This commentary responds to and builds on a previously published TCR article titled “Getting to Scale With Moral Education.”
Devastating in its own right, the COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated old educational inequities and created new ones. How we think about these can shape how we respond to them.
This commentary speaks to the racial injustice as a light-skinned "Jamerican" woman within America and how it manifests from the school to the boardroom. It speaks from past events of "driving while Black" to George Floyd's "I can't breathe".
This fractured school year has made more visible what students, families, and educators know all too well: Our education system is broken. It disproportionately fails Black, Latino, and low-income children, and there is no silver-bullet solution in sight. The inequities are too complex and entrenched to be remedied by any one-size-fits-all approach. Drawing on innovations long used in healthcare, improvement networks offer a path forward. Improvement networks consist of coalitions of schools and other education actors that use continuous improvement practices to develop solutions for systemic problems, customized to each of their contexts.
Discovering the norms and preferences of college faculty members is a nebulous task for students who want to know how to effectively communicate and collaborate with them. Without guidance and constant interaction, it can take months or years to learn these characteristics, which can frustrate the efficient application of interpersonal skills. Leaders in several industries have adopted user manuals to communicate individual personality trends, positive/negative characteristics, and projects under way, which serves to reduce the time and friction that team members may otherwise associate with a project. This commentary proposes that college faculty members adopt and maintain a user manual as part of their syllabi and outlines an eight-step example. By communicating their needs and limitations from the outset, faculty members will promote a culture of empathy and self-advocacy and raise student awareness of how radical transparency can foster a positive work environment following college.
The myth of the monolithic LatinX population is one that continues to cause more harm than do good. The LatinX population comprises of a myriad of different groups made up of different cultures, languages, and races. All these cultures, languages, and races that make up what sociologist Felix Padilla (1995) called Latinidad. Disregarding the fact that the LatinX population is indeed not a panethnic group could produce discrepancies in the ways in which data are collected and distributed. Weinick et al. (2004) found that the LatinX group one identifies with could impact how one receives medical care. The researchers also found that the country of origin a participant identifies with would impact whether they would seek medical care and how this medical care would be provided, finding discrepancies to both.
Data produced via International Large-Scale Assessments (ILSA) is often used by influential supranational organizations, often known as “knowledge banks” (e.g., World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, European Union) to indicate which countries are performing well and where achievement gaps exist. Most of the data being produced, if not all, are done through numbers stemming from standardized tests. Using this data for the improvement of teaching, learning, local assessments, and curricula is predicated on the ability of these knowledge banks to convince policymakers and stakeholders of the universality of these numbers. Yet, that very improvement is based on values set forth by the knowledge banks, which tend to be in alignment with their specific goals for education. The underlying issue for policy recommendations based on such ‘globalized’ numbers is that they have a transformative power to influence education systems, which, in turn, results in forms of homogenization of educational content and futures.
This commentary speaks to the resistance to and need for acceptance of burnout as part of the cycle of teaching. This is particularly true for social justice educators. This essay offers advice on how to engage and maintain a social justice focus in schools and teaching.
Dominant political and economic discourses perpetuate alleged “truths” that govern our vocabularies, values, social practices, and how we understand our world (Abowitz & Harnish, 2006; Foucault, 1980). Many of these truths have jeopardized public values and collective solidarity in favor of exploitation and individualism (Baildon & Damico, 2019; Giroux, 2013). These sentiments have seeped into education, narrowing how we understand and measure teaching and learning.
An opinion piece about school integration might seem out of touch with reality at a time when many students are separated, each in their own home or learning pod. I write, however, as a reminder that the pandemic will end and we will then need integrated schools more than ever. This commentary attempts to give a realistic assessment of alternative approaches for strengthening integration in different types of school districts. It describes first the educational and social policies that have led to current trends in integration and segregation. It then considers the challenges and tradeoffs faced by segregated, high poverty districts and by those that are more diverse and makes recommendations for achieving lasting school integration.
In the midst of deepening political polarization, a devastating global pandemic, economic and social stratification, and the intensification of racial justice movements following police brutalities, the ability to be civically engaged in the world around us is critical. In this commentary, I reflect on how the significance and application of civic education in K-12 American schools has evolved (or, in many cases, remained stagnant) over time. I highlight the discrepancies in present-day civics education requirements across the country while demonstrating my support for specific contemporary understandings of civics. I argue that in order to best prepare our youth to tackle the problems of today and tomorrow, we, as educators, must re-evaluate what it means to be a citizen in today’s world and what skills are necessary for this type of informed modern citizenship. To conclude, I provide a set of reflection questions and potential next steps for various educational stakeholders who are passionate about engaging in this important and timely work.
The arrival of COVID-19 has altered the world of academia in ways that we are only beginning to understand, just as it has reshaped and reconfigured expectations and enactments of care. As faculty navigate the seismic upheaval wrought by this pandemic in academia – while meeting the reworked requirements of teaching, research, and service – we question whether the semblance of care for faculty has disappeared from this new landscape.
For students in this time of a pandemic, one of the biggest concerns with online teaching and learning is isolation and feeling disconnected from peers, university staff, and faculty. So colleges have responded by creating online messaging, communication forums, or virtual support systems to help students with their mental, social, or personal well-being while they take their coursework. Because teaching and learning today is happening in this atypical (and stressful) time in history, providing consistent, substantive and personalized feedback and comments on the academic work students do take on a new meaning and significance. What and how online faculty communicate through this feedback function to acknowledge a substantive part of who the student is (their identity), recognizing their presence and contributions to the course by providing evidence that, indeed, their ideas and efforts have been seen. This commentary suggests that the teaching that is already occurring online may be an overlooked and undervalued support system in this complicated time of higher education.
Today there are nearly half a million Indigenous citizens from Mexico residing in the United States. Discriminatory policies in the United States homogenize these culturally and linguistically diverse individuals, considering all people from Mexico to be Spanish speakers. However, Mexico is home to approximately 287 languages, many of which are not mutually intelligible. Federal law guarantees public education for all children, yet it does not guarantee linguistically appropriate education. As such, Mexican immigrant children who speak an Indigenous language are wholly neglected in formal educational spaces and can experience linguistic isolation. Our system relegates these children to a lesser status than children whose mother tongue is English and systematically disadvantages them to lead a life of poverty in the United States. These are the unintended consequences associated with immigration. Educators in the United States must have language awareness. Linguistically appropriate education is necessary; otherwise, the notion of free public education for all children is feeble. Students, families, communities, educators, and school districts can be advocates for linguistic and cultural rights for these students. We must simultaneously bring policymakers’ attention to this issue and implement grassroots, creative solutions in our own community schools.
As educators envision school for Fall 2020, they are charged with balancing physical safety and emotional health. Schools therefore face an urgency to address trauma, inequity, and racism that has been exacerbated by the global pandemic. This commentary urges schools to prioritize an intersectional approach to social and emotional health that disrupts racism and simultaneously acknowledges trauma and inequity. There will be temptation to rely on Social and Emotional Learning programs (SEL) as there is a widespread yet false assumption that the manualized programming can meet these needs while managing a classroom. However, SELs do not incorporate an anti-racist, trauma-informed practice.
As the start of the academic year approaches, schools across the nation are struggling to find an acceptable balance between providing much-needed in-person education, alongside the imperative to prevent further spread of COVID-19. This spring, more than 50 million schoolchildren abruptly found themselves outside the classroom. There is broad agreement that enabling children to return safely to schools is of utmost importance, both in terms of children’s academic and emotional development. These decisions also have profound economic implications; an estimated 27 million American adults rely on the school system for childcare in order to participate in the workforce.
Over the last 50 years, school improvement has been heavily driven by assumptions, philosophies, and beliefs. When put to the test, many of the ideas embedded in these reforms have proven ineffective. And our understandings of reasons for failure are not robust. We sometimes simply ignore the failure or see it and ignore it. We have become adept at justifying poor outcomes, blaming others, and moving on absent change to newer ideas.
The current COVID-19 crisis we find ourselves in, whilst devastating, may provide an opportunity for disruption of inequity and narrow practices utilized throughout schooling. While in isolation, schools are quickly responding to this situation, making visible how schools enact standardization and perpetuate the status quo as well as the inequitable access for children and families to resources and to teaching and learning that support complex thinking. This leads us to wonder if our education system creates opportunities to further the capabilities of children who contribute to their local and global communities. This recognition offers a pivotal moment for all of us to consider what could be if we rethink education and schools in response to children, families, and communities (Mineo, 2020).
The current debate around the teaching of reading in primary schools is a global phenomenon, even framed as being the “reading wars.” In the western world, education departments in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have implemented phonics packages from the start of compulsory schooling (usually beginning at five years of age) and “screening” test regimes in the second year of school (in Australia, Year One). The stated aims of these tests imply that there is one element that is common across successful readers: being able to decode text using what is technically called the synthetic phonics approach. According to the information for parents provided with South Australia’s phonics screening test, “Phonics is vital in learning to read… The phonics screening check is a short, simple assessment that tells teachers how students are progressing in phonics.”
Children all over the country are sitting in front of screens at home doing school as best they can, some more motivated than others to consent to learn. Their teachers, many ill-prepared to use the new tools and methods effectively, are equally distracted and questioning the value of the education they are required to deliver to their students online.
When teachers return to work in the fall, the schools they reenter will look quite different from the schools they left behind in March. Schools are anticipating substantially increased demand to support student mental health, as many will return to school having experienced loss and grief, months of social isolation, and heightened rates of familial violence and poverty (Galea et al., 2020). To meet the needs of these youth, it will be crucial to support the mental health and wellness of teachers and school staff who provide their care.
Educators, parents, and community members all recognize that reopening PK-12 Schools plays a central role as communities strive to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. As communities plan to reopen PK-12 schools this fall, we need to bear in mind that doing so is not simply a matter of solving logistical problems to ensure health and safety. The process must be driven by educational professionalism that serves the broader purpose of maximizing learning and addressing students’ holistic needs.
As we write this, many of us across the world are sheltered in place, not being able to safely leave our homes. This pandemic has its roots in how connected we are as a planet. Ironically, we only seem to attend to our human connectivity when it comes to historically negative events such as a pandemic. However, what if we really focused on the fact that these connections also hold the potential for equally positive impacts for our world? Sadly, it seems we rarely activate these systems for this purpose.
Scholars and practitioners started noting the disproportionate disciplining of Black students around 45 years ago with the release of a seminal report from the Children’s Defense Fund (1975). While the historical trend likely predates the first study, recent research indicates that Black students are up to 300% more likely to be disciplined, even when controlling for poverty and misbehavior (Goplan & Nelson, 2019; Gregory et al., 2010; Owens & McLanahan, 2019; Pearman, et al., 2019; Skiba et al., 2014). In the 45 years of scholarship on the issue, scholars have used terms like “discipline gap,” “discipline disparity,” or “discipline disproportionality.” Following Ladson-Billings’s (2006) call for a renaming of the “achievement gap” to “education debt,” the objective of this commentary is to argue for a shift in how we talk about the phenomenon at hand. This commentary explains why I have chosen to use the alternative term “hyper-disciplining” in my own scholarship.
This commentary considers the rise of augmented and virtual reality simulators (AR and VR) as a proxy for teacher education preparation in classrooms through the example of Mursion. AR and VR Simulators are a promising technology to meet the educational and clinical training needs of student teachers in the face of the current global pandemic that has canceled in-person options. Simulators allow pre-service teachers the opportunity to practice interactions with student avatars by either walking through pre-recorded scenarios or engaging in real-time sessions with a simulation specialist. The discourse surrounding this technology and simulators is one of reducing “mistakes” and “risks” and maximizing “authenticity” and “safety.” In some cases, these concepts have taken on new meaning post COVID-19, particularly with respect to keeping students, both pre-service teachers and PreK-12 students, healthy and safe. However, we must interrogate what these concepts entail and ask for whom is the learning environment made authentic and who is taking what risks. In this commentary, I call on teacher educators and professionals to examine the broader consequences of implementing AR and VR simulations, the underlying theories of learning and behavior that influence their design, and the costs incurred by this technology.