Thea Renda Abu El-Haj, associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is an anthropologist of education. Her current research explores new questions about youth citizenship raised by globalization, transnational migration, and the “war on terror.” Supported in part by a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Post doctoral fellowship, this ethnographic research focuses on how young Palestinian Americans and other Arab Americans grapple with questions of belonging and citizenship in the wake of September 11, 2001. She recently published a book about this project: Unsettled Belonging: Educating Palestinian American Youth after 9/11 (2015, University of Chicago Press). Other publications about this research have appeared in Anthropology and Education Quarterly; Harvard Educational Review; Educational Policy; and Theory into Practice. Her first book, Elusive Justice: Wrestling with Difference and Educational Equity in Everyday Practice (Routledge, 2006), offers a critical account of the range of justice claims at play inside real schools, exploring several different, important dimensions of educational equity that are often ignored in contemporary educational policy debates.

Beyond “Good” and “Bad” Muslim: Addressing Islamophobia in Schools

In the wake of the 2016 election of a U.S. president who has stoked the fires of Islamophobia and xenophobia, democratic schools face a critical, moral imperative to proactively educate against this pernicious and dangerous political climate. Unfortunately, this racist and hostile political climate is not a new development for youth from Muslim communities raised in the U.S. today. Since 9/11 people from Muslim communities have always lived under the shadow of President Bush’s admonition that “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” They have grown up in a climate of rising Islamophobia as well as racism directed not only toward African and African American Muslims, but also toward people from South Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). They may have experienced increased state surveillance directed at their communities. The latest data show that hate crimes against Muslims have grown in the last year by a 67% increase (Lightblau, 2016; Morlin, 2016; PBS News Hour, 2016).

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Candi CdeBaca began her life as the eldest of three in a single-mother household in the inner city of Denver. From a very early age, Candi took on a leadership role by caring for her siblings and other family members. She found refuge in school, and saw education as an opportunity to change her circumstances. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school, and went on to complete two degrees in five years. While in college, she cofounded the organization she now leads, Project VOYCE (Voices of Youth Changing Education). While in college, Candi also expanded a one-year support program for students of color at the University of Denver to a four-year program. She was one of the first youths to be appointed to the Denver Mayor’s Commission on Youth and to the Denver Mayor’s Latino Advisory Council. She recently completed a fellowship as part of the inaugural cohort of the Latino Leadership Institute. Candi is a fierce advocate for educational equity, and is deeply committed to creating spaces for the historically underrepresented to be key decision makers. She has an entrepreneurial spirit, and seeks to design creative, inclusive, collaborative solutions to our great social challenges.

Vanessa Roberts is a self-titled “artivist” currently based in Boulder, Colorado. The term “artivist” refers to an intentional combination of the arts, activism, and academic practice. In Roberts’ approach, all three are equally valued and important, and the crux of her work is centered on the power of theater activated as a tool for transformative social change. She speaks, trains, and performs nationally, traveling to a multitude of educational institutions, conferences, businesses, and also provides services as a cultural competency consultant for private clients in Colorado.  Ms. Roberts received her Bachelors of Arts from Colorado College in 2008 where she designed her own Liberal Arts and Science major entitled Critical Race Theory: Emphasis Performance Comedy, and minored in American Cultural Studies. She went on to receive her Masters of Arts in Performance Studies from the Tisch School of Art at New York University in 2009, where her focus was on racial and ethnic performativity in the wake of the African diaspora. Currently, Ms. Roberts is in the 5th year of her doctoral pursuit in the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado – Boulder. Her concentrations are cultural sociology, race & ethnicity, and qualitative methodology. She is also a 2016-17 CU-Engage Community Based Research Fellow and works closely with Ben Kirshner, noted adolescent researcher and author of Youth Activism in an Era of Education Inequality. The community partner for the fellowship, Project VOYCE (PV), is a non-profit in Denver, CO that offers leadership and professional development training to under-represented and under-served youth in the Denver-Metro area.

Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: The high stakes of modern day activism for youth of color

“Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.” – Alice Walker

Youth do not live in a vacuum. Their daily lives take place in a matrix of oppositional ideologies, educational models, and acts of resistance. In tandem with the technological advances that make it much easier for youth across the globe to reach each other and share experiences, youth of color in particular are simultaneously suffering the repeated trauma of watching their bodies destroyed and devalued in multiple contexts. From racist online comments to videos of extreme police brutality, youth of color feel the racial intolerance and oppression, but don’t always see the magnitude of their power to disrupt it. For those able to move through their frustration towards action, the support of adults in finding the most effective means of activism is vital. Modern activism with youth requires that we build networks where power is fluid rather than adhering to limiting pyramids of inequitable distribution, especially those centered on race, gender, class, and/or age. (See Vakil et al.  2016 for a discussion of the need to further theorize power in collaborative projects, especially those with youth of color.) Read more

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Dr. Thorius is Associate Professor of Special Education and Urban Educational Studies in Indiana University’s School of Education, and Principal Investigator of the Region V Equity Assistance Center which supports education agencies in school desegregation efforts. Dr. Thorius is an internationally recognized expert in culturally responsive and sustaining education, special and inclusive education, working with families, equity considerations in multi-tiered systems of support, and equity-oriented professional development, all toward quality educational experiences for historically underserved students. Published extensively in practitioner and research outlets, including Harvard Educational Review, the International Journal of Inclusive Education, Theory into Practice, and Race, Gender, & Class, Dr. Thorius was a school psychologist before earning her Ph.D. from Arizona State University as an USDOE-funded doctoral fellow in an interdisciplinary program to prepare culturally responsive special education professors. During this time, she was professional learning coordinator for the National Center for Culturally Responsive Education Systems and the National Center for Urban School Improvement—and co-directed the Region IX EAC, the Equity Alliance at ASU. Dr. Thorius presents nationally and internationally on race, language, and dis/ability equity, and multi-tiered systems of support including culturally responsive school-wide discipline approaches. Her expertise undergirds past and current work with myriad US urban, rural, and suburban school districts and state departments of education. Dr. Thorius was recognized as the 2013 IUPUI Chancellor’s Diversity Scholar and 2015 Indiana University Trustees’ Teaching Awardee.

The Limits of Zero Tolerance Policies: What (and Who) Isn’t Tolerated?

A few weeks ago, a Black student in one of my graduate seminars came to meet with me for office hours. He had a lot on his mind as a special education teacher in a local urban middle school, not the least of which was something that had happened that day. One of his Latino students with a dis/ability label had said, “I just wish I could blow up this place”. As a first year teacher, he wasn’t sure what to do. He reached out to the school counselor, and soon found the incident out of his hands. Instead, in accordance with the school’s zero tolerance policy related to student threats of violence, a school psychologist began to “evaluate” the student’s capacity and likelihood to carry out his statement. In this and other instances of zero-tolerance, educators’ discretion in disciplinary responses to particular student actions that violate school codes of conduct is removed, regardless of circumstances (Macey, Thorius, & Skelton, 2013). But what are the circumstances? Who are the students being disregarded? Read more

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Ben Kirshner is Associate Professor of Educational Psychology & Learning Sciences in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder and Faculty Director of CU Engage: Community-Based Learning and Research. He is also the author of Youth Activism in an Era of Education Inequality (NYU Press, 2015). Ricardo Martinez is Co-Executive Director of Padres & Jóvenes Unidos

We obtained permission to reprint in our blog series the following piece written by Ben Kirshner and Ricardo Martinez. The blog was originally published in the NYU Press blog, From The Square. Kirschner and Martinez address the school-to-jail track, where students are increasingly being pushed out of school and into the criminal justice system.

Community Organizing to End the School-to-Jail Track

The Black Lives Matter movement has galvanized people throughout the US to speak up about systemic racism and the devastating impact of mass incarceration on communities of color. Civil disobedience and mass protest since Ferguson have generated needed media attention to the persistence of American racism. What the national media often overlooks, however, has been the last decade of tireless organizing by students, parents, and community organizers to dismantle the school-to-jail track inside K-12 schools.

According to the Advancement Project, the school-to-jail track refers to a system in which “out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and school-based arrests are increasingly used to deal with student misbehavior, especially for minor incidents, and huge numbers of children and youth are pushed out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.” This system became the new normal in the mid-1990s as zero tolerance school policies spread throughout the United States. The impact landed disproportionately on youth of color, mostly African American and Latino. A report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, for example, found that African American youth were six times and Latino youth three times more likely than White youth to be incarcerated for the same offenses. Read more

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Kara Finnigan, Ph.D. is associate professor of education policy at the University of Rochester’s (UR) Warner School of Education. She has conducted research and evaluations of K-12 educational policies and programs at the local, state, and federal level for more than 20 years through her work at the UR and prominent research organizations, including SRI International and the George Lucas Educational Foundation. She has written extensively on the topics of low-performing schools and high-stakes accountability, district reform, principal leadership, and school choice. Finnigan’s research blends perspectives in education, sociology, and political science; employs both qualitative and quantitative methods, including social network analysis; and focuses on urban school districts. Her current research, supported by the WT Grant Foundation and Spencer Foundation, focuses on the role of social networks in the acquisition, use, and diffusion of research evidence at the school and district level. Another line of her research funded by the Ford Foundation focuses on school desegregation policies. Finally, her research focuses on linkages between education, housing, health, and other policies to bring about regional equity. Finnigan began her work in education as a substitute teacher in Anchorage, Alaska. 

 Alan J. Daly, Ph.D. is Chair and Professor of the Department of Education Studies at the University of California, San Diego. He is also the founding Executive Editor of the new Sage Journal, Educational Neuroscience. Alan’s research and teaching are influenced by 16 years of public school experience in a variety of instructional and leadership roles. His research focuses on the role of leadership, educational policy, and organization structures and the relationship between those elements on the educational attainment of traditionally marginalized student populations. Alan draws on his theoretical and methodological expertise in social network theory and analysis in his work, and has multiple publications, and a book on the topic entitled, Social Network Theory and Educational Change. He has a second co-authored book entitled, Using Research Evidence in Schools, and another entitled, Thinking and Acting Systemically: Improving School Districts Under Pressure.

Moving from Pressure and Blame to Systemic Change for Educational Equity

It will come as no surprise to most educators that improving underperforming schools is complex work, yet state and federal policymakers are only beginning to recognize this reality. As a result of the limited success under recent accountability policies, some scholars, including the two of us, have shifted our attention to the broader system in which schools reside. Rather than considering what each school is doing wrong or how it might do it better – as many of the prior policies did- we consider ways that central office staff and school site staff could build capacity to engage in a more dynamic and meaningful process of improvement because of the interdependence between these critical groups in educational change. In this blog we demonstrate how putting pressure on the parts of the system without ensuring this greater system alignment is futile.

To make this point stronger imagine you have been given a bicycle to reach a destination. Now picture getting on the bicycle and beginning to pedal but not getting anywhere. You look down and see that the frame looks fine, the tires are in place, so you pedal again but still nothing happens. As you look more closely you realize that there is no chain on the bicycle – without a chain of course the bicycle cannot move. In spite of years of accountability policies that have resulted in a multitude of reforms on the ground, these efforts have resulted in inconsistent performance and have not led to significant improvement. In essence, to leverage authentic and sustainable improvement to address complex challenges in our school systems, all of the parts must be aligned and yet we do little at the policy or practice level to ensure this is happening in a meaningful way. Our state and federal policy systems require a change in underlying assumptions (e.g., around the need for additional pressure to motivate educators) and leverage points (e.g., the school or teacher as the policy target) if they are to shift from maladaptive patterns, such as short term strategies or manipulation of test scores, to productive, sustainable large-scale efforts that reduce the current inequities in educational opportunity and outcomes. Read more

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William F. Tate IV holds the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. His academic appointments are in education, public health, urban studies, African and African American Studies, and American Culture Studies. He serves as Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education. Tate has a particular interest in STEM attainment. Ongoing research projects include understanding the distal and social factors that predict STEM doctoral degree attainment broadly defined to include highly quantitative social sciences disciplines. His co-edited book titled, Beyond Stock Stories and Folktales: African Americans’ Paths to STEM Fields captures the direction of this research program. Also, his research has focused on the development of epidemiological and geospatial models to explain the social determinants of education, health, and developmental outcomes. His book project titled, Research on Schools, Neighborhoods, and Communities: Toward Civic Responsibility reflects his interest in the geography of opportunity in metropolitan America. He served as president of the American Educational Research Association and is a fellow of the association. In 2016, he was elected to membership in the National Academy of Education.

“Where did you graduate from high school?” Health Insurance as Education Reform [1]

“My ear hurts.” “It’s hard to breathe.” “I feel afraid and it won’t go away.” 

Imagine learning to read or doing a science project with otitis media or asthma. Picture taking a major exam while experiencing the symptoms of a crippling anxiety disorder. Many students miss classes, experience increased difficulties with illness, and go untreated because they lack the resources to secure a health care provider. Too many students do not have health care coverage. The 2011 US Census Bureau estimates indicate 9.4% of young persons under 18 (7 million) have no health insurance (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, Smith, 2012). Nearly 14% of children living in poverty are uninsured. The uninsured rates for African American and Hispanic children are 10.2% and 15.1%, respectively.

National health insurance trends for children suggest the need for careful examination of regions where underserved racial groups concentrate. St. Louis City, the only majority African American county outside of the traditional South (e.g., Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia), presents an instructive starting point for a discussion of health insurance coverage as St. Louis City and St. Louis County contribute more than 13,000 youth to this national problem (Jones, Harris, and Tate, 2015). This may seem an insignificant number; however, consider it in relation to the famous St. Louis question, “Where did you attend high school?”[2] Some locals use this crudely veiled question as a heuristic to quickly evaluate family social status. In a region severely bound in terms of upward income mobility[3], the question offers a powerful sociological lens since the response provides a gross approximation of family resources and residential status.

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William Perez, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Education at Claremont Graduate University. His research focuses on the social and psychological processes associated with academic success and higher education access among immigrant Latino students. He is recognized as one of the nation’s leading academic experts on undocumented students. In 2009, he received the 2009 Mildred Garcia Prize for Excellence in Research from the Association for the Study of Higher Education for his book, We ARE Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream. He has been interviewed or quoted as an academic expert in various media outlets including NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Time Magazine, the LA Times, Hispanic Magazine, and NPR’s All Things Considered. He has received various awards for his research on immigration and education including the Stanford University Distinguished Scholar Alumni Award, the early career scholar award from the Hispanic Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association and the Fulbright Fellowship. His book, Americans by Heart: Undocumented Latino Students and the Promise of Higher Education, was selected for the 2013 Critics Choice Award by the American Educational Studies Association. For the past two years he has been selected for Education Week’s annual ranking of the top 200 university-based scholars in the U.S. who are doing the most to influence educational policy and practice.

Instability of Legal Status Continues to Hinder Higher Education Access Despite the Success of DACA

President Obama’s 2012 executive action, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), has provided temporary legal residence and work-permits to about 750,000 young adults that have applied for DACA as of March 2015. That is less than half of the 1.6 million unauthorized immigrants age 15 or older that the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates are potentially eligible to apply1. Among these beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries are high school and college students, college graduates, and graduate students pursuing masters, doctoral, and other professional degrees.

While there is a growing body of research that describes the positive impact of DACA on higher education access and workforce opportunities, these studies often do not consider how unstable immigration status can be and that students can lose DACA at any moment. With the exception of naturalized citizenship, immigrants can lose their legal residence status for a variety of reasons including minor legal infractions and inability to pay for renewal fees. As of June 2015, 75 percent (377,767) of the DACA applicants eligible to renew their status had been approved or were in the process of being approved. However, that means that 95,111 (25 percent) of those that initially had received DACA in 2012-2013 have fallen out of status, including 32,140 that were denied renewal and 74,591 that had missed the window to apply for renewal.

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Dr. Keon M. McGuire is an Assistant Professor of Higher and Postsecondary Education in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Employing Africana frameworks, such as Black Feminist Theory and Queer of Color Critique, his research broadly explores Black undergraduate students’ intersecting identities as well as issues of race and racism in higher education. Dr. McGuire holds a joint Ph.D. in Higher Education and Africana Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and was a finalist for the 2014 Melvene D. Hardee Dissertation of the Year Award form NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Last September, when I was invited to contribute to the Equity Alliance blog by engaging the topic, Transcending College Access: Retention and Promotion of Students of Color, I could not anticipate the brave, thoughtful, and inspiring student led protests that emerged in the last five months and continues to sweep college and university campuses across our nation. Beginning with the courageous actions of a group of Black women who initiated University of Missouri’s student-led resistance movements[i] (e.g., MU for Mike Brown, Concerned Student 1950, Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike, and members of the football team refusing to play), which led to the resignation of (now former) Missouri University System President Tim Wolfe and (now former) Chancellor R. Bowen, student-led protests across the country are demanding new leadership, removal of racist artifacts, increase in diverse faculty and student populations, and recently the dismantling of a campus police department (UC Irvine). Read more

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Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos is an associate professor in Education Policy and Evaluation in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers and Morrison Institute Faculty Fellow at Arizona State University. His primary area of research is school finance equity and adequacy in particular as it relates to traditionally marginalized communities. He has published in leading academic journals such as Review of Educational Research, Journal of Education Finance, The Urban Review and Journal of Latinos and Education. He is currently working as a school finance expert witness in the Martinez case and organizing an AERA 2016 presidential session entitled, Public Scholarship to Inform Public School Finance In a Culturally Pluralistic Democracy: A Town Hall Meeting.

Did you hear the news? The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is going to be reauthorized! Or is it? In July of 2015, the Senate and House both passed separate bills to reauthorize the du jour version of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. A Senate version, the “Every Child Achieves Act” (ECAA), is believed to be the most plausible to pass into law given President Obama’s eagerness to veto the House version coined the “Student Success Act” (SSA). Currently, leaders in the two chambers are conferencing to work through some of these bills’ key differences in an attempt to create legislation that will pass Congress. This would be the first ESEA reauthorization since 2002.   Read more

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Professor Etta Hollins is well known in the field of teacher education as an innovative scholar, teacher, and consultant.  Prior to assuming her present position at the University of Missouri at Kansas City she was professor and academic chair of teacher education at the University of Southern California where she led the development of a doctoral program for the preparation of teacher educators and the development of the award winning synchronous online preservice teacher preparation program.  In the present position she designed and coordinates the graduate certificate in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, which is aimed at improving teaching practices for urban and underserved students in elementary and secondary schools.

Etta Hollins is the author of numerous articles, books, and other publications.  Her book Culture in School Learning has won two national awards and has been translated into Greek. The third edition was published in May, 2015.  Her book Rethinking Field Experiences in Preservice Teacher Preparation was published in April, 2015.

In 2015, Etta Hollins was a spotlight speaker for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, research speaker for the Association of Teacher Educators, and keynote speaker for the Maryland Cultural Proficiency Conference. She presently serves as a member of the accreditation council for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the research and policy advisory council for the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, and the teacher education advisory council for Salish Kootenai College.  She has served as senior advisor for the Journal of Teacher Education and on the advisory board for the American Educational Research Journal, Journal of Teacher Education, Review of Educational Research, Reading Research Quarterly, and Teaching Education. She has reviewed book manuscripts for Routledge Publishers and Teachers College Press.

Etta Hollins has received numerous awards and recognition for her work including lifetime achievement awards from the American Educational Research Association and Pittsburg State University, Kansas.  In 2015, she received the American Education Research Association Presidential Citation for her work in advancing knowledge of teaching and learning for urban and underserved students.

Teacher Evaluation and Disparities in Opportunities for Learning

In the 2010-2011 academic year and for the first time in the nation’s history more than 80% of students who entered 9th grade graduated from high school, according to The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, as reported in The Condition of Education, 2015). However, a growing concern for education stakeholders is the underperformance of students in the nation’s public schools across all grade levels and populations, and in core subject areas.  For example, a 2013 report from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) indicated that in mathematics, 26% of U.S. 12th graders achieved proficiency.  In comparison, 7% of African American students and 12% of Hispanic students achieved proficiency in mathematics.  The 2013 NAEP report indicated that in reading, nationally 38% of U.S. 12th graders achieved proficiency.  In comparison, 16% of African American students and 23% of Hispanic students achieved proficiency in reading. The NAEP data show the cumulative impact of underperformance across grade levels in P-12 schools among all student populations within the United States, as well as the disproportionate and devastating impact on traditionally underserved ethnic minority students.

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