Professional learning

Rebeca Burciaga is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and a member of the Core Faculty for the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education at San José State University. Dr. Burciaga’s research centers on understanding and challenging educational practices and structures that (re)produce social inequalities for historically marginalized communities, including/specifically Latino students.  Her research in schools and communities spans over 20 years and includes mixed-methods research on pathways from preschool to the professoriate, the experiences of students who leave high school before graduation, and the ways in which geographic regions structure inequalities. She specializes the study of qualitative research methodologies including testimonio and ethnography. Her current research and teaching is focused on cultivating asset-based mindsets in teachers and administrators that work with youth of color.  Dr. Burciaga is a co-founder and co-coordinator of the Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz, a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a Ph.D. in Education from the University of California at Los Angeles.  Her research has been supported and recognized by the Spencer Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Institute of Health, and the American Association of University Women. Her most recent scholarship can be found in Equity & Excellence in Education, the Association of Mexican American Educators Journal, and the Educational Administration Quarterly.

Read more

Laura Atkinson is a research associate in the School of Social Transform at Arizona State University (ASU) and a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction-Special Education. Laura is currently serving as the coordinator of the Urban Professional Learning Schools Initiative (UPLSI) Master’s program. She spent over a decade teaching general education and special education before receiving her MA in special education (with a focus on Learning Disabilities) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Laura served as the Director of an $8.5 million dollar grant at Mississippi State University (ACHIEVE Mississippi). She has also served as a lecturer in curriculum and instruction at ASU where she has taught undergraduate and graduate level classes in regular and special education. Additionally, Laura coordinated an accelerated, immersion teacher certification program and supervised student teachers. Her research interests include pre-service teacher education, professional development for teachers, culturally responsive pedagogy, and professional learning schools.


Recently I was walking with a colleague of mine on campus as a group of students passed us by. “Laura, is that you?” One of the students, a tall, handsome African American man, was looking at me.   I studied this unfamiliar man and behind the mature face, trousers, and tie, I recognized the young undergraduate I had taught nearly a decade earlier. Tim had been in my reading methods class and I had supervised him during his student teaching experience.

As Tim and I spent a few minutes catching up on highlights from the past seven years I asked him what he was doing on campus.  “I’m working on my Master’s in Educational Leadership. I want to become a principal.”  Tim’s still sheepish smile radiated pride as he looked down at me, revealing the young man I had known so well years earlier. I remembered that even then Tim stood out for his natural leadership abilities.  I couldn’t help but joining him in that sense of pride, wondering if I could have played a small role in his desire to continue higher education.   

Read more

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.

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?

Read more

You might be wondering who thought it would be a good idea to hold an Equity Forum in Arizona in 2011? We’ve asked ourselves that same question.
Read more

Dr. Cobb is the Administrative Coordinator for Los Angeles Unified School District’s Office of Academic English Mastery/Standard English Learner Programs. Its mission is two-fold: to eliminate educational disparities for African American, Mexican American, Native American, and Hawaiian American students; and to train teachers, administrators, and support staff in cultural responsiveness to ensure equitable access to quality education for historically under-served students.  For twenty years Dr. Cobb has been an independent training consultant, providing training in culturally relevant and responsive education; change management; leadership development; strategic planning; and coalition building.

Who are Standard English Language Learners?

Standard English Learners (SELs) are students for whom Standard English is not native, whose home languages differ in structure and form from the language of school [i.e. standard American or academic English]. These students are generally classified as “English Only” African American, Hawaiian American, Mexican American, and Native American because their home language incorporates English vocabulary while embodying phonology, grammar, and sentence structure rules transitioned from indigenous/native languages other than English including African languages, Native American languages, Hawaiian languages and Latin American Spanish.

Read more

David Gibson is creator of simSchool (, a classroom flight simulator for training teachers, currently funded by the US Department of Education FIPSE program and eFolio, an online performance assessment system. His research and publications include work on complex systems analysis and modeling of education, Web applications and the future of learning, the use of technology to personalize education, and the potential for games and simulation-based learning. He founded The Global Challenge Award, a team and project-based learning and scholarship program for high school students that engages small teams in studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics in order to solve global problems.

“What is going on with Cathy and Javier today? I thought they would LIKE working together.” “Bill’s head has been down for most of the second half of the class, but I know he loves this class.”

Good teachers constantly negotiate a balance between the tools at their disposal, their pedagogy, and their knowledge of content in ever-changing contexts – the intersecting systems of their classrooms, their school, and the family and community lives of their increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse students.

Read more

Winans photo Rebeckah Winans is the Principal of Fuller Elementary School in Tempe, Arizona. She is an active member of the NIUSI-LeadScape community of inclusive school principals, as well as a founding member of the Urban Professional Learning Schools Initiative to develop effective, dually-certified teachers to work in culturally responsive, urban school communities.

Ever walk into a classroom during a walkthrough or walk-by and immediately felt compelled to sit down?  A masterful teacher has just engaged you!  You already know the content; you can even guess what sub-objectives are about to be laid out in front of you – but because of the strategies being demonstrated– you must participate.  This is rigorous learning; urgency at its best – and this is what professional developers must use to change teaching.

Read more

Carol ChristineCarol Christine recently retired from her position as Clinical Associate Professor and Associate Division Director in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction in the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education at Arizona State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Language, Reading, and Culture at the University of Arizona in 1997. She worked in teacher education, primarily with faculty in preservice teacher education, from 1997 – 2009 at ASU. She was a founding member and Program Director of The Center for Establishing Dialogue in Teaching and Learning, a not-for-profit organization of teachers and schools, established in the Phoenix area in 1986. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Prospect Center since 1998. This work in Phoenix is described in a forthcoming publication from Teachers College Press, Jenny’s Story: Prospect’s Philosophy in Action by Patricia F. Carini and Margaret Himley — with Carol Christine, Cecilia Espinosa, and Julia Fournier.

Speaking of Children . . .

No matter what class I am teaching, at some time during the term I ask, “What is education for?” because I think the teachers who consider this question will look at the relationship they have with the other participants in the room accordingly. Is the purpose of education to prepare children for the work force or to be good citizens or is education for the personal growth and development of the individual? Or are all these interwoven? I want teachers to be aware of how different perspectives on the purpose of education influence curriculum, the role of teachers in classrooms, and how teaching and learning are assessed.
Read more

Dr. Sally Nathenson-MejíaDr. Sally Nathenson-Mejía is an Associate Professor in the Literacy, Language and Culturally Responsive Teaching program at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Education & Human Development. Her research in secondary education for English learners is conducted in collaboration with a team of professors and educators working on two National Professional Development grants. Her research in the field of K-5 English learners’ literacy development is conducted in collaboration with teachers and administrators in the Denver metropolitan area. Dr. Nathenson-Mejia is co-author, with Dr. Maria Uribe, of the book Literacy Essentials for English Language Learners (2008). Together they are researching building-wide literacy initiatives for schools with high English learner populations. She presents and does workshops nationally on K-5 English learners’ literacy development and instructional implications.

In this space, over the past several months, educators have discussed how we must attend to the needs of English language learners and to the professional development models we are using to build capacity among teachers for working with ELL students. I would like to build on the ideas and knowledge of previous contributors by discussing efforts we are making at the University of Colorado Denver to address both of these concerns.

What is the relationship between Professional Development and student engagement/achievement?

“…students’ achievement will not improve unless and until we create schools and districts where all educators are learning how to significantly improve their skills as teachers and as instructional leaders” (Wagner et al, 2006, pg. 23).

As university faculty who specialize in teaching English learners and providing professional development for teachers, we get excited about the prospect of working with districts to help all educators improve. We want to be involved with school administrators and teachers as they find ways to impact the engagement and achievement of ELL students. It is this excitement that led us to the work we are doing with two Colorado districts that have high populations of English learners.

Read more

Next Page →