Inclusive education

Dr. Donna Y. FordDonna Y. Ford, Ph.D., is Professor of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. She teaches in the Department of Special Education. Professor Ford conducts research primarily in gifted education and multicultural/urban education. Specifically, her work focuses on: (1) recruiting and retaining culturally diverse students in gifted education; (2) multicultural and urban education; (3) minority student achievement and underachievement; and (4) family involvement. She consults with school districts and educational organizations in the areas of gifted education and multicultural/urban education. Dr. Ford is the author of Reversing Underachievement Among Gifted Black Students (1996) and co-author of Multicultural Gifted Education (1999), In search of the dream: Designing schools and classrooms that work for high potential students from diverse cultural backgrounds (2004), and Teaching culturally diverse gifted students. Dr. Ford, is co-founder of the Scholar Identity Institute for Black Males with Dr. Gilman Whiting. Donna is a returning board member of the National Association for Gifted Children, and has served on numerous editorial boards, such as Gifted Child Quarterly, Exceptional Children, Journal of Negro Education, and Roeper Review.

According to virtually every report and study focusing on the achievement gap between Black and White students, Black students are under-performing in school settings compared to their White counterparts. Of the more than 16,000 school districts in the U.S., few (if any) can report that no achievement gap exists, that the achievement gap is marginal, or that the gap has been narrowed or closed. Nationally, there is the average of a four-year gap in which Black students at the age of 17 perform at the level of a 13-year old White student. Of course, and sadly so, this gap is greater than four years in some states and school districts. Also sad and pathetic is the reality that, while the gap is evident when students start school, it is roughly a one-year gap in the early years; however, during the educational process, the gap increases or widens! The achievement gap exists because of home and school variables, with schools playing a significant role.

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Thea Renda Abu El-Haj is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her diverse experiences as an elementary school teacher, researcher and teacher educator have shaped her primary commitment to teaching and research that fosters the development of just and equitable educational practices for all children. Her writing is focused in two areas: how equity is conceptualized in everyday practice; and the meanings and practices of citizenship education in the context of globalization.

When my daughter was five she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It was clear from the first moment that my daughter returned to her kindergarten class that, as a parent advocating for a child with a medical disability, the stance I took toward difference would matter greatly. One approach, perhaps the obvious one, would have focused on her physiological disability and understood the “problem of difference” as an individual one, making the fewest possible demands on the school community. The simplest way to manage her diabetes would be to pack her snacks and lunch daily and to provide special treats that she could eat when the classroom had birthdays or holiday celebrations. This solution would make it reasonably easy to calculate my daughter’s insulin requirements; however, it would also burden her with the sole responsibility for the challenge her difference posed. She would be constantly marked as different, excluded from routine classroom activities such as the sharing of daily snacks and lunches and the pleasure of special foods on festive occasions.

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Maria Adelaida Restrepo Ph,D, CCC-SLP, is an associate professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science at Arizona State University. She currently heads three funded projects on intervention for English Language Learners through Tier 2 interventions or professional training of preschool teachers, and one funded project in assessment of Spanish-speaking children. She is a bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist who has worked in schools and a variety of settings with Latin-American children and families. Her research and writing focus on best practices in speech and language assessment and intervention with bilingual populations and prevention of academic failure in children at risk due to language or environmental issues.

What is a bilingual speech and language assessment? Children who speak a language other than English and children who are bilingual need to be evaluated in their native language or the languages that they speak. When children are evaluated only in one of the languages, or in the language in which they are least proficient, such as English for English Language Learners (ELLs), they are often misdiagnosed with speech and language problems when they do not exist, or the nature of the child’s difficulty is not determined accurately (Artiles, Rueda, Salazar, & Higareda, 2005). Some times, however, we find that the monolingual speech-language pathologist (SLP) evaluating a child who is learning English overcorrects for the lack of knowledge of the child’s native language and culture, and misses that the child has a disability by attributing low performance to cultural and linguistic difference.

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Mike RoseMike Rose is on the faculty of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and the author of Possible Lives: The Promise of Public Education in America, recently released by Penguin with a new preface, and The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker. His new blog on education can be found through his website mikerosebooks.com

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As the 2008 election moves center stage, I would like us to pause and ask ourselves the big question. Why do we as a nation yearly engage in the hugely expensive and culturally monumental ritual of sending children to school?

From everything we hear, it’s to prepare the next generation for the economy, and that preparation is measured through scores on standardized tests. This has been the primary justification for education for a generation.But our children are more than economic beings, and learning and development cannot be reduced to a few test scores.Education turned my life around, so I come at this issue in a very personal way. I long to hear more in our national discussion about the powerful effect education can have on young people’s lives.

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