Dr. Carole Cobb is an accomplished curriculum designer, program developer, and coalition builder with over thirty combined years of successful teaching and administrative experiences as a public school educator, university professor, and education consultant. She is the Executive Director of Sankofa Education Alliance, a non-profit training and consulting company, whose mission is “creating healthy learning and living environments for children to excel, families to thrive, and communities to flourish”. Recently, Dr. Cobb served for four years in the Los Angeles Unified School District as its K-12 District Coordinator concentrating her efforts on eliminating educational disparities for Standard English Learners (SELs) and providing professional learning opportunities for administrators, teachers, support staff, and parents in cultural responsive educational practices to ensure equitable access to quality education for these historically underserved students.
Standard English Learners Defined
Standard English Learners (SELs) represent a population of students whose ancestral or home languages reflect unique cultural and linguistic histories other than English, and differ in structure and form from the language of school [i.e. mainstream standard American or academic English]. Their languages incorporate English vocabulary while embodying phonology, grammar, and sentence structure rules transitioned from various indigenous languages including African languages, Native American languages, Hawaiian languages, and Latin American Spanish. These languages relexify English vocabulary into their respective ancestral linguistic structure; however, because their primary language is now English, they are classified as English Only. Subsequently, these “language and linguistically-different” students do not receive the instructional support they need to become proficient in school language or mainstream Standard American English. Historically marginalized, Standard English Learners have been academically underserved in both K-12 and post-secondary educational settings.
David Isaac Hernandez-Saca is a third year doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Special Education Leadership for School-Wide Equity and Access at Arizona State University. His bachelor of arts (BA) and master of arts (MA) in education degrees are from the University of California, at Berkeley. His undergraduate major was in race-relations in U.S. history and a minor in education with a concentration in equity and participatory research. His MA in education was in the field of language, literacy, culture, and society studies (LLCS). During his MA program of study he focused on problematizing the construct of Learning Disabilities (LD). Before receiving his MA he had the privilege of working at an independent private school in northern California for students who were labeled with Learning Disabilities, Emotional Behavioral Disorders, and Autism in the public school system. He provided educational programs from homeschooling to individualized instruction. He was there for 2 years and was both an interim director and multi-subject teacher for grades 8-12. Hernandez-Saca’s current research interests include the emotional and social impact of learning disability (LD) identification on identity and human development as it relates to equity issues in (special) education and current movements for inclusive education. Although he is interested in historically marginalized and culturally and linguistically diverse students an emerging population of interest is Latino(a) students with learning disabilities.
I remember the first day I arrived at Manzanita School in the Bay Area. What immediately stood out to me was the small “one-room schoolhouse” feel that made me feel like I was stepping into an early 20th century schoolhouse rather than a present day alternative school in a bustling area. I entered the school greeted by the starkness of a classroom adorned with white walls and white curtains hanging on both sides of the two windows in this one room. Eight tables with two chairs each sat in neat rows forming an aisle down the middle of the room, ending at the headmaster’s desk. Little did I know that that headmaster’s desk would be mine for nearly two years after I entered that summer morning.
Timothy San Pedro is a PhD Candidate in English Education at Arizona State University, where he has conducted three years of ethnographic research in a Native American Literature classroom in a state that has banned ethnic studies programs in public schools. He taught Alaska Native High School students for the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. He is a Ford Fellow; a Gates Millennium Scholar, mentor, and regional director; and a Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color Fellow. San Pedro’s research interests include Native American Urban Education and socio-culturally sustaining pedagogies.
As I enter the Native American Literature classroom that I am conducting research in, I see many faces, hear many stories, and engage in many conversations. On this particular day, I overhear a conversation Eileen has with another classmate. She says to her friend: “If you cut us in half and put us together, you’d have two complete people.” Eileen is referring to her and her friend’s ethnic makeup; they are both half Navajo and half African American.
Although a joke between two friends, I know what it feels like to want to be fully something, rather than on the margins of two or more cultural or ethnic identities. I want to reach out to both of them at this point and say, “It can get quite confusing. Take me, for example. I’m half Filipino, half Caucasian, yet I grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Since my family left my father, I have had zero contact with my Filipino culture and have been embraced by the Native American community around me. Where does that leave me? Who does that make me? Where do I fit, if anywhere?” Those conversations centered on identity may come later with Eileen. For now, I just give them a smile.
As the Director of the Equity Alliance at ASU, JoEtta designs and delivers individualized, comprehensive, and systemic support for school districts in the form of leadership training, collaboration, coaching and capacity building. With a blend of humor, sensitivity, and professional insight, she uses her passion and first-hand experience to help individuals develop and use an equity lens for decision-making related to student achievement. A talented speaker and workshop leader, she has worked with school systems across the United States in addressing issues of equity.
Dear School District,
Sending my daughter off to school for the first time will be a bittersweet experience. I should be good at this by now, right? I’ve seen her off to kindergarten, middle school, high school – heck, I’ve even had the opportunity to walk her to her first class when she started her studies at the university. Each time she started school she came home more intelligent, spirited, and slightly saucier.
And yet, sending her off to work in your district as a teacher leaves me compelled to share a few things with you. I want you to know who she is and understand the kind of teacher she wants to be.
Kori Hamilton is a writer and editor for the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY). She has a love and passion for children, particularly those typically marginalized. Her desire to improve the experiences that children have in school led her to pursue her doctorate in Education Leadership and Policy Studies at Arizona State University. Her hope is that her work in education has meaning and directly touches the lives of children.
Working as a secondary teacher in South Central Los Angeles brought some of the best times in my life. I gained a perspective from students that dispelled my assumptions about their thoughts and feelings. I remember when I first set foot on the middle school campus, fresh out of college and excited to begin my work in the classroom, I encountered a question that I had not anticipated. At least one student would ask daily for the first week, “Are you our real teacher?” I would answer their question with a question. “Whose name do you see written on your schedule?” “Hamilton”, they would respond. “I am Hamilton. And yes, I am your real teacher.” Read more
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
Dr. Anne Hynds is a Pākeha Researcher / Senior Lecturer in the School of Educational Psychology and Pedagogy, Faculty of Education at Victoria University of Wellington. She is also a Research Associate for the Jessie Herrington Research Centre at the Faculty of Education. As a teacher, Anne taught in primary, intermediate and secondary school settings, and in mainstream and Deaf education. Anne has a real interest in collaborative research / action research methodologies and has worked in a number of bi-cultural evaluation projects including the National Evaluation of Te Kotahitanga; the coordination of the Quality Teaching Research and Development in Practice Project (QTR&D) and the National Evaluation of Te Kauhua: Maori in the mainstream pilot project.
What is teacher collaboration really?
There are different terms associated with teacher collaboration, including collegiality, professional learning communities, and partnership work to name but a few. It is important to draw distinctions between teacher congeniality and collegiality. Congeniality refers to the comfortableness of teachers’ social relationships, while collegiality refers to the quality and impact of professional relationships and shared responsibility for change across classrooms through collaboration.
In culturally responsive schooling contexts, teacher collaboration must extend beyond the staff-room door, because the development of culturally responsive practices requires teachers to form reciprocal learning relationships with diverse groups of students and their parent/caregiver communities. Friend and Cook (1992) state that “…collaboration is a style of direct interaction between at least two co-equal parties voluntarily engaged in shared decision making as they work toward a common goal” (p. 5). Teacher collaboration implies collective responsibility for improving all student outcomes within culturally responsive and inclusive environments. This means challenging deficit thinking and low expectations within classrooms and schools that prevent all students from realizing their full potential. Read more
Paul C. Gorski is an assistant professor in New Century College, George Mason University. Gorski’s work and passion is social justice activism. His areas of scholarly focus include anti-poverty activism and education, critical race theory and anti-racism education, and critical theories pertaining to women’s rights, LGBT rights, labor rights, immigrant rights, and anti-imperialism. Gorski is an active consultant and speaker, working with community and educational organizations around the world—such as in Colombia, Australia, India, and Mexico—on equity and social justice concerns. Gorski founded EdChange, a coalition of educators and activists who develop free social justice resources for educators and activists.
In my view, the challenge of educational inequity is not, as many assume, that too few people care about creating learning environments that work for all students. The challenge, despite an overwhelming desire among most teachers and administrators to serve the needs of all students, is that we generally have very little understanding of the depth and complexity of the problem.
Consider, for example, the monster we commonly refer to as the “achievement gap”. I use this example because a vast majority of education equity attention today is focused on this “gap” as measured in standardized test score comparisons. Over many decades, even before today’s term for it was coined, school leaders have attempted myriad strategies for redressing “achievement gaps” among and between students across race, language, class, and other identities. But we’ve made so little progress. Why?
Zeus Leonardo is an Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Studies in Education at University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Leonardo’s work is guided by an attempt to capture “the real experiences of race, both by whites and people of color.” He argues that whiteness has not been historically marked by a certain sense of rigidity, but instead, has the ability to flex, change, and morph in order to ensure its survival. Moreover, Dr. Leonardo argues, the construct of whiteness continues to shape global cultural identities even as it fragments our total understanding of race. By embracing a new, if not uncomfortable understanding of race and race relations, Dr. Leonardo believes that a more genuine sense of multiculturalism can be fostered.
Since the late 1980s, education has witnessed the creation of a new subfield of study called “Whiteness Studies.” Since the arrival of Peggy McIntosh’s (1989) essay on white privilege, David Roediger’s (1991) documentation of the history of the white working class in the U.S., and Ruth Frankenberg’s (1993) interviews showcasing white women’s vacillation between evading and recognizing race, a veritable explosion of writings centering whiteness gives educators a new arsenal for analyzing schooling. Overall, the innovation of Whiteness Studies has helped educators focus on the contours of racial privilege, or the other side of the race question that has long been neglected. Rather than the usual, “What does it mean to be a person of color?” it asks, “What does it mean to be White in U.S. society?” Traditionally, race analysis focused on the experiences and developments of communities of color, their struggles with racism, and hopes of one day ending it. In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois (1904/1989) posed the question to African Americans: “How does it feel to be a problem?” Partly ironic in the sense that African Americans were on the receiving end of racism, the question was nonetheless profound in extrapolating what life is like when you are perceived to be a problem within the audacious assumptions of American democracy. The turn to whiteness, which is now in full swing only two decades after the initial works, perhaps asks Whites the same question without the implicit irony: “How does it feel to be the problem?” This time and coming mainly from White scholars writing about whiteness, the tone is more literal, even accusatory. How do we scaffold educational leaders to adopt the study of whiteness in a critical way?
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Dr. Cobb is the Administrative Coordinator for Los Angeles Unified School District’s Office of Academic English Mastery/Standard English Learner Programs. Its mission is two-fold: to eliminate educational disparities for African American, Mexican American, Native American, and Hawaiian American students; and to train teachers, administrators, and support staff in cultural responsiveness to ensure equitable access to quality education for historically under-served students. For twenty years Dr. Cobb has been an independent training consultant, providing training in culturally relevant and responsive education; change management; leadership development; strategic planning; and coalition building.
Who are Standard English Language Learners?
Standard English Learners (SELs) are students for whom Standard English is not native, whose home languages differ in structure and form from the language of school [i.e. standard American or academic English]. These students are generally classified as “English Only” African American, Hawaiian American, Mexican American, and Native American because their home language incorporates English vocabulary while embodying phonology, grammar, and sentence structure rules transitioned from indigenous/native languages other than English including African languages, Native American languages, Hawaiian languages and Latin American Spanish.