Congratulations to May Scholar of the Month Erica Reid of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)!
Originally from upstate New York, Reid earned her B.A. in English from the University at Albany and a M.S. in secondary education from the College of Saint Rose. She began working for UNLV in 2016 as an instructional designer for the Plus Center, creating modules for the hospitality industry training programs. Before joining the UNLV staff, she served as a secondary English and language arts teacher, licensed to teach grades 6-12.
As a UNLV Holmes Scholar, Reid is working on her Ph.D. in teaching and learning, with an emphasis in multicultural education. Her research areas and interests include online instructional design and curriculum development that prioritizes the needs of diverse learners in K-16 online settings.
In addition to working for UNLV as an embedded educational technologist, she works as an adjunct with the Touro University education department for the Diverse Learners Online Learning Certificate program and is working to create curriculum for in-service teachers to work with differentiated learners.
Children with disabilities take part in child care programs across the country every day. However, existing research is lacking on how infants and toddlers with disabilities are supported in these inclusion efforts, particularly from the perspectives of child care and early intervention (EI) providers. In this article, we describe the results of a statewide survey of U.S. child care and EI providers (N = 991; n = 620 child care providers, n = 371 EI providers) on their beliefs and experiences in inclusion and perceived factors that support and hinder the inclusion of very young children with disabilities in child care settings. Our study results indicate that although providers value inclusion and identify many benefits for children, families, and professionals, several barriers exist to effectively implement meaningful inclusion. Despite advances in legislation, policy, and recommended practices, little has changed in the inclusion of infants and toddlers; therefore, recommendations for policy, practice, and research are included. Recommendations include increased training and mentoring for providers and formal inclusion of child care providers in inclusion supported by state policy and continued research.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, 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.
Congratulations to Dr. William (Bill) Speer for being awarded the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Lifetime Achievement Award! The NCTM Lifetime Achievement Awards honor members of NCTM who have exhibited a lifetime of achievement in mathematics education at the national level and is presented annually at the NCTM Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Watch the video below to hear more about Dr. Speer’s life and legacy.
Dr. William Speer has spent most of his life working to improve mathematics education in more than fifteen different roles over the years at institutions across the country. He is known for his tireless efforts and contributions to advancements within the field. He received two Fulbright Awards, to the Bahamas and to England, and has spoken or consulted in thirty-six countries on six continents.
A former student and eventual colleague recounted the first time he met Speer during his time as an associate professor of mathematics at Bowling Green State University in Ohio:
“Even in 1980, he was already well known on the campus for being innovative and inspirational-the type of teacher that influenced his students to think differently about what it means to be a mathematics teacher. It was many years before I had fully appreciated how far ahead of his time he was in the teaching methods he promoted-hands on, inquiry-based, student centered-all of the teaching strategies that research backs today.”
Speer has played several roles in the development and publishing of key mathematics standards and materials alongside the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). From helping to create NCTM’s Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics as a member of the writing team in 1991 to serving as the editor of the IDEAS section for Arithmetic Teacher and editor of the INVESTIGATIONS section of Teaching Children Mathematics to serving as the general editor for the final series of NCTM Yearbooks, Speer has undoubtedly made contributions that benefit both NCTM and the broader field.
It is no surprise that he has been the recipient of numerous awards over his years of commitment to mathematics, including Outstanding Service in Math Education Awards from both the Ohio Council and the Nevada Council; the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Distinguished Teaching Award; the Distinguished BS Alum of Northern Illinois University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and most recently, the Distinguished PhD Alum of Kent State University Award. He has also served on more than 40 research projects; has published a textbook with a lifespan of 12 editions and numerous other scholarly books or chapters; and has been a speaker on more than 700 occasions.
Dr. Speer is a past president of several professional organizations, including the Research Council on Mathematics Learning, the School Science and Mathematics Association, the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Ohio Mathematics Education Leadership Council, the Nevada Mathematics Council (two terms), and the Nevada Association of Teacher Educators (two terms).
Speer is currently a mathematics professor and Founder/Director of the UNLV Mathematics Learning Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he continues to make an impact on everyone he encounters through transition, retention, progression, and degree-completion initiatives.
“Dr. Speer can always be counted on to step in and be a part of any task that will help the Nevada Department of Education further its mission and the goal of the ALL Students College and Career Ready by Graduation [initiative],” said a nominator and current colleague. “We are proud that Dr. Speer represents Nevada on a state and national basis.”
Speer holds a PhD in Curriculum, Instruction, and Supervision from Kent State University, and both an MS Ed in Secondary Education and a BS in Mathematics from Northern Illinois University. Now in his forty-eighth year of teaching, he has amassed classroom experience at each level and inspires those around him while continuing to influence and motivate both students and colleagues with the trajectory he set in motion many years ago.