Elaine Mulligan is the Assistant Director of NIUSI-LeadScape, a federally-funded technical assistance project that supports principals of inclusive schools. Her responsibilities include designing and delivering professional learning, coordinating LeadScape’s online resources, and coaching principals to support their transformation of school cultures and practices.
In working with educators through our various projects, I hear a lot of different viewpoints on Response to Intervention (RTI). Many states are encouraging districts to focus on RTI approaches in an effort to improve state assessment outcomes for groups that have historically not scored well on these tests (e.g., students with disabilities, English language learners, students in particular racial/ethnic groups). Districts are implementing mandatory professional development and support teams, and schools are rechanneling instructional supports and redesigning schedules to support intervention processes. There is a lot of activity and attention around RTI, from preschool through high school. Some educators consider RTI a great success and report great improvements in student achievement, while others see it as a series of bureaucratic hoops to jump through that impede student support processes. Which is it?
Dr. 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
Chris Forlin is Professor of Special and Inclusive Education at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. Her research and publications focus on change paradigms in special education; inclusive education policy and practice; along with curricula and pedagogy for teacher education, with innovative research in working with systems and schools to establish sustainable inclusive education. She currently advises to the Hong Kong government task force on developing a New Senior Secondary School Curriculum for students with intellectual disabilities and is a consultant to the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training on developing curricula for preparing teachers for inclusion.
When asked to blog I initially thought I would talk about teacher education for inclusion which is one of my specific areas of interest. We have been actively promoting inclusion and ‘education for all’ for nearly four decades now but has teacher education for inclusion really kept up with this change? Can we claim as teacher educators that we are meeting the needs of adequately preparing teachers for inclusion? I have taught pre-service (or pre-surface as one of my undergraduates wrote about it in her assignment – Freudian slip or a simple spelling error? – not sure which is worse!) and in-service teachers for the past 18 years so it seemed a natural topic to select. Then I read the posting on this website from May 13, 2009, when President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address to the 2009 graduates of Arizona State University (You can access the full speech via http://www.niusileadscape.org/wk/). During this speech he asked the following questions:
“Did you study education? Teach in a high-need school? Give a chance to kids we can’t afford to give up on – prepare them to compete for any job anywhere in the world?”
Whitney Oakley is the principal of Sylvan Elementary in the Alamance-Burlington School District in Snow Camp, North Carolina. She is member of the NIUSI-LeadScape community of inclusive school principals, transforming Sylvan’s practices to be equitable and inclusive of all students. Whitney’s current initiatives focus on meeting the needs of Sylvan’s changing population, with increasing numbers of culturally and linguistically diverse students and families struggling in the current economic downturn. This blog is a direct response to Dr. Randy Bomer’s discussion of Leadership in the interest of economically disadvantaged students.
As a principal of an elementary school with steadily increasing numbers of economically disadvantaged students, I have seen a shift in focus on academic as well as systemic strategies in our approach to student success. Randy Bomer’s discussion of deficit perspective is well-taken as political issues surrounding school performance have highlighted the fact that schools are struggling to achieve adequate progress within the economically disadvantaged subgroup. In a position as a school leader, I have acknowledged perplexities surrounding students that fall within this category including, student identity, priorities, and the role of the school itself.
Sherman Dorn is a Professor of Education and an historian at the University of South Florida. His published work has included histories of debates over dropping out, dropout policies, special education, funding equalization in Florida, and high-stakes accountability.
Principals are more likely to keep their faculty focused on student learning if they can shift the everyday conversation in their schools away from assessment as testing students and towards talking about assessment as testing instructional decisions. It is very hard to change our historical uses of “student testing,” but principals have the power to do so in their own schools.
Mica Pollock is an Associate Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Building on her experience investigating claims of discrimination in schools at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Dr. Pollock studies how youth and adults struggle daily to discuss and address issues of racial difference, discrimination, and fairness in school and community settings.
A fundamental debate erupts whenever U.S. educators discuss “achievement gaps.” Do educators’ everyday actions really contribute that much to racial disparities? Or are such disparities caused by parents, by peers, by “society,” by “poverty,” by children themselves?
We need to get much better at discussing this issue in education. As I have shown in my research, simplistic debate over who is “to blame” for “achievement gaps” often keeps us from adequately serving children of color in particular. For example, when people argue that disparities are caused solely by particular players (e.g., “parents”), they miss out on potential collaborations that would support student success. When people relentlessly blame actors other than themselves for student outcomes, they fail to figure out which of their own actions might assist children better.
Carole Edelsky is a Professor of Language Arts in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction at Arizona State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of New Mexico in 1974. Her dissertation was the first study of children’s awareness of gender stereotypes in language use; it won the Popejoy Outstanding Dissertation Award (Outstanding Dissertation from the College of Education, Business, and Liberal Arts for 1974-1977) in 1977. Dr. Edelsky has won several additional awards for her work in education and has participated in numerous other service projects throughout her career. Dr. Edelsky’s research interests include first and second language literacy, gender and language, critical literacy, and classroom discourse. Her influence on education and research within her field of study has been and continues to be great.
Students with disabilities have a right to a high quality education, an education that goes beyond a focus on skills and instead sets its sights on loftier goals (promoting equity), more ethical dispositions (e.g., a concern for fairness), and more elusive but critical habits of mind (e.g., engaging with inquiry). All students deserve such an education, and students with disabilities are no exception. What does such an education look like? What is the teacher doing? And what is the principal doing?
Donna 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.
Dr. Glass is a philosopher of education whose work focuses on education as a practice of freedom, school reform in low-income, racially, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and the role of education in the struggle for a just, pluralistic democracy.
Dr. Glass is currently an Associate Professor in the Education Department of the University of California Santa Cruz, where he chairs the Social Context and Policy Studies Ph.D. program, and also directs the Ed.D. in Collaborative Leadership program. Before joining the UC Santa Cruz faculty, Dr. Glass had taught at Stanford University, the University of California Berkeley, and Arizona State University. He has provided consultation on program development and evaluation, educational reform, and institutional strategic planning for community organizations, schools, districts, and universities. Prior to being on university faculties, he directed the San Francisco-based Adult Education Development Project, benefiting from the collaboration of Paulo Freire and Myles Horton, the world-renowned educators for democracy.
Dr. Glass is the recipient of numerous honors, including: the Stanford University School of Education Outstanding Teaching Award; the Arizona State University Excellence in Diversity Award and the Dondrell Swanson Advocate for Social Justice Award; and, the City of Phoenix, AZ, Human Relations Commission Martin Luther King, Jr., Living the Dream Award.
Dr. Glass received a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education and an M.A. in Philosophy from Stanford University, a C.Phil. in Philosophy of Education from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Ed.M. and an A.B. with honors in History and Science from Harvard University.
It is probably never easy to have a deep conversation with another person; each person’s hopes, fears, anxieties, doubts, dreams, and many other powerful feelings, conscious and unconscious, easily get in the way of honest and full expression. To have a deep conversation with a stranger, or with whole groups of strangers and even an entire community, can seem impossible.
To talk openly and honestly about our experiences of schooling is equally challenging. Some of our most significant identities get shaped in schools: we are judged to be smart or not, popular or not, attractive or not, athletic or not; we discover that our race, class, and gender are significant for how we are judged in school and for the opportunities we will have beyond school. In school most of us learn that we are an Anybody, anonymous members of a mass; some, who can exceed the norms and standards, learn they can be a Somebody; and some, who cannot or refuse to meet the norms and standards, learn that they are Nobodies.[i] Thus, the stakes in conversations about schooling are huge; far too often, students and parents feel that they are on opposite sides of an enormous divide separating them from teachers and administrators, so the conversations can barely get started.