Culturally responsive

With me in her womb, my mother crossed the U.S.-Mexican border in the trunk of a car to unite with my father and brother in the U.S. This family history and life beginning set the tone for my schooling journey as a Xicana scholar activist. I declared a Math major during my first year at Pomona College, but when I realized that I was one of the only women in my first math class, and most yet, of Mexican ancestry, I shifted my area of focus to the history and policy of education for Mexican Americans. In the process, I nurtured my own identity and re-awakened my voice in a land scarce of cultural diversity. I began to learn more about my heritage and ground my voice through the perspective of my family, hence my research interests.  As a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, I examine computer science education, from a sustainable perspective informed by indigenous peoples. I ask: How may ancestral knowledge systems inform the study of computer science? How might the melding of ancestral knowledge and computer science education lead to new understandings of how to nurture our young people’s positive identity formations and critical consciousness around computer science explorations? Responses to these questions have significant implications for promoting social and environmentally sustainable approaches to living, learning and dying. As digital media inextricably influences our lives, my work disrupts the common assumption that computer science alone could be a solution to most any complex problem in society. I received my Doctoral Degree in Urban Schooling from the University of California Los Angeles, where I conducted research on culturally responsive computer science education with the support of the National Science Foundation. I am the recipient of a grant awarded to a team of educational activists to “Mobilize Ancestral Knowledge, Computer Science and Student Inquiry for Health in the Schooling Community of El Sereno,” funded by UCLA Center X. I have published with Psychnology, Learning, Media and Technology, ACM Inroads, Power and Education, Theory, Culture and Society and SAGE Reference Publications. I enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, river tubing and biking with my four-legged companion, Canela.

I had never seen my Pa cry more tears of joy than the day my parents surprised us with our first PC. With a combined annual income of $20,000 for a family of five, my Mexican immigrant parents sacrificed so much to give us the best chance at an academically successful future. Shooting stars darted above us with excitement as we unpacked the computer system from the back of my father’s 1978 Chevy truck. My older brother took the lead in setting up the mysterious digital box. We all watched as he wrote the first command on the MS-DOS screen. Fast-forward two decades. My brother is a computing professional. Somewhere along the way, my sister and I developed the fear of breaking the computer if we were to punch in the wrong code or click on the wrong application, so we resorted to word processing, practicing our typing skills and playing solitaire.

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Darold H. Joseph is a member of the Hopi Nation and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Disability and Psychoeducational Studies program at the University of Arizona, with a minor in Language, Reading and Culture. Mr. Joseph is known by his Hopi name Bahusompe (Spider Weaving a New Home) in his village of Moenkopi and also represents the Isswungmuy (Coyote Clan). He has previously served as a Elementary Special Educator and a Junior High and High School Special Education Administrator in the Hopi community. Through his experience Mr. Joseph has learned the relevance and importance in representing underrepresented communities such as Hopi in academic spaces to advocate for research and practice relevant to American Indian communities both in general and special education settings. His current research involves understanding the relationships between indigenous knowledge systems and Western educational paradigms, utilizing the historical lenses of indigenous ways of being and the impacts of colonization to further understand the development of cultural identity of American Indian youth with disabilities.

I am a Hopi community member named Bahusompe (Spider weaving a new home) from the village of Moenkopi on the Hopi reservation. I am a part of a community that shaped much of my cultural schema through hard physical work and a spiritual connection to place. Tending to the cornfields, working with livestock, and participating in ceremonial traditions are part of what makes me a member of my community and shapes my value of giving back to community. My decision to pursue higher education meant learning to negotiate and sacrifice pieces of my cultural schema to navigate the “institution” in order to be “successful” (whatever successful meant) by moving from my rural community to an urban university setting. I completed my dual degree in elementary and special education, partly because my mother was a special education teacher and also because I have a brother who is Deaf/Hard of Hearing. There were many times I had to choose not to return home to help with the cornfields and livestock nor to participate in ceremony, in order to complete my undergraduate program, followed by a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership. I then returned to my community on the Hopi reservation and served as a special education teacher and administrator. Read more

Dr. Carole Cobb is an accomplished curriculum designer, program developer, and coalition builder with over thirty combined years of successful teaching and administrative experiences as a public school educator, university professor, and education consultant. She is the Executive Director of Sankofa Education Alliance, a non-profit training and consulting company, whose mission is “creating healthy learning and living environments for children to excel, families to thrive, and communities to flourish”. Recently, Dr. Cobb served for four years in the Los Angeles Unified School District as its K-12 District Coordinator concentrating her efforts on eliminating educational disparities for Standard English Learners (SELs) and providing professional learning opportunities for administrators, teachers, support staff, and parents in cultural responsive educational practices to ensure equitable access to quality education for these historically underserved students.

Standard English Learners Defined

Standard English Learners (SELs) represent a population of students whose ancestral or home languages reflect unique cultural and linguistic histories other than English, and differ in structure and form from the language of school [i.e. mainstream standard American or academic English]. Their languages incorporate English vocabulary while embodying phonology, grammar, and sentence structure rules transitioned from various indigenous languages including African languages, Native American languages, Hawaiian languages, and Latin American Spanish. These languages relexify English vocabulary into their respective ancestral linguistic structure; however, because their primary language is now English, they are classified as English Only. Subsequently, these “language and linguistically-different” students do not receive the instructional support they need to become proficient in school language or mainstream Standard American English. Historically marginalized, Standard English Learners have been academically underserved in both K-12 and post-secondary educational settings.

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David Isaac Hernandez-Saca is a third year doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Special Education Leadership for School-Wide Equity and Access at Arizona State University. His bachelor of arts (BA) and master of arts (MA) in education degrees are from the University of California, at Berkeley. His undergraduate major was in race-relations in U.S. history and a minor in education with a concentration in equity and participatory research. His MA in education was in the field of language, literacy, culture, and society studies (LLCS). During his MA program of study he focused on problematizing the construct of Learning Disabilities (LD). Before receiving his MA he had the privilege of working at an independent private school in northern California for students who were labeled with Learning Disabilities, Emotional Behavioral Disorders, and Autism in the public school system.  He provided educational programs from homeschooling to individualized instruction. He was there for 2 years and was both an interim director and multi-subject teacher for grades 8-12.   Hernandez-Saca’s current research interests include the emotional and social impact of learning disability (LD) identification on identity and human development as it relates to equity issues in (special) education and current movements for inclusive education. Although he is interested in historically marginalized and culturally and linguistically diverse students an emerging population of interest is Latino(a) students with learning disabilities.


I remember the first day I arrived at Manzanita School in the Bay Area.  What immediately stood out to me was the small “one-room schoolhouse” feel that made me feel like I was stepping into an early 20th century schoolhouse rather than a present day alternative school in a bustling area.  I entered the school greeted by the starkness of a classroom adorned with white walls and white curtains hanging on both sides of the two windows in this one room.  Eight tables with two chairs each sat in neat rows forming an aisle down the middle of the room, ending at the headmaster’s desk.  Little did I know that that headmaster’s desk would be mine for nearly two years after I entered that summer morning.

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Timothy San Pedro is a PhD Candidate in English Education at Arizona State University, where he has conducted three years of ethnographic research in a Native American Literature classroom in a state that has banned ethnic studies programs in public schools. He taught Alaska Native High School students for the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. He is a Ford Fellow; a Gates Millennium Scholar, mentor, and regional director; and a Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color Fellow. San Pedro’s research interests include Native American Urban Education and socio-culturally sustaining pedagogies.


As I enter the Native American Literature classroom that I am conducting research in, I see many faces, hear many stories, and engage in many conversations. On this particular day, I overhear a conversation Eileen has with another classmate. She says to her friend: “If you cut us in half and put us together, you’d have two complete people.” Eileen is referring to her and her friend’s ethnic makeup; they are both half Navajo and half African American.


Although a joke between two friends, I know what it feels like to want to be fully something, rather than on the margins of two or more cultural or ethnic identities. I want to reach out to both of them at this point and say, “It can get quite confusing. Take me, for example. I’m half Filipino, half Caucasian, yet I grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Since my family left my father, I have had zero contact with my Filipino culture and have been embraced by the Native American community around me. Where does that leave me? Who does that make me? Where do I fit, if anywhere?” Those conversations centered on identity may come later with Eileen. For now, I just give them a smile.

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JoEtta Gonzales

As the Director of the Equity Alliance at ASU, JoEtta designs and delivers individualized, comprehensive, and systemic support for school districts in the form of leadership training, collaboration, coaching and capacity building.  With a blend of humor, sensitivity, and professional insight, she uses her passion and first-hand experience to help individuals develop  and use an equity lens for decision-making related to student achievement.  A talented speaker and workshop leader, she has worked with school systems across the United States in addressing issues of equity.

Dear School District,

Sending my daughter off to school for the first time will be a bittersweet experience.  I should be good at this by now, right? I’ve seen her off to kindergarten, middle school, high school – heck, I’ve even had the opportunity to walk her to her first class when she started her studies at the university.  Each time she started school she came home more intelligent, spirited, and slightly saucier.

And yet, sending her off to work in your district as a teacher leaves me compelled to share a few things with you.  I want you to know who she is and understand the kind of teacher she wants to be.

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Kori Hamilton is a writer and editor for the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY).  She has a love and  passion for children, particularly those typically marginalized.  Her desire to improve the experiences that children have in school led her to pursue her doctorate in Education Leadership and Policy Studies at Arizona State University.   Her hope is that her work in education has meaning and directly touches the lives of children.

Working as a secondary teacher in South Central Los Angeles brought some of the best times in my life.  I gained a perspective from students that dispelled my assumptions about their thoughts and feelings.  I remember when I first set foot on the middle school campus, fresh out of college and excited to begin my work in the classroom, I encountered a question that I had not anticipated.  At least one student would ask daily for the first week, “Are you our real teacher?”  I would answer their question with a question. “Whose name do you see written on your schedule?” “Hamilton”, they would respond. “I am Hamilton. And yes, I am your real teacher.” Read more

Lisa Lacy Lisa Marie Lacy was a former Special Education teacher who taught for six years in an urban school district in a large metropolitan area in the southwestern region of the United States. She is currently a doctoral student at Arizona State University in the Curriculum & Instruction-Special Education program. Lisa’s research interests lie in the area of identity and teachers’ beliefs and perceptions as they relate to inclusive education. She is interested in how teachers’ beliefs and perceptions are shaped by their lived experiences and cultural histories and have an impact on how they view students with disabilities in the educational setting. Additionally, she is interested in creating culturally responsive school/family partnerships for the betterment of all students.

I arrived at work in a harried state and frame of mind. I have so much work to do today and a ton of IEP meetings, these words ran through my head as I unlocked the classroom door and instinctively turned on the lights and walked to my desk and retrieved my phone messages. I put my book bag on the floor next to my desk, and checked my emails, one-by-one, quickly glancing at the clock on the wall. 8:45. I sighed, and mumbled come on to the computer as I waited impatiently for all ten pages of my IEP documents to print from my printer. I just had enough time to grab the student’s file and all other paperwork that goes into a student’s file that is going to receive special education services. Read more

Anne Hynds photoDr. Anne Hynds is a Pākeha Researcher / Senior Lecturer in the School of Educational Psychology and Pedagogy, Faculty of Education at Victoria University of Wellington. She is also a Research Associate for the Jessie Herrington Research Centre at the Faculty of Education. As a teacher, Anne taught in primary, intermediate and secondary school settings, and in mainstream and Deaf education. Anne has a real interest in collaborative research / action research methodologies and has worked in a number of bi-cultural evaluation projects including the National Evaluation of Te Kotahitanga; the coordination of the Quality Teaching Research and Development in Practice Project (QTR&D) and the National Evaluation of Te Kauhua: Maori in the mainstream pilot project.

What is teacher collaboration really?

There are different terms associated with teacher collaboration, including collegiality, professional learning communities, and partnership work to name but a few. It is important to draw distinctions between teacher congeniality and collegiality. Congeniality refers to the comfortableness of teachers’ social relationships, while collegiality refers to the quality and impact of professional relationships and shared responsibility for change across classrooms through collaboration.

In culturally responsive schooling contexts, teacher collaboration must extend beyond the staff-room door, because the development of culturally responsive practices requires teachers to form reciprocal learning relationships with diverse groups of students and their parent/caregiver communities.  Friend and Cook (1992) state that “…collaboration is a style of direct interaction between at least two co-equal parties voluntarily engaged in shared decision making as they work toward a common goal” (p. 5). Teacher collaboration implies collective responsibility for improving all student outcomes within culturally responsive and inclusive environments. This means challenging deficit thinking and low expectations within classrooms and schools that prevent all students from realizing their full potential. Read more

Paul C. Gorski is an assistant professor in New Century College, George Mason University. Gorski’s work and passion is social justice activism. His areas of scholarly focus include anti-poverty activism and education, critical race theory and anti-racism education, and critical theories pertaining to women’s rights, LGBT rights, labor rights, immigrant rights, and anti-imperialism. Gorski is an active consultant and speaker, working with community and educational organizations around the world—such as in Colombia, Australia, India, and Mexico—on equity and social justice concerns. Gorski founded EdChange, a coalition of educators and activists who develop free social justice resources for educators and activists.

In my view, the challenge of educational inequity is not, as many assume, that too few people care about creating learning environments that work for all students. The challenge, despite an overwhelming desire among most teachers and administrators to serve the needs of all students, is that we generally have very little understanding of the depth and complexity of the problem.

Consider, for example, the monster we commonly refer to as  the “achievement gap”. I use this example because a vast majority of education equity attention today is focused on this “gap” as measured in standardized test score comparisons. Over many decades, even before today’s term for it was coined, school leaders have attempted myriad strategies for redressing “achievement gaps” among and between students across race, language, class, and other identities. But we’ve made so little progress. Why?

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