What is Educational Equity Doing?

scales balancing educationEducational Equity AKA Equity in Education:

Defined as fairness, opportunity, and measure of achievement in education according to the indomitable wikipedia. The idea of educational equity is much more nebulous than the wiki definition. According to some scholars equity in education is most significantly influenced by race and class. Others cite gender and socio-economics. Language diversity. Religion. Sexuality. Rural vs metropolitan areas. Regardless of which area viewed as the “most” influential, I think educators can agree that all children deserve the advantages they need to graduate from high school and either succeed in college or find competitive employment opportunities. So what are the resources needed to give all children the opportunities they need to meet this goal?

  • Qualified Teachers, Principals and Other Personnel
  • Suitable, Up-to-Date Curricula
  • Additional Resources for “At-Risk” Youth
  • Resources for Youth with Additional Needs (Disabilities, English Language)
  • Class Size/Group Size
  • Safe Environment
  • Facilities that are Accessible and Adequate
  • Books, Media Center, Technologies and Other Supplies (Desks etc)

How many? What type? The Equity Campaign found deficiencies in 28 out of 33 schools in their study. Those were based on state (NY) minimum requirements. That the state minimum requirements have become the maximum that students can expect in some schools is pretty terrible. And that assumes state minimums actually achieve educational equity. Not only are the minimum violated, but these basic requirements do not sufficiently meet the needs to provide students the opportunity to meet standards for a high school graduation that leads to college or career readiness.

Oregon, my home state, also struggles with how to build an equitable educational system. Senate Bill 253 requires that all adults in Oregon will have a high school diploma or equivalent by 2025. Sounds great. Wait? 2025? The Bill also says that 40% of adults will have an associate’s degree or another postsecondary certificate and another 40% will have a bachelor’s or other advanced degree. Just in case you are worried that the 20% without a college degree will be those who are already treated inequitably – the Bill stipulates a 40-40-20 representation of every student in Oregon. People of color should, if the Bill achieves the goals set out in it, attain 40% bachelor or higher degrees, 40% associates, and 20% high school diploma or the equivalent. Great goal but are they going to achieve all this?

There is still a disportionality in terms of people of color receiving fewer opportunities. Social opportunity plays a big part in educational opportunity. The Oregon Investment Board discusses implementing more culturally responsive teaching practices but how will they provide the educator development to meet these goals. A young person in second-grade today is supposed to graduate high school under this 40-40-20 ratio. Have their teachers received the training they need to make this happen? Have class sizes shrunken appropriately? Is the curricula up to date?

Cornell West said, “A fully functional multiracial society cannot be achieved without a sense of history and open, honest dialogue.” I would love to join the educational equity dialogue world-wide and seek to make the substantive changes within explicit, implicit, and hidden curriculums. Why does the bell ring have more significance than immersion in a learning opportunity? What are the root causes of disparity attributed to race, class, language, and other societal and institutional barriers? How can we make school culture visible so that all stakeholders can look to implement a culturally responsive culture. What needs to happen to help educators adapt their discourse and perspective to the ideal of equitable education?

I think about these issues a lot. Usually in the context of LGBTQ educational equity. Typically people can agree on the need for the big picture to change. As we dive into the specifics, educators, policy makers, parents, and others start to argue about what suitable curricula look like. Whether class size really matters. Financial constraints. What composes a qualified school administrator or teacher. I might say an LGBTQ identified educator provides invaluable mentorship to LGBTQ youth. Another educator immediately disagree and suggest such a member of the educational team is not needed. I have witnessed a faculty agree that hiring more diverse candidates is the priority during a hiring cycle only to discard the resumes of people of color. The discourse, therefore, needs to be reflective and continual.

Whether conflicts center around behavior, work habits, pedagogical ideas, policies, or practices, to attain educational equity for a school requires school leaders and educators to build trust and healthy collaboration. Relationships are critical to the work of schools. Student-teacher, teacher-teacher, teacher-administrator, all the relationships are important for building and maintaining a school climate conducive to equity in education according to the National School Climate Council. In this, questioning the systemic causes of disparities amongst students, schools have the opportunity to attain greater equity.

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Short Notes of a Book: How to Stop Bullying in Classrooms and Schools

Today I spent quite a while catching up on research articles themed around LGBTQ discrimination in education. Since I am taking notes I thought I might as well share some summaries here. Besides, LinkedIn and my Blog make for easy searching compared to the vast vault of my hard drive and Google Apps accounts.

Each of the articles includes a citation at the beginning and my thoughts following in italics.

Cover of the book: How to Stop Bullying in Classrooms and Schools: Use Social Architecture to Prevent, Lessen and End Bullying.Goodstein, Phyllis Kaufman. (2013) How to Stop Bullying in Classrooms and Schools: Use Social Architecture to Prevent, Lessen and End Bullying. New York: Routledge.

In general I dislike the use of bullying as a term to describe the marginalization of a student or group of students. First I will need to ignore this categorization as most articles will use terms, like bullying, that invite excuse making (my major problem with using terms like bullying and victimization. The categorizations of the forms the bullying (read: marginalization) and outcomes in the first half of the article are actually something I would love to build an infographic on. The language would be useful and easily translatable to a variety of audiences and facilitate greater dialogue. It was the second half of the article which I really found interesting.

Goodstein describes the use of social architecture theory and social scaffolding as a method for creating social change. Actually it is more of guide for educators and others. Teachers stand as role models and set up systems for pro-social classroom behaviors. There is also a description for bystanders and upstanders. The section on encouraging bystanders to become upstanders deserves more consideration as those models may apply to the design of a game intending the same outcome. To support teachers and upstanders there are two major components described by Goodstein: incompatibility and intervention. Incompatibility means creating such an environment of kindness, expectations, service learning, projects, and other things so as to make the school climate incompatible with bullying. Intervention focusses on making sure educators and upstanders, parents, and the community, administrators, and policy all take action when marginalization occurs as inaction relates to a lack of condemnation rather that “ignoring something so it goes away.”

I really enjoyed the metaphor of a broken window. If a window is allowed to sit without repair then additional windows will be broken. The same applies to marginalizing behavior. If no one intervenes and there is not a social stigma applied to marginalizing behaviors then what can be expected to occur? Maybe the broken window would be a symbol for a video game…or graffiti on a locker.

 

Discrimination in Oregon: LGBTQ Education: Random Musing

State Flag of OregonOregon confuses me. LGBTQIAAP (I think there are more letters and the P may stand for poly or pan – maybe there are two “P’s”) people in this state lead an interesting life.

Within Portland sexual and gender minorities enjoy relative high acceptance compared to the rest of the state. There are examples of discrimination and I think trans folks, while they have gained some traction, still have a long way to go. Still, for the most part there is an acceptance here that allows me to wear a rainbow wristband without fear. My own discomfort examining my gender identity is, I think, the reason I feel the trans community has not quite achieved the same level of safety. Totally subjective.

With some trepidation I admit to confusion around trans issues particularly. I tend towards more gender-fluid or non-gendered perceptions of myself but realize that most folks will outwardly identify me as male. Before living with a roommate who was gender non-conforming and my current roommate who had a trans girlfriend, I just thought I was more feminine than other men. Now I have reinterpreted this gender-confusion that I had conflated with my sexuality as something like non-gendered self perception. People still outwardly identify me as male and I accept male pronouns but I find non-gendered language to be more comfortable. Once I finish this doctorate I can truly have non-gendered titles. (Not a good reason to pursue a doctoral degree but a nice side benefit).

Portland is a fairly welcoming community at least outwardly. The number of Human Rights Campaign stickers I see while biking to work everyday certainly exceeds the queer population. Community organizations abound. Many shops proclaim their support for sexual, if not gender, minorities. Many of the largest companies in the area have explicit language around discrimination. Even a couple of the private, religious universities have language around non-discrimination. At least three religious buildings have the rainbow flag on their signage. All in all there is at least a veneer and a bit of depth to inclusivity in the area.

This changes as you move further from the small city of Portland. There are pockets of inclusivity around the state and I hope these are growing. There are also swaths of Oregon where I wish I owned cargo pants and a plaid shirt. My family lives in one such town. When asked why I do not visit I usually hold my silence but if my parents ever read this blog: last time I visited home a store clerk in our home town glared at me and said, “We don’t serve your type.” I am pretty sure I was wearing khaki pants, loafers, and a button up shirt as my disguise but this clerk’s gaydar was better than mine. The fact that I feel I need to try passing when outside Portland or one of the other small nests of inclusivity seems evidence enough for me.

Wait a second….! Isn’t this all fairly subjective? In keeping with my current need to provide better evidence for this suspicion I have been keeping track of news articles that show discrimination of various types over the last several months. I have to say these scare me:

  • Oregon mother ‘fatally beat her four-year-old son until his intestines tore because she thought he was gay’ – Link
  • Oregon Lesbian Couple Claims Cab Driver Kicked Them Out Because They Are Gay – Link
  • Four teens facing charges after allegedly torturing boy – Link
  • Oregon: Christian Businesses Must Follow Demands of Gay Customers – Link
  • Religious Oregon teens wear ‘Gay Is Not OK’ shirts to school to protest lack of ‘straight day’ – Link
  • Candidate admits to posting anti-gay slurs – Link

These articles do not all explicitly deal with discrimination against sexual and gender minorities. Instead they represent ideas and attitudes that marginalize folks of non-sexual and gender dominant groups.

A careful reader will note that many of these occur in the Portland region. Why am I more uncomfortable in the rural areas of Portland? Because events that precipitate news articles like those above rarely makes it to the paper. Friends that live in rural areas have reported that they would never feel safe enough to complain about a business refusing them service due to their sexual or gender orientation. I have also heard from past students that homophobic language in clothing and speech is often overlooked in schools around the state. This seems to be an atrocity yet I grew up in one of those towns and change comes slowly to these places. In some ways this makes small towns charming and quaint. In others was this makes little hamlets feel hostile to outsiders and those who are unable to conform to the local norms.

So – Oregon confuses me.

Really Enjoy Quantitative Methods – WHAT!?

Fake figures representing a classroomMany of my colleagues in this doctoral program are interested in qualitative studies. A few are excited by the potential in a mixed methods study. We are all taking a quantitative methods course together looking at the data analysis. This is definitely an applied class and I am loving it! Our theoretical courses have been fun but this class is much less guided and I finally feel like I am enjoying a non-linear exploration of research methodology.

The way in which content is presented definitely has a huge impact on my engagement. There is a bit of linearity in this course. We work on analysis together and maintain a fairly similar pace. Simultaneously the instructor entertains extensions, independent explorations, and ad hoc communications and discussion about specific areas of interest. I try creating this space in my own teaching of educational technology and have enjoyed exploring the different ways in which our instructor accomplishes this. My one critique of this course relates to a lowered emphasis on creating a socially inclusive learning space.

In this critique I am also trying to be self-aware relating to my own work establishing a safe environment. Do I overemphasize this? Do my concerns around LGBTQ and race issues mean I forget to confront issues over able-ness, religion, or other marginalizing topics?

Just things I ponder during class.

A Lecture Response: Promoting Justice by Dr. Jacqueline Temple

Tonight I was privileged to attend the retirement presentation of one of our faculty at Portland State University. She spoke on inclusion and her experiences with thought leaders throughout her career. As a consummate educator she provided question prompts on each table and had us respond and ask those questions.

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She shared personal stories of her own lived experience as a person of color. Her travails as a women of color pursuing a life in academia might seem like fantastical stories from ancient history to students today. Her ethnography documents momentous changes in our society but also illuminates how much further we have to go.

She defined Inclusion and Diversity:

Platforms for critical conversations and courageous actions across differences that are pervasive… Where diverse knowledge, experiences, histories, and cultures are affirmed.

She also described obstacles to inclusion:

Push back: the space between the ‘talk and walk’

She went on to describe her framework for inclusion as something that looks different wherever you go. It is situational. Not only this, but it is knowledge dependent. She defined knowledge on the institutions, people within them, community, students, parents, and policy makers.

Too many children have been marginalized.

Education depends on inclusion and diversity. Our curriculum, whether textbooks or lesson plans or another artifact, must be examined closely. Referring to Paulo Freire Dr. Temple discusses how she wants more than integration but participation that leads to transformation.

During her Fulbright experience she worked in Finland on their burgeoning needs related to diversity. Her scholarly inquiry there became both an expiration outside but also introspection around her own life.

From visiting a K market and discovering challenges unknown:

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To living overseas during the attacks on the World Trade Towers and Pentagon – worrying for her daughter in Washington DC:

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Through this experience she found herself othered and yet accepted. This led to literacy programs between two elementary schools in both countries. Two multi-lingual schools exchanging thoughts, ideas, and people.

Dr. Temple ended her talk with thank you in several languages and asked for our reflections. It was a somber, informative and transformative retirement experience.