As we celebrate the lives and legacies of Black scholars and leaders during Black History Month, we must remind ourselves that the fight for justice in the American education system is ours. In this edition of 5 Things We’re Reading Now, we’re sharing articles covering a wide range of issues including how access to aligned materials create systemic barriers for students and the ways inequitable classroom conditions continue to thrive. We hope this roundup sparks conversations among your friends and colleagues.
An audit of Detroit Public Schools, one of the lowest-performing districts in the nation, shows students have been using outdated textbooks for almost a decade. Conducted by David Liben, the lead author of the Common Core Standards for Literacy, the audit reveals that teachers are still using misaligned materials that date back three years prior to the state’s adopting higher standards. Education Week reports, “Think about that for a moment: Detroit students have been taught out of books that are not aligned to state goals or the tests that they have been taking. Nor have teachers had access to materials that support some of the standards’ goals—such as using a rich collection of fiction and nonfiction texts to build students’ background knowledge and vocabulary, which many lack when they first show up in the classroom.” Findings were shared during a February 13 board meeting where the district’s superintendent vowed to purge the schools of the old materials and address how they adopt research-based methods that intentionally build knowledge.
2. Connecting What Teachers Know About State English Language Arts Standards for Reading and What They Do in Their Classrooms
The RAND Corporation recently released additional findings from a 2016 survey of the American Teacher Panel. The report implies that many teachers do not have a clear understanding of the ELA standards or standards-aligned instruction, particularly around the standards’ demand for all students to read complex texts at or above their grade-levels rather than only texts at their current reading levels. The report suggests that teachers need strong messages from their districts and states about their adoption of the standards and an aligned curriculum. They also need support to implement standards-aligned approaches to reading instruction.
The Atlantic investigates how issues of inadequately funded schools disproportionately impact students living in poorer school districts. “The disparities became more and more stark in the decades after World War II, when white families moved out of the cities into the suburbs and entered school systems there, and black families were stuck in the cities, where property values plummeted and schools lacked basic resources.”
A recent report published in collaboration by Black Minds Project, an initiative of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL) at San Diego State University (SDSU) and the Black Male Institute at the University of California, Los-Angeles (UCLA) analyzes suspension rates of Black males in California public schools. The goal is for educators to improve their discipline practices and to show improvement over time. “Extensive research in the field of unconscious bias has demonstrated that Black boys are over exposed to exclusionary discipline due to their racial and gender identity” (Howard, 2013; Noguera, 2003). Specifically, Black males are over-criminalized in society, and this translates into experiences in school where they are singled out for punishment, over-regulated for minor-innocuous actions, or misidentified when no wrong-doings occurred.” Some of the report’s findings include how these disparities occur early on in grades K-3 where analysis shows Black boys are suspended 5.6 times more than the state average.
A new opinion column in The Hechinger Report calls into question how educators create systems that hold Black students in “captivity and to suffer from inhumane conditions.” The author, Andre Perry, asks what if White teachers, who represent the majority of educators, intentionally engage with students of color and address their institutional power on the way to becoming anti-racist. By drawing a stark contrast between a White teacher who walked over a student to “teach” about slavery and another who took action to renounce white supremacy, Perry demonstrates how it is possible to eradicate racism from the classroom through deliberate practices that neutralize Whiteness and also explains where it originates. “Understanding patriarchy as a colonial expression to control others can also help explain how teachers have come to oppress people of color. These are the so-called educators who are complicit in white-washing blood-stained U.S. history. Instead of teaching about the genocide of indigenous tribes, they teach about taming ‘savage Native Americans.’”
What have you been reading? Tag us @unboundedu on Twitter the next time you find something interesting and tell us what you think about it!