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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Bryn Harris, PhD, NCSP, is an Associate Professor in the School Psychology doctoral program in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver. Her primary research interests include the psychological assessment of bilingual learners, health disparities among bilingual children, particularly those with autism spectrum disorder, culturally and linguistically diverse gifted populations, and improving mental health access and opportunity within traditionally underserved school populations. She regularly conducts international research, primarily in Mexico. Dr. Harris is the director and founder of the bilingual school psychology program at the University of Colorado Denver. She is also a bilingual (Spanish) licensed psychologist and nationally certified school psychologist.



Amanda Sullivan is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology and Coordinator of the School Psychology Program at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Sullivan completed her training at Arizona State University and is a licensed psychologist. Most of her research focuses on describing special needs among children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and understanding the educational and health services they receive. She is particularly interested in elucidating disparities in the educational treatment and outcomes of students with and at-risk for disabilities and identifying malleable factors related to outcomes in order to inform policy and practice to better support students’ educational needs. Much of her work entails secondary analyses of large-scale datasets that allow for population estimates of students’ characteristics, experiences, and outcomes.

On Linguistic Difference and Disability: Basic Considerations When Engaging Bilingual Students with Academic or Social-Emotional Challenge

For decades, scholars and practitioners have tried to untangle language acquisition processes from common educational disabilities (e.g., Artiles & Trent, 1994). The ramifications of misinterpreting or ignoring the relations of language learning and academic development can be life changing. Students may acquire inappropriate special education labels, receive unneeded or ineffective services, be denied necessary language supports, miss out on general education curricula or socialization, or lose out on needed intervention and individualized instruction because educators fail to accurately recognize the educational needs of multilingual learners (Sullivan, 2011). Whether students are inappropriately identified for special education, or their special needs are overlooked, the decision can have long-term implications for students’ academic and behavioral development, treatment by teachers and peers, and outcomes well beyond schools since ineffective general and special education services and disability are linked to a host of outcomes across the lifespan: educational attainment, employment, health, criminal justice involvement, interpersonal relationship, and independent living. Thus, the stakes are high when school professionals are charged with responding to the educational struggles of a multilingual learner, and the determination of whether the student also has a disability goes well beyond simply trying to secure extra help.

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Cueponcaxochitl is a Xicana scholar educator artivista. She received her doctorate in education from the University of California at Los Angeles where she conducted research on culturally sustaining and revitalizing computer science education with the support of the National Science Foundation. Cueponcaxochitl served as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Arizona State University. She is the recipient of a UCLA Center X grant awarded to “Mobilize Ancestral Knowledge, Computer Science and Student Inquiry for Health in the Schooling Community of El Sereno”. A central question in her research asks: “How might ancestral knowledge systems and computer science education co-construct an affirming and sustainable learning ecology for urban school families?” Exploration around this question can help create more responsible computer science through ancestral computing for sustainability. She has published in AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, Psychnology, Learning, Media and Technology, ACM Inroads, and Power and Education. She enjoys outdoor activities with her family.

Child-Centered Action Research for the Protection of Mother Earth

My grandmothers’ teachings ground much of my worldview and actions as a scholar educator. A common thread in these teachings is the intimate interdependence with the cycles of Mother Earth. Similarly, “Protector of the trees” Ilan Shamir (2016) authored “Advice from a Tree” that inspired an insurgence of popular memes that anthropomorphize trees to aconsejar / advise: “stand tall, be flexible, turn a new leaf, drink plenty of water, sink your roots into the earth and enjoy the view”. From the voices of my ancestors, I would add: “disperse your seeds wisely”. My grandmothers’ knowledge systems tell about the day-to-day activities of living in agricultural societies in that nos aconsejan / they advise us to live in communion with nature.

In my graduate years of studying pedagogy and its implications for the sustainability of social, environmental and economic life, I go back to my grandmothers’ ancestral knowledge systems that give me the language to describe the call for education to not only fundamentally acknowledge the interdependence with Mother Earth, and also protect Mother Earth. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines have been largely responsible for the damage to Mother Earth. These disciplines have systematically denied ancestral knowledge systems of Indigenous peoples around the world as knowledge central to sustainable approaches to living and learning. Instead, damage-centered research (Tuck, 2009) of Indigenous peoples knowledge systems has been denigrated to “folklore” in most cases. Under this colonial system of thinking, it is to no surprise that students with Indigenous ancestry are left behind in STEM-attaining degrees. While researchers continue to document low-achievement, according to standardized assessments (as evidenced by the work of researchers, i.e., Morgan et. al., 2016), what they fail to acknowledge is the students’ lives are filled with rich science and math knowledge they bring from their homes (ancestral knowledge), yet standardized assessments do not document this. In other words, students know science (have previous knowledge), yet their knowledge is not recognized. Whose knowledge counts?

Drawing from multi-sited sensibility for learning as movement across contexts and borders (Vossoughi and Gutierrez, 2014), my approach to teaching kindergarteners content knowledge in Spanish for a dual language program continues to plant rare seeds of understanding. These seeds are embedded in rich ancestral knowledge systems of Indigenous peoples of Abya Yala, or the American continent. Combining Native science (Cajete, 1999) and an approach to Indigenous research methodologies (Kovach, 2017) is rare in the academy, particularly for early elementary schooling. While I am not conducting research in this setting, rather using my scholarly training to inform the approach and content of which I teach, my reflections in this blog can inform practitioners, families and researchers about child-centered research conducted by children and their families (and can be integrated in meaningful ways). Read more

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Sarah L. Alvarado Diaz is a third-year doctoral student in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers’ College, Learning, Literacies and Technologies doctoral program at Arizona State University. Sarah has been awarded a fellowship from the Office of Special Education Programs titled, Evidence-Based interventions in High-Need Schools: An Interdisciplinary Program to Prepare Special Education Faculty. Sarah is working under the direction of Dr. Alfredo J. Artiles. Sarah is an Arizona native and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Bilingual Elementary Education from ASU in 1998, and a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Northern Arizona University in 2004. She worked as an elementary school teacher in a public elementary school in Phoenix for 16 years prior to returning to ASU to pursue a doctoral degree. Her research interests include understanding the precursors to placement in special education (high incident disabilities) of culturally and linguistically diverse learners; how they connect with learning and classroom interactions and teacher decisions; and the connections to educational reform efforts (e.g., standards, high-stakes testing, zero tolerance).  She is also interested in understanding and improving educational opportunities for culturally and linguistically diverse learners with or at-risk for learning disabilities by using a dynamic conceptualization of the role of culture (as situated within cultural, historical, and social contexts).

Dr. David Hernández-Saca is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Northern Iowa. He received his PhD from Arizona State University and MA from UC Berkeley. He is a former multi-subject teacher and his teaching responsibilities at UNI include undergraduate teacher preparation courses in the areas of post-school transition programming and issues and applications in special education. His research nucleus of his research agenda is problematizing the common sense assumptions of learning disabilities (LD). His two lines of research include: 1) (a) the emotional impact of LD labeling on conceptions of self. This work has implications for the problematization of LD that takes into account the sociocultural contexts of students living with this condition and the social construction of emotions about LD. He engages in this line of inquiry by documenting the perspectives of historically marginalized youth and culturally and linguistically diverse students with LD and in collaborative autoethnographic projects. His second line of inquiry is (b) the role of emotion and affect in teacher learning about social justice issues. What ties both of his lines of inquiry together is his commitment to educational equity through an interdisciplinary research design and methodology.

Challenging Rumors, Myths, and Half-Truths in Educational Discourse

This blog identifies rumors in the discourse used in educational research and spaces that have been accepted as truths and explanations for the conditions under which many students’ lives are determined, counted, or explained.  Our use of rumors was influenced by our reading of McDermott, Goldman and Varenne’s (2006) proposal that as researchers, we have “encouraged oppression by explanation: some can, some cannot, and this is why some have and some have not,” or, “under which rumors of disability and disadvantaged backgrounds are attended to and their persons counted, theorized, explained, and remediated” (p. 16). As educational equity scholars, our use of the metaphor of rumors pushes for practices that take on both reflection and action (or praxis, as defined by scholars such as Hoffman-Kip, Artiles, & Lopez-Torres, 2003) while challenging researchers to engage in research activity which provides more accurate depictions of students’ lives. A more accurate description of students’ lives in one in which more of their context is accounted for.  A more precise depiction is important since oftentimes, research findings impact stakeholders (i.e., school personnel), resulting in similar discourse within school communities. We define context as the circumstances that surround students’ lives, not restricted to what happens in isolation to other things.  By taking into account the lived realities of those we intend to write about, we aim to disrupt the rumors. In this blog we 1) recognize rumors as a part of the discourse in educational research; 2) identify what is missing from this discourse; and 3) assert meaningful educational discourse must become a part of a new material and discursive praxis for truth and justice.

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DAVID C. BERLINER, Regents’ Professor of Education Emeritus at Arizona State University, has also taught at many other universities at home and abroad. He is a member of the National Academy of Education, the International Academy of Education, and a past president of both the American Educational Research Association and the Division of Educational Psychology of the American Psychological Association. He has won numerous awards for his work on behalf of the education profession, and authored or co-authored over 400 articles, chapters and books. Among his best known works are the six editions of the text Educational Psychology, co-authored with N. L. Gage; The Manufactured Crisis, co-authored with B. J. Biddle; Collateral Damage: How high-Stakes Testing Corrupts American Education, co-authored with Sharon Nichols; and 50 Myths and Lies that Threaten America’s Public Schools, co-authored with Gene V Glass. He co-edited the first Handbook of Educational Psychology and the books Talks to Teachers, Perspectives on Instructional Time, and Putting Research to Work in Your School.  He has interest in the study of teaching, teacher education, and educational policy.

The purported failure of America’s Schools, and ways to make them better

For many years I have been writing about the lies told about the poor performance of our students and the failure of our schools and teachers. Journalists and politicians are often our nations’ most irritating commentators about the state of American education because they have access to the same facts that I have. They all can easily learn that the international tests (e. g. PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS), the national tests (e. g. NAEP), the college entrance tests (e. g. SAT, ACT), and each of the individual state tests follow an identical pattern. It is this: As income increases per family from our poorest families (under the 25th percentile in wealth), to working class (26th-50th percentile in family wealth), to middle class (51st to 75th percentile in family wealth), to wealthy (the highest quartile in family wealth), mean scores go up quite substantially. In every standardized achievement test whose scores we use to judge the quality of the education received by our children, family income strongly and significantly influences the mean scores obtained.

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Beth Harry is a Professor of special education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of Miami. A native of Jamaica, she entered the field of special education as a parent of a child with cerebral palsy, an experience that has been chronicled in her memoir, Melanie, bird with a broken wing: A mother’s storyInspired by her experience as a parent, Dr. Harry’s research and teaching focus on the impact of special education on children and families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Her studies have included Puerto Rican, African American and a wide range of other cultural groups. In 2002, Dr. Harry served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ panel to study the disproportionate placement of minority students in special education. Her research on these topics have been published in numerous books and articles, most recently, two books: Why are so many minority students in special education? and Case Studies of Minority Student Placement in Special Education, published by Teachers College Press. In 2003 she received a Fulbright award to do research on Moroccan children’s schooling in Spain, where she was based at the University of Seville. Dr. Harry earned her Bachelors and Masters degrees at the University of Toronto, Canada, and her Ph.D., at Syracuse University. Previously an associate professor at the University of Maryland at College Park, Dr. Harry has also taught in Toronto and Jamaica, and was founder and director of Immortelle Center for Special Education, Port of Spain, Trinidad.

TMMI: Dilemmas of Knowledge and Learning in the Age of Too Much Mis-Information

In special education, comprehensible information about the overrepresentation of minority students has, for decades, been available and accessible to researchers and practitioners, courtesy of the Office for Civil Rights and, in more recent years, the Office for Special Education Programs. This information has consistently shown a pattern of overrepresentation of certain minorities in certain categories of disability. Yet recent work by Morgan, Farkas, et al., (2015) reports findings that are the exact opposite of this foundational knowledge.

Reviewing the work of these scholars leads me to reflect on what seems to me to be two seemingly opposite trends in accessing knowledge in today’s world. First, the over-simplification of daily tasks by sophisticated technology that eliminates the need for real comprehension. Second, the over-complication of information by abstruse statistical tricks that obfuscate meaning. In the following paragraphs, I will illustrate these concerns with a view to applying them to the topic at hand.

I recently applied for a lease to rent an apartment in a decent but modest condominium association. Delighted to hear that I would be able to complete the application on-line, I approached the task eagerly. Having taken the time to read the lease before receiving the on-line invitation, I figured that just finding my way through some 15 pages of legalese would take a mere twenty minutes or so. Imagine my surprise at finding that the only task requiring a moment’s thought was the initial box where I had to select which style of electronic signature and initial I preferred! That done, I did not need to search for anything, nor to be even vaguely aware what I was signing. Rather, I was guided each step of the way by a self-propelling red arrow that leapt from page to page, landing on a series of vibrantly pulsing yellow signature boxes, followed by an immediate prompt of “NEXT”, which then sent the arrow racing past all subsequent paragraphs to the next signature box. In 2 minutes I was finished, having no idea what I had signed. Ok, I thought, at least I should skim over the document before submitting, just to be sure I hadn’t missed a signature. But, you guessed it: There was no need to review, as the system quickly assured me that “all required fields” had been filled.


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