Student engagement

Dr. Kent Paredes Scribner has been the superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District, the largest high school district in Arizona, since 2008. Dr. Scribner has led several successful educational initiatives during his tenure, thus far. He implemented the mission of “Preparing every student for success in college, career and life,” and the District has responded. Each District school was rated either Performing, Performing Plus, Highly Performing or Excelling by the State of Arizona’s “Arizona Learns” system in 2011. In 2013, Phoenix Union’s upward trajectory continued as they yet again increased the number of “A” and “B” schools in the Arizona Department of Education’s Accountability Rankings. Honors and Advanced Placement course-taking has more than doubled. The Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) curriculum has been introduced on every comprehensive campus. The number of students both applying for earning acceptance to college has dramatically increased. Financial resources offered to Phoenix Union students has skyrocketed as well, going from $17.8 million in merit scholarships in 2009, to over $40 million in merit scholarships in both 2012 and 2013. In October 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Scribner to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Scribner is frequently called upon by business leaders, community organizations and educational institutions to share his expertise on urban education, speak at conferences, conduct media interviews, and serve on numerous committees. Born in Los Angeles, California, Scribner earned a B.A. in Latin American Studies from Carleton College in Minnesota, a M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from Temple University and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Arizona State University. He began his education career as a high school Spanish teacher in Philadelphia. He moved to Arizona in 1992 and became a graduate research assistant at Arizona State University, where he examined issues of quality and diversity in Phoenix Union regarding the district’s court-ordered desegregation. Before he joined Phoenix Union, Scribner, was the superintendent of the Isaac Elementary School District in Phoenix from 2003 to 2008. Scribner, who received the Excellence in Educational Leadership Award from the University Council of Educational Administration in 2008, is married and has two children.

Education practitioners are faced with questions about how best to help their students reach their full potential. How do we motivate our youth to succeed in their current school environments? How do we encourage them to become involved in their respective communities? How do we ensure that this smart, enterprising generation of young people grows into thoughtful adults who pursue their dreams and aspire to make a difference in the world?

Frequently, educators grasp at a new program, a new curriculum or a new “shiny thing” to accomplish the lofty goals we have for our students. As a leader of a large urban district, I have seen numerous policies, curricular changes and partnerships come across my desk that attempt to address diversity, motivation and student preparation for today’s competitive global economy. It is extremely challenging to sort through and decide which initiatives can be effective and implemented successfully.

How do we as teachers and leaders motivate our students in a world of both great diversity and great “connectedness”?  Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

JoEtta has a passion for equity that has been present all her life.  As the Director of the Equity Alliance at ASU, she connects with educational leaders who want to engage change and transformation.  With a blend of humor, sensitivity, and professional insight, she has helped hundreds of individuals develop the dispositions necessary to 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.

In my work with schools, I have the opportunity to talk with students about their school experiences. They often say that adults in school don’t listen – that they’ve never been asked their opinions before – and that adults in schools have too many other things to worry about besides the thoughts, ideas, or issues that concern kids.  These students come from elementary and secondary schools in both traditional and alternative settings.  The common message I receive is they don’t feel their ideas are important; and these feelings of anonymity often result in students who disengage from school. Over time, these feelings start to accumulate, and situate the student within the margins of classrooms and schools. Many times these students are labeled “at risk” because they are in danger of failing to achieve at levels similar to their peers or of developing behaviors and attitudes that create barriers to school success; and ultimately failing to graduate.

Read more


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

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

Lewis picCynthia Lewis is Professor of Critical Literacy and English Education at the University of Minnesota. Her current research focuses on the relationship between digital media practices, social identities, and learning in urban schools. Cynthia’s books include Literary Practices as Social Acts: Power, Status, and Cultural Norms in the Classroom and Reframing Sociocultural Research: Identity, Agency, and Power (with Patricia Enciso and Elizabeth Moje).  Both books were awarded the Edward Fry book Award from the National Reading Conference. She is past Co-Chair of the Research Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English and has served on the executive board of the National Conference on Research on Language and Literacy.

Given persistent disparities in educational achievement and high school retention, there is an urgent need to understand processes that promote high school success in adolescents at risk for academic failure. An essential 21st Century skill set for all of our nation’s students includes the information and communication technology skills to allow for participation as creative and informed citizens as well as critical thinkers well versed in core subject area knowledge. In light of a pervasive digital divide, it is essential that schools provide the access, resources, knowledge, and skills that will allow all students to succeed academically in high school and beyond. Students from low-income households, who lack access to computers and the Internet in the home, need to acquire digital media practices in school. Read more

Rueda picRobert Rueda is a professor in the area of Psychology in Education at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. His research has centered on the sociocultural basis of motivation, learning, and instruction, with a focus on reading and literacy in English learners, and students in at-risk conditions, and he teaches courses in learning and motivation.  He recently served as a panel member on the National Academy of Science Report on the Overrepresentation of Minority Students in Special Education, and also served as a member of the National Literacy Panel (SRI International and Center for Applied Linguistics) looking at issues in early reading with English language learners.

When I was growing up, I ended up bedridden for a period of time. After endless days of watching cartoons, I was bored. Thankfully, a friend’s mother brought over a box of books which had been sitting in the attic which she had just cleaned out. I picked it up, and for the first time, was interested in reading without being required to. While I had the skill and knowledge to read, I had no reason or interest to do so.

Read more