Discussions

Dr. Valerie N. Adams-Bass is an Assistant Professor of Youth and Social Innovation in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. A developmental psychologist, she holds a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development from University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Education in Urban Education from Temple University. Dr. Adams-Bass’ expertise is in racial/ethnic socialization and racial identity processes of Black adolescents. She is most interested in examining how racial/ethnic socialization experiences are related to media exposure, inter-personal interactions and the social and academic experiences of Black children and youth. Dr. Adams-Bass has regularly trained youth development professionals to use culturally relevant practices when working with African American children, youth and families. Each spring she teaches an undergraduate course on Black media images and African-American adolescent identity. Dr. Adams-Bass has lived and taught in Namibia as a Volunteer Teacher for Africa and served as a Rotary Ambassador Scholar in South Africa where she participated in a community based research project with South African youth that resulted in a book of short stories, Food for the Ear, published in both English and isiZulu. She recently co-authored Hardly ever, I don’t see it: Black youth speak about positive media Images of Black men in Media Across the African Diaspora Content Audiences and Global Influences and is co-PI of a recently awarded grant to investigate shifting identities titled, The Changing Face of Race: New Black Immigrants in American Public Schools. She is an affiliate faculty member of the Racial Empowerment Collaborative at the University of Pennsylvania, the Samuel Dubois Center on Social Equity at Duke University, the Center for Race and Public Education in the South and the Youth-Nex Center to Promote Effective Youth Development at University of Virginia.

Riana Elyse Anderson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. She received her PhD in Clinical and Community Psychology at the University of Virginia and completed a Clinical and Community Psychology Doctoral Internship at Yale University’s School of Medicine. She also completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Applied Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania supported by the Ford and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations. Before joining the University of Michigan, she was an Assistant Professor in Preventive Medicine and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California. She uses mixed methods in clinical interventions to study racial discrimination and socialization in Black families to reduce racial stress and trauma and improve psychological well-being and family functioning. She investigates how protective familial mechanisms such as parenting and racial socialization operate in the face of risks linked to poverty, discrimination, and residential environment. Dr. Anderson is particularly interested in how these factors predict familial functioning and subsequent child psychosocial outcomes, especially when enrolled in family-based interventions. She has recently developed a five-session intervention entitled EMBRace (Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race) to alleviate racial stress and trauma in parents and adolescents in order to facilitate healthy parent-child relationships, parent and adolescent psychological well-being, and healthy coping strategies.

Blog Topic: Racial socialization and child development: Opportunities and challenges

More than Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmetic, Racial Socialization for Black Children

Outside of home, schools are typically the place children spend most of their time. School should be a place full of lively learning and discovery! But what if it’s not? Imagine, the following scenario.

While attending a family reunion this summer, I was approached by a bright, beautiful, young cousin who was interested in befriending me. I cut to the chase – what did she like about school? She told me math. Okay, what don’t you like about school?

Having not met her before, I was surprised at how forthright she was with the area of research I just happen to conduct.

“Well, my teacher is racist, so I’m not looking forward to having her next year.”

Why do you consider her to be racist, I inquired? My cousin explained that her teacher constantly skipped over the Black students to select the White students to answer questions.

My cousin is only 10 years old.

Research indicates that pre-kindergarten has the highest rate of expulsion for Black children[i], in comparison to their non-Black peer groups, and that teachers express and engage in racially biased practices against Black students in schools across the country[ii]. Many White educators maintain a colorblind perspective that people are the same and that they do not see race[iii]; teaching from the perspective that all children have the same opportunities and that they treat all of their students equally. A color-blind approach may shield practitioners’ ability to see disproportionate rates of racially-biased discipline or opportunities within their own classrooms to connect with students. For some teachers, it is an unconscious bias. Dr. Renee Navarro defines unconscious bias as “social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.” Students are keenly aware and observant of bias. Managing rejection is difficult, some students withdraw from classroom participation as a strategy for managing teacher racial bias.

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Dr. Jessika Bottiani’s (top left) primary research interests center on policy and practice solutions to advance equitably safe and supportive public school learning environments. Her work particularly focuses on the role of structural racism as a cause and consequence of racial disparities in exclusionary school discipline practices (i.e., office discipline referrals, out-of-school suspensions, and expulsions), highlighting the need to intervene at multiple levels within school systems. Dr. Bottiani collaboratively develops and tests preventive interventions with a team of researchers at University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins University, and local schools in Maryland and Virginia to help build teacher and school police officer skills and tools to reduce dependence on exclusionary discipline tactics. Her writings cover topics related to barriers (teacher and school police officer stress) and promoters (social networks of support, coaching resources) of intervention effectiveness in closing racial discipline gaps. Dr. Bottiani is a co-investigator on multiple federally-funded research initiatives, including randomized trials of the Institute of Education Sciences-funded Double Check teacher cultural responsiveness intervention and the National Institute of Justice-funded Coping Power in the City, an evidence-based intervention to promote healthy coping skills in at-risk 9th graders and improved de-escalation and cultural sensitivity skills among Baltimore City school police officers. Dr. Bottiani presents findings at national conferences including Society for Prevention Research, Society for Research on Adolescence, and Society for Research on Child Development. She serves on the editorial board of the journal Prevention Science.

Dr. Catherine Bradshaw, Ph.D., M.Ed. (top right) is a Professor and the Senior Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Prior to her current appointment at U.Va., she was an Associate Professor and the Associate Chair of the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she maintains an adjunct faculty position and continues to co-direct two research centers. She holds a doctorate in developmental psychology from Cornell University and a Master’s of Education in counseling and guidance from the University of Georgia. Her primary research interests focus on the development of aggressive behavior and school-based prevention. She collaborates on research projects examining bullying and school climate; the development of aggressive and problem behaviors; effects of exposure to violence, peer victimization, and environmental stress on children; health disparities and disproportionality; children with emotional and behavioral disorders; and the design, evaluation, and implementation of evidence-based prevention programs in schools. She has led a number of federally funded randomized trials of school-based prevention programs, including Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and social-emotional learning curricula. She also has expertise in implementation science and coaching models. Dr. Bradshaw works with the Maryland State Department of Education and several school districts to support the development and implementation of programs and policies to prevent bullying and school violence, and to foster safe and supportive learning environments. She collaborates on federally-funded research grants supported by the NIMH, NIDA, CDC, NIJ, U.S. Department of Education, and the Institute of Education Sciences. She has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles and over 30 chapters in edited volumes. She was previously the Associate Editor for the Journal of Research on Adolescence and is currently the editor of Prevention Science. She is a coeditor of the Handbook of School Mental Health (2014) and the editor of Handbook on Bullying: A Life Course Perspective (2017). She is currently working on two other practitioner focused books – one focused on bullying and social-emotional learning, and the other focused on culturally-responsive behavior management practices.

Katrina Debnam, (bottom right) holds an joint faculty appointment in the Curry School of Education and the School of Nursing at UVA. She is a SON Roberts Scholar who studies youth violence prevention, health disparities, and school climate. As a researcher and scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health for over 13 years, she honed an interest in both a qualitative and quantitative approach to programs combatting adolescent dating abuse, adolescent violence prevention, school climate initiatives, health disparities, and faith-based programs that aim to improve young people’s lives. Debnam – who earned a psychology degree from Morgan State, an MPH from UNC Chapel Hill, and a PhD from the University of Maryland – is on the editorial board of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, a member of the Society for Prevention Research, and reviews manuscripts for a host of journals, including Prevention ScienceYouth & Society, and the Journal of Research on Adolescence. A member of the Maryland team that led the training and evaluation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in more than 800 public schools, she teaches a new course on mixed methods research to both nursing and education students.

More Guns Are Not the Solution: Arming Teachers with Tools for Prevention and Equity  

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018 may be viewed as a watershed moment in our history, similar to Columbine in April 1999. Following both tragedies, the nation was at odds about how to prevent such shootings from happening again in the future. How do we solve America’s gun problem in schools? Despite a surge of research supporting positive and prevention-focused school discipline alternatives following Columbine, many schools and districts nonetheless doubled down on zero tolerance discipline.

The zero tolerance discipline paradigm, which took hold in the early 1990s, has been tied to an unprecedented spike in the use of exclusionary punishments (i.e., suspensions and expulsions). These harsh discipline measures were found to be ineffective by an American Psychological Association Task Force, which noted that out-of-school suspensions lead to lost instructional time and increased risk of school drop-out and involvement in the juvenile justice system – a destructive trajectory referred to as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Notably, racial disparities in schools’ most draconian discipline practices have increased under zero tolerance, contributing to growing educational inequities experienced by Black youth.

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Dr. Nolan Cabrera is a nationally-recognized expert in the areas of racism/anti-racism on college campuses, Whiteness, and ethnic studies. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, and was the only academic featured in the MTV documentary White People. His new book, White Guys on Campus, is a deep exploration of White male racism, and occasional anti-racism, on college campuses – a text Jeff Chang (author of We Gon’ Be Alright) described as “A timely, provocative, even hopeful book.” Additionally, Dr. Cabrera was an expert witness in the Tucson Unified Mexican American Studies case (Arce v. Douglas), which is the highest-profile ethnic studies case in the country’s history.  He has given hundreds of lectures, keynote addresses, and trainings, throughout the country on challenging racism/Whiteness, working through unconscious bias, creating inclusive college campuses, and the expansion of ethnic studies programs. Dr. Cabrera is an award-winning scholar whose numerous publications have appeared in some of the most prestigious journals in the fields of education and racial studies. He completed his graduate work at UCLA in Higher Education & Organizational Change and Dr. Cabrera earned his BA from Stanford University in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (Education focus). He is a former Director of a Boys & Girls Club in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is originally from McMinnville, Oregon.

Reinforcing Racism: Color-Blind Curricula in Higher Education

            I was asked to write this blog post on the “new racism” of color-blind curricula in higher education. “New racism,” means the way that overt expressions of racial animus have frequently been driven underground even though the underlying structure of White supremacy remains (Cabrera, 2019).  I agreed to write this post, but I also slightly reframed the discussion. Instead of color-blind, monocultural, Euro-centric curricula[1] being “new,” they are the historical norm and critiquing this educational approach was central to the formation of Ethnic Studies.[2] Therefore, I instead use reinforcing racism, as monocultural curricula are nothing new and, in fact, are common and normal. In his classic text, A Different Mirror[3] (1993), former UC Berkeley history and Ethnic Studies professor Ronald Takai specifically addressed this issue and its effects:

What happens, to borrow the words of Adrienne Rich, ‘‘when someone with the authority of a teacher’’ describes our society, and ‘‘you are not in it’’? Such an experience can be disorienting—‘‘a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing.’’ (p. 16)

As Takaki illustrates, curricular decisions are value-laden. They send messages about whose perspectives hold value and whose do not, implicitly telling Students of Color that their communities are not knowledge producers.  This approach has the opposite effect on White students. When the bulk of authors presented are White, it reinforces the social illusion that White authors and analyses are superior, creating what Gusa (2010) refers to as “White ascendancy.” This is especially pronounced among White male undergraduates who frequently interpret a lack of racial engagement in their specific disciplines to mean that race is “someone else’s problem” (Cabrera, 2019). Thus, it is critically important to center racial inequality in the higher education curriculum, but it begs a larger question: Who will teach these classes? Read more

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Christopher Redding is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education at the University of Florida. He earned his doctorate in Leadership and Policy Studies from Vanderbilt University. He conducts rigorous research using survey and administrative data that focuses on the policies and educator labor market patterns that exacerbate the unequal distribution of high quality teachers and the reforms intended to reduce this problem. Broadly, this research describes failures in the teacher labor market that impede the learning opportunities for underserved students and the ways in which changes in teacher education, development, and leadership opportunities can lead to better teacher retention and student outcomes, particularly in underserved schools.

How Should Schools Screen for Giftedness? Cultural Considerations in the Identification of Gifted Students

The basis for gifted and talented programs is the somewhat innocuous notion that a subset of children are capable of high levels of performance and may benefit from educational services outside a traditional classroom setting. A critical first step in meeting the educational needs of such children is screening, followed by the formal identification of those that have the potential to thrive with additional academic supports. In most districts, students can be identified as gifted in five areas: general intellectual ability, specific academic ability, visual and performing arts, and leadership. Yet, intellectual ability, often measured by IQ tests, has long been the predominant factor in determining placement in gifted and talented programs.

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Susan V. Iverson is a Professor of Higher Education Leadership at Manhattanville College. Dr. Iverson has held several faculty and administrative positions at various colleges and universities, including as tenured faculty at Kent State University for 10 years where she was also an affiliated faculty member with both the Women’s Studies and LGBT Studies Programs. Iverson earned her doctorate in higher educational leadership, with a concentration in women’s studies, from the University of Maine, where she also served as adjunct faculty in both Higher Educational Leadership and Women’s Studies; and worked as Associate Director of Safe Campus Project, a federally grant-funded initiative to address interpersonal violence on campus. Prior to becoming faculty, Iverson worked in student affairs administration for more than ten years in Massachusetts and Virginia. Iverson’s research interests include: equity and diversity, status of women in higher education, feminist pedagogy, and the role of policy (e.g., sexual violence) in shaping perceptions and culture. She has two co-edited volumes: Feminist community engagement: Achieving praxis (Palgrave, 2014) and Reconstructing policy analysis in higher education: Feminist poststructural perspectives (Routledge 2010).

Shifting our Thinking About Sexual Violence: Focus on Perpetration

The #MeToo movement has brought attention to the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault in workplaces like the entertainment industry, government and health care, as well as our schools (White, 2017). Yet, sexual harassment doesn’t just suddenly happen. Rather, these negative behaviors are modeled throughout today’s society. Sexual violence, which I use as an umbrella term inclusive of rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, among other forms of sexual harassment (Henry, n.d.), has its roots in our gendered society. Gendered messages are not necessarily the issue; what’s problematic are the value judgments that convey differential worth to the voices and actions of boys and girls (Johnson, 2006). This is most blatantly evident in the gender wage gap that continues to pay men (on average) more than women for the same work. Read more

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Loretta (Lucky) Mason-Williams is an associate professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning, & Educational Leadership at Binghamton University. Her research focuses on the challenges and complexities of teacher shortages, especially as it relates to students with disabilities. She’s currently engaged in multiple projects examining how shortages may be directly and indirectly influenced by state and local policies, by working conditions, and by the changing role of special educators. She primarily uses critical quantitative methodologies in her work, employing the power of large datasets to unpack questions and to better understand structural inequities. 

Help Wanted: Considering the Impact of Less Than Qualified Educators

Last month, I encouraged an administrator to hire an unqualified, ill-prepared candidate for a position as a special educator for students with severe learning and behavioral needs. As a teacher educator in special education, I had written numerous letters of recommendations and fielded calls from many of the local schools several months before during the spring hiring rush, so I knew all of my fully prepared, novice special educators had already accepted positions. Most elected to work in the more affluent parts of our community—schools with lower rates of school poverty and less diverse student bodies. And most of them wanted to work in “inclusive” settings—where students with disabilities would be taught alongside their non-disabled peers. Now, I had on the phone a desperate administrator looking to fill a position in a more segregated setting solely for students with disabilities. I hoped the candidate would accept the position, despite knowing she would be frustrated by her lack of preparation. I recognized that her frustration would likely lead her to leave that classroom as soon as something else came up, adding to the “revolving door” found among hard-to-staff schools. But I also knew she was likely the best applicant, if not the only applicant. At least this candidate had a degree in elementary education and planned to begin coursework in special education at my university in a few weeks. Read more

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Dr. Yalda M. Kaveh is an assistant professor in Bilingual Education in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Her research mainly focuses on the intersection of linguistic and cultural development of bilingual children, family life, schooling, and language policy (Kaveh, 2017, 2018). She received her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Language, Literacy, and Culture from Boston College. Her dissertation was titled “Unspoken Dialogues Between Educational and Family Language Policies: Children as Language Policy Agents” and examined the links between family language policies and educational language policies at two public elementary schools in the state of Massachusetts. During her doctoral studies, Dr. Kaveh served on multiple research projects, working to develop curricula and instructional tools to help teachers support bi/multilingual students to draw on all their linguistic resources for literacy development. Her involvement has resulted in multiple publications focusing on the use of metalinguistic methods to teach text structure and language use in literacy instruction for bi/multilingual learners (Brisk & Kaveh, in press, forthcoming; Brisk, Kaveh, Scialoia, & Timothy, 2016). Before moving to the U.S. for her graduate studies, Dr. Kaveh taught English and Persian for several years in her home country, Iran.

Embracing Bilingualism with English in the Fine Print: Schooling Continues to Promote Monolingualism in Children of Immigrants

The United States Census Bureau (2015) estimates that about 79% of the U.S. population over the age of five speaks only English at home. The second and third generations of immigrants in the U.S. share a prevalent commonality: English language dominance, and very often English monolingualism, at the expense of loss of their heritage[1] languages (PEW Research Center, 2015). Establishing a commonly spoken standardized American English has been historically regarded as a necessary step for unifying the citizens of this country[2]. Speakers of non-English languages have been alienated and linguistically assimilated in favor of standardized English through a variety of strategies including schooling[3]. My recent study on the links between language practices in immigrant families and educational language policies at two elementary schools in the state of Massachusetts showed that schooling continually promotes English monolingualism in children of immigrants[4]. Although teachers now appreciate bilingualism and no longer encourage immigrant parents to speak English at home, their language practices clearly prioritizes English over heritage languages. These practices send strong, yet unspoken, messages that are communicated between schools and homes through children. Read more

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Anne-Marie Nuñez is an associate professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs Program in the Department of Educational Studies at The Ohio State University. Her award-winning research focuses on how factors such as race, ethnicity, class and linguistics shape postsecondary opportunities. One line of her scholarship has focused on the higher education experiences and trajectories of Latino, first-generation, and migrant students. Another has emphasized institutional diversity in the United States, including the role of Hispanic-Serving Institutions in promoting college access and success. Two of her current projects involve National Science Foundation grants to broaden participation in geosciences, particularly through experiential learning. Her articles have appeared in Educational Researcher, Harvard Educational Review and American Educational Research Journal, and she is the lead editor of the International Latino book award winner Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Advancing Research and Transformative Practice (2015, Routledge). She acted as Program Chair for the 2014 Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) Conference and now serves on several editorial boards, as well as an Associate Editor for Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research.

Antonio Duran is a second-year doctoral student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program at The Ohio State University. Prior to arriving at OSU, Antonio received his undergraduate degree in English and American Literature from New York University, in addition to acquiring his master’s degree in Student Affairs and Higher Education at Miami University. Antonio is extremely passionate about advancing asset-based research about historically marginalized communities. Specifically, his research interests center the experiences of queer students of color from an intersectional perspective that critically investigates the role that racism and heterosexism plays in their identity exploration. Moreover, he is interested in how educators employ intersectionality when teaching undergraduate and graduate students. As an aspiring faculty member, Antonio hopes to empower the voices of students with multiple marginalized identities on campus. Identifying as queer person of color himself, Antonio desires to increase the representation of QPOC faculty on campus.

 

Being a Steward of Intersectionality in Teaching

Let’s create a cacophony of sound to represent our intention. To hold these women up. To bring them into the light.
– Kimberlé Crenshaw, The Urgency of Intersectionality

In a recent Ted Talk, Kimberlé Crenshaw (2016) emphasized the need to address overlapping systems of oppression, particularly the pervasive nature of racism and sexism affecting women of color, whose concerns can be rendered invisible when only one or the other is considered. As two educators who have previously taught a graduate course titled Diversity in Higher Education, we have aimed to address Crenshaw’s call for intersectional approaches in our teaching and research. In these experiences, we have found that, as Jones and Wijeyesinghe (2011) suggest, however, “The core tenets of intersectionality provide a guiding framework, but not a recipe for application to teaching practice” (p. 19). Given the lack of a recipe, how can educators infuse a framework of intersectionality into their teaching? Following Ange-Marie Hancock’s message to scholars to acknowledge the historical and social contexts shaping this framework and to fully realize its potential to transform oppressive educational structures, we propose three essential elements involved in being good stewards of intersectionality in our teaching. Read more

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Dr. Kyser is the Associate Director for Engagement and Partnerships at the Midwest and Plains Equity Assistance Center (MAP Center) within the Great Lakes Equity Center. In this role, Dr. Kyser leads the coordination of technical assistance support and collaboration with the MAP Center’s service provision team to plan, direct, and manage supports and professional learning experiences offered to state and local education agencies throughout the MAP Center’s thirteen-state region. Prior to joining the MAP Center, Dr. Kyser served as a Language Arts Inclusion teacher, Governance & Leadership Analyst for the City of Indianapolis, and as Chief of Staff for Tindley Accelerated Schools. Dr. Kyser has received executive training at Harvard, Stanford, and Indiana Universities. She is a graduate of Culver Girls Academy of the Culver Academies. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Education, a Master of Arts in English, and a PhD of Philosophy in Urban Education Studies from Indiana University.

Dr. Kyser’s work, ideas, and research are focused on policy implementation in urban school communities—how individuals interact around and through policy; further, how interactions converge and impact neighbors, educators, parents/caregivers, and students. Specifically, exploring the ecologies (Weaver-Hightower, 2008) between city and school with particular concentrations in three areas: 1) how marginalized students and groups of students are represented and framed by dominant narratives (Harry, Rueda, & Kalyanpur, 1999) in policy implementation, 2) community stakeholders’ learning via transformative professional learning (Macey & Radd, 2013) towards equity, and 3) critical collaborative problem solving.

Finding Vigilance: Centering Ourselves in Equity-Oriented Systemic Change of Discipline Systems

In the U.S., discipline policies—in both creation and enforcement—result in re-segregated learning environments [1], the inequitable penalization of marginalized students [2], and limited access to learning [3] for historically marginalized students. Research demonstrates harsh discipline has significant financial costs on our economy [4] and shows the nefarious ways the prison industrial complex incentivizes [5] and dehumanizes [6] people. Given these dynamics, there is a question I have begun to urgently ask myself.

This question encompasses rather than minimizes the realities of US discipline policies disproportionally affecting students on the margins broadly, including students from working class backgrounds, [7], students of color [8], students of color with dis/abilities [9], and gender non-conforming students [10]. This question also attempts to fiercely surface, rather than make invisible, my complicitness in participating in harsh discipline practices—writing frequent office referrals as a classroom teacher and signing notice of expulsion letters as an administrator— but also reflecting on my belief, at the time, that the power of control, enforcement, and authority was my right as an educator and in the best interest of the students I served. The question I ask has evolved from: what can I do? To: what must I do? What must I do to contribute towards transformative systemic change towards equity [11]? Read more

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Dr. Federico Waitoller is an associate professor at the department of special education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research focuses on urban inclusive education. In particular, his work examines and addresses policies and practices that generate or reproduce inequities for students of color with disabilities. Dr. Waitoller is also interested in examining how these inequities are affected by the production of space in urban economies and the role of teacher learning and school/university partnerships in developing capacity for inclusive education.

The Irony of Rigor: 

Black and Latinx[1] Students with Disabilities in Charter Schools

At first, it was alluring: children walking silently in straight lines, homework retention rooms, strict uniform policies, the promises of accessing a college education, and small student-teacher ratios. And it was all free, publicly funded, and in the same neighborhood where so many other schools have failed to provide them with a safe environment and with services that attended to the individual needs of their child. For parents of students with disabilities living in areas impacted by poverty, crime, school closings, and economic disinvestment in the city of Chicago, charter schools seemed a dream, as Janae, a Black parent of a student with autism, articulated, “I thought I have won the lottery.”

But dreams end when one wakes up. And it was time to wake up. In the first days of school, parents received various calls about their child’s misconduct; repetitive suspensions followed. As Angela, a Black parent of a student with a mood disorder shared, “she was suspended 6 times in kindergarten” and Dominique, a Black parent of a student identified with a learning disability and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), stated, “I drop him to school and I thought who is going to call me today.”  Sometimes, charter schools punished students with disabilities for minor actions such as unfolding a paper clip, not wearing the uniform, not finishing homework, and other times for what can be considered a more serious action such as fighting with a peer. In any of these events, there was a combination of rigorous and inflexible academic and disciplinary practices, a reluctance to provide any specialized support services for students with disabilities, and a lack of trained personnel that constituted a disabling and punishing school, contributing to students’ behaviors. In some cases, charter schools denied or delayed an evaluation to identify the student for special education services, which kept students from services that could have prevented many of the situations they found themselves in.  Read more

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