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.
Mei-Ling Malone teaches Education and Criminal Justice courses at Los Angeles Southwest College. She received her masters and doctorate degree from UCLA in Urban Education. Her dissertation, “Over-Incarcerated & Undereducated: The Impact of California’s Prison Proliferation on Los Angeles Urban Schools” examined the role of the prison industry on segregated schools. She is a firm believer in providing education that is accessible, critical, empowering and transformative and believes in the power of the people to work for love, wellness, self-determination and self-liberation.
It’s a Friday morning and you’re feeling positive and looking forward to the weekend as you walk into your staff meeting and settle down next to your favorite coworker. Your boss starts talking when suddenly a group of police officers storm in shouting with dogs. A large dog startles you by jumping onto your lap sniffing. The officers yell at everyone to stand up and leave the room at once. Scared and frazzled you walk outside and watch the intimidating armed officers go through your personal belongings from the window. After making a mess of the staff room and taking your favorite fragrance bottle that was stashed in your bag and a few other personal items from your co-workers, the police leave without apologizing. The whole event feels hostile, degrading and confusing. You also feel violated, disrespected and angry. To add to your growing frustration, your boss pretends like nothing happened and then continues the meeting business as usual. This of course sends you the message that you deserved the police invasion and that it was perfectly normal.
This slightly modified scenario came directly from listening to a student talk about her experiences at an urban high school in South Los Angeles. While the situation I just described was only imaginary for you and would be considered unacceptable, unjust treatment for most, this type of experience is very real and all too common for working class black and Latino youth at school. In fact, this same student also told me about other incidences in which she was treated like a criminal at school. She shared of a time when she and others were pepper sprayed on campus as they walked to class and of another time when police raided her locker. While researching the school-to-prison pipeline I heard these stories and more through my student interviews. Read more
Catherine Kramarczuk Voulgarides is a Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology of Education program at New York University (NYU). She was a graduate assistant at the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at NYU under the leadership of Dr. Pedro Noguera. She now works at the Technical Assistance Center on Disproportionality in Special Education at the center. Before joining the Metro center, she worked for the AmeriCorps Vista project in Phoenix, Arizona, coordinating and developing ESL programs for recent immigrant parents in the Phoenix school system. She holds a BA in economics and is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She also holds a MST in Special Education from Pace University in New York City and taught middle school special education for several years in Washington Heights NYC. Her research interests are centered on the intersection between the impact of federal disability legislation and the persistence of racial and ethnic disproportionality. More specifically she is interested in understanding the complexities associated with a policy’s origins, its intent and mediation in practice as it responds to local context, especially when a disparate impact is identified.
It was a typical school day in my research and I was observing an in school suspension room when an African American boy, about seventeen years old, entered and immediately sat at a desk and began writing. The teacher in the room appeared to know him well and asked him what he was working on. The boy said he was writing about what he would say if he became valedictorian. The teacher, seemingly intrigued, asked him to explain his thoughts. “I want to go to college. I mean I only have three options: college, jail or the army. It’s true, you can ask anyone. These are our only options. You would be surprised by how many kids would say the same. This school is nasty like that.”
Upon closer inspection of the student’s assignment the teacher realized he was working on an essay for the online credit recovery program designed for suspended students. With the realization the teacher said, “You better get that work done because people are calling the online program a criminal program!” The boy quickly responded with, “I’m not a criminal.” The teacher continued, “Well, people think the program is harboring criminals.” “I ain’t no criminal!” the boy interrupted. He then returned to his assignment visibly distraught.
Why did he only see three options for himself and his peers: college, jail or the army? And why was he defending himself against the perception that he was a potential criminal? More broadly, what messages are we intentionally or unintentionally telling students about their worth in school and how do these messages intersect with school discipline structures? Read more
Wayne E. Wright, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he directs the Teaching English as a Second Language Program and teaches courses related to ELL teaching, literacy, assessment, policy, and research. A former bilingual, ESL, and SEI teacher in southern California, Wright received his PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Arizona State University in 2004. His dissertation on the intersection of federal and state policies for ELLs in Arizona was awarded 1st place in the Outstanding Dissertation competition of the National Association for Bilingual Education. Wright is author of the widely used textbook Foundations for Teaching English Language Learners: Research, Theory, Policy, and Practice (Caslon, 2010) and numerous published articles in leading academic journals and books on policy and practices in language minority education. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Handbook of Bilingual and Multilingual Education (Wiley-Blackwell).
March 29, 2013 was a disappointing day for those who care about the education of English language learners (ELLs). Judge Collins of the Federal District Court for the District of Arizona issued a new ruling in the case Flores v. Arizona—a 21-year old lawsuit originally filed in 1992. This new decision overturned (vacated) the Court’s January 2000 ruling that the State’s programs for ELLs were a violation of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) because funding of ELL programs was “arbitrary and capricious,” and inadequate to address students’ needs. While the case is specific to Arizona, the implications are nationwide.
Despite this recent defeat, great credit is due to attorney Timothy M. Hogan, Executive Director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. For over 2 decades Hogan and the Flores decision have been a thorn in the side of the Arizona legislature and Department of Education, forcing policymakers to acknowledge and address the needs of ELLs. The original decision led to the Flores Consent Decree in August 2000 in which the state outlined concrete steps to address issues of ELL program inadequacy and monitoring. It also led to some increases in state funding for ELLs, though never to an acceptable level.
María C. Ledesma is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy at the University of Utah’s College of Education. A first generation college student, Dr. Ledesma earned her Ph.D. in education from the University of California, Los Angeles. As a doctoral student Dr. Ledesma was selected to sit as the 32nd Student Regent for the University of California, the first Latina to hold this post. She has previous experience as an undergraduate admissions reader for her undergraduate alma mater, UC Berkeley, and sat as the graduate student representative for the University of California’s faculty senate committee on undergraduate admissions—The Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools. Her research interests include critical policy analysis; examining the intersections of diversity, discourse, and doctrine through the analysis of legal texts; and contextualizing and historicizing affirmative action.
Kate T. Anderson is an Assistant Professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. After receiving her PhD in Sociolinguistics at The University of Georgia, Dr. Anderson worked at the Learning Sciences Lab at Singapore’s National Institute of Education where she was PI on a 3-year study designing and facilitating digital storytelling workshops for youth in- and out-of-school who were marginalized by the educational system. Her research draws from discourse analysis, ethnography, and other qualitative methods to examine the role of ideologies in constructing everyday notions of social difference with regard to ability, race, language learning, and other social categories and labels.
Ideologies–the taken-for-granted beliefs about how things supposedly are (e.g., Woolard & Schieffelin, 1984)–often form the basis of judgments about others. Consider what counts as ability and how we measure it, or who is seen to speak “good” English and what we imagine them to look and sound like. From ways of talking to behavior in the classroom, value-laden assumptions come to bear on how we see and label others. In fact, these cultural assumptions and beliefs can seem more real than what people actually do or say. In my research I’ve looked at how ideologies about language and learning shape notions of what counts in specific educational contexts and to consider how it got to be that way. One way to understand how we label types of learners or speakers and what those labels mean in a given sociocultural context is to focus on particulars, or stories, in our research. To help ground this point, I’ll first share a bit about my own research and then discuss the role of stories-as-evidence in educational research concerned with equity. Read more