Monday, February 25, 2013

Three Quotes on Identity and the Achievement Gap

I'm pushing the limits of Fair Use but I wanted to post these for my own future reference.

Dr. Camika Royal on Asa Hilliard quoted in Please Stop Using the Phrase 'Achievement Gap'
One of Hilliard's most salient arguments is the notion that the so-called achievement gap between whites, blacks, and Latinos holds white wealthy students' performance as the standard of excellence without interrogating whether or not their performance is worthy of comparison. Instead of asking if how they performed is excellent, the inter-racially comparative nature of the "achievement gap" suggests that blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, special education students, and those receiving free and reduced-priced lunch should do whatever white students are doing.

Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez (originally from East San Jose!) in A "Gap-Gazing Fetish" in Mathematics Education. Problematizing Research on the Achievement Gap, p. 359.
...the (achievement gap) lens sends an unintended message that marginalized students are not worth studying in their own right—that a comparison group is necessary. Such a framing further engrains whiteness and middle-to-upper income as a norm, positioning certain students and their cultures as deviant.

Andrew Solomon in Far from the Tree


Background: Vertical identities are those identities inherited to some degree from parents. They may be genetic but also shared cultural norms. Horizontal identities are formed when someone has a trait foreign to his or her parents and must "acquire identity from a peer group." The book is about parents and children but I think you can also apply this to school relationships as well.

Most deaf children are born to hearing parents, and those parents frequently prioritize functioning in the hearing world, expending enormous energy on oral speech and lipreading. Doing so, they can neglect other areas of their children's education. While some deaf people are good at lipreading and produce comprehensible speech, many do not have that skill, and years go by as they sit endlessly with audiologists and speech pathologists instead of learning history and mathematics and philosophy. Many stumble upon Deaf identity in adolescence, and it comes as a great liberation. They move into a world that validates Sign as a language and discover themselves. Some hearing parents accept this powerful new development; others struggle against it." (pages 2-3)
Vertical identities are usually respected as identities; horizontal ones are often treated as flaws.(page 4)
Wondering how my teachers could have done this, I thought that someone whose core being is deemed a sickness and an illegality may struggle to parse the distinction between that and a much greater crime. Treating an identity as an illness invites real illness to make a braver stand. (page 13)
Three quick thoughts:

I used to think that our fixation on the "achievement gap" was a form of microaggression (see this post, this vid and this tumblr) but I've been underestimating the impact.

How much of our time is spent trying to 'fix' a student when what we're really trying to do is make a student more like us?

And with a nod to Dr. Gutierrez, I will give endless blog love to the first person who, in a staff meeting about the 'achievement gap', raises his/her hand and asks, "Yes. What are we planning to do to catch our White students up to our Asian ones?"



_________
Thanks to Bryan and Raymond for the Gutierrez articles and for the Hangout and Grace for recommending the Solomon book.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

What Gets Left Behind

It's been a year since I moved from an urban school in East San Jose to a suburban school in Mountain View. The advantages my new students have are absurd. Teacher stability. Safety. The sheer volume of resources we have available to students.1 Parent involvement. Being one of two public middle schools in the city instead of one of 30 or 40. My new students get to interact with a wonderfully diverse student population. One thing I like to brag about is how my school population so closely mirrors California as a whole.
www.greatschools.org
All that is great. My current students get a very different experience in school than my former ones. I often wonder about what I could have done differently at my old school to at least partially replicate some of the advantages that my current students have. Could I have been more active in engaging parents? Tried to gather more community resources? Actively recruited teachers to my school? There are plenty of things I could have done differently and there are a few problems that I still can't even approach.

But you know what really makes the difference? The problem that I can't solve no matter how well I teach?

A year ago I'd tell my students, "If you want to succeed, you need to leave." Now I tell my students, "If you want to succeed, you need to stay."

I want to make it clear. I love the Eastside. Love it. I love the community. I love my students. I love the fierce sense of pride we all felt about being from the Eastside. But the hard truth was always that in order to get a quality higher education and then a decent paying career, you had to leave the neighborhood. You had to leave your friends. You had to leave your family. You have to leave you.

Sometimes in our race to get our children ahead, we don't stop to think about what we're asking them to leave behind.



Edit: The Science Goddess is thinking about similar issues.


1: We have art, band, choir, a library, a librarian, a school nurse, two computer labs, an iPad cart, a gym, after school tutoring with teachers, before school tutoring with community members, Read 180, English 3D, ST Math, Khan Academy, Destination Imagination, Lego Robotics, PAL boxing, speech and debate, field trips, two different student counseling services, a chess club, a counseling service for teachers, parent workshops, drama, and I'm sure there's plenty of stuff I don't know about all of which are no cost or low cost and all of which did not exist or only existed in a mostly theoretical sense at my old school. On the other hand, my old school had a police officer on duty. So there's that. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Miss A

I'm always a bit surprised that more teachers haven't heard of Miss A. It's one of those things that keeps me going when times get rough. If you haven't, you should read this speech [pdf] by Dan Fallon for the overview. Read it again whenever you start feeling like what you do doesn't matter.

Ben was good enough to send me the original 1978 Harvard Education Review article. The lead author was a former student of hers and also wrote this response to a newspaper letter after she passed away.

(Miss A's real name was Iole Appugliese—Miss Apple Daisy to her students. There's a little more biographical information in A Tribute to the Great Montrealers.)


PS - If any of your libraries happen to have a copy of a Canadian Reader's Digest from September 1976 there's an article called Miss Apple Daisy about her that I haven't read. I'd ask you to send it to me but that would likely require you to pilfer some microfiche.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice


Update 5/7/13: I'm in. If you're going I'll see you there.


San Jose State is hosting the Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice. It's $150 and there's a brief application process that includes a few extended response questions. I've applied but I won't know for a few months if I'm in. Here's the body of the email I received (Thanks Kari):


Keynotes Confirmed:Dr. Tara Yosso, Chicana/o Studies, UCSBAllyson Tintiangco-Cubales, Asian American Studies and Educational Leadership, SFSU 
In California, students of color comprise over 70% of the public school population, but teachers of color make up less than 30% of the teaching force. With barriers such as limited resources, testing pressures and culturally-disconnected mandated curriculum, teachers of color with a commitment to racial justice face many challenges in realizing their vision, and can feel isolated in their work. 
June 19-21, 2013, San José State University is hosting the third annual Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice, a three-day conference to support the development, success and retention of teachers of color struggling to achieve racial justice in schools. It is intended as a community building, professional development space for teachers of color to explore the racial climate of their schools, receive training to navigate these realities, and strategize how to create racially transformative classrooms and schools. We are also accepting applications from school administrators of color and teacher educators of color who are interested in building alongside teachers.  
The cost for attending the Institute is $150, which includes breakfast, lunch and materials for all three days (a limited number of scholarships are available for those who are not receiving district funding). Applications should be submitted by April 1, 2013 and we will notify applicants by early May. If you are interested in attending this Institute, please complete the application through the following link: 
www.surveymonkey.com/s/Instituteforteachersofcolor  
We are looking for teachers, school administrators and teacher educators of color who:
• Are committed to racial justice.
• Work at schools serving a significant population of students of color.
• Want to build a like-minded community.
• Have specific needs that can be met by the Institute.  
We are also hoping to achieve racial and gender balance among participants to represent the diversity of teachers, school administrators, and teacher educators of color. Please submit any inquiries to Dr. Rita Kohli at rita.kohli-REMOVE-ME-@-sjsu.edu.
I altered the email address at the end for the scrapers. Take out any dashes and the REMOVE ME.


If this is too far for you, I've also heard good things about:

Free Minds, Free People on July 11-14 in Chicago
New York Collective of Radical Educators on March 16 in NYC

Some brief googling also led me to:

Northwest Conference on Teaching of Social Justice October in Seattle
Conference on Equity and Social Justice on March 2 in New Paltz, New York
Conference for Social Justice in Education on April 20 in the Channel Islands, CA.

I haven't heard anything about those though.


If there are any other conferences you'd recommend on social justice leave it in the comments.