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.


Anti-LGBTQ Legislation & Youth

This year, as marriage equality has gained ground, the religious freedom legislation appears to proliferate across the United States. Recently Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a bill into law that he claims will protect religious liberty. What the law does is allow businesses and workers to refuse service to anyone they find objectionable, citing their religious beliefs. Legalized discrimination in public accommodations. If you are confused and think that, as private business owners, these places are not public accommodations let FindLaw explain:

Generally speaking, it may help to think of public accommodations as most (but not all) businesses or buildings that are open to (or offer services to) the general public. More specifically, the definition of a “public accommodation” can be broken down into two types of businesses/facilities:

  • Government-owned/operated facilities, services and buildings
  • Privately-owned/operated businesses, services, and buildings

To read more click here.

As anti-discrimination policies and laws have started including sexual orientation and gender identity as protect classes, LGBTQ people were protected from discrimination in the public spaces. With 36 states already allowing marriage equality and 56% (NORC survey) of Americans in support of this issue it is fairly clear that the anti-same-sex marriage campaign is on the losing end. Now, hiding behind religious freedom, opponents to civil rights for LGBTQ people are putting together bills that give them the right to discriminate.

Indiana is already facing #BoycottIndiana, my favorite tweet of which was:


Hopefully the bill is challenged in court or new legislation invalidates this but my question is how will these bills impact young people? Adults can move and boycott. Large businesses can move their operations and refuse to hold events, conferences, and conduct business. But what can a young LGBTQ kid do? What harm might come to them?

I engage in this question because the initial posts on this issue were about bakery owners refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage. This action, while hurtful and definitely discriminatory did not strike the deep horror in some of my friends as it did in me. Getting a second tier cake, even given a potential bridesilla/groomzilla moment, seems harmless to them.

Lets fast forward to an instance reported in the Boston Globe: Lawmakers Approve Intolerance:

In February, a lesbian couple took their newborn daughter to her first appointment with a Michigan pediatrician they’d chosen months earlier. When they arrived, they were told that the doctor, after “much prayer,” decided she could not treat a child of lesbians.

As described in the article, all this reminds me of studying the Jim Crow tactics and racial segregation. There is a rising hostility even as LGBTQ folks gain equality in marriage. Examples already exist, such as Tyra Hunter in 1995 being denied and given inadequate care after a car accident and subsequently dying, of what this could look like at scale. News organizations maintain industry standards that discourage journalists from reporting details on suicide, thus silencing the final words of trans people as represented in the death of Aubrey Mariko Shine.

LGBTQ kids often do not have LGBTQ parents or community to support them in this adverse environment. What are they going to do? Reports from GLSEN and other youth focussed LGBTQ advocacy organizations show increased resiliency among openly LGBTQ youth even while facing increased victimization. How will this change if “public accommodation” can refuse them service?

Emerging Leader Award is Popular at my School…

A screenshot of the article.The emerging leader award is popular at my school. They decided to feature the award in the school of ed’s blog. While the interview was fun and strange emails I am getting scare me just a titch!

Despite my embarrassment regarding the attention I am excited about the opportunity to go to Washington DC. If I can leverage this visit towards grants for my research in games for education and general leverage for curriculum design I will be happy. There is also a secondary set of interests. I have joined Portland State University’s School of Ed’s Curriculum and Instruction’s LGBTQ Advocacy Task Force. We are looking for ways to support teacher candidates, students and others in the schools who identify somewhere along the LGBT (and QIA) spectrum. Personally this is very satisfying work and I hope to hear other’s perspectives in DC and throughout the year.


GLSEN Study – Unique Challenges Faced by Rural LGBTQ Youth

GLSEN Study Reveals Unique Challenges Faced By Rural LGBT Youth

A new studyfrom the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) provides a novel look into the experience of LGBT youth who live in rural areas and don’t access to the same support structures as those in urban or suburban areas. This isolation leads to heightened incidents of student victimization and an unsafe school climate, which in turn negatively impact students’ academic performance and aspirations for post-secondary education.

Findings based on responses from rural LGBT students:

  • Victimization based on sexual orientation at school: 87 percent reported being verbally harassed, 45 percent reported being physically harassed, and 22 percent reported being physically assaulted.
  • Victimization based on gender expression at school: 68 percent reported being verbally harassed, 31 percent reported being physically harassed, and 16 percent reported being physically assaulted.
  • Anti-gay language at school: 91 percent heard “gay” used in a negative way, and 79 percent heard other homophobic remarks (“dyke,” “faggot,” etc.) used frequently or often.
  • Lack of school intervention: Only 13 percent reported that school personnel intervened when they heard homophobic language, and only 11 percent reported similar intervention for negative remarks about gender expression.
  • Lack of peer support: Half as many rural students (27 percent) reported having a gay-straight alliance compared to suburban (55 percent) and urban (53 percent) students.
  • Lack of visibility: Half as many rural students (11 percent) reported having an LGBT-inclusive curriculum, compared to suburban (18 percent) and urban (20 percent) students.

Compared to suburban and urban LGBT students, those living in rural areas felt less safe at school, had less supportive administrators, had less supportive peers, and were less likely to have policies protecting sexual orientation and gender expression.

The new report is based on the data GLSEN originally presented in September, which found troubling rates of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment nationwide. The very policies that would help protect students with anti-bullying programs and education are opposed by conservatives based on “religious liberty” grounds. In states like Michigan and Tennessee, the ruling Republican majorities have even tried to pass “license to bully” bills guaranteeing a place for anti-LGBT harassment in schools.

This in comparison to another article where abuses continue but with supports things improve in schools.

Why Leave Online Learning?

Many people know that I think online learning has a unique promise. Unfortunately I also feel that online learning at the K-12 level does not work as the sole source of learning for most students. Over the last year I had great experiences where online learning provided students with their first school successes. Students with immobilizing social phobias, bullying that turned their local school into a fearsome destination, and lives so mobile that they never stayed in one place for longer than a week while attending school were finally able to succeed. Simultaneously I struggled to engage students making a choice between education and familiar distractions. They sat at home, usually alone, choosing whether they should answer my call, log onto their computer, or even wake up.

Online learning works for students who are motivated and can see the educational benefit. Those who benefit the most are extremely well organized and highly motivated or have family members with those traits supporting them.

Schools are investing quite a bit of money into these programs. To get an experimental idea off the table one method employed by schools is to trial it as an after-school program or with at-risk students. Herein lies my dilemma. “At-risk” students are by definition unlikely to respond to a program that requires high levels of motivation and organization. So how do we test curriculum? How can we proof an idea when the motivated few set a curve (simply by reading material and completing assignments and succeeding on assessments) and then data gives a wide gap in the middle before landing with a swath of incomplete work.

I worry about the rigor of the work and yet at the college level students learn as much from online studies as traditional classes according to the Department of Education’s review of research studies. Some of those studies indicate that blended learning environments provide the best method – combining technology with traditional environments. Due to this last idea I have decided to take some time and reassess my professional goals. Whether I land in a regular classroom and work towards understanding this or continue online as an instructional designer I do not want to teach solely online. There needs to be a balance.

There are other issues as well. Households earning at the “lean” end of the economic spectrum tend to not have broadband access to the internet. Those at the other end tend to have much higher rates of broadband access. Minorities tend to use mobile devices and that segment of the technology market is growing so perhaps mobile learning environments will provide the best avenue for education. http://www.esa.doc.gov/ (Economics and Statistics for the exact figures).

So right now I am thinking I need to work on a plan that brings mobile learning environments into traditional settings. One problem – how to convince the teachers that they want their students to have their cell phones on during class?




Ed Dept Webinar Tuesday for Early Ed.

Jacqueline Jones will open for an all day webinar for early childhood education put on by the Department of Education May 8th. The all day seminar runs from 7am to 2pm Pacific Time.

Check out the sessions on experiential learning – especially the keynote!

They also launched the Office of Early Learning (OEL) website over at the Department of Education.

Schedule below – all times below are EST:

Seminar: Giving Young Children the Right Start: Effective Practices for Experiential Learning

TUESDAY, MAY 8, 2012, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM EST

Join the Office of Early Learning, in Partnership with The Alliance for Childhood and the Gesell Institute, for a one-day conference livestreamed at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/education-department.

10:00 – 10:15 Welcome:

Jacqueline Jones, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning,

U.S. Department of Education

Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development,
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

10:15 – 11:00 Keynote Address: The Power of Play-Based Education for Young Children:

The link between self-regulation and learning

Deborah Leong, Senior Research Fellow NIEER; Professor of Psychology, Metropolitan State College at Denver; Co-author, Tools of the Mind

11:00 – 11:15 Break

11:15 – 12:45 Panel One: Playful and Experiential Learning: The Foundations of Success

Moderator: Joan Almon, Director, Alliance for Childhood

Dorothy Strickland, Professor of Education Emerita; Distinguished Research Fellow NIEER, Rutgers University

Juanita Copley, Professor Emerita, College of Education, University of Houston

12:45 – 1:45 Lunch Break

1:45 – 3:-00 Panel Two: What Effective Teachers of Young Children Need to Know

Moderator: Sherry Cleary, Executive Director, NY Early Childhood Professional Development Institute

Marcy Guddemi, Executive Director, Gesell Institute of Child Development

Linda Espinosa, Professor of Early Childhood Education (ret.), University of Missouri

Shakera Walker, Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow (Kindergarten Teacher), U.S. Department of Education

3:00 – 3:15 Break

3:15 – 4:30 Panel Three: Preparing Early Educators and School Leaders: Policy Implications

Moderator: Joan Almon, Alliance for Childhood

Maurice Sykes, Executive Director, Early Childhood Leadership Institute, University of D.C.

Sherry Cleary, Co-chair, NY State Early Childhood Advisory Council

Kelly Pollitt, Director of Advocacy, Policy and Special Projects, National Association of Elementary School Principals

4:30 – 5:00 Conversation, reflection, and conclusions

Closing remarks: Jacqueline Jones, Linda K. Smith

Please visit us at www.ed.gov/early-learning