Kids of color get kicked out of school at higher rates – here’s how to stop it

By Samuel Song, University of Nevada, Las Vegas via The Conversation U.S.

When two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks where they had been waiting for a business meeting on April 12, the incident called renewed attention to the bias that racial minorities face in American society.

A few days later, a similar incident unfolded at an LA Fitness in New Jersey.

While these two incidents involved adults at places of business, the reality is black children face similar treatment in America’s schools.

The latest evidence is in a recent federal report that shows boys, black students and students with disabilities get kicked out of school at higher rates than their peers.

Findings like this are disturbing, but they are hardly surprising. As a trainer of school psychologists, consultant and researcher, I have worked with schools on the matter of racial disparities in school discipline, along with other problems of justice.

I believe racial disparities in school discipline will persist until educators seriously examine the role their decisions play in the matter. They will also persist until schools begin to implement new strategies that have proven it’s not necessary to kick kids out of school to effectively deal with their behavior.

The source of disparities

Racial disparities in school discipline are nothing new. In 2014 – after years of “zero tolerance” policies proved problematic – the Obama administration issued a guidance to remind schools of their obligation to teach all children and not to suspend or expel them unfairly.

Yet, the new federal data show that for virtually every school in the country for the 2013-14 school year, racial disparities were present irrespective of the type of disciplinary action, level of school poverty, or type of school attended. The bottom line is that some sort of bias is at play.

In research on the subject, this bias is known as implicit bias. This is defined as automatic, unconscious associations and stereotypes about groups of people that affect our understanding, actions and decisions. This topic has been studied extensively and popularized by a collaborative research project housed at Harvard University.

How real is implicit bias? In a series of four experimental studies, the fourth study, using state-of-the-art eye-tracking methodology, demonstrated that – when asked to judge who was telling the truth – whites gazed more quickly at the “lie” response for blacks, which suggests a spontaneous mistrust of blacks. This is consistent with what other researchers have found. Interestingly, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson mentioned implicit bias as one of the issues potentially at play in the Starbucks incident.

One study on implicit bias in schools concluded that teachers and staff viewed black girls’ behavior differently. The same study found that black girls were three times more likely to receive office referrals for discipline compared to white girls for subjective discipline violations. A different study found that black students were disciplined for subjective interpretations of behaviors, such as “disobedience” and “disruptive behavior.”

An experimental study conducted at Yale found that preschool teachers gazed at black boys longer compared to other children when asked to look for challenging behavior on video clips.

This tendency to view black children with more suspicion harms the relationships between teachers and black students.

In issuing the new report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, lists several areas to target racial disparities in school discipline. In my experience working with schools, I believe the GAO’s recommendations are correct, but will only work under certain conditions.

In search of alternatives

The first recommendation is to implement alternative forms of discipline that focus on proactive and preventative strategies for the whole school rather than reactive punishment. In my work with schools implementing such approaches, the biggest problem is the degree to which teachers and staff may not have buy-in on the strategies to implement them properly.

For example, some teachers and staff with one particular initiative became frustrated with certain challenging students and rarely gave praise or “behavior bucks,” which could be traded in for privileges and stickers. And when teachers did distribute the “behavior bucks,” they were sarcastic about it and often belittled students rather than being encouraging. In essence, teachers turned a positive strategy into a harmful one.

Due to the potential lack of buy-in from teachers, it is important to use strategies that enable a more collaborative approach to deciding the consequences.

This is the strength of the restorative justice approach. Restorative justice is built upon a foundation of empowering students to collaboratively have their voices heard, take responsibility for one’s actions, and make hurt relationships right again through community dialogue.

For example, restorative justice approaches will gather students and adults together in a circle to discuss the infraction by focusing on who was harmed and what the community can do to make the hurt relationship right again, which is often a plan of amends. These circle discussions with various adults and students allow for all parties to understand one another’s perspective and produce empathy for students, teachers and classmates. In my view, collaborative decision-making is the key to reducing biases.

Restorative justice has been shown to reduce racial disparities in discipline directly, which perhaps explains why other programs are integrating restorative justice strategies into their programs.

Second, there need to be new laws and policies to discourage punitive, exclusionary disciplinary practices in schools and to encourage alternative approaches to school discipline.

For example, California prohibits the use of suspensions and expulsions for children in grades K-3 for willful defiance. Other states and school districts, such as Illinois and Seattle, have done so as well.

The ConversationFinally, it would be helpful if America’s schools had more school psychologists on hand. Unfortunately, the nation’s schools suffer from a shortage of school psychologists at a time when they are needed most to help address complex issues of racial disparities in school discipline.

Samuel Song, Associate Professor of School Psychology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Connect with the College of Education at AERA 2018

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Friday, April 13

Benefits and Challenges of Instructional Coaching and Mentoring for Teachers and School Leaders
Division Roundtable Session Park • 12:00pm
Park Central Hotel New York, Ballroom Level, Ballroom
Principal Transformative Learning Through Mentoring Aspiring Administrators
Presenting Authors: Dana L. Bickmore (UNLV) and Lydia Davenport (Alabama A&M) 

Argument-Based Approaches to Measure Validation Situated in Mathematics Education
Symposium • 12:00 to 1:30pm
Westin New York at Times Square, Ninth Floor, Palace Room
Examining the Arguments Surrounding the Argument-Based Approach to Validation: A Systematic Review of Validation Methodology
Presenting Authors: Matthew R. Lavery, Jonathan David Bostic (Bowling Green), Michele Carney (Boise State), Jeffrey C. Shih (UNLV), Erin Elizabeth Krupa (Montclair State), Mark R. Wilson (UC Berkeley) and Lance Kruse (Toledo) 

College Student Learning and Development
Roundtable Session • 2:15 to 3:45pm
NY Marriott Marquis, Fifth Floor, Westside Ballroom Salon 1
A Brief Writing Intervention for Graduate Students: Can Writing-Related Anxiety, Self-Efficacy, Self-Awareness, and Self-Management Improve?
Presenting Authors: Margarita Huerta (UNLV) and Patricia Goodson (Texas A&M – College Station) 

Learning to Build Inclusive Classrooms: Promising Preservice Practices
Paper Session • 2:15 to 3:45pm
NY Hilton Midtown, Concourse Level, Concourse D Room
Discussant: Christine Clark (UNLV) 

Supporting College Students of Color Within STEM & Cocurricular Spaces
Paper Session • 2:15 to 3:45pm
Park Central Hotel NY, Mezzanine Level, Manhattan A Room
Undergraduate Women of Color in STEM: An Updated Synthesis of the Literature
Presenting Authors: Blanca E. Rincón (UNLV) and Tonisha B. Lane (South Florida)

 Critical Analyses of Children’s & Young Adult Literature: Uncovering Discourses of Power & Representation About Latinx Communities
Symposium • 2:15 to 3:45pm
Millennium Broadway NY Times Square, 4th Floor, Rm 4.02-4.03
Chair: Denise Dávila (UNLV) 

Poster Session • 4:05 to 5:35pm
NY Hilton Midtown, Third Floor, Americas Hall 1-2 – Exhibit Hall
Using Critical Questions to Evaluate Arguments in an Undergraduate General Education Seminar: A Quasi-Experimental Study
Presenting Authors: Michael Nussbaum, Ian J. Dove, Nathan Slife, CarolAnne M. Kardash, Refika Turgut and David B. Vallett (UNLV) 

An Integrative and Comparative Analysis of Approaches to Developing Undergraduates’ Learning Skills
Symposium • 4:05 to 5:35pm
Crown Plaza Times Square, Times Square B Room
The Effects of Embedded Digital Learning Skills Training on Undergraduates’ Science and Math Achievement
Presenting Authors: Matthew L. Bernacki, Nicholas Voorhees, Carryn Bellomo-Warren (UNLV) 

Emergent Bilinguals’ Meaning-Making Across Languages & Modalities
Paper Session • 4:05 to 5:35pm
Sheraton NY Times Square, Lower Level, Sutton Place Room
Emergent Bilingual Children’s Multimodal Practices: Supporting Varying Purposes of Show-and-Tell
Presenting Authors: Sabrina Francesca Sembiante (Florida Atlantic), Alain Bengochea (UNLV) and Mileidis Gort (Colorado)


Saturday, April 14

Challenges & Issues in Addressing Social & Emotional Competence
Roundtable Session • 8:15 to 9:45am
Crown Plaza Times Square, Act III-IV Room
Measurement Difficulties Surrounding Social Emotional Learning Concepts
Presenting Authors: Kenneth Retzl, Kate Eugenis, Geordan Keller (Clark County School District), Ana Luisa Reyes and Kevin Worthy (UNLV) 

Dialogue, Discourse, & Language in Science Teaching & Learning
Roundtable Session • 8:15 to 9:45am
Millennium Broadway NY Times Square, Eighth Floor, Gallery 8
The Persistence of Science Instruction Within Treatment and Control Classrooms With English Learners
Presenting Authors: Tiberio Garza, Margarita Huerta (UNLV), Fuhui Tong, Rafael Lara-Alecio and Beverly J. Irby (Texas A&M) 

Hip-Hop Pedagogies Across K-12 Subject Matter
Paper Session • 8:15 to 9:45am
NY Marriott Marquis, Seventh Floor, Empire/Hudson Room
Hip-Hop Generation: Rethinking the Disconnect in K–12 Classrooms
Presenting Authors: Antonio Latrell Ellis, Jaquial D. Durham (Howard) and Malayka Neith Cornejo (UNLV) 

Students’ Self-Regulated Learning and Behavior
Paper Session • 10:35 to 12:05pm
Millennium Broadway NY Times Square, 7th Floor, Room 7.04
Chair: Matthew L. Bernacki (UNLV)

 Equity Across Multiple Disciplines and Contents
Paper Session • 10:35 to 12:05pm
NY Hilton Midtown, Concourse Level, Concourse C Room
Chair: Steven T. Bickmore (UNLV) 

Exploring Access Opportunities for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education
Paper Session • 10:35 to 12:05pm
New York Marriott Marquis, Seventh Floor, Harlem
Chair: Blanca E. Rincón (UNLV) 

Students of Color & Family Impact on Educational Experiences
Paper Session • 12:25 to 1:55pm
New York Marriott Marquis, Fourth Floor, Wilder
“I Want to Make Them Proud”: How Parents of Color Influence the STEM Pathways of Students of Color
Presenting Authors: Blanca E. Rincón (UNLV) and Erica Fernández (Connecticut)


Sunday, April 15

Pedagogical Models & Strategies for Teaching with Technology
Roundtable Session • 8:15 to 9:45am
NY Marriott Marquis, Fifth Floor, Westside Ballroom Salon 3
Tracing Undergraduate Science Learners’ Digital Cognitive Strategy Use and Effects on Achievement
Presenting Authors: Kyle Castro Mefferd (Touro Univ., Nevada) and Matthew L. Bernacki (UNLV) 

Collaboration, Decision Making, and Integration in STEM
Roundtable Session • 8:15 to 9:45am
Sheraton NY Times Square, Second Floor, Empire Ballroom East
Chair: Steven T. Bickmore (UNLV) 

School Partnerships in Urban Settings
Paper Session • 8:15 to 10:15am
Westin New York at Times Square, Fourth Floor, Imperial Room
Building Homes and Hopes Through YouthBuild Las Vegas
Presenting Authors: Kim Nehls (UNLV)

 Toward Justice: Centering Identities, Positionalities, & Community Knowledges in Teacher Educators’ Work & Learning
Paper Session • 8:15 to 10:15am
New York Hilton Midtown, Concourse Level, Concourse C Room
Chair: Christine Clark (UNLV) 

Meaningful Mentoring Practices: Preservice Teachers & Mentors
Paper Session • 10:35am to 12:05pm
Park Central Hotel New York, Mezzanine Level, Park I Room
Mentorship in Context: Exploring the Experiences of Mentee and Mentor Teachers
Presenting Authors: Chyllis Elayne Scott, Steve Hayden and Tara J. Plachowski (UNLV) 

Challenging Language (Im)Possibilities in Dual Language Programs: Capital, Context, and Hope
Roundtable Session • 10:35am to 12:05pm
Sheraton NY Times Square, 2nd Floor, Metropolitan East Room
Social and Cultural Capital of Teachers for the Success of a Dual-Language Program
Presenting Authors: Katrina Liu, Richard Miller (UNLV) and Jorge Luis Inzunza (Delavan Darien School District) 

Student Learning and Development in Higher Education
Poster Session • 10:35am to 12:05pm
NY Hilton Midtown, Third Floor, Americas Hall 1-2 – Exhibit Hall
Enriching Student Experiences and Strengthening Student Support Through Quality Academic Advising
Presenting Authors: Sandip Thanki, Richard Yao, Janice Le-Ngyuen, Tony Scinta (Nevada State College) and Qingmin Shi (UNLV) 

Learning in Diverse K-12 Settings: Exploring the Hidden Curriculum and Critical Disconnects
Paper Session • 2:45 to 4:15pm
Park Central Hotel New York, Carnegie
Beyond “Free” or “Reduced” Dreams and Possibilities: Understanding Disconnects in Culturally Relevant Education
Presenting Authors: Kenneth James Fasching-Varner, Sonya Diana Hayes, Michela Patricia Stone (LSU), Kerri Tobin, Hillary B. Eisworth (LSU – Baton Rouge), Stehanie Troutman (Arizona) and Christine Clark (UNLV) 

Emerging Resolutions for Classroom Management Issues
Roundtable Session • 2:45 to 4:15pm
Park Central Hotel New York, Ballroom Level, Ballroom
Whole-School Connected: A Bridge for Novice Teachers’ Communication
Presenting Authors: Cecilia A. Turman and Shaoan Zhang (UNLV) 

CTE SIG Business Meeting • 6:30 to 8:30pm
Sheraton NY Times Square, Third Floor, Riverside Ballroom
Journal Impact Factors: Implications for Career and Technical Educators and Related Professionals
Presenting Authors: Howard R.D. Gordon (UNLV), James E. Bartlett (North Carolina State), Johanna Lahja Lasonen, Victor M. Hernandez-Gantes (USF), Linda K. Martinez (Cal State-Long Beach) and Brenda A Martin (Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Portfolios and Reflection in Teaching and Teacher Education
SIG Business Meeting • 6:30 to 8:30pm
Sheraton NY Times Square, Lower Level, Gramercy Room
Chair: Katrina Liu (UNLV)


Monday, April 16

Poster Session 12 • 8:15 to 9:45am
NY Hilton Midtown, Third Floor, Americas Hall 1-2 – Exhibit Hall

  • Video Games as Performance Assessments: How Executive Functioning Influences the Learning Process
    Presenting Authors: Michael McCreery, Catherine Bacos, Jeffrey Robert Laferriere (UNLV) and S. Kathleen Krach (Florida State)
  • What’s in a Test? Video Games as a Model for Assessing Learning Behaviors
    Presenting Authors: Michael McCreery, Jeffrey Robert Laferriere, Catherine Bacos (UNLV) and S. Kathleen Krach (Florida State)
  • An Examination of Preservice Teachers’ Beliefs and Self-Efficacy: Are They Related to Their Teaching Performance?
    Presenting Authors: Peter Wiens (UNLV), Bong Gee Jang (Syracuse) and Annie Chou (Dawson School at Rainbow Mtn)

Transforming Schools through Community Driven Organizational Thinking
Paper Session • 8:15 to 9:45am
New York Hilton Midtown, Third Floor, Trianon Ballroom
Possibilities for Social Justice Leadership
Chair/Discussant: Christine Clark (UNLV) 

Research in Vocabulary Development
Roundtable Session • 8:15 to 9:45am
Millennium Broadway NY Times Square, Eighth Floor, Gallery 8
Chair: Sharolyn Pollard-Durodola (UNLV) 

Selected Factors and Indicators Impacting 21st-Century Growth of Career and Technical Education
Paper Session • 8:15 to 9:45am
Sheraton NY Times Square, Third Floor, Riverside Ballroom
Discussant: Howard R.D. Gordon (UNLV)

Narratives of Resistance and Resilience: The Experiences of Women-of Color Scholars in Predominantly White Colleges/Schools of Education
Symposium • 8:15 to 10:15am
New York Hilton Midtown, Second Floor, Gramercy Room West
(In)Visible Labor: Reflections from a Latina Faculty
Presenting Author: Norma A. Marrun (UNLV)

Pathways to Teacher Preparation: Conflict & Compatibility Between Alternative Pathways & University Pathways to Licensure
Invited Speaker Session • 10:35am to 12:05pm
New York Hilton Midtown, Concourse Level, Concourse A Room
Speaker: Steven T. Bickmore (UNLV)

Roundtable Session • 10:35am to 12:05pm
Sheraton NY Times Square, Second Floor, Empire Ballroom East
Teacher Recruitment & Retention Focused on Content Areas
Chair: Christine Clark (UNLV) 

Roundtable Session • 10:35am to 12:05pm
Sheraton NY Times Square, 2nd Floor, Metropolitan West Room
Gendered Bodies in Educational Spaces
Chair: Iesha Jackson (UNLV)

 Digital Innovations in Teacher Professional Development
Paper Session • 12:25 to 1:55pm
NY Hilton Midtown, Concourse Level, Concourse D Room
Teachers Supporting Teachers in Learning to Teach
Presenting Authors: Lois Paretti, Linda F. Quinn, Jane McCarthy, Karen J. Grove and Steve Hayden (UNLV) 

The Use of Technology in Special Education
Paper Session • 12:25 to 1:55pm
Park Central Hotel New York, Mezzanine Level, Park II Room
Using Mobile Technology to Increase the Math Achievement and Engagement of Students With Disabilities
Presenting Authors: Dominique Tetzlaff (Maine at Farmington), Joseph Morgan, Tracy Spies and Michael McCreery (UNLV)

Cultivating Effective Literacy Instruction and Assessment in Preservice Teachers
Roundtable Session • 2:15 to 3:45pm
Park Central Hotel New York, Mezzanine Level, Park II Room
Using Perezhivanie in Teaching: An International Faculty’s Lived Experiences of Teaching
Presenting Authors: Ching Hsu-Kim and Shaoan Zhang (UNLV)

 Poster Session • 2:15 to 3:45pm
NY Hilton Midtown, Third Floor, Americas Hall 1-2 – Exhibit Hall

  • Expectancies, Values, & Costs: Reciprocal-Effects Models
    Presenting Authors: Rachel Part, Harsha Perera, Matthew L. Bernacki and Gwen C. Marchand (UNLV)
  • The Effects of a Retrieval Practice Intervention on Undergraduates’ Monitoring and Control Using Performance Feedback
    Presenting Authors: Megan Cogliano and Matthew L. Bernacki (UNLV)

The Role of Constructivism in Teacher Education
Roundtable Session • 2:15 to 3:45pm
Sheraton NY Times Square, Second Floor, Empire Ballroom East
Teacher Grit, Maturity, and Risk-Taking: Developing Teacher Candidates’ Knowledge of Literacy Assessments and Interventions
Presenting Authors: Tracey S. Hodges (Alabama), Chyllis Elayne Scott, Sophie Marie Ladd (UNLV), Erin Kuhl Washburn (Binghampton-SUNY) and Sharon Diane Matthews (Texas A&M-College Station) 

Longitudinal Perspectives on College Access
Roundtable Session • 2:15 to 3:45pm
NY Marriott Marquis, Fifth Floor, Westside Ballroom Salon 2
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? Math Misalignment and Mismatch in the Transition to College
Presenting Authors: Federick Ngo (UNLV) and David Velasquez (USC)

Disproportionality in School Discipline: Exploring Policies, Practices, Contexts, and Experiences
Roundtable Session • 2:15 to 3:45pm
Sheraton NY Times Square, 2nd Floor, Metropolitan West Room

  • Understanding and Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline: School Discipline and Juvenile Justice
    Chair: Christine Clark (UNLV)
  • Black Women and Girls in Pursuit of a Higher Education: A Critical Analysis
    Chair: Iesha Jackson (UNLV)

Roundtable Session • 2:15 to 3:45pm
Millennium Broadway NY Times Square, Eighth Floor, Gallery 8
Critical Professional Development and Social Justice: Developing Liberatory Praxis Through Critical Inquiry Teacher Action Groups
Presenting Authors: Tonya Evette Walls (Touro University, Nevada) and Malayka Neith Cornejo (UNLV)

Dreams, Hopes, and Concerns in Preparing Future Teachers
Roundtable Session • 2:15 to 3:45pm
Sheraton NY Times Square, 2nd Floor, Metropolitan East Room
Dreams and Hopes of Preservice Teachers Preparing to Work in Public Schools
Presenting Authors: Leilya Pitre (Southeastern Louisiana) and Steven T. Bickmore (UNLV) 

I Know I Can: Teacher Agency, Motivation, and Self-Efficacy
Paper Session • 4:05 to 5:35pm
NY Hilton Midtown, Concourse Level, Concourse D Room
Toward an Integrative Perspective on the Dimensionality of Teacher Self-Efficacy Data
Presenting Authors: Celeste Calkins, Harsha Perera (UNLV), Peter McIveen and Bradley McLennan (Southern Queensland)

Student Learning Across Contexts and Content Areas
Paper Session • 4:05 to 5:35pm
Sheraton NY Times Square, Second Floor, Empire Ballroom East
Diversity and Discipline in the Classroom: Perceptions of Prospective Teachers
Presenting Authors: Katrina Liu and Sandra Candel (UNLV)

Doctoral Student Supervision, Development, and the Professoriate
Paper Session • 4:05 to 6:05pm
New York Hilton Midtown, Second Floor, Regent Parlor
Multiple Case Studies of International Doctoral Students’ Resilience and Identity Construction
Presenting Authors: Shaoan Zhang, Lina DeVaul, Ching Hsu-Kim, Chengcheng Li (UNLV) and Guoxiang Wang (Texas Tech) 

Radical Dreaming: Paulo Freire’s Transformative Pedagogy
Paper Session • 4:05 to 6:05pm
Millennium Broadway NY Times Square, Fifth Floor, Room 5.08
Discussant: Christine Clark (UNLV)

Special Journal Issues Focused on Mixed Methods
Mixed Methods Research SIG Business Meeting • 6:15 to 7:45pm
Westin New York at Times Square, Ninth Floor, Palace Room
Presenting Authors: Gwen Marchand (UNLV) and others


Tuesday, April 17

Roundtable Session • 8:15 to 9:45am
Sheraton NY Times Square, 2nd Floor, Metropolitan East Room
Critical Examinations of Whiteness in Education
Chair: Christine Clark (UNLV)

Learning/Development with Community Engagement/Group Learning
Paper Session • 8:15 to 9:45am
Sheraton New York Times Square, Second Floor, Metropolitan East Room
A Model for Language-Minority Student Persistence in the Community College
Authors: Margarita Huerta, Tiberio Garza (UNLV) and Hugo Alberto Garcia (Texas Tech)

Learning/Development with Community Engagement/Group Learning
Paper Session • 12:25 to 1:55pm
New York Marriott Marquis, Fourth Floor, Brecht
Longitudinal, Linguistic Analysis of Critical Thinking, Inquiry, and Communication Skills Development Among Second-Year Seminar Students
Presenting Authors: Yana S. Ryjova, Matthew L. Bernacki and Nathan Slife (UNLV) 

Beliefs and Reasoning in Biology Learning
Paper Session • 12:25 to 1:55pm
Millennium Broadway NY Times Square, 7th Floor, Room 7.02-7.03
Investigating Science Teachers’ Causal Schemas in the Context of Evolutionary Theory
Presenting Authors: Ezgi Yesilyurt and Hasan Deniz (UNLV)

Recruitment and Retention for Specific Teacher Populations
Paper Session • 12:25 to 1:55pm
New York Hilton Midtown, Concourse Level, Concourse F Room
Preservice Teacher Commitment: A Conceptual Model
Presenting Authors: Guoxiang Wang (Texas Tech), Shaoan Zhang and Katrina Liu (UNLV) 

Pursuing Our Mothers’ Dreams: Experiencing Disillusionment and Empowerment on the Journey to Academia
Symposium • 12:25 to 1:55pm
New York Hilton Midtown, Second Floor, Sutton Center
Familial Resilience: Persistence in Higher Education Through Culture and Family Values
Presenting Authors: Malayka Neith Cornejo (UNLV)

Loving Our Teacher Selves: Reflection, Engagement, & Growth
Roundtable Session • 12:25 to 1:55pm
Sheraton NY Times Square, Second Floor, Empire Ballroom East
The Satisfaction of Teachers at Work: Effects of Teacher Self-Efficacy and Engagement
Presenting Authors: Helena Granziera (New South Wales) and Harsha Perera (UNLV)

Critically Examining the Education of Black/Latino Boys/Young Adults
Roundtable Session • 12:25 to 1:55pmSheraton NY Times Square, 2nd Floor, Metropolitan West Room
The End of Fear: Spoken Word, Life Lessons, and Educating Black and Latino Young Men
Presenting Authors: Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz (Columbia), Wanda Watson (Mills College) and Iesha Jackson (UNLV)

What’s the Alternative? Advancing Learning Opportunities for Black Students

By Dr. Iesha Jackson | Originally posted on National Center for Institutional Diversity

During the 2013–2014 school year, I conducted a qualitative research study in a transfer high school in New York City. I wanted to understand how Black students make sense of their schooling experiences at the intersections of race, gender, and age. Six young adults, Amir, Evelyn, Karma, Monica, Shaun, and Wayne*, ranging in age from 18 to 20, were ultimately my guides and teachers as I pursued these answers. Together, the six students had attended a combined total of 15 schools prior to enrolling at Seeds of Promise High School (what I’ll call “Promise High”), where the study was conducted. They had unique Promise High experiences and various reasons for attending this particular school. However, they all expressed a commitment to earning a high school diploma and a desire to go to college.

What I found during my time with these six Black young adults is that there was limited access to curricular, extracurricular, and culturally relevant opportunities that would support the holistic development of what Cahill, Lynch, and Hamilton (2006) call “overage, under-credited” (OA/UC) learners. OA/UC students are at least two years behind their peers in terms of age and credits earned toward a high school diploma. Not surprisingly to those familiar with issues of educational inequity, students of color, students just like Amir, Evelyn, Karma, Monica, Shaun, and Wayne, are overrepresented in this population throughout the United States.

Based on insights from Amir, Evelyn, Karma, Monica, Shaun, and Wayne, as well as research in teaching and learning, I have outlined four essential approaches to creating culturally relevant, age appropriate learning opportunities for OA/UC Black students.

  1. If you’re there, care.

As legal adults who had spent more than the traditional 13 years in K-12 schools, the high school students I met discussed the pressures they felt to graduate before “aging out” (i.e., becoming ineligible to re-enroll because of their age). Their stories were wrought with contradictions as they wavered between discussing the supportive environment of the school and the various types of invisibility they faced. Thankfully, these students were able to find occasional support. This support often came from their female teachers and administrators of color who made students feel individually heard and valued. On the other hand, students also had specific teachers they felt were “only there for a paycheck,” and they talked about practices they felt did not honor their positionality as Black young adults in New York City capable of making mature, self-motivated personal and academic decisions. Monica described her “welcome” to the school by saying:

I felt like when I first came, they [school professionals in charge of enrolling new students] was like…they didn’t really want to accept me because of my age. They didn’t think I would do any work. They probably think I would just stay in here being 18, 19, 20, 21 and not do anything.

The young men and women indicated that key changes to practice they wanted at Promise High include teaching with passion, making use of current technology, and supporting students to high levels of academic achievement while creating a learning environment in which students feel cared for by all school professionals.

2. Provide life-centered learning.

Towards the end of the school year, I gathered participants for individual interviews, asking them to reflect on their personal experiences at Promise High over the year. Because Wayne had recently started working and realized “it’s a struggle to manage [money],” he expressed interest in learning more about financial literacy and links between economics and politics. He shared:

I feel like we should be have more economic, political classes, or geared toward the subject. Because a lot of us are still in the mindset of, ‘Mommy and daddy are gonna take care of me. Then I’m gonna leave high school, get a job, and I’m gonna have so much money. Like making $80 dollars an hour. I’m gonna have an apartment and a girlfriend et cetera.’

While economics is offered at Promise High, the students who took the course described it as impractical. Therefore, the students requested curricula that realistically address their future goals as well as their present circumstances. This recommendation speaks to the importance of both covering the standards so students like Wayne can graduate, but also endeavoring to make learning personally meaningful and directly applicable for students.

A shared assumption between culturally relevant pedagogy and adult learning theory is that learners bring with them life experiences that orient them to course materials and objectives (Baumgartner, Lee, Birden, & Flowers, 2003Ladson-Billings, 2014). In other words, for Black adult learners, teaching and learning exchanges are most effective when they are connected to students’ prior knowledge, ways of knowing, and personal interests. The participants of this study recommended changes to curricular and extracurricular activities that spoke to these elements from their experiences as older high school students with life experiences and interests that shaped what they wanted to learn in school.

3. Use critical race praxis, or, as Karma says — “dig deep into their personal life.”

From an intersectional perspective, institutional racism and oppression are intensified in the schooling experiences of older Black students by segregating them into transfer schools. Transfer schools in New York City are intended to provide an opportunity for students, most of whom are Black and Latino**, to acquire requisite secondary and post-secondary skills in a rigorous and supportive environment; however, the students who attend Promise High do not have access to core academic content such as chemistry and physics, which the New York City Department of Education lists as courses students should complete to “prepare for college and careers”. Karma shared her perspective on the absence of opportunities (Jackson, 2016, p. 79):

I feel like for science…maybe you could get more lab equipment, maybe people would actually experience what science is before leaving high school. I never da — what is it? dissected a frog? I never dissected anything. But I feel like this is something I wanted to do for the simple fact that I want to do autopsies when I get older. Let me start with animals first. Like, let me see what he been eatin.

Though we laughed and those in the room who had the opportunity to dissect animals (Shaun dissected a baby pig at a previous school, and I talked about my experience dissecting a frog) said it was not enjoyable, Karma raised an important example of an opportunity gap. The education Black young adult students receive after being pushed into Promise High does not match the standard at most traditional high schools. Furthermore, the difference in curricula options for students at transfer high schools compared to their peers in traditional high schools renders invisible the role of race, gender, and age in shaping how some students are educated in certain high school spaces.

Addressing this opportunity gap from a culturally relevant, age appropriate perspective will require education leaders and policymakers to reconcile issues of interest convergence. Interest convergence is the idea that any policy or practice that appears to benefit Black people ultimately serves the interests of maintaining race-based power structures more (Bell, 1995). In this case, the separation of older students who have had academic challenges ultimately serves the needs and goals of the district itself more than the students like Amir, Evelyn, Shaun, and Monica.

If high schools and districts are truly committed to ensuring academic excellence as well as college and career readiness for older Black students, they must examine the courses offered to ensure that students planning to pursue post-secondary education will graduate high school ready for college (Knight & Marciano, 2013). Specifically for Black young adult students, the curricula and instruction should include various opportunities for students to engage in critical inquiry rooted in students’ individual learning styles, experiential knowledge, and community concerns. In that vein, schools and districts serving OA/UC student of color should use a critical race praxis, which infuses anti-racist practices with justice oriented action (Yamamoto, 1997), from an intersectional perspective to structure teaching and learning exchanges that eliminate opportunity gaps. When Karma described when she was most excited to be in school, she said:

Oh my gosh, I love my criminology teacher…she inspires me a lot…just taking her class made want to become a lawyer and if not a lawyer then a medical examiner. [I learned] many people — innocent people would go to jail [because of] the medical examiners, like, their accusations. For instance, one guy was accused of raping this girl and she — she wasn’t raped, she had a rash…And that’s what inspired me to wanna be a medical examiner.

Karma acknowledged that for her, becoming a medical examiner is an issue of justice, working to keep innocent people out of “the system.” Just as important, her experience in a criminology class (taught by a woman of color) inspired her to pursue a STEM related career. This, to me, sounds a lot like critical race praxis.

4. Respond to student voice.

Throughout my interviews with the students, they provided a sophisticated critique of the curricula, instruction, and culture of Promise High. But how could I share their brilliance with as wide an audience as possible? My approach to the study was grounded in an attempt to amplify the voice of these young people in school decision making processes once information was shared with the principal. Student voice, or students’ roles in affecting educational policies and practices through sharing what is viewed as their legitimate perspectives and recommendations (Cook-Sather, 2006), has transformative and liberatory potential to improve schools and schooling for Black students. When students are positioned as experts of their own experience, capable of articulating problems and potential solutions, students’ agency, belonging, and competence can increase (Mitra, 2004). For Promise High and other schools like it, this means that the experts, the most knowledgeable, the most advanced analysts, are sitting within your own walls. However, potential limitations to student voice were exposed in examining students’ unwillingness to share their critiques with administrators. The dilemma with student voice exposed here is that “issues of voice are…embedded in historically located structures and relations of power” (Fielding, 2004, p. 300). That is, Amir’s voice is silenced by systems in place that benefit from this silence. In light of this, it is important to expand notions of student voice and further consider the ways in which some marginalized students enact their voice; students who may not share all of their discontent with school professionals will continue to speak through their behaviors, such as waning attendance, engagement, and motivation. Therefore, we as educators must learn to listen to silence as communication when considering the role of student voice in school reform.

How Will YOU Respond?

When “overage, under-credited” Black students are relegated to transfer high schools, it is likely that their learning environment will not fully support them in achieving academically and gaining skills necessary to successfully pursue post-secondary options, including college. They are subsequently left with little if any substantive alternative to the schooling experiences they faced in traditional high schools. I believe appropriate and affirming alternatives can be fashioned to improve schooling experiences for adult Black students in transfer high schools. But how do we get there? An important first step is to listen and respond to the voices of the students in these spaces. Though Wayne was talking about a specific teacher in the quote below, his words offer a call to action that we must consider:

It’s like, I’m sitting here. I’m ready to learn. I’m calling you. But you don’t respond to me. I understand that you are helping someone else, so I’ll wait. When I see you’re available I’m gonna call you again. If you don’t come over here, then you don’t care because I’m calling for assistance.


Iesha Jackson is an assistant professor of teacher education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is a member of the Diversity Scholars Network at the National Center for Institutional Diversity.

*Names for students and the school are pseudonyms used to protect anonymity.
**This estimation is based on research of demographic information for transfer school in the city. Each transfer high schools website provides statistics of student enrollment by race according to % Black and Hispanic. Based on this data, I calculated that the average of Black and Latino students in all transfer schools in New York City is 78.4%.

 

2018 Promotion & Tenure Recipients

Congratulations to Dr. Jeff Shih for being promoted to full professor and to Drs. Joshua Baker, Joseph Morgan, Tracy Spies and Micah Stohlmann who have received promotions to associate professor and tenure commencing July 1, 2018. We thank you for your contributions to the College, our students, and the profession.

Dr. Jeffrey Shih, professor of elementary mathematics education in the Teaching & Learning department, joined the UNLV faculty in 1999. Dr. Shih earned a B.A. in Statistics with a minor in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley. His Ph.D. in Social Research Methodology/Quantitative Methods from UCLA focused on the development of frameworks of rational number understanding for preservice teachers. Dr. Shih currently teaches undergraduate and graduate mathematics education courses and advises mathematics education doctoral students.

Jeff is a Research Associate of the NSF-funded Center for the Study of Mathematics Curriculum (CSMC), a member of the editorial board of the Elementary School Journal, and serves as the Coordinator for the Nevada Collaborative Teaching Improvement Program (NeCoTIP), the Improving Teacher Quality State Grant program. He also currently serves on the Clark County School District (CCSD) Research Review Committee. Jeff recently served as Program Chair of the Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in Denver, as well as on the AERA Professional Development Committee.
Jeff’s research focuses on the effect of curriculum on student achievement. His current work examines the effect of secondary Standards-based mathematics programs on postsecondary access and success. His work has been published in JRME and Teaching Children Mathematics.
Dr. Joshua Baker, an associate professor in the Educational & Clinical Studies department, completed his doctorate in special education with an emphasis on accessing the general education curriculum for students with intellectual/developmental disability (including students with Autism). Prior to joining UNLV, Josh worked as a classroom teacher in Huntington, WV and later worked as a Research Associate on an IES grant under the direction of Dr. Diane Browder at UNC Charlotte that focused on teaching literacy to students with I/DD. Josh’s research continues to focus on general curriculum access and assessment for all students. Recently Josh has been working with a state coalition to improve the post-school outcomes for young adults (ages 18 +) with I/DD across the state of Nevada. Josh is the current director of F.O.C.U.S (Forming Occupational and Community Understanding for Success), an inclusive, post-secondary education program for students with I/DD.
Dr. Joseph Morgan, an associate professor in the Educational & Clinical Studies department, has worked with students with high incidence disabilities at the secondary level as a teacher and a facilitator. In his current position, he teaches courses on the provision of access to the general education curricula for students with high incidence disabilities and multicultural perspectives in special education. His dissertation focused on teaching online social skills to students with emotional and behavioral disorders, for which he was named a President’s Fellow during his doctoral studies. His current research interests are centered around the provision of access to the general education environment for culturally and linguistically diverse students with disabilities (academic, social, and technological).
Dr. Tracy Spies, an associate professor in the Educational & Clinical Studies department, is fluent in Spanish and is engaged with Teaching English as a Second Language. With a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Sam Houston State University and a doctorate degree in Hispanic Bilingual Education from Texas A&M, Dr. Spies has fifteen years experience as a teacher and principal. In 2010, she received the National Milken Educator Award as one out of fifty-five educators in the nation. She has secured more than $3 million in grants. Tracy has been very involved in community service working in the areas of hunger and TESL. Her research agenda includes the following: second language acquisition, the effects of the second language on the native language, effective teacher pedagogy with ELLs in native and second language, and dispositions of school leaders identified as successful with ELLs.
Dr. Micah Stohlmann, an associate professor of mathematics/STEM education in the Teaching & Learning department, is currently teaching undergraduate mathematics methods and graduate mathematics education courses. Dr. Stohlmann earned his B.A. in mathematics education from Concordia University, his M.Ed. in mathematics education from the University of Minnesota, and his Ph.D. in mathematics education with a minor in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Stohlmann’s research focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) integration and mathematical modeling. He has a focus on developing curricular tools to help all students increase their STEM knowledge and at the same time develop valuable 21st century competencies. His recent research has been published in the Journal of Engineering Education, The Mathematics Educator, and Education Research International.