As educators seeking to narrow the opportunity gap for all students—to bring each and every one of our students up to grade level, we climb a steep mountain. To do this work well, to reach equity in our educational system, we must use every tool at our disposal.
Making the most of every resource means looking at the decades of research that dispel myths about text complexity and literacy. It means trusting the data that show how an aligned curriculum can have as large an effect on student performance as an effective teacher. It means hearing and learning from the stories of teachers in the field. And it means seeing first-hand the impact low expectations and bias can have on a young boy’s self-perception.
Each Standards Institute experience opens with keynote speeches from experts in the field. At recent Institutes, for example, standards authors Dr. Timothy Shanahan and Dr. Andrew Chen, shared the reasoning and research behind the standards so we can better understand them. And educational experts including UnboundEd managing partner, Kate Gerson, and director of engagement, Lacey Robinson, shared, in moving detail, why we do this work as well as the impact it ultimately has on our students.
Here are 3 excerpts from keynote speeches that changed our perception of the educational landscape.
Dr. Timothy Shanahan: Prior Knowledge and Literacy
How do you maintain academic rigor in a class with students of varying reading levels? Dr. Timothy Shanahan, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, dives into decades of research that dispel common myths about the best way to teach literacy. In this excerpt, he expounds on the importance of prior knowledge. He explains that when students are primed to draw from prior knowledge related to a text, it improves their comprehension. The problem is, this approach can backfire. If you spend too much time discussing the topic before reading the text, then students can begin to feel complacent about the information they are then given. Thus, it is important to limit pre-text discussions to only the essential information needed for student comprehension.
Lacey Robinson: The Lenses We See Each Other Through
The impressions we form about our students can have a profound impact on their self-confidence, which, in turn, affects their academic and social trajectories. As the senior director of engagement at UnboundEd, Lacey Robinson speaks about this phenomenon. She also designs and conducts professional development sessions focused on school and district leadership, management, and effective implementation strategies to combat it. In this clip, she discusses the various lenses we see one another through, and how they prevent both educators and students from addressing the problem of bias head-on.
Kate Gerson: Research and Curriculum
It’s true that high standards define readiness for each grade. But we also know that today, the majority of students are not ready for the grade in which they find themselves. This disconnect occurs most frequently among children of color and children from low-income families. Often, gaps in readiness levels and classroom performance are framed as an achievement gap. This naming is a mischaracterization of the problem. The gap is really an equity an opportunity gap—and understanding it is central to effective teaching to the standards. In this keynote address, Kate Gerson, managing partner of programs at UnboundEd, speaks to the importance of making research-based decisions about what works best for students in literacy and mathematics.
We can only move toward educational equity if we learn from the field, from the research, and from each other. For more keynote speeches, and a week-long intensive experience focused on getting smarter about the standards, join us at our next Standards Institute, January 29 – February 2 in Los Angeles, California.