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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ORATE Conference!

I don’t know how this happened but I almost forgot I am presenting at the Oregon Association for Teacher Educators (ORATE) conference! This is something I should be looking forward to but I think I was a little overwhelmed with thinking about the Mexico City trip which I have withdrawn from.

I am actually looking forward to this conference as it is located at the college where I studied for my undergraduate degree. Western Oregon University! Home of the wolves. I think. It will be slightly eerie visiting the campus as I had professors who have since passed on or left the campus. The change in make-up with be interesting to experience.

Dr. Doris McEwen - Keynote for Orate.

Dr. Doris McEwen – Keynote for Orate.

Looking forward to the panel presentation and having a great time with fellow teacher educators from Oregon! Although…the keynote is a mystery to me. Clearly my distraction has cost me valuable pre-conference research time!

Hopefully she is as engaging as an upcoming lecture I am attending by Dr. Jacqueline Temple, a recent retiree from Portland State University who I had as an instructor last year. She probably won’t be as exciting as the social comedian W. Kamau Bell who I am going to see in March. Then again the academic language often forbids the raw persuasive power of a bit of comedy.

Ah…I am thankful once again for diversity in discourse styles….

OETC – Take Aways

Yarn Connection: Life via technology.

Opening activity including a yarn led interaction that involved Google Presentation tools.

At a recent OETC event I had the chance to meet a great bunch of educators. This event celebrated the achievements of the Title IID EdTech Grants. There were three consecutive sessions as well as an opening activity using yarn that progressed to the building of some interesting Google presentations as well as a great closing keynote which I missed.

Before the event began Yolanda Ramos from ISTE sat at my table and shared some information about an upcoming grant related to mobile learning. Apparently Verizon has put together a grant directed towards education. This is exciting news and I look forward to seeing what direction that heads in. With any luck I can get involved as a member of the SIG or in other ways.

The sessions contained too much information to share here so I encourage everyone to look up the presentations themselves at the OETC website: http://teach.oetc.org/arra/celebration

Roosevelt High School – Building Success

A school of survivors.

In my last post I contemplated what it takes to change a school’s reputation. Since then I spent some time researching my example school – Roosevelt High School in Portland, OR – and found that they are working hard to adjust perceptions and in some cases succeeding.

Below are a few snippets from newspapers about Roosevelt High:

A dramatic turnaround at Portland’s Roosevelt High School – Oregonian

Student succeeding under pressure and difficult situation.

Roosevelt High School made its 2012 Rose Festival Court – Oregonian

Young woman inspires others with her success.

Roosevelt High troupe prepares to make school history at Oregon Thespians state conference – Oregonian

Getting their artistic, competitive, and community groove going.

So what does this get the school?

Unfortunately not a lot has changed in the greater Portland perception. Locally though – the school offers a beacon. Perhaps this is the first step towards changing a school’s reputation? I think they could use a well placed social media campaign to help illuminate the school’s successes to the rest of Portland and the state as well. They are doing amazing things on a daily basis – if only I heard about it via Twitter, Facebook, and Google+…

Portland & the Globe

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Portland, Oregon, despite the NBC drama of “Grimm” drawing attention to the cities secret society of malicious fairy tale characters, draws many young families. An abundance of parks, a great zoo, child friendly restaurants and interactive museums cause the entire city to feel like it was designed with children in mind. Nevermind the hay days of shanghaied sailors and discrimination – this city has turned this history into diverting tours led by barefoot tour guides. Add in an obsession with cleaning up trash and recycling anything that cannot be reused and I can see why families are attracted to this town.

What I wonder now – how do the educational environments (schools) reflect on the city? Portland monthly magazine posts a yearly review of school statistics which paint an overall picture of health.

There are plenty of public school options, several private schools including a couple independent schools of decent renown. The public schools have litters of charter schools and there are quite a few online options.

I wonder what makes a school a positive attribute in a community? Sellwood Middle School and Llewelyn Elementary both seem highly regarded in the neighborhood I live in. Roosevelt High School, on the other hand, gets a lot of negative attention even though from everything I have read about their programs they look like a school coming up in the world.

Perhaps I am a little too jaded by my experiences in New York but this school seems like it has the potential to grow into a jewel of effective practices. How can they get over their reputation? What needs to happen for this school to go from, “Oh keep my kids out of that school,” to community feature?

How does any school go about changing their reputation?

Questions to haunt me for the next five years as I pursue my doctorate at Portland State University.