Saturday, April 16, 2016




Rhode Island Teachers Respond to PARCC: A White Paper

By: Janet D. Johnson and Brittany A. Richer

This week’s reading was a study about Rhode Island’s K-12 public school assessment known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which is an exam by Pearson.  “These high quality K–12 assessments in Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy give teachers, schools, students, and parents better information whether students are on track in their learning and for success after high school, and tools to help teachers customize learning to meet student needs.”  I’m really glad that this study was brought into our classroom because I did not go to RI public schools nor am I teacher, which led me to many questions in regards to PARCC. I had not heard of this exam until we began discussing it in class and had only limited knowledge of the NECAP (The New England Common Assessment Program), which led me to do a little research into PARCC. I listed a few of them below and a video at the top of this blog. Johnson and Richer’s study examined the negative impact that PARCC is having on our Rhode Island schools, teacher, and students.

I was aware of the negative impact that these standardized test have on students but the numbers the Johnson and Richer’s study provided were mind blowing. First, I want to talk some of the numbers that this study provided.
  • 83% of the studies teachers believe the climate of their school worsened (p 15 )
  •  80% of the teachers believed the text experience was negatively impacting their students (p 5)
  • “91% of urban teachers disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “My students feel the did well on the PARCC test” (p 7)
  • “95% of them [teachers] disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that their ELLs understood most of the questions on the test” (p 8)

I feel as if it’s important to discuss the “elephant in the room”, which in my mind is the fact that this study showed that “teachers in suburban schools reported having the most positive experience” (6).  This exam doesn’t only prove those in the culture of power are scoring better and having a more positive experience with the test but it is emotionally and academically breaking down Rhode Islands oppressed students. Thinking back to Finn, he gave us four classes; executive elite, affluent professional, middle, and working class. The reason I started thinking about Finn when I read Johnson and Richer’s study was because of the time that is being taken out of the curriculum in order to prepare for the PARCC.  Sure, I don’t believe a standardized test should take over and class’s curriculum but it is important to think of how these students are being educated. The oppressed students, the ELL, students with disabilities on IEP’s, their curriculum should be based on educating these students and preparing them for a future, not on passing a standardized test. 

“Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to” (Johnson, 23).  I was unaware that PARCC was offered in both English as well as Spanish, however as stated in Johnson and Richer’s study, “there are 84 additional languages being spoken in Rhode Island public schools”(8).  How can we empower students when they feel that there is no way the can do well on the standardized test that their teacher is required to spend the majority of his/her curriculum pushing on their students?  The language along on this exam is giving those of power and advantage on this exam. 

“They must understand the relationship between society, culture, language, and schooling. They must understand the relationships between progressive methods, liberating education, and powerful literacy n the one hand and traditional methods, domesticating education, and functional literacy on the other” (Finn)
I just can’t see where standardized tests or more specifically, the PARCC exam proves students have received what Finn believes (quote above) as a decent education.

"No PARCC,we want freedom; all these standardized tests, we don't need them." 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Teaching Multilingual Children

“Teachers must be creative and flexible, serve as a catalyst for discovery as students learn to operate effectively in their multiple worlds, be able to mediate and resolve intercultural conflicts, keep students on task, and serve as a support base”

Virginia Collier discusses the best strategies to help teachers with ESL and multilingual students, while addressing major issues within the schools when it comes to ESL.  This chapter outlines 7 ways to help better teach ESL.

  1. Be aware that children use first language acquisition strategies for learning or acquiring a second language.
  2. Do not think of yourself as a remedial teacher expected to correct so called “deficiencies” of your students.
  3. Don’t teach a second language in any way that challenges or seeks to eliminate the first language.
  4. Teach the standard form of English and students’ home language together with an appreciation of dialect differences to create an environment of language recognition in the classroom.
  5. Do not forbid young students from code-switching in the classroom. Understand the functions that code-switching serves.
  6. Provide a literacy development curriculum that is specifically designed for English language learners.
  7. Provide a balanced and integrated approach to the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Reading this article, I was imagining Delpit being a big advocator for this topic. Her theory of the rules and code of culture of power in relation to teaching ESL is striking.  She wrote, “I believe in a diversity of style, and I believe the world will be diminished if cultural diversity is ever obliterated. Further, I believe strongly…that each cultural group should have the right to maintain it’s own language style” (Delpit, 39). It’s important for students to have an integrated learning experience when learning ESL because their first language is a part of who they are, they family, and their culture. It would be tragic to lose that because as Collier wrote “eradication has been tried and prove to be effective only to turn off students from schooling” (227).

Vaccaro, August, and Kennedy brought us the concept of incubators and outcubators (Safe Places, 84). I feel that the outcubator, where schools are a place that students learn new behaviors and ideas outside of their homes should incorporate some of their own culture.

Someone that I know had told me a story that I was reminded of when reading this article.  His first language was Portuguese and the majority of his family only spoke Portuguese.  He was not taught any English in the house and when he began schooling he was held back a grade because he struggled to learn the language. He began to get angry and embarrassed for being kept back a grade. He told me that when he became proficient in English he refused to speak any Portuguese. He hated the language and was angry that his family only spoke Portuguese. It took him a few years before he began to speak his family’s language but it had been a serious obstacle in his life.  I thought about what it would have been like if he had a teacher that followed colliers rules. Would he have had the same experience? Probably not…

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Safe Spaces

I truly found this article an insightful and useful resource for anyone not only working with but for anyone that spends time with today’s youths.  I thought it was wonderful that the authors incorporated classroom examples as well as educating the reader on how to better name and teach LGBT.  LGBT has recently become a more spoken about topic that it was in the past because of new laws and publicity on the topic.  I think it’s important for all educators and youth workers to read Safe Spaces and learn how to better discuss sexuality and transgender.

“First, educators must ensure that the curriculum includes the perspectives, experiences, and history of LGBT people. Second, educators must ensure that communication inside the classroom walls validates the LGBT experience. But you can’t validate an experience you never talk about. Thus, educators need to become as comfortable using the words that refer to sexual orientation and gender identity…”(98-99).

Well, this basically sums it up to me… exactly what we’ve been talking about all semester. We must name sexual orientation, the words lesbian, gay, bisexual, and name gender identity and what it means to be transgender. Then we can open up a dialogue and teach children what it means to be any of these things and what it means to be a part of a LGBT family. Simply, brushing off LGBT is not the answer and it doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t help those of the LGBT community and it doesn’t help the children that don’t know what it is to be a part of this community. 

For teachers to ignore LGBT issues, it gives a negative undertone to the phrase LGBT. Even if the teacher thinks he or she is doing the right thing by not addressing issues it serves as a great injustice. “Refusing to talk about LGBT issues or showing discomfort when LGBT topics arise are nonverbal messages that tell youth that being LGBT is abnormal or wrong” (82).  I loved how the authors of Safe Spaces used the terms incubator and outcubators to explain how the home (incubator) is where children learn family values and the beliefs of their family and the classroom (outcubator) is the place for children to learn behaviors outside of their family’s beliefs. The classroom should a place where children learn about communities outside their own and how society works.  “The off-stated objective is for children to learn that families come in different shapes and sizes, live in different dwellings, observe different traditions, and celebrate different holidays… The idea is that tolerance will grow as students gain appreciation for difference (85). The LGBT community needs to be advocated for just as much as and race or religion. We should not teach children that being white is best, or being Christian is best, so let’s not teach them that being heterosexual is best.


                                       Vocab                                               Common Roadblocks

The Time is NOW

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Literacy. Are today's youth digital natives?

This week’s reading was much different from our previous course work. Boyd’s chapter Literacy was an informative piece on the difference between a digital native and a digital immigrant. Today’s youths are categorized as natives of technology, meaning that they have grown up with technology and it is assumed that all youths have access and are not only knowledgeable but masters of technology. Boyd wrote that “those of u who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology are, and always will be compared to them, digital immigrants” (179).

I believe that Boyd had a validity in his point that “we assume that youth will just absorb all things digital through exposure, we absolve ourselves the responsibility to help teenagers develop necessary skills” (180).  When I started reading this chapter, I too found myself feeling that today’s youth should already have all the technological skills that they need to succeed in schooling as well as their futures. However, many points were made that I hadn’t contemplated before. Knowledge of technology has become an essential part of every day life, so much so that without it, you may miss out on job opportunities (or even the ability to properly fill out an application or resume), college application processes, and many other forms that are now only available online. 

Unfortunately, not every youth has the same access to technology, which makes it nearly impossible for those students to be as successful as those with unlimited technology.  I thought it was an important note that Boyd had when discussing smart phones.  Previous to ready this chapter, I hadn’t thought about how difficult it must be to base your sole technology use on a cell phone, which is the case for many students in lower income brackets.

“Hargittai found that teens’ technological skills are strongly correlated with the quality of their access.  Quality of access is, also unsurprisingly, correlated with the socioeconomic status” (195).  Johnson would probably say that those that have limited access are afraid of technology because it is unfamiliar to them. Which, I found interesting when Boyd discusses Wikipedia. In Boyd’s chapter Literacy, he mentions that students avoid using Wikipedia because they have been told it is not a valid source, instead of utilizing it properly by checking citations.

I found a really interesting video (it’s pretty long and I was not able to watch the entire thing). But I thought, what an awesome connection to Boyd and Delpit! As you all know, I’m not a teacher but I believe that this could be an issue for many teachers.  The New Media Classroom explained how teachers may feel nervous using technology in front of their students because the teachers believe their students know more about technology. Just because we are afraid that the younger generations may know more about technology doesn’t make it okay not to try and use it with them.  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sex Talk on the Carpet

I decided to do this week’s blog on transgender education because I have always been interested in LGBT studies.  I think the article Sex Talk on the Carpet was a fascinating read and as someone that is not a teacher I wondered how a teacher would respond to these types of inquisitions. The article I chose was short and to the point but I thought that it made a large impact and could be extremely useful information for teachers, parents, and for the general public. 

I found myself thinking of many of the authors we have read thus far in class. They are all over this short article. Valdine Ciwko is a fifth grade teacher in Vancouver that took on a pilot teaching program to teach her students sexual education.  Most schools (my elementary school included), have nurses that break the students up by gender and teach the basic knowledge of Sex Ed.  This separation and once a year class, applies a stigma on Sex Ed.  Ciwko had a question box in her classroom and sat her students on the floor and answered the questions together. Ciwko used Lisa Delpit ideas on opening up a dialect in her article by stating “We need to open up the doors to talk about gender, sexuality, sexual identity, and acceptance of people for who they are” (Sex Talk on the Carpet).  In the classroom, they all sat together on the floor, which is Delpit! Instead of the teacher standing over them, she joins them and opens up a discussion with her students.  “The teacher cannot be the only expert in the classroom. To deny students their own expert knowledge is to disempower them” (Delpit, 32-33).

Sex Talk on the Carpet, reminded me of Armstrong and Wildman’s theory of colorblindness vs. color insight.  Though this article is not about race, I believe we can apply the same theory to teaching about the LGBT community. Transgender has become a talked about topic over the past year because a famous Olympian in our country came out as Transgender. But it is still new for many people; people that are simply uneducated on the subject or turn a blind eye.  Ciwko is doing exactly what Armstrong and Wildman are fighting for with color insight.  Stop ignoring a person’s, race, gender, sexual orientations (among other categories) and talk about it. 

Wildman and Armstrong used the following four steps to promote racial equality.
             1.    Considering context for any discussion about race
             2.   Examining systems of privilege
             3.  Unmasking perspectivelessness and white normativeness
             4.   Combating stereotyping and looking for the “me” in each individual

So, let’s apply these steps to LGBT
     1.  Considering context for any discussion about LGBT
      2.   Examining systems of privilege
      3.  Unmasking perspectivelessness and straight normativeness
      4.   Combating stereotyping and looking for the “me” in each individual

I think back to Alan Johnson’s article and the quote “if we dispense with the words we make it impossible to talk about what’s really going on and what it has to do with us. And if we can’t do that, then we can’t see what the problems are or how we might make ourselves part of the solution to them” (Johnson , 2). Opening a dialogue with children about LGBT will allow students to knowledge on the subject, which I hope brings awareness on the subject and will eventually allow for equality for this community. As Johnson said “these groups can’t do it on their own, because they don’t have the power to change entrenched systems of privilege themselves” (10).

I would be interested to know more about Ciwko’s classroom… is this a mostly white privilege classroom? Does she teach affluent or poor students? I wish she had mentioned some of these things in her article because it had me asking these questions when I read that one of her student’s parents was not able to directly ask her about the Sex Ed classes but she was able to ask about her sons math/ reading classes.  Was this because she was an oppressed person? Or was Ciwko able to teach her students this way because they are from the executive elite or maybe affluent professional groups that Anyon studied.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Literacy with an Attitude

Patrick J. Finn, originally from south side Chicago, broke out of his family of plumbers and became a teacher.  Finn started his career working in black communities in south Chicago.  Being from the area gave Finn insight as to how to succeed with this the children in this demographic. Finn married another teacher and received his master’s degree in English before switching his career to teaching at the college level, and eventually being a faculty member of Graduate School of Education at the State University of New York at Buffalo.  In this position, Finn was afforded the time to begin questioning teaching models, as well as the educational differences between American Socioeconomic Status (SES).

Finn’s paper Literacy with an Attitude , refers to a study done by Jean Anyon, a professor of Social and Educational Policy.  Anyon studied fifth grade classes, in five different public schools, of four different economic statuses. I found it interesting that she used 5 different classes, as I had only ever thought of the 3 typical classes (lower class, middle class, and upper class). Anyon studied the “executive elite”, “affluent professional”, “middle class”, and “working class”.   The findings were incredible and truly show how an education differs between social classes.  Here’s a break down of Anyon’s findings of the dominant themes for each class.

These themes wildly show the drastic educational gaps across the classes of America.  Neither Anyon of Finn discuss race in this paper, however, I was really hearing Nikole Hannah-Jones, throughout this paper. Hannah-Jones talked about cutting the achievement gap between races and Finn wrote about cutting the achievement gaps between classes. I think we can combine their thoughts, bringing equal education to black, white, Latino, Asian, rich, and poor students, we could strive for equality.

I also thought of Johnson’s idea that “the most important difference is that while we all have the potential to change our class position, the other forms of differences are almost impossible to change” (Johnson, ix). Johnson believes more of what Hannah-Jones was saying, that race (among other differences) is the biggest factor in educational inequalities. However, Johnson’s theory of privilege would absolutely fit into Finn’s paper. Anyone above the power line (I personally, would divide the two, the working and middle class below the power line and the affluent and elite classes above the power line), holds the privilege. Once again, I’m going to use a quote from Johnson, “the trouble we’re in privileges some groups at the expense of others. It creates a yawning divide in levels of income, wealth, dignity, safety, health, and quality of life. It promotes fear, suspicion, discrimination, harassment, and violence. It sets people against one another” (Johnson, 9).

I would also like to mention Lisa Delpit because I personally think “The Silenced Dialogue” is 
wonderful and can see her all over Finn’s article. The two even use the same language.  In Literacy with an Attitude, Finn discusses opening up a dialogue, enriching those not in the culture of power and he talks about “dialogue-the soul of his program was its objective-consciousness raising what he referred to as conscientization” (170). Delpit wrote “I am certain that if we are truly to effect societal change, we cannot do so from the bottom up, but we must push and agitate from the top down. And in the meantime, we must take the responsibility to teach, to provide for students who do not already possess them, the additional codes of power” (The Silenced Dialogue, 40). It was about empowering the powerless as a class s so they can stand up for themselves “(172).

I found (and love) the image Dr. Bogad told us about!

Oh, something random but kind of fun... try this quiz!

Here's a little something else I found on Huffington Post

Saturday, February 13, 2016

This American Life: The Problem We All Live With

Nikole Hannah-Jones is an investigative reporter that wrote about segregation and desegregation in schools in the US. She argues that the answer to educational equality, or the closest way we’ll get to educational equality, is integration. The interview, The Problem We All Live With, gives thoughtful and passionate examples of students and parents who have gone through integration and their stories of success. She showed us, the listeners, the struggles that black students and parents dealt with in order to try to get the same education as white students. “What integration does is it gets black kids in the same facilities as white kids. And therefore, it gets them access to the same things that those kids get- quality teachers and quality instruction” (Nikole Hannah-Jones, The Problem We All Live With).

The Problem We All Live With gave supportive data, which Hannah-Jones used to explain how integration is the answer to breaking the achievement gap, and changing the lives of black students.  Hannah-Jones mentioned that for black students integration “…changed their whole lives. They were less likely to be poor, they were less likely to have health problems, they live longer. And the opposite is true for black kids who remained in segregated schools”.  Hannah-Jones, told a story about a girl named Mah’Ria, a young girl that was bussed into a white school. Mah’Ria and her mother went to an open forum meeting at the white school she was about to attend and had to listen to harsh and judgmental parents speak about how children from her school should not be allowed to attend their school. This reminded me of Johnson’s article and how the parents of the white schools felt they needed to keep separation between the schools because of their discriminations, and fears.  The quote that came to mind was, “the trouble we’re in privileges some groups at the expense of others. It creates a yawning divide in levels of income, wealth, dignity, safety, health, and quality of life. It promotes fear, suspicion, discrimination, harassment, and violence. It sets people against one another” (Johnson, 9). Mah’Ria had a positive first experience with integration but Rihanna; another student did not share the same positive experience. This reminded me again of Johnson and the umbrella example we used in class. Rihanna walked into her new school, soaking wet while all the dry, white students stared at her and called her racial slurs.

I think that it would be interesting if Lisa Delpit and Nikole Hannah-Jones got together for an interview. Delpit could discuss her four aspects of the culture of power and how it relates to integration in schools and Hannah-Jones could relate them to her investigations and her own experience as a product of integration. Delpit’s 3rd aspect, “the rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power” (Delpit, 25), shows how integration would work best. I immediately thought of Delpit when Nikole Hannah-Jones said “if you’re surrounded by a bunch of kids who are all behind you, you stay behind. But if you’re in a classroom that has some kids behind and some kids advanced, the kids who are behind tend to catch up.” By bringing white and black students, advanced and non-advanced students together, by following Delpit’s ideas of integrated education methodologies, we could strive for educational equality.

It took me rereading Armstrong and Wildman’s article; Colorblindness is the Racism, to realize how desegregation is just promoting colorblindness.  “People seeking equality are not permitted to examine, or even acknowledge, that White students are generally afforded the best educational opportunities in the United States, while these benefits elude many students of color” (Armstrong & Wildman, 64). I agree with Wildman and Armstrong that “until educators teach about the importance of analyzing how privilege operates, students will graduate ill-equipped to work effectively in a diverse environment. If students to not grapple with issues of privelege while still in school, they may never acquire the insight or ability to recognize and combat racism and other subordination” (66).

I really enjoyed listening to Hannah-Jone’s interview and plan on finding more information from her. I felt as if this interview would be an eye opener for many people because the racial injustices she speaks of is all over the media, but many people (I certainly didn’t know much before this interview) don’t know how integration could help both groups above and below the power line (Armstrong and Wildman).