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Susan Lambert, VP of early literacy instruction at Amplify and the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast, shares her thoughts on key points in the reading education debate. One question Lambert tackles is, how can educators make the most of mother-tongue literacy when teaching English learners to read in English?
Children are like sponges. They soak up news headlines and images of unrest on TV and social media. They may also be keenly attuned to conversations about current events happening at home. Parents and educators alike (and those of us now wearing both hats) should address questions about racism that arise and maintain an open dialogue with children. To help navigate the best way to do this, I asked Christiana Cobb-Dozier, a school counselor in Los Angeles, and Christian Robinson, a Sacramento-based author and illustrator of children’s books, about how to talk to children about racism. Here’s what they said.
Leaders of K-12 schools, colleges, and universities sometimes release formal statements when acts of racial violence and injustice occur locally and elsewhere in our country. Many are writing now to their communities about the death last week of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis. While these statements are meant to represent solidarity and support, they can miss the mark if not courageously constructed. Dozens of leaders have sought our counsel on what to say in this moment. Here are six things we suggest leaders who seriously aim to make a difference do in statements to make them more substantive, trustworthy, and actionable
Remote learning has been tough on 16-year-old Tai Muñoz. The freshman at Brooklyn’s Sunset Park High School has been mostly out of contact with school staff. But after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody, Tai felt compelled to reach out to a trusted teacher. “Hello, I know this is very out of the blue, but it needs to be said. If possible, can you please shed light on the recent death of George Floyd?” Tai wrote in an email to Abbey Kornhauser, their advisor and social studies teacher. Students and educators alike are struggling with how to reckon with what’s happening and have important, but difficult conversations about race and violence. Here are stories from educators and students about how they’re trying to meet this moment.
In a world without covid-19, Jael Marquez would be a junior walking the halls of Denver’s Vista Academy, a small public school on the city’s outskirts. Instead, he is one of thousands of teens across the country working the forgotten front lines of the pandemic — in grocery and big-box stores — keeping essential links in the nation’s food supply intact while eschewing almost everything about being a teenager.
Most people have heard about "the talk" — the conversation many African American parents have with their kids about how to avoid altercations with police or what to do and say if they're stopped. The recent unrest sparked by anger over police brutality against African Americans has parents who aren't black thinking more about how they talk to their kids about race. Michel Martin, weekend host of All Things Considered, spoke with Jennifer Harvey, author of Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America.
Quick quiz: What share of black students graduate high school? By the most recent count, 4 out of 5 black students graduate in four years with a regular diploma, according to federal figures. But after watching coverage of test scores focused on racial achievement gaps between black and white students, people tend to think black students' graduation rates are much lower. The way the education media and policymakers frame education debates can have longer-term effects on how the public thinks about black students and the kinds of policies it will support to improve their learning. "Deficit" framing can worsen the stress students from traditionally disadvantaged racial backgrounds feel in academic settings and create stereotype threat, making it more difficult for them to perform at their best. But in a broader sense, deficit framing of educational debates may change how the public at large thinks about the root problems of education inequities and what support they will give for policies to solve them.
School districts are enrolling newly arrived students and children scheduled to start kindergarten in the fall—and federal law mandates that districts screen the students to determine if they need English-learner support services. Districts are using home-language surveys to determine if students are eligible to take an English-language screening test. But with social distancing requirements that prevent face-to-face screenings, schools must find other ways to assess how much support new English-learners will need in remote learning environments or when classes resume. To help out, the Council of the Great City Schools, a membership organization of the nation's large, urban school systems, has developed a set of sample questionnaires to be used as provisional screeners for English proficiency during the COVID-19 outbreak.
When most of the nation’s schools closed in March due to COVID-19, educators turned to whatever methods they could to keep learning going — from online classes to phone calls to drive-by packet pick-ups. Still, many students were unreachable, and as teachers navigated those challenges, they turned up the volume on discussion about educational inequities. Much of focus has been on computer and internet access, but there’s more to equity than technology, according to Tricia Ebarvia, a high school English teacher in Pennsylvania. “We have to think about the ways in which we are recreating the systems and structures that have resulted in racial inequities in in-person education, but now in an online environment. And actually exacerbating them,” Ebarvia said. Ebarvia and Massachusetts-based literacy organizer Kimberly N. Parker are the cofounders of #31DaysIBPOC, a blog series that spotlighted the voices of indigenous, black and people of color educators throughout May.
Many of the nation’s 5 million English language learners lost English instruction time when schools shifted to remote learning. School closures have condensed language classes and robbed students of the opportunity to regularly practice their non-native languages. The closures have been particularly difficult for dual immersion programs, which teach both English learners and native speakers in a single class in an attempt to build proficiency in two languages. José Medina, an educational consultant and expert on dual language immersion programs, recommends continuing the in-school language mix model even while online. If the class has been practicing a 50/50 mix, educators should continue to provide half of the instruction in each language. There are ways students can continue to listen to their non-native language even when they are at home.