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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Utah’s LGBT Anti-Discrimination & Schools: Questions, Questions, Questions

LGBT Brick Road

I think Murrur’s “Russian Embassy in Helsinki, LGBT pavement” makes a poignant reminder of the threat to civil liberty that continues to harm LGBT folks all over the globe.

This essay describes my thoughts after reading the Utah LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination bill and Oklahoma’s Religious Freedom Act that has since gone defunct. I kept looking for articles describing how these acts impact education. My research references, so heavily focussed on game design, the student experience, and increasing minority representation in the educator body, have not prepared me to understand how legislation impacts policy and the embodied experience in schools. If anyone wants to share resources I should look into I would appreciate it. What follows are my initial thoughts peppered with experiences that might better describe my concerns.

Following the passage of the Utah LGBT anti-discrimination bill I have a lot of questions about how this will play out in education: public, private, charter, higher education, and early childhood education. The bill makes it illegal to base employment, housing, or loans decisions on LGBT status. It makes an exemption for religious affiliated organizations like schools and hospitals. It also allows people to express religious beliefs in the workplace without retribution.

In education there are ethical and legal considerations around what a teacher says to their captive audience. Still would an educator see the provision for expression of belief as a loop hole? Probably not, after all that would interfere with the running of the school, right? The policies by the Utah State Board of Education as codified in this legislation protect the rights of parents with children in public schools to know about and consent or withhold consent on topics of “human sexuality”. I think any educator who wanted to share religious views relating to sexuality would need to consider this provision. By expressing religious beliefs about the nature of human sexuality they would require both informing parents about the nature of the discourse and obtain consent.

It does mean that openly LGBT educators who serve as valued community outreach agents and role models for LGBT students and families may have to put up with religiously-based homophobic discussions in the staff room. Even if no one is specifically targeted or even in the room I have observed the rumor sieve that the faculty lounge provides the entire school population.

In terms of bathrooms I am curious how the gender-specific restrooms and other facilities section with play out in schools. The wording for the rules and policies on this section was “reasonable” but sometimes what a school sees as reasonable can place an undo burden on students who identify outside the gender binary. Use of a private bathroom that also serves as administrative bathroom accommodation or a facility in the health room carries a stigma that may potentially be harmful or simply inconvenient in larger schools.

I remember one student who, on an average day, had no problem accessing the staff bathroom. However, when the secretary was out sick her replacement forbid the student from accessing the appropriate facility. The student, unable to use other facilities, spent several hours in discomfort as well as enduring verbal harassment from the substitute. Eventually, after the young student gained access to a faculty advocate, the situation reached resolution.

Is this reasonable?

This brings me to other legislation that includes religious exemptions. Oklahoma’s Religious Freedom Act would allow business owners to refuse service to people in the LGBT community. In a sly twist Rep. Emily Virgin added an amendment that would require business owners who refuse service to the gay community to post their refusal publicly on websites and their front door.

“If you want to discriminate under this law if it passes, then you’re legally allowed to do that, but you need to own it. You need to fess up to it,” Rep. Virgin said.

Of course I decided to imagine what this might look like if teachers were required to post their bias on their classroom doors. As a student I would never have stepped inside a couple classrooms that it took me months to see the extent of an educators racism, sexism, and a host of other prejudices. As an educator I am curious how millennials would react to this system. The ability to clearly see and avoid places refusing to serve diverse communities would definitely impact and drive home the economic repercussions of such discrimination.

Last I heard the bill had been pulled. If another bill arises, and other similar bills in other states go forward, I hope to see similar amendments. I like the juxtaposition of legislation providing acknowledgement of religious freedom but actually highlighting the hypocrisy and prejudice underlining the reason for its creation. Yes you are free to practice a religion that encourages prejudice – but no skulking around feigning tolerance.

I want to see what this would do in education. I expect something messy and scary. Almost a year ago I interviewed an administrator who spoke positively about a diverse educational communities. Later data collection revealed this same administrator consistently denied students access to programs or the ability to form students organizations that supported diversity. If they were required to post their bias before denying these programs the community would have them out of their position immediately. Instead, because they are allowed to operate obscurely, they continue to marginalize diverse members of the student body.

These are complicated issues and I am probably simplifying ideas and not quoting the theorists who could support or refute my statements. Instead this essay has allowed me, in a semi-critical way, to think through current scenarios in education. While the laws tend to focus on domestic and business interactions they impact the culture of school in more ways than I have expressed. I am curious how this will all play out.

 

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?

 

 

 

ISTE 2012 Conference: San Diego

ISTE Conference - San Diego - 2012

 

ISTE 2012 Conference: San Diego Convention Center

I will be attending the 2012 ISTE conference in Sand Diego this June. As many folks already know I was recently elected “Member-at-Large” for the SIG: Mobile Learning. In addition to participating in many SIGML events I will also work with the Virtual Environments SIG again this year as part of the EduMachinima Fest. That takes place on Tuesday night and is an event I look forward to immensely. Finally (as if that was not enough) I volunteered to work with the Young Educator Network and will try to coordinate something between the Mobile Learning and Games and Simulations SIGs for an Augmented Reality tour.

As more events take place expect to see the posts show up below as well as on my main feed.

Ed Dept Webinar Tuesday for Early Ed.

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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