Systemic change

Stuart Rhoden, Ph.D. is originally from Chicago, IL. He has been in education for over 15 years. He worked in Washington D.C. and Chicago on education policy and advocacy. He also was a high school teacher in Chicago and Los Angeles for a number of years. For the past five years, he has been a lecturer teaching on issues of culture and diversity, education policy, education philosophy and youth cultures in colleges both in Philadelphia and Phoenix. He currently lives in Phoenix, where he is a full-time Instructor at Arizona State University Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

In the past three or four years, there has been a grassroots movement across the country created by some progressive educational groups surrounding students “Opting out” of mandatory high-stakes state test.  My opinion of this is that it is a copout. Until we change the system at broader systemic levels, we are not adequately preparing our students to succeed if we tell them they can opt-out of assessments along the way. This goes well beyond the “work harder/smarter” or “bootstraps” mentality that is often cited as code for structural inequality, but rather my perspective stems from an insistence that students can shine in an inequitable system as it is currently constructed. What is equally important is that as the adults; including educators, policy makers and researchers, need to consider more appropriate ways to analyze positive academic achievement, as well as strive towards creating more accurate measures of student achievement. The student’s role, while important, should not focus on being change agents of systemic inequality (that should be left to the adults), but rather beacons of light who consistently overcome systemic inequality. Read more

We obtained permission to reprint in our blog series a letter written by Rae Paris. The letter was originally published in blackspaceblog.com. Rae Paris addresses the historic and recent events of police brutality. It has been signed by over 1,000 Black professors around the world.

Photo caption: Black students and professors, Beaumont Tower, Michigan State University, December 6, 2014.

The citation for the original publication is:

Paris, Rae. (December 8, 2014). An Open Letter of Love to Black Students: #BlackLivesMatter. Retrieved from http://blackspaceblog.com/2014/12/08/an-open-letter-of-love-to-black-students-blacklivesmatter/

Rae Paris is from Carson, California. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in The Common, Guernica, Dismantle, Solstice, and other journals. Her work has been supported by the NEA Literature Fellowship, and residencies from Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Hambidge Center, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook, and VONA. Her poem “The Forgetting Tree” was selected as Best of the Net 2013, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart. She teaches fiction at the Bread Loaf School of English, and lives and writes mostly in East Lansing, Michigan where she’s Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Michigan State University. 

We are Black professors.

We are daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, godchildren, grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, and mothers.

We’re writing to tell you we see you and hear you. Read more

H. Richard Milner IV is the Helen Faison Endowed Chair of Urban Education, Professor of Education, Professor of Social Work (by courtesy), and Professor of Africana Studies (by courtesy) as well as Director of the Center for Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a policy fellow of the National Education Policy Center. His research, teaching and policy interests concern urban education, teacher education, African American literature, and the sociology of education. In particular, Professor Milner’s research examines practices that support teachers for success in urban schools. Professor Milner’s work has appeared in numerous journals, and he has published five books. His book, published in 2010 by Harvard Education Press, is: Start where you are but don’t stay there: Understanding diversity, opportunity gaps, and teaching in today’s classrooms http://hepg.org/hep/book/129/StartWhereYouAreButDonTStayThere, which represents years of research and development effort. Currently, he is Editor-in-chief of Urban Education and co-editor of the Handbook of Urban Education http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415634779/with Kofi Lomotey, published with Routledge Press in 2014. He can be reached at rmilner@pitt.edu.

Years ago, I provided a workshop with educators in an elementary school – educators, principals, and a small number of counselors.  I was invited to focus – in particular – on the role of poverty in education and to provide instructional strategies for educators that would assist them in better meeting the needs of students whose needs are grossly under-met in schools.  These students tend to be students of color (namely Black and Brown), those living in poverty, those whose first language is not English, and those whose first language is not English.  Although analyses of achievement gap patterns, graduate rates, enrollment in gifted and advanced courses, office and special education referral, and participation in school-wide clubs and activities demonstrate how Black and Brown children’s needs, in particular, in too many instances are not being met, my attempt to shepherd the educators in the workshop into real conversations about race, the salience and persistence of racism, and inequity was resisted.  Moreover, educators in the session wanted me to tell them exactly what to do with “those” children, who are very different than the children the educators taught in the past and “certainly” different from the times when the educators themselves were students.  I quickly learned my job was to focus on poverty exclusively and to tell those in attendance exactly what to do to raise their students’ test scores.

Read more

Dr. Cecilia Rios-Aguilar is an Associate Professor of Education at the School of Educational Studies. Dr. Rios-Aguilar’s research is multidisciplinary and uses a variety of conceptual frameworks—funds of knowledge and the forms of capital—and of statistical approaches—regression analysis, multilevel models, structural equation modeling, GIS, and social network analysis—to study the educational and occupational trajectories of under-represented minorities, including Latina/os, English learners, low-income, and immigrant and second-generation students. Most recently, Dr. Rios-Aguilar and her colleague Dr. Regina Deil-Amen, received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to conduct the first study to assess how community colleges adopt and use social media technology for strategic purposes.

 

In 2008, William Tate (past president of AERA) used maps to describe the geography of opportunity in two metropolitan regions of the United States that were engaged in efforts to transform their local political economies. His maps helped visualize that urban centers consisted largely of census blocks where residents bachelor’s degree attainment was much lower compared to places where biotechnology centers were strategically located. This finding (combined with other spatial patterns he found) strongly suggested that an uneven geography of opportunity was present in these regions. Tate, then, urged educators and scholars to think more critically about the way geography affects educational and occupational opportunities, particularly those of under-represented students (and their families and communities).

Tate’s findings and logic have extended to various locations and to many different social and educational outcomes.  For example, using census data, scholars have created maps to show that low-performing schools, non-prestigious colleges and universities, and low-income and immigrant families are all concentrated in specific areas usually characterized as “deprived”, “undesirable”, or “not-so-hot” places.

Read more

Mei-Ling Malone teaches Education and Criminal Justice courses at Los Angeles Southwest College. She received her masters and doctorate degree from UCLA in Urban Education.  Her dissertation, “Over-Incarcerated & Undereducated: The Impact of California’s Prison Proliferation on Los Angeles Urban Schools” examined the role of the prison industry on segregated schools.   She is a firm believer in providing education that is accessible, critical, empowering and transformative and believes in the power of the people to work for love, wellness, self-determination and self-liberation.

 

Imagine-

It’s a Friday morning and you’re feeling positive and looking forward to the weekend as you walk into your staff meeting and settle down next to your favorite coworker.  Your boss starts talking when suddenly a group of police officers storm in shouting with dogs.  A large dog startles you by jumping onto your lap sniffing.  The officers yell at everyone to stand up and leave the room at once.  Scared and frazzled you walk outside and watch the intimidating armed officers go through your personal belongings from the window.  After making a mess of the staff room and taking your favorite fragrance bottle that was stashed in your bag and a few other personal items from your co-workers, the police leave without apologizing.  The whole event feels hostile, degrading and confusing.  You also feel violated, disrespected and angry.   To add to your growing frustration, your boss pretends like nothing happened and then continues the meeting business as usual.  This of course sends you the message that you deserved the police invasion and that it was perfectly normal.

This slightly modified scenario came directly from listening to a student talk about her experiences at an urban high school in South Los Angeles.  While the situation I just described was only imaginary for you and would be considered unacceptable, unjust treatment for most, this type of experience is very real and all too common for working class black and Latino youth at school.  In fact, this same student also told me about other incidences in which she was treated like a criminal at school.  She shared of a time when she and others were pepper sprayed on campus as they walked to class and of another time when police raided her locker.  While researching the school-to-prison pipeline I heard these stories and more through my student interviews. Read more

Catherine Kramarczuk Voulgarides is a Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology of Education program at New York University (NYU). She was a graduate assistant at the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at NYU under the leadership of Dr. Pedro Noguera. She now works at the Technical Assistance Center on Disproportionality in Special Education at the center. Before joining the Metro center, she worked for the AmeriCorps Vista project in Phoenix, Arizona, coordinating and developing ESL programs for recent immigrant parents in the Phoenix school system. She holds a BA in economics and is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She also holds a MST in Special Education from Pace University in New York City and taught middle school special education for several years in Washington Heights NYC. Her research interests are centered on the intersection between the impact of federal disability legislation and the persistence of racial and ethnic disproportionality. More specifically she is interested in understanding the complexities associated with a policy’s origins, its intent and mediation in practice as it responds to local context, especially when a disparate impact is identified.

It was a typical school day in my research and I was observing an in school suspension room when an African American boy, about seventeen years old, entered and immediately sat at a desk and began writing. The teacher in the room appeared to know him well and asked him what he was working on. The boy said he was writing about what he would say if he became valedictorian. The teacher, seemingly intrigued, asked him to explain his thoughts. “I want to go to college. I mean I only have three options: college, jail or the army.  It’s true, you can ask anyone. These are our only options. You would be surprised by how many kids would say the same. This school is nasty like that.” 

Upon closer inspection of the student’s assignment the teacher realized he was working on an essay for the online credit recovery program designed for suspended students. With the realization the teacher said, “You better get that work done because people are calling the online program a criminal program!” The boy quickly responded with, “I’m not a criminal.” The teacher continued, “Well, people think the program is harboring criminals.” “I ain’t no criminal!” the boy interrupted.  He then returned to his assignment visibly distraught.

Why did he only see three options for himself and his peers: college, jail or the army? And why was he defending himself against the perception that he was a potential criminal? More broadly, what messages are we intentionally or unintentionally telling students about their worth in school and how do these messages intersect with school discipline structures? Read more

Dr. Adai Tefera is a postdoctoral scholar at the Equity Alliance at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Adai’s research focuses on the consequences of education policy on culturally and linguistically diverse students, particularly those labeled with dis/abilities. Before joining the Equity Alliance, Adai worked as a Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Education Policy Research at the University of New Mexico, and served as a fellow with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in the office of Congressman Chaka Fattah. As a graduate student at UCLA, she worked with the Civil Rights Project/Civiles Derechos Proyecto, and spent a number of years working with GEAR UP as a tutor, mentor, and researcher. Adai earned her Ph.D. in Urban Schooling and Masters degree in Public Policy from UCLA. Her dissertation focused on the consequences of high stakes exit exams on students of color with dis/abilities. She received her B.S. in Political Science with a minor in Ethnic Studies from Santa Clara University.

With continued awe at the potential of a second term, I watched the President’s inauguration on January 21, 2013. Fittingly, the day coincided on the same day of our nation’s observance and celebration of an inspired leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Eagerly awaiting the President’s speech on that Monday morning, I was struck by the delicate weaving of words from the Declaration of Independence and our “inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” While I recognize the rights referenced in the Declaration of Independence were not originally intended to be bestowed upon us all, including me – a Black daughter of Ethiopian immigrants – I must confess I have always found the making of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence intriguing. Unquestioningly imperfect, the President reminded us of our responsibility not just to invoke words from the Constitution but also to embody them. For if “We are true to our creed,” he said, “when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.” It is not enough for us to resign to the belief that we are equal but it becomes incumbent that our actions reflect this value. He continued, “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.” While our children – urban, rural, and suburban – have these inalienable rights we know they are far from being actualized. Read more

Maryellen Daston, Ph.D., has a background in biomedical research and technical
writing. As a researcher, she specialized in developmental neuroscience. But
when she started working for Project SEARCH®, her focus shifted from cells in a
dish to the development of the whole person. As part of the Project SEARCH team,
Maryellen is responsible for editing and writing content for the Project SEARCH
web site, articles for professional journals, grant proposals, and other
communications—including the recently published book, [1]High School Transition
that Works: Lessons Learned from Project SEARCH (Brookes Publishing Co.).
Erin Riehle, M.S.N., is a recognized authority and national leader in promoting
employment opportunities for people with disabilities and other barriers to
employment. She is a founder and Senior Director of Project SEARCH, an
employment and transition program that has received national recognition for
innovative practices. When she started Project SEARCH, Erin was a nurse manager
at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Her motivation was to offer
people with disabilities (who made up a significant portion of the hospital’s
patient volume) the same opportunities for training and employment that were
available to everyone else. She brought a business perspective to the field of
disability education, as well as an ability to bring organizations together for

Maryellen Daston, Ph.D., has a background in biomedical research and technical writing. As a researcher, she specialized in developmental neuroscience. But when she started working for Project SEARCH®, her focus shifted from cells in a dish to the development of the whole person. As part of the Project SEARCH team, Maryellen is responsible for editing and writing content for the Project SEARCH web site, articles for professional journals, grant proposals, and other communications—including the recently published book, [1]High School Transition that Works: Lessons Learned from Project SEARCH (Brookes Publishing Co.).

a shared purpose.
Susie Rutkowski, M.Ed., is the Co-Director and Educational Specialist for
Project SEARCH. She is a nationally recognized transition expert with specific
experience in program development in career technical education and job
development for young adults with disabilities. She served as the Manager for
Disability Education at Great Oaks Career Campuses for over 12 years. During
that tenure she, along with Erin Riehle, cofounded Project SEARCH. Susie has
been instrumental in designing the Project SEARCH Training Institute modules and
leading replication efforts for new Project SEARCH sites. She speaks and writes
on transition-related topics.Maryellen Daston, Ph.D., has a background in biomedical research and technical writing. As a researcher, she specialized in developmental neuroscience. But when she started working for Project SEARCH®, her focus shifted from cells in a dish to the development of the whole person. As part of the Project SEARCH team, Maryellen is responsible for editing and writing content for the Project SEARCH web site, articles for professional journals, grant proposals, and other communications—including the recently published book, [1]High School Transition that Works: Lessons Learned from Project SEARCH (Brookes Publishing Co.).

Erin Riehle, M.S.N., is a recognized authority and national leader in promoting employment opportunities for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment. She is a founder and Senior Director of Project SEARCH, an employment and transition program that has received national recognition for innovative practices. When she started Project SEARCH, Erin was a nurse manager at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Her motivation was to offer people with disabilities (who made up a significant portion of the hospital’s patient volume) the same opportunities for training and employment that were available to everyone else. She brought a business perspective to the field of disability education, as well as an ability to bring organizations together for a shared purpose.

Susie Rutkowski, M.Ed., is the Co-Director and Educational Specialist for Project SEARCH. She is a nationally recognized transition expert with specific experience in program development in career technical education and job development for young adults with disabilities. She served as the Manager for Disability Education at Great Oaks Career Campuses for over 12 years. During that tenure she, along with Erin Riehle, cofounded Project SEARCH. Susie has been instrumental in designing the Project SEARCH Training Institute modules and leading replication efforts for new Project SEARCH sites. She speaks and writes on transition-related topics.

“Rachel” was born with Down syndrome. As she approached the transition from high school to adult life, she and her family were faced with many hard questions and difficult decisions about what her next steps should be. Rachel wasn’t able to read, write, or count to 10, so it was not clear to those close to her how she would achieve any level of independence or become a contributing member of her community.

The hope for most typically abled high school graduates is that they will find gainful employment, or go on to college or other post-secondary training that will ultimately lead to a good job. When a young person becomes employed, they get the obvious advantage of improved financial circumstances. But even more importantly, they also benefit from the fulfillment, maturity, and sense of belonging that comes with meaningful work. Unfortunately, young people like Rachel with intellectual and developmental disabilities encounter more than the usual obstacles in getting to this significant milestone. The result is chronically high levels of unemployment for this population throughout their lives. For example, in 2008, the employment rate was 39.1% for people with disabilities and of working age (18–64 years), as compared with 77.7% employment for people within the same age group but without disabilities 1. From year to year, the size of this gap remains roughly the same, regardless of the state of the economy.

Read more

  1. Kessler Foundation/NOD. (2010). The ADA 20 years later: Survey of Americans with disabilities. (Retrieved from http://www.2010disabilitysurveys.org/pdfs/surveysummary.pdf []

Helen Anderson is the Manager of Curriculum and Research at Harmony Movement, a not-for-profit organization that delivers educational programming on equity and inclusion to youth, educators, and social service providers, empowering them to become leaders of social change. Helen completed her Ph.D. in Theory and Policy Studies in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, focusing in her research on social justice and anti-racism education.  She has taught at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University and has worked with numerous community service organizations to address issues such as racism, food security, gender-based violence, youth violence, and homophobia.

 

What is it that stands in the way of truly empowering educational experiences?  Fear.  Fear of who we could be and fear of who we are.  Fear that others will misjudge us.  Fear that their judgments will be correct.  Fear of losing power.  Although fear may make school equity movements feel slow and fruitless, hope can remind us of the powerful tools we have at our disposal that make a difference in youths’ lives. 

At a time when educational equity is clouded with fear, I look for hope.  I found that hope recently at a conference on education that transformed the way I think about teaching and learning.  The Lost Lyrics Symposium, was a conference focused on creating an education system from the ground up, guided by the needs and input of young people, parents/guardians, and community members.  It highlighted the need to address the disconnect between the lived realities of many students and their experiences of school.  Read more

Helen Anderson is the Manager of Curriculum and Research at Harmony Movement, a not-for-profit organization that delivers educational programming on equity and inclusion to youth, educators, and social service providers, empowering them to becomes leaders of social change. Helen completed her Ph.D. in Theory and Policy Studies in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, focusing in her research on social justice and anti-racism education.  She has taught at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University and has worked with numerous community service organizations to address issues such as racism, food security, gender-based violence, youth violence, and homophobia.

I was teased a lot in school as a child, mostly for getting high marks.  I worked hard and was an eager learner.  As a white, heterosexual, Christian student without a disability, I enjoyed participating in an education system where my knowledge, learning style, identity, culture, and experiences were valued and affirmed.  I was called a geek, a nerd, a teacher’s pet.

The taunting was hurtful.  I felt ashamed, embarrassed, excluded.  At times I felt worthless.  But at the end of the day, I knew there was something good about doing well in school.  I knew that high marks paid off, they came with a reward, both in school and in society.  It didn’t ease the sense of social isolation I felt, but I knew I was being teased for something I was good at, for something that others valued.

I share this story here to draw an important distinction between different forms of bullying and their impacts.  While all bullying is hurtful and can have a negative impact on a student’s academic performance, engagement with the education system, and sense of self-worth, there is a difference between bullying based on mean-spirited or negative behaviour such as the taunting I’ve described above and bullying based on systemic discrimination.

Read more

Next Page →