Black youth.

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Dr. Nolan Cabrera is a nationally-recognized expert in the areas of racism/anti-racism on college campuses, Whiteness, and ethnic studies. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, and was the only academic featured in the MTV documentary White People. His new book, White Guys on Campus, is a deep exploration of White male racism, and occasional anti-racism, on college campuses – a text Jeff Chang (author of We Gon’ Be Alright) described as “A timely, provocative, even hopeful book.” Additionally, Dr. Cabrera was an expert witness in the Tucson Unified Mexican American Studies case (Arce v. Douglas), which is the highest-profile ethnic studies case in the country’s history.  He has given hundreds of lectures, keynote addresses, and trainings, throughout the country on challenging racism/Whiteness, working through unconscious bias, creating inclusive college campuses, and the expansion of ethnic studies programs. Dr. Cabrera is an award-winning scholar whose numerous publications have appeared in some of the most prestigious journals in the fields of education and racial studies. He completed his graduate work at UCLA in Higher Education & Organizational Change and Dr. Cabrera earned his BA from Stanford University in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (Education focus). He is a former Director of a Boys & Girls Club in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is originally from McMinnville, Oregon.

Reinforcing Racism: Color-Blind Curricula in Higher Education

            I was asked to write this blog post on the “new racism” of color-blind curricula in higher education. “New racism,” means the way that overt expressions of racial animus have frequently been driven underground even though the underlying structure of White supremacy remains (Cabrera, 2019).  I agreed to write this post, but I also slightly reframed the discussion. Instead of color-blind, monocultural, Euro-centric curricula[1] being “new,” they are the historical norm and critiquing this educational approach was central to the formation of Ethnic Studies.[2] Therefore, I instead use reinforcing racism, as monocultural curricula are nothing new and, in fact, are common and normal. In his classic text, A Different Mirror[3] (1993), former UC Berkeley history and Ethnic Studies professor Ronald Takai specifically addressed this issue and its effects:

What happens, to borrow the words of Adrienne Rich, ‘‘when someone with the authority of a teacher’’ describes our society, and ‘‘you are not in it’’? Such an experience can be disorienting—‘‘a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing.’’ (p. 16)

As Takaki illustrates, curricular decisions are value-laden. They send messages about whose perspectives hold value and whose do not, implicitly telling Students of Color that their communities are not knowledge producers.  This approach has the opposite effect on White students. When the bulk of authors presented are White, it reinforces the social illusion that White authors and analyses are superior, creating what Gusa (2010) refers to as “White ascendancy.” This is especially pronounced among White male undergraduates who frequently interpret a lack of racial engagement in their specific disciplines to mean that race is “someone else’s problem” (Cabrera, 2019). Thus, it is critically important to center racial inequality in the higher education curriculum, but it begs a larger question: Who will teach these classes? Read more

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Christopher Redding is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education at the University of Florida. He earned his doctorate in Leadership and Policy Studies from Vanderbilt University. He conducts rigorous research using survey and administrative data that focuses on the policies and educator labor market patterns that exacerbate the unequal distribution of high quality teachers and the reforms intended to reduce this problem. Broadly, this research describes failures in the teacher labor market that impede the learning opportunities for underserved students and the ways in which changes in teacher education, development, and leadership opportunities can lead to better teacher retention and student outcomes, particularly in underserved schools.

 How Should Schools Screen for Giftedness? Cultural Considerations in the Identification of Gifted Students

The basis for gifted and talented programs is the somewhat innocuous notion that a subset of children are capable of high levels of performance and may benefit from educational services outside a traditional classroom setting. A critical first step in meeting the educational needs of such children is screening, followed by the formal identification of those that have the potential to thrive with additional academic supports. In most districts, students can be identified as gifted in five areas: general intellectual ability, specific academic ability, visual and performing arts, and leadership. Yet, intellectual ability, often measured by IQ tests, has long been the predominant factor in determining placement in gifted and talented programs.

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Susan V. Iverson is a Professor of Higher Education Leadership at Manhattanville College. Dr. Iverson has held several faculty and administrative positions at various colleges and universities, including as tenured faculty at Kent State University for 10 years where she was also an affiliated faculty member with both the Women’s Studies and LGBT Studies Programs. Iverson earned her doctorate in higher educational leadership, with a concentration in women’s studies, from the University of Maine, where she also served as adjunct faculty in both Higher Educational Leadership and Women’s Studies; and worked as Associate Director of Safe Campus Project, a federally grant-funded initiative to address interpersonal violence on campus. Prior to becoming faculty, Iverson worked in student affairs administration for more than ten years in Massachusetts and Virginia. Iverson’s research interests include: equity and diversity, status of women in higher education, feminist pedagogy, and the role of policy (e.g., sexual violence) in shaping perceptions and culture. She has two co-edited volumes: Feminist community engagement: Achieving praxis (Palgrave, 2014) and Reconstructing policy analysis in higher education: Feminist poststructural perspectives (Routledge 2010).

Shifting our Thinking About Sexual Violence: Focus on Perpetration

The #MeToo movement has brought attention to the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault in workplaces like the entertainment industry, government and health care, as well as our schools (White, 2017). Yet, sexual harassment doesn’t just suddenly happen. Rather, these negative behaviors are modeled throughout today’s society. Sexual violence, which I use as an umbrella term inclusive of rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, among other forms of sexual harassment (Henry, n.d.), has its roots in our gendered society. Gendered messages are not necessarily the issue; what’s problematic are the value judgments that convey differential worth to the voices and actions of boys and girls (Johnson, 2006). This is most blatantly evident in the gender wage gap that continues to pay men (on average) more than women for the same work. Read more

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Loretta (Lucky) Mason-Williams is an associate professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning, & Educational Leadership at Binghamton University. Her research focuses on the challenges and complexities of teacher shortages, especially as it relates to students with disabilities. She’s currently engaged in multiple projects examining how shortages may be directly and indirectly influenced by state and local policies, by working conditions, and by the changing role of special educators. She primarily uses critical quantitative methodologies in her work, employing the power of large datasets to unpack questions and to better understand structural inequities. 

Help Wanted: Considering the Impact of Less Than Qualified Educators

Last month, I encouraged an administrator to hire an unqualified, ill-prepared candidate for a position as a special educator for students with severe learning and behavioral needs. As a teacher educator in special education, I had written numerous letters of recommendations and fielded calls from many of the local schools several months before during the spring hiring rush, so I knew all of my fully prepared, novice special educators had already accepted positions. Most elected to work in the more affluent parts of our community—schools with lower rates of school poverty and less diverse student bodies. And most of them wanted to work in “inclusive” settings—where students with disabilities would be taught alongside their non-disabled peers. Now, I had on the phone a desperate administrator looking to fill a position in a more segregated setting solely for students with disabilities. I hoped the candidate would accept the position, despite knowing she would be frustrated by her lack of preparation. I recognized that her frustration would likely lead her to leave that classroom as soon as something else came up, adding to the “revolving door” found among hard-to-staff schools. But I also knew she was likely the best applicant, if not the only applicant. At least this candidate had a degree in elementary education and planned to begin coursework in special education at my university in a few weeks. Read more

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