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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Dr. Yalda M. Kaveh is an assistant professor in Bilingual Education in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Her research mainly focuses on the intersection of linguistic and cultural development of bilingual children, family life, schooling, and language policy (Kaveh, 2017, 2018). She received her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Language, Literacy, and Culture from Boston College. Her dissertation was titled “Unspoken Dialogues Between Educational and Family Language Policies: Children as Language Policy Agents” and examined the links between family language policies and educational language policies at two public elementary schools in the state of Massachusetts. During her doctoral studies, Dr. Kaveh served on multiple research projects, working to develop curricula and instructional tools to help teachers support bi/multilingual students to draw on all their linguistic resources for literacy development. Her involvement has resulted in multiple publications focusing on the use of metalinguistic methods to teach text structure and language use in literacy instruction for bi/multilingual learners (Brisk & Kaveh, in press, forthcoming; Brisk, Kaveh, Scialoia, & Timothy, 2016). Before moving to the U.S. for her graduate studies, Dr. Kaveh taught English and Persian for several years in her home country, Iran.

Embracing Bilingualism with English in the Fine Print: Schooling Continues to Promote Monolingualism in Children of Immigrants

The United States Census Bureau (2015) estimates that about 79% of the U.S. population over the age of five speaks only English at home. The second and third generations of immigrants in the U.S. share a prevalent commonality: English language dominance, and very often English monolingualism, at the expense of loss of their heritage[1] languages (PEW Research Center, 2015). Establishing a commonly spoken standardized American English has been historically regarded as a necessary step for unifying the citizens of this country[2]. Speakers of non-English languages have been alienated and linguistically assimilated in favor of standardized English through a variety of strategies including schooling[3]. My recent study on the links between language practices in immigrant families and educational language policies at two elementary schools in the state of Massachusetts showed that schooling continually promotes English monolingualism in children of immigrants[4]. Although teachers now appreciate bilingualism and no longer encourage immigrant parents to speak English at home, their language practices clearly prioritizes English over heritage languages. These practices send strong, yet unspoken, messages that are communicated between schools and homes through children. Read more

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Anne-Marie Nuñez is an associate professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs Program in the Department of Educational Studies at The Ohio State University. Her award-winning research focuses on how factors such as race, ethnicity, class and linguistics shape postsecondary opportunities. One line of her scholarship has focused on the higher education experiences and trajectories of Latino, first-generation, and migrant students. Another has emphasized institutional diversity in the United States, including the role of Hispanic-Serving Institutions in promoting college access and success. Two of her current projects involve National Science Foundation grants to broaden participation in geosciences, particularly through experiential learning. Her articles have appeared in Educational Researcher, Harvard Educational Review and American Educational Research Journal, and she is the lead editor of the International Latino book award winner Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Advancing Research and Transformative Practice (2015, Routledge). She acted as Program Chair for the 2014 Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) Conference and now serves on several editorial boards, as well as an Associate Editor for Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research.

Antonio Duran is a second-year doctoral student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program at The Ohio State University. Prior to arriving at OSU, Antonio received his undergraduate degree in English and American Literature from New York University, in addition to acquiring his master’s degree in Student Affairs and Higher Education at Miami University. Antonio is extremely passionate about advancing asset-based research about historically marginalized communities. Specifically, his research interests center the experiences of queer students of color from an intersectional perspective that critically investigates the role that racism and heterosexism plays in their identity exploration. Moreover, he is interested in how educators employ intersectionality when teaching undergraduate and graduate students. As an aspiring faculty member, Antonio hopes to empower the voices of students with multiple marginalized identities on campus. Identifying as queer person of color himself, Antonio desires to increase the representation of QPOC faculty on campus.


Being a Steward of Intersectionality in Teaching

Let’s create a cacophony of sound to represent our intention. To hold these women up. To bring them into the light.
– Kimberlé Crenshaw, The Urgency of Intersectionality

In a recent Ted Talk, Kimberlé Crenshaw (2016) emphasized the need to address overlapping systems of oppression, particularly the pervasive nature of racism and sexism affecting women of color, whose concerns can be rendered invisible when only one or the other is considered. As two educators who have previously taught a graduate course titled Diversity in Higher Education, we have aimed to address Crenshaw’s call for intersectional approaches in our teaching and research. In these experiences, we have found that, as Jones and Wijeyesinghe (2011) suggest, however, “The core tenets of intersectionality provide a guiding framework, but not a recipe for application to teaching practice” (p. 19). Given the lack of a recipe, how can educators infuse a framework of intersectionality into their teaching? Following Ange-Marie Hancock’s message to scholars to acknowledge the historical and social contexts shaping this framework and to fully realize its potential to transform oppressive educational structures, we propose three essential elements involved in being good stewards of intersectionality in our teaching. Read more

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Dr. Kyser is the Associate Director for Engagement and Partnerships at the Midwest and Plains Equity Assistance Center (MAP Center) within the Great Lakes Equity Center. In this role, Dr. Kyser leads the coordination of technical assistance support and collaboration with the MAP Center’s service provision team to plan, direct, and manage supports and professional learning experiences offered to state and local education agencies throughout the MAP Center’s thirteen-state region. Prior to joining the MAP Center, Dr. Kyser served as a Language Arts Inclusion teacher, Governance & Leadership Analyst for the City of Indianapolis, and as Chief of Staff for Tindley Accelerated Schools. Dr. Kyser has received executive training at Harvard, Stanford, and Indiana Universities. She is a graduate of Culver Girls Academy of the Culver Academies. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Education, a Master of Arts in English, and a PhD of Philosophy in Urban Education Studies from Indiana University.

Dr. Kyser’s work, ideas, and research are focused on policy implementation in urban school communities—how individuals interact around and through policy; further, how interactions converge and impact neighbors, educators, parents/caregivers, and students. Specifically, exploring the ecologies (Weaver-Hightower, 2008) between city and school with particular concentrations in three areas: 1) how marginalized students and groups of students are represented and framed by dominant narratives (Harry, Rueda, & Kalyanpur, 1999) in policy implementation, 2) community stakeholders’ learning via transformative professional learning (Macey & Radd, 2013) towards equity, and 3) critical collaborative problem solving.

Finding Vigilance: Centering Ourselves in Equity-Oriented Systemic Change of Discipline Systems

In the U.S., discipline policies—in both creation and enforcement—result in re-segregated learning environments [1], the inequitable penalization of marginalized students [2], and limited access to learning [3] for historically marginalized students. Research demonstrates harsh discipline has significant financial costs on our economy [4] and shows the nefarious ways the prison industrial complex incentivizes [5] and dehumanizes [6] people. Given these dynamics, there is a question I have begun to urgently ask myself.

This question encompasses rather than minimizes the realities of US discipline policies disproportionally affecting students on the margins broadly, including students from working class backgrounds, [7], students of color [8], students of color with dis/abilities [9], and gender non-conforming students [10]. This question also attempts to fiercely surface, rather than make invisible, my complicitness in participating in harsh discipline practices—writing frequent office referrals as a classroom teacher and signing notice of expulsion letters as an administrator— but also reflecting on my belief, at the time, that the power of control, enforcement, and authority was my right as an educator and in the best interest of the students I served. The question I ask has evolved from: what can I do? To: what must I do? What must I do to contribute towards transformative systemic change towards equity [11]? Read more

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Dr. Federico Waitoller is an associate professor at the department of special education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research focuses on urban inclusive education. In particular, his work examines and addresses policies and practices that generate or reproduce inequities for students of color with disabilities. Dr. Waitoller is also interested in examining how these inequities are affected by the production of space in urban economies and the role of teacher learning and school/university partnerships in developing capacity for inclusive education.

The Irony of Rigor: 

Black and Latinx[1] Students with Disabilities in Charter Schools

At first, it was alluring: children walking silently in straight lines, homework retention rooms, strict uniform policies, the promises of accessing a college education, and small student-teacher ratios. And it was all free, publicly funded, and in the same neighborhood where so many other schools have failed to provide them with a safe environment and with services that attended to the individual needs of their child. For parents of students with disabilities living in areas impacted by poverty, crime, school closings, and economic disinvestment in the city of Chicago, charter schools seemed a dream, as Janae, a Black parent of a student with autism, articulated, “I thought I have won the lottery.”

But dreams end when one wakes up. And it was time to wake up. In the first days of school, parents received various calls about their child’s misconduct; repetitive suspensions followed. As Angela, a Black parent of a student with a mood disorder shared, “she was suspended 6 times in kindergarten” and Dominique, a Black parent of a student identified with a learning disability and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), stated, “I drop him to school and I thought who is going to call me today.”  Sometimes, charter schools punished students with disabilities for minor actions such as unfolding a paper clip, not wearing the uniform, not finishing homework, and other times for what can be considered a more serious action such as fighting with a peer. In any of these events, there was a combination of rigorous and inflexible academic and disciplinary practices, a reluctance to provide any specialized support services for students with disabilities, and a lack of trained personnel that constituted a disabling and punishing school, contributing to students’ behaviors. In some cases, charter schools denied or delayed an evaluation to identify the student for special education services, which kept students from services that could have prevented many of the situations they found themselves in.  Read more

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Madelaine Adelman earned her doctorate in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. She is now professor of justice and social inquiry in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University, where she teaches courses such as research methods, sexuality and social justice, and identity and justice, to undergraduate, Master’s and doctoral students. New ideas about identity, violence, and the state – and opposition to them — animate her research on families and schools, two social institutions that shape both the content and quality of people’s lives in profound ways. She is the author of Battering States: The Politics of Domestic Violence in Israel (Vanderbilt University Press, 2017), and co-editor (with Miriam Elman) of Jerusalem: Conflict and Cooperation in a Contested City (Syracuse University Press, 2014). Adelman also has published articles with colleagues and graduate students on school culture in journals such as the Journal of Poverty, Law & Society Review, Political and Legal Anthropology Review, and Violence Against Women. She has examined, with education scholar Catherine Lugg, the gap between the workplace equality and safe schools social movements in the U.S., and how law and policy have been leveraged to counter anti-LGBT bias in K-12 schools. Adelman has reviewed best practices of school-based interventions into anti-LGBT bullying for The Sage Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Studies, and co-authored a white paper on safe schools in Arizona for the ASU Morrison Policy Institute. She also has given a workshop (2009) and keynote (2010) on the safe schools movement to academics from the Middle East (MEPI, Syracuse University), and shared insights with Kyrgyz (2015) and Polish (2016) civil society groups in the International Visitor Leadership program, both sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Adelman co-founded the GLSEN Phoenix chapter in 2002 and served as its chair or co-chair until 2013, when she became chair of the chapter’s development committee. She was a founding member of GLSEN’s National Advisory Council (2004-2013) and joined GLSEN’s Board of Directors in 2010.

Transgender-inclusive K-12 Schools

I began fifteen years ago to work on safe schools issues by founding a local GLSEN chapter to create inclusive schools for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students.[i] In the beginning, I spent considerable time convincing administrators that, yes, they had lesbian, gay, and bisexual students in their schools.[ii] Now, after a decade and a half of increased visibility, advocacy, and socio-legal changes,[iii] most middle and high schools understand that lesbian, gay, and bisexual students are integral members of the student body. Indeed, a recent survey conducted by trend-forecasting agency J Walter Thompson Innovation Group, found that only 48% of Gen Zs (13-20 year olds) identify as exclusively heterosexual.[iv] Today, some elementary teachers remain puzzled about how to avoid gender-based stereotypes or how to incorporate family diversity (i.e. the variety of what constitutes a family) into the school day;[v] and students continue to report troubling level of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation.[vi] Nevertheless, most inquiries I receive from media outlets or schools center on transgender issues. School leaders want to know what it means to be transgender or non-binary, and how to ensure all students have equal access to a safe learning environment, educational activities, and school facilities. This is a welcome and long-overdue addition to educational discourse about equity and difference. Read more

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Dr. Susana Muñoz is Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the School of Education at Colorado State University (CSU). Before accepting a faculty role at CSU, Dr. Muñoz served as a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Administrative Leadership department. Her scholarly interests center on the experiences of underserved populations in higher education. Specifically, she focuses her research on issues of access, equity, and college persistence for undocumented Latina/o students, while employing perspectives such as Latino critical race theory, Chicana feminist epistemology, and college persistence theory to identify and deconstruct issues of power and inequities as experienced by these populations. Her first book “Identity, Social Activism, and the Pursuit of Higher Education: The Journey Stories of Undocumented and Unafraid Community Activists” (Peter Lang Publishing) highlights the lives of 13 activist who grapple with their legality as a salient identity. Dr. Muñoz received a B.A. in Political Science and International Studies from Iowa State University, a M.S. in Student Affairs and Higher Education from Colorado State University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Iowa State University. She was named by Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine as one of 25 most influential women in higher education.

Gaye DiGregorio, is the Executive Director of the Collaborative for Student Achievement, which empowers students to create and achieve their personal and educational goals at Colorado State University. She has a B.S. Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University, a M. A. in College Student Personnel at Bowling Green University, and is a PhD candidate in Higher Education Leadership at Colorado State University. Her professional expertise in academic advising broadened to overseeing student success programs such as orientation and transition programs, living learning communities, opportunity scholar mentoring programs, and university wide retention programs. Gaye’s background as a first-generation student combined with providing leadership with programs and services for marginalized populations, sparked her research interest with first- generation students.

Equity and Intersectionality: Serving First-Generation Students by Creating Inclusive Environments

We heard a knock at the door. “Come in!” we exclaimed. James, our first interviewee, walked, opened the door, and peered his head into the conference room. “Hi, Dr. Muñoz and Gaye, am I too early?” James asked. “No, not at all!” James placed his forest green backpack by the door, grabbed a black conference chair and comfortably settled himself at the head of the table ready for the interview questions. “James, the first question that we have for you is, what does it mean to be a first-generation student,” Susana asked. James pondered the question and paused to take a deep breath. “Wow, it means so many things. It’s my story. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s about identifying as Asian American but not having legal status in this country. It’s my parents’ immigration story and it’s through my determination that I honor the sacrifices they made for me. I may be the first to go to college in my immediate family, but being first-generation is way more than that.”

James illustrates how his life experiences provide additional complexities and nuance to being a first-generation student, meaning neither parent has obtained a college degree. His ethnic identity, legal status, and parents’ immigration story are assets which lend to the richness and complexities of his college experiences that often fail to be acknowledged by just designating him as first-generation. Yet, research agendas often regard first-generation students as “disadvantaged” or “at-risk” by focusing on “fixing” the student without understanding how college environments and climate contribute to the national graduation gaps of first-generation students and other minoritized student identities compared to their non-first generation peers (Bensimon, 2005).

In order to begin to address these graduation gaps and to focus on the assets rather than the deficits of first-generation students with intersecting identities, campus administrators should consider the saliency of students’ personal stories and life experiences. We posit that college administrators should consider intersectionality in their practice. Intersectionality may consider the way both salient and less salient identities (i.e., legal or language status, race/ethnicity, ability status) influence individual experience. However, beyond the notion of admission and attendance of first-generation college students, these considerations need to be sensitive to the national political climate, the development of strategic interventions targeted specifically for marginalized students, and the implementation of institutional change in the overall culture of higher education. How can campus environments account for equity and inclusion of other salient identities? Read more

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