Category: Equity

Readiness for College, Career and Life: The Purpose of K-12 Public Education Today

November 2, 2017 by

This is the second post in the blog series on the report, Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education. See the first blog here.

Effective system design starts with a clarity of purpose, or said another way, what are the results we want to get from our system of public education? The current design of our K-12 public education system delivers the following results: After decades of policy reforms and targeted improvement strategies, the on-time graduation rate has inched up to 82%, with states ranging from 61% to 91%. Yet, Alaska Natives, students with disabilities, Native American, African-American, and Latino students continue to graduate at much lower rates: 55, 64, 70, 73 and 76%, respectively. Among those students who do graduate high school, nearly 25% of them, from all socioeconomic groups, require remedial courses in college, costing them and their families $1.5 billion a year. Graduates who enter the world of work directly after high school fare no better, with 62% of employers by one account indicating that “high schools aren’t doing enough to prepare their graduates to meet the expectations of the workplace.” Students are not fully prepared for civic engagement to ensure a functioning democracy (only 30% of today’s young people believe it is “essential” to live in a country that is governed democratically). These results are evidence that students are not getting what they need, and the implications ripple through their lives, their families, communities and our economy. In subsequent blogs in this series, we will explore why the traditional system is designed to produce these results. First, let’s consider what results we want instead.

So, what is the purpose of public education today and what are the results we want it to deliver? The purpose of public education has evolved significantly since the first public school, Boston Latin School, was established in the 17th century to educate white males in, among other things, “religion, Latin and classical literature.” Today, states and districts define the purpose of education in variety of different ways. Increasingly that purpose is stated as “college and career readiness,” or a variation thereof. But what does it really mean to be college and career ready? Although the terminology and details may vary, almost all states and districts continue to use a combination of time-based academic credits, state graduation exams and state accountability exams to measure learning. For the majority of states, these elements prioritize content knowledge rather than skills, with a focus upon a narrow set of areas — math and English language arts. (more…)

Catalyzing Equity Through Culturally Responsive Education and Competency-Based Education

October 17, 2017 by

Right now race has enormous cultural, social, and economic power. It can shape our families and communities, career trajectories, life experiences and opportunities, and even whether we live past thirty or not. So our job in the field of education is to identify each and every place where race is making a difference in children’s lives because of either systemic policies and patterns or because of implicit and explicit bias. It starts with ensuring that our schools have a culture of belonging. As Joy Nolan from the Mastery Collaborative emphasizes, Every student should walk into school feeling like their school is for them, designed for them, serving them, and for people “like them.”

The team at Mastery Collaborative in NYC have identified that the practices of culturally responsive education go hand-in-hand with the mastery-based learning practices. They have created a very simple resource (see below or click here) to allow educators or, better yet, teams of educators (it is very hard to identify implicit bias if it is just a conversation between you and yourself – you need trusted colleagues to help you see where you might have blinders or filters that are creating trouble) to think about their facilitation, curriculum, and grading practices.

Mastery Collaborative Resources on Culturally Responsive Education

Infusing CRE into Mastery Practices

How Can Mastery Learning be More Culturally Responsive (video)

The more I learn about culturally responsive education, the more I think it is important that the leaders in the world of personalized learning do the crosswalk as well. There are so many practices that are valuable in culturally responsive education that are either the same or similar enough to make personalized learning become a catalyst for racial equity. But that won’t happen unless there is the intention of doing so. Without intention to change, we end up perpetuating inequality.

Do you have tools, resources, or strategies that are helping you and your school to strengthen your culture and practices so that you are truly an equitable school where every student is going to succeed regardless of race? Or a story about how competency-based education and its focus on continuous improvement is helping your school or district improve educational services and outcomes for historically underserved students? Please share.  As a community, I am confident that we can not only commit to equity. We can make a difference in children’s lives for the better.

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Infusing CRE/Mastery practices into our work with young learners

Exploration

  • Please check indicators you feel are your strengths. ✔
  • Use a question mark where you want more information. ?
  • Draw a star to show a possible focus/growth area for you. *

I can point to evidence that shows that . . .

  • All students in my/our classroom feel they are welcomed, they belong here, and
    that their learning has value. facilitation

(more…)

Why School Quality Measurement is an Equity Issue

October 3, 2017 by

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

This post originally appeared at the Center for Collaborative Education on August 16, 2017.

Many reform-minded educators rally around the equity flag, determined to banish forever achievement gaps and opportunity gaps alike. It is a noble goal and one that I share.

Viewing the work of the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment (MCIEA) through an equity lens, I am ever mindful of the ways school quality measurement has historically been used to reinforce structural inequality. To take just one example, real estate companies catering to the demand for information on “good schools” rely on the standardized tests used by districts and states as a proxy for school quality. Not only do these tests represent relatively little of what families say they care about when choosing schools – for example, caring teachers, critical thinking curricula, and access to the arts among other things – but standardized tests are also highly correlated with race and class. In this sense, the colorblind language of “good schools” is in fact racially coded. Higher test scores do not signal good schools so much as they signal white schools or rich schools, and such misinformation only exacerbates already alarming rates of school and residential segregation.

Noting that publicly available test scores were “[t]he most influential indicator of school quality today,” researchers Mark Knoester and Wayne Au pointed out that test scores serve multiple purposes, only some of which are explicit:

The official reason testing is carried out in schools is because tests are used to evaluate, and supposedly, to improve schools. But we must also understand that testing is supported politically because it serves other purposes as well: Given its racist history and contemporary racist outcomes, high-stakes, standardized testing converts segregation, and its white supremacist impulses, into an ‘objective science.’ Testing allows parents and others to avoid the stigma of saying out loud that they favor segregation as they choose schools with a whiter and richer population for their own children. (2017, p. 11)

To truly contribute to education equity, then, we must find ways to connect our work to the cause of desegregation and the promotion of racially and economically integrated schools. No other education intervention has proven as durable or promising for improving educational equity. (more…)

Making Equity a First Principle of Personalized Learning

May 10, 2017 by

This post first appeared at the Christensen Institute on April 12, 2017. 

“Racism and inequity are products of design. They can be redesigned.”

These words echoed from the keynote speakers at the annual Blended and Personalized Learning Conference (BPLC) in Providence, R.I., last weekend.

On April 1st, in partnership with Highlander Institute and The Learning Accelerator, the Christensen Institute co-hosted the BPLC for the second year in a row. To build the agenda we used our Blended Learning Universe to recruit innovative school leaders and educators to share their tactics and practices at the cutting edge of school innovation. We also looked for presenters who were wrestling down the challenging gaps in racial and socioeconomic equity that have for too long dominated our education system.

To that end, our keynote address, presented by Caroline Hill, who leads school creation and transformation at CityBridge Education and is founder of the DC Equity Lab, and Michelle Molitor, founder and CEO of Fellowship for Race & Equity in Education (FREE), focused on how we might reframe the conversation about personalized learning to bring equity to the forefront of school and classroom redesign.

As much as we hear “equity” talked about as a value in our education system, it can be a difficult to tackle head on. Since our own inception, the Christensen Institute has been committed to researching and supporting approaches to instruction that break open the factory model of school. We believe that, particularly in light of the growth of online and blended learning, we are living in an era in which we can feasibly redesign school around students’ needs and strengths and free up teachers to teach individual and small groups of students more often. But we don’t just research these trends because they are innovative—but because they are imperative. (more…)

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