Special education

Adai Tefera’s research focuses on improving educational policies for diverse learners with dis/abilities. She is particularly interested in understanding the socio-historical, political, and cultural dimensions that shape policies and impact learning. A second strand of her research focuses on knowledge mobilization, an emerging field that aims to increase the impact and use of research by utilizing interactive strategies that target wide audiences, including educators, policy makers, community organizers, parents, and students. She is specifically interested in knowledge mobilization efforts that advance equity in education.

Taucia Gonzalez is a doctoral candidate at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University in the Curriculum and Instruction program with a concentration in special education. She is interested in expanding literacy practices for language minority students with learning disabilities. More specifically, her work examines how Latina/o language minority students engage in literacy across in- and out-of-school contexts.

Cueponcaxochitl’s research draws on decolonial and socio-cultural theories to examine Ancestral Computing for environmental, economic and social sustainability. Ancestral Computing for sustainability is an ecosystems approach to solving complex problems by interweaving Ancestral Knowledge Systems and computer science. She is a Xicana scholar activist who applies the interdisciplinary frameworks, coloniality of power and figured worlds, to analyze identity formations and civic engagement across learning environments (formal and informal). Her research informs various areas of work such as foundations, teacher preparation programs, curriculum studies and policy in computer science education.

Sarah Alvarado Díaz is a research assistant for Equity Alliance and a first-year doctoral student in the Learning, Literacies and Technologies program, with a special interest in students who are labeled as English language learners, as students who receive special education services, and in particular, looking at disproportionate numbers of English language learners being referred for special education services or being placed in special education programs.  Prior to coming to ASU as a full-time student she worked as an elementary school teacher in a South Phoenix school for sixteen years, where she worked with first through third grade students, and many years as a dual language teacher, in English and Spanish.  

This blog is written from the perspective of our four voices combined. You will see that the lines between our stories are blurred. Our combined experiences in policy and teaching in diverse settings is weaved into the voice of one person with four intersectional paths of theory and practice. Read more

Cean Richard Colcord is a doctoral student pursuing a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Special Education. He is also a university teaching and research assistant and a current special education teacher in the Isaac school district. He received concurrent Bachelor’s degrees in special education and human communication and a Master’s degree in educational technology from Arizona State University. His research examines the use of educational technology in special education and the ways in which it can be used to improve access, adequacy, and equity in special education. He is also interested in the stories and voices of children with disabilities, the shielded identities of children with disabilities in online classrooms, school-wide positive behavior supports, and pre-service special education teacher preparation. Mr. Colcord was selected as the 2011-2012 Robert Rutherford Fellow in Special Education and is a member of the American Educational Research Association, Council for Exceptional Children, and the Arizona Technology in Education Alliance. In 2011, Mr. Colcord was selected as a Rodel Exemplary Teacher for his record of extraordinary student achievement in high-poverty schools.

One night around 3:00 am, I woke up to what appeared to be a flashlight beaming in through my bedroom window.  I laid silently as thoughts began floating to consciousness trying to make sense of the light, when I heard our backdoor creaking under the force of something prying at it.  As a twelve year old boy living with my mother, stepfather, and my brother in a under resourced neighborhood in downtown Phoenix I suddenly understood someone was trying to break into our apartment.

I ran quietly into the living room where my parents were sleeping.  I placed my mouth close to my stepfather’s ear and in a rush whispered, “Someone’s trying to break in.”  He jumped up and went toward the back door, and I trailed behind him.  Together we chased the burglar away.  A dark shadow disappeared into the night.

I returned to bed and laid there with my heart beating quickly as my thoughts worked through what had just happened.  My thoughts and my heart beat eventually slowed down as sleep began creeping back over my body, when I suddenly heard a loud POP.

I sat up, looked at my brother, and I fell off the bed onto the floor. Through a fog I recall my stepfather running into my room and him and my brother repeatedly trying to pick me back up. Read more

Clare Okyere is currently the Teacher on Assignment at Herrera School for the Fine Arts and Dual Language, prior to which she served as a fifth grade teacher in the same school for five years.  During the past few years Clare oversaw the Teacher Assistance Team at her school to ensure teachers were supported and well informed in implementing the Response to Intervention framework to better meet the needs of all students.  Clare was recently selected as a grant recipient for a fully funded Master’s program based on her leadership skills in her school district.  She began her coursework this summer in Educational Administration & Supervision in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.  In addition to her work and studies Clare is also a co-founder of Twenty-Nine Eleven Productions, a publishing company through which Clare has served as a book editor and more recently published her first children’s book Bluebird, Bluebird.  While Clare’s roles have shifted over the past few years, her commitment to serving all students with high standards remains constant.

 

I was recently asked a simple enough question, What is the role of the teacher?  Initially, I thought, That’s easy enough. That’s who I am. It’s at my core. Of course I can answer that question.

But then, I started reflecting, like teachers are prone to do, and that seemingly simple question became much more complex. My role was constantly changing through my experiences as a teacher.  For instance, when I was still in college the role of the teacher meant we focused on pedagogy—how to teach the children.  I was prepared to go into my first job and rise to the challenge of teaching students to use inquiry to learn the secrets of simple machines, to use questioning to create mathematical conjectures, and to facilitate literature studies that would allow children to “read the world.”   When I became a full time teacher the reality of a classroom context dramatically stretched my understanding of my role.  My focus on pedagogy was not enough to meet the demands of teaching.  Thirty students with different life histories, cultures, languages, educational strengths and struggles, family dynamics, reading levels, attendance patterns, socioeconomics, and more entered the classroom.  In order to meet their needs I had to reconsider my role.

In fact, give me a multiple choice question, and I’d probably think my way into getting it wrong.

Question: What is the role of the teacher?

  • Choice A would be something like, “Facilitator of knowledge.” That’s true.
  • Choice B – “Advocate.” Yep.
  • Choice C – “Counselor.” Yes, each and every day.
  • And finally, the ever famous D, “All of the above.”

Read more

Beth FerriBeth Ferri, associate professor in teaching and leadership programs, is the coordinator of the Doctoral Program in Special Education. She teaches courses in adapting instruction for diverse learners as well as graduate seminars in Disability Studies, including a course on Race and Disability and a course on Gender, Disability and Sexuality. Her research interests focus on inclusive education, disability studies, and narrative inquiry. In her 2006 book, Reading Resistance: Discourses of Exclusion in Desegregation and Inclusion Debates (Peter Lang), she and coauthor David J. Connor explore how the entanglement of race and disability worked to create and maintain new mechanisms of exclusion after the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision.

As any educator will tell you, the pendulum of reform rarely stays in one place very long. There is always something new: new ideas, new theories, and new paradigms. Certainly my own field of special education has been at the epicenter of many educational reforms (i.e. inclusion, positive behavior support, phonemic-awareness). Yet, given this penchant for reform, how is it that the more education changes, the more it seems to remain the same?

One reason for pendulum swings, at least in terms of special education practice, is that the foundational assumptions of the field remain deeply entrenched. The idea that students come in two types, one “special” and one “regular,” for instance, remains an unstated assumption across a range of reforms. We know, of course, that students share a range of abilities, motivations, interests, identities, and backgrounds—all of which cannot be reduced to a simple binary. Yet, because we have yet to challenge this core assumption, we continue to assume that students who are deemed “special” or disabled are different in fundamental and essential ways from their non-disabled peers. Read more

K Collins picKathleen M. Collins is an Assistant Professor of Language, Culture and Society in the College of Education at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.  Her program of research examines the contextual factors and interactional processes that contribute to school success and school failure.  She is the author of Ability Profiling and School Failure: One Child’s Struggle to be Seen as Competent (2003, Routledge) and her work has appeared in Urban Education, Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, Learning Disabilities Quarterly, and English Journal. Her most recent research uses a multiple literacies framework to investigate the role of the arts in supporting children’s acquisition of content area literacies.

Each summer from the time I was 3 until I was 12 I spent two weeks alone with my maternal grandparents at their home in Carle Place, Long Island. For a girl growing up in western Massachusetts, Long Island was exciting. It was, after all, an island, and my grandparents lived in a close-knit Irish and Italian neighborhood where sharing talk, laughter, and home-grown produce over the backyard fence were regular occurrences. Read more

Fergus picDr. Edward Fergus is Deputy Director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University. A former high school teacher, he has and continues to provide technical assistance and analysis on education policy and research to school districts. He has published various articles on disproportionality in special education, race/ethnicity in schools, and author of Skin Color and Identity Formation: Perceptions of Opportunity and Academic Orientation among Mexican and Puerto Rican Youth (Routledge Press, 2004).  He is currently the Co-Principal Investigator of a study of single-sex schools for boys of color (funded by the Gates Foundation), the New York State Technical Assistance Center on Disproportionality, and various other research and programmatic endeavors focused on disproportionality and educational opportunity.

The disproportionate representation of Black and Latino students in special education is not new. Disproportionality in special education since 1968, is a critical federal concern. In 2004, the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education was founded with funding support from New York State Education Department – VESID the Technical Assistance Center on Disproportionality – www.steinhardt.nyu.edu/metrocenter/tacd). Read more