Charter Schools in Pennsylvania

HB 530, another bill whose intentions are to improve the state’s current charter school situation and progress school choice so that each student has a fair chance at a quality education. The original intentions of Congress in creating charter school legislation were optimistic. Pennsylvania’s passing of Senate Bill No. 123 in 1997 allowed the establishment of charter schools throughout the state. These schools were to be run independently from local school boards, and instead as “non-profit, nonsectarian entities by teachers, parents, institutions of higher education or museums” (Department of Education, 1997). However, with issues pertaining to relationships with public schools, accountability, and ambiguous data reporting, among other things, the true accomplishments of this innovative approach are not as transparent as supporters may have hoped. These schools were proposed to be “educational laboratories” where teachers with the “freedom to innovate” would increase student achievement and “stimulate improvements in best practices and competition” (PCCY, 2011, p. 1). The freedom given within these schools is often what led to many of the issues present in the charter school movement of the United States, and Pennsylvania, today.

Choice was a definitive term associated with the construction of charter schools. Their foundation was rooted in allowing educational alternatives to traditional public schools, while also discovering new pedagogical and curricular approaches. From the familial perspective, charter schools were created to give parents the choice of sending their children to schools that provide an “educational approach that best serves their children’s needs” (Slody, 2003, p. 289). Unfortunately, evidence of the types of innovative institutions that charter school proponents had been expecting rarely exists. In fact, a number of studies conducted on charters, including a policy report by Arsen, Plank, and Sykes (1999) “found little difference in charter school practices from those of traditional public schools” (p. 319).

The funding formula conflict is not only present in Pennsylvania, but is a common problem for most states in which charter laws exist. Charter schools are competing against traditional public schools for students and the funding that accompanies them. A 2011 budget cut in Philadelphia created hostility when similar funds removed from local school districts were held intact in the local charter schools, due to state mandates (PCCY, 2011, p. 3). Not only were per-pupil costs in local districts cut by more than $500 per student, but also full-day kindergarten programs were cut as well as the laying off of teaching and support staff, all problems that were not burdened onto charter schools (PCCY, 2011). Representative Mike Reese’s proposition to improve the funding formula could potentially lead to a more viable system of school choice.

Pennsylvania’s own traditional public schools struggle financially, as funds continue to be given to charter schools. A 2012 article by The New York Times focusing on the Chester Upland School District mentioned the $20 million in debt the district has accrued, partly due to of charter schools “taking up far too much of its fair share of resources” (As cited in Radical Teacher, 2012). Luckily for traditional public schools, Pennsylvania mandates that the per-pupil funding for maintenance and expenditures remain within the local district. However, in order to compensate for lack of expenditure funds, charters sometimes “secure some of their facilities money from their per-pupil operating funds” (PCCY, 2011, p. 4). HB 530 would result in an annual savings of over $20 million to school districts and taxpayers after making the appropriate deductions from per-pupil expenditures (HB 530, 2015).

While charter schools are still providing students with education, there are significant issues that prevent these institutions from fulfilling their original mission. Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) have outlined a number of proposals to assist the state of Pennsylvania in fulfilling many of the charter school goals that have not been carried out successfully. Among these recommendations includes the improvement of relationships between charter schools and the local school districts. Poor communication between the two kinds of schools creates a barrier. Charter schools are not sharing the “best practice” methods that they were intended to develop in an effort to provide students with innovative practices that formed as a result of collaboration. Ravitch (2010) expresses the importance of the partnership between the two schools in stating, “charter schools should be valued partners of traditional public schools” (p. 224). By sharing best practices, schools can “improve student learning for “all children,”” as set forth in the charter school law of Pennsylvania (PCCY, 2011, p. 10).

Another suggestion put forth by the PCCY (2011) is to “develop a strong, fair and consistent authorizing and oversight body or bodies” (p. 2). The lack of reputable and trustworthy governing bodies within the charter school system is not a problem only found in Pennsylvania. The problem often present in charter school administration is the lack of clear roles, and therefore indecisiveness concerning where accountability is to be placed. The responsibilities of “achieving measurable goals, fiscal accountability, and fairness and morality” are all important factors to be taken into account. Yet, often the question remains as to whom within the charter school is responsible for its enforcement.

First, charter schools are not subject to many of the same guidelines as traditional public schools. Therefore, the responsibility for collection of achievement data of students lies solely on the charter school itself, rather than higher authority enforcing the rules. As for fiscal accountability, Knaak and Knaak (2013) point out the poor financial decisions made by charter schools, mostly discussing the embezzlement that occurs. The Week magazine published an article discussing charter schools and highlighted an investigation in Pennsylvania into two separate head administrators of unrelated schools (as cited in Knaak and Knaak, 2013). In the first case the person in question had family members on the payroll and “made purchases from companies he owned” (Knaak and Knaak, 2013). The second case consisted of millions of dollars being used towards unnecessary expenses, including high salaries for administration.

Charter schools receive a lot of attention in the media, specifically with reference to student performance in comparison to traditional public schools. However, as with a lot of data, the research needs to take into consideration the underlying biases. Research showing higher scores for students in charter schools exists, as does higher scores for traditional public schools. While these statistics often provide achievement scores, they also fail to include the innovative approaches that are present or absent in either type of school. The charter school law of Pennsylvania entails “requirements for on-going access to records and facilities of the charter school and for an evaluation of charter schools by an independent consultant after five years” (Department of Education, 1997). Charter schools lack a standard of measurement, leaving data results hard to interpret. If charter schools continue to fail to provide data on their students’ overall achievement, a consequence may be the use of standardized assessment methods.

While charter schools were established with valiant intentions, a number of successful charter schools have been presented in literature, from which Pennsylvania could gain some insight. Preston, et al. (2012) defines innovation in charter schools within “its use of a practice if the traditional public schools in its local district are not using that practice” (p. 318). Charter schools cannot be innovative in and of itself. They are not simply innovative because of their creation; they need to show initiative and provide something groundbreaking besides just offering an alternative learning institution. Schools such as District 4 in East Harlem and City Academy High School take approaches that are unlikely to be associated with traditional public schools, and show innovative efforts.

The schools in East Harlem manage to provide career-driven education to a large population of students. Although this district is not a charter school, it possesses autonomy, which is a main component of charter schools. Rather than placing students in schools based on their zip code, the administrative board chose to separate schools by vocational subjects. These include communication, health sciences, and environmental science among many other subjects (Chubb and Moe, 1990, p. 214). Unfortunately, the vast array of school choices leads to an admission process that may lead to students getting their second or third choice. The nearly 45% increase in reading scores for students in a poor area over a 14 year period depicts that true innovation can lead to academic achievement (Chubb and Moe, 1990, p. 214).

City Academy High School, the nation’s first charter school, foreshadowed what could have been: to help disadvantaged students who were unsuccessful in traditional public schools. City Academy also provided additional resources to help them succeed beyond academics such as counseling, social services, and job skills training (Ravitch, 2010, p. 131). Despite the accomplishments of the school and the improvement of the population it was serving, the school was not providing many innovative techniques. If each exemplary school lacks where the other exceeds, and vice versa, creating schools that combine multiple progressive techniques should be the key goal in charter school formation.

Another alternative to the conservative approaches being taken by established charter schools would be to provide an initial outline of thorough guidelines and measurable goals during the application process. Ausbrooks, et al. (2005) conducted a study on charter law in Texas and found that requirements for “open-enrollment charter schools must address how the school plans to encourage innovation” (as cited in Preston, et al., 2012, p. 319). The Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) instead believed that the future of charter schools lies in testing what those in the public school want, but are unable to implement due to lack of autonomy. Following an announcement by President Clinton of a $100 million donation in support of charter schools, the CPRE issued a study in specific areas in which charter schools must begin to thrive, such as “a clear and specific school mission, involvement of key stakeholders in creating the vision, a well- articulated and integrated instructional program linked to the mission, a sense of collective responsibility among staff members for teaching and learning, a consistent professional-development program, the development of formal structures for staff collaboration, and a dynamic program that keeps evolving” (The Education Digest, 1997, p. 72).

Although charter schools seek autonomy as a key component of their mission for discovering educational innovation, collaboration among districts and states should be formed to create a larger community of groundbreaking theory. With each participating state having its own charter law, and within that state having very little communication with surrounding schools, the different schools are unable to discuss with one another their ideas and hopes for what they wish could be accomplished in their own classroom. In addition, charter schools should be given assistance to develop data reporting measures, which must become consistent among all schools. If charter schools in Pennsylvania become more reputable in their accountability and data reporting, and become liaisons of the community to find out what parents hope their children will gain, the charter school system could become a source of hope and alternative to low-performing public schools. Although HB 530 aims to address most of the issues currently facing charter schools, it lacks the collaboration component needed to promote innovativeness, a principle on which charter schools were founded.

 

 

 

References

 

Anonymous. (1997). Charter schools. The Education Digest, 63(3), 72.

Chubb, J.E. & Moe, T. M. (1990). Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools.

Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution.

CREDO. (2011). Charter School Performance in Pennsylvania. Stanford, C.A.

Department of Education. (1997). Charter School Legislation (Senate Bill No. 123). Harrisburg, P.A.: Charter Schools Office.

HB530. (2015). Retrieved from: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/billinfo.cfm?syear=2015&sind=0&body=H&type=B&bn=530

Knaak, W.C. & Knaak, J.T. (2013). Charter Schools: Educational Reform or Failed Initiative?. Education Paradigm Shifts 79(4), 45-52.

 

n.a. (2013). Education reform and charter schools. Radical Teacher, 94, p. 75.

 

Preston, C., Goldring, E., Berends, M. & Cannata, M. (2012). School innovation in district context: Comparing traditional public schools and charter schools. Economics of Education Review 31, 318-330.

 

Public Citizens for Children and Youth. (2011). Pennsylvania Charter School Law. Philadelphia, P.A.: No Author.

 

Ravitch, D. (2010). Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York, N.Y.: Basic Books. [E-Book].

Slody, A.C. (2003). Boyertown Area School District v. Department of Education: charter school law? A confusing piece of legislation. Widener Law Journal, 12(2), 289-305.

The Future of Multicultural Education

I could not imagine having started my Master’s program with a better course. The context and the different perspectives gained throughout this class created a reminder, in all of my times of stress, as to why I was choosing this course of study. Learning different ways to create a more equitable learning experience for students is a step in the direction toward my future priorities for creating Educational Policy.

Nieto & Bode mention briefly the importance of involving a child in planning their own education (p. 125). The idea seems so simple, and yet I have never first-handedly seen it in practice. Sometimes given the freedom of having choices can be overwhelming, but if given a few options, students may be able to create their own plan of study and enjoy their learning experience. Instead, students are exposed to rigorous schedules without options, which can lead to defiance for many students, as well as a hatred for school. I have always been an active learner; passionate about the topics I choose to learn. I think every student should get the opportunity to choose their own destiny and use their time to explore their own interests, rather than being thrown into an institution that does not praise freedom. Of course there are basic concepts that everyone should be required to learn (i.e., math, reading, writing), and yet most things beyond my basic elementary knowledge have been the result of independent research into topics of my own choosing.

Banks’ approach to multicultural education was another topic that informed me about many of the different ways teachers, schools, and administration approaches topics of diversity, particularly when looking at their curriculum. The mainstream centric views that were mentioned in Banks’ article suggests that a lot of curriculum continues to reinforce views of white superiority as well as deny children from seeing various perspectives (p. 247-48). However, rather than reiterating the current state of ignorance within curriculum diversity, Banks’ seeks to create reform within the classroom to further provide students with multicultural topics.

If reform is to be made, much of the political resistance must first be made visible to society, rather than the false knowledge many people have that racism is a thing of the past. One belief is that multicultural perspectives will “challenge the existing power structure” (Banks & Banks, p. 250). Aside from this, it is essential that current administrators forgo the assimilationist ideology that views the U.S. and Whites as having supreme historical contributions. As a student who acquired all historical knowledge from Pennsylvania public schools, I feel both cheated and ignorant as to the larger picture of our Earth’s history. I can name a fraction of the countries and recite less than 1% as to the origin of any other culture besides my own. Looking at the Levels of Integration identified by Banks and Banks (2007) allowed me to further grasp the types of multicultural education that currently exist, and which methods would be more effective to advance towards in the future.

If progress were to be made in society, a social action approach, along with the transformation approach, would be most ideal. By restructuring the way students learn and integrating multicultural information into all lessons, this notion of what is “normal” or “acceptable” can hopefully become a thing of the past. As children begin to learn about each other using interactive methodology, involving both history and social action, a deeper understanding can be achieved. Unfortunately, I do realize this idea may be far too idealistic. However, is that the realist in me or just the influence I have received from my own educational background thus far?

Multicultural education needs to go beyond celebrating a holiday one day a year that honors Martin Luther King, Jr. It needs to go beyond bringing in Spanakopita as a way of educating a child’s peers on their Greek background. Most importantly, I believe that students deserve to know that there is something and someone out there that is different from what they know. One thing I have witnessed too often is the complete inability to relate to a person based on skin color, language, culture, food, etc., all of which can be avoided by educating students on the differences that exist in this world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Banks, J.A., & Banks, C.A.M. (2007). Approaches to Multicultural Curriculum Reform. (6th Ed.) Multicultural Education (247-269). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming Diversity. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

 

Achievement, Opportunity, and Economic Disparities

 Without caring teachers, accommodating students from all backgrounds, or the willingness to address Out-of-School Factors (OSFs), disparities in educational attainment are likely to remain. It may often seem that trusting and caring relationships are meant for the home, while a professional relationship is maintained in the classroom. However, Nel Noddings, as mentioned by Nieto and Bode, discovered that caring can be an even larger attribution to a student’s academic achievement than many structural conditions within the school (2012). Students in a study conducted by Patty Bode were consistent in their belief that empathy for students was the most important characteristic for a teacher to possess (p. 257). For many students, having a teacher who shows a “kind disposition” and show interest in the students lives in and out of the classroom, can give the student a sense of belonging, and lessen the pattern of school resistance that many students fall into (Nieto & Bode, p. 256).

The cultural differences that occur in the school setting are often threatening to the student, who my experience failure as a result of different values, languages, and expectations. It may feel that creating policies and rules to accommodate all cultures is impossible, and maybe it is. Nieto and Bode discuss opposing beliefs in school versus the home and how one environment may value competition while another values cooperation. For some students, their cultures may align well throughout both environments, and their success will be evident. However, for the student who experiences the culture clash, this may lead to a compromise of their values or academic failure.

The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), as discussed by both Dr. Fryer in his video and in Affirming Diversity, is a prime example of how a community organization is able to minimize much of the negative effects of OSFs in an effort to increase academic achievement. As Maslow’s hierarchy of needs claims, a child is likely to be insufficient in areas of academia or social skills if basic food, health, and shelter needs are unable to be met. The HCZ, according to Fryer, addresses that same theory by providing health and dental services, as well as fruits and vegetables (2011). In addition to meeting basic needs, the HCZ also seeks to improve unfavorable neighborhood characteristics in this specific urban community. The success that the HCZ has had with improving the academic performance of its students further reinforces the idea stated by Nieto and Bode that “educational reform efforts that do not take into account the social and economic conditions outside schools can only be partially successful” (p. 266). 

As for answering the question of whether these gaps occur due to opportunity, academic achievement, or economic reasons, I feel its impossible to blame sole responsilibty on one isolated area. Flores’ study focuses a lot on opportunity and the unequal offerings of classes given to White students versus minority students. Latinos and African Americas are less likely to be placed in college preparation or advanced courses (Flores, 2007). Being provided “optimal opportunities to learn mathematics free from bias” and learn “challenging material from quality teachers who will also make connections to each student’s background, culture, and needs are all aspects of what Flores states is the “opportunity to learn.”

The achievement gap is similar in that it often is the result of stereotypes. Low expectations are a constant threat to minority students, as well as low placement, all leading to the data which puts minority students in lower standardized testing score brackets (Ladson-Billings, 2006). Unfortunately, a lot of similarities coincide with economic disparities and the amount of money spent per pupil within a school district. Considering the fact that school funding is based on property taxes, it is inevitable that high poverty areas will receive less funding. This then comes full circle with the opportunity gap, as poor students are unable to have access to things such as technology, science materials, and programming to which wealthier school districts are accustomed. Through programs such as the HCZ and further research on ways to lessen the gap, it is the hope that students will begin to receive equitable opportunity. 

 

References

 

Flores, A. (2007). Examining disparities in mathematics education: Achievement gap or opportunity gap? The High School Journal, 91 (1), 29-42.

 

Fryer, R. (2011). Are High Quality Schools Enough to Close the Achievement Gap? Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgzLSMY_nxI&feature=youtu.be.

 

Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools. American Educational Research Association, 35 (7), 3-12.

 

Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming Diversity. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

 

 

The School-to-Prison Pipeline

The school-to-prison pipeline concept resonated with me specifically due to my research on juvenile crime, specifically Juveniles serving Life sentences without the possibility of Parole (JLWOP). One of the predominant arguments of JLWOP that could also pertain to the school-to-prison pipeline concept is brain development. Whether the child is in elementary school, middle school, or high school the brain is still developing, and is often unaware of the consequences of an action. Punitive treatment will do little to promote personal growth or rehabilitate the individual to improve their behavior. The trend of disciplining students with behavioral issues and ignoring students that fail to actively participate in learning is continuing, creating an effect that funnels disadvantaged students right into the criminal justice system.

Nieto and Bode (2012) discuss the Resistance Theory and how some students may refuse to learn or participate, or possibly dropping out. As a result, teachers tend to be “frustrated by apparently disinterested youth who look bored and disengaged” (Nieto & Bode, p. 267). Not suggesting that teachers should then become more invested in those students, but a teacher should strive to teach every individual within the classroom. As “bored” students become ignored, they may further fall into a pattern of resistant behavior.

            The Children’s Defense Fund found that “young Black men in the United States are incarcerated in the juvenile justice system at four times the rate of White youth” (Nieto & Bode, p. 267). In 2007, the Justice Policy Institute released data which reported that “Disparities in educational opportunities contribute to a situation in which communities of color experience less educational attainment than whites, are more likely to be incarcerated, and more likely to face higher violent crime rates” (p. 2). The unwillingness to incorporate what has been termed “Black English” is often putting students whose culture and language differ from their White teacher’s Standard English at a disadvantage (Nieto & Bode, p. 120). If grades are suffering due to a language barrier and students are not succeeding because their urban vernacular is inappropriate on an academic level, the correlation between crime and lack of education is bound to continue.

            By continuing this cycle of minority students resisting education and falling into self-fulfilling prophecies, it is not only harming the individual, but there is extensive research to support the ways it causes harm to the larger population. In 2006, the Alliance for Excellent Education reported that in the United States “a 5 percent increase in male high school graduation rates would produce an annual savings of almost $5 billion in crime-related expenses. Coupled with annual earnings of those who graduated, the U.S. would receive $7.7 billion in benefits” (Justice Policy Institute, p. 3). With local taxes often being the prime funding for schools, it is inevitable that poor neighborhoods are going to attribute less funding than wealthy communities. Open Minds to Equality (2006) suggests that without monetary support, schools located in poor neighborhoods lack the same resources and extracurricular programs that are easily accessible in wealthier schools.

            Children are vulnerable and teachers must attempt to create an atmosphere that actively involves all students and fosters a healthy learning environment. If a teacher’s expectations of a student effects their teaching and how they treat certain individuals, the student’s susceptibility to these actions are likely to have an effect on their behavior, as well. 

References

Justice Policy Institute. (2007). Education and Public Safety. Washington, D.C.

Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Schniedewind, N., & Davidson, E. (2006). Open Minds to Equality. Milwaukee, WI: Pearson.

The Ideal School

          I’m a firm believer that everything about a person is rooted in the fundamentals- academically, behaviorally, socially, and emotionally. That being said, I feel it is most necessary to idealize an elementary environment that would be efficient for all students.

          Beginning with the academics of the school, I must express my dislike for the grouping of students based on skill level. In Affirming Diversity it is often mentioned that students who receive some type of learning support tend to be removed from their regular education class, or even placed in a different class altogether. Despite the fact that these students are still young, with some amount of naiveté, they are often not blind to the fact that they are being separated because of some difference between them and their peers. Unfortunately, if students view themselves the same way they are viewed by the administrators responsible for their skill-based separation, they will likely fall into the vicious role of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Obviously, I am not suggesting that children with learning disabilities be ignored and receive no extra help. However, with retention occurring as young as Kindergarten, and high dropout rates amongst retained children, it may be more harmful than helpful to keep a child from moving on with their peers.

            Pedagogy is everything, in my opinion, and while teachers all have their own style of teaching, it is also necessary to alter curriculum in order to fit the needs of the greatest amount of students. Removing memorization of inane information and replacing it practical information, as well as involving students in their own educational plan are two possibilities to increase responsibility and critical thinking. Unfortunately, there are still going to remain some students whose learning styles are incompatible with certain pedagogies. While one teacher may believe visual learning to be most powerful, he or she may have students who are auditory or kinesthetic learners. By meeting the needs of each student, separation by learning style for each topic is one way I feel schools could create a more successful learning environment.

            Nieto and Bode discuss constructivism, which may be more ideal than realistic (p. 125). I appreciate the theory and I believe that all learning is based on experiences and that learning should be creative and cultural. I also agree that peer interaction and active learning are necessary to foster a safe and respectful learning environment. Unfortunately, considering the extreme differences and past experiences of each individual, Virginia Richardson in Affirming Diversity mentions the harmful effects when applying this style to everyone (p. 126).

            As important as a child’s in-school experiences may be, it may be completely irrelevant if their positive experiences are not also shared and mimicked in their home lives. Although parental engagement is not something that can be enforced, there are certain ways to allow more parents to become involved in their child’s success. Especially with the increase in non-traditional and single parent households, teachers and administrators must work together to find ways that even the busiest of parents can become engaged. The disconnect between educators and families can create unnecessary struggles in miscommunication and a lack of understanding of the child’s home life for the teacher, as well as the lack of knowledge of how a parent’s child is performing in school.

            However, parental involvement is also highly important when discussing a student’s behavior. Although I have mixed feelings about zero tolerance policies, a larger part of me is against the practice. The Advancement Project discussed in Affirming Diversity explains the “school-to-prison pipeline” and the punitive route many schools take to push students towards the juvenile system, rather than offer more reform-based options (p. 116). It is also important to recognize the racial disciplinary gap that exists, which the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported “Black students were two and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than other students” (Nieto and Bode, p. 130). The lack of communication and understanding, especially when a cultural barrier exists between parents and teachers, can lead to negative behavioral outcomes for students of color.

            Socially and emotionally, I reaffirm many of my former ideas of the importance of not segregating children based on skill level. On the basis of diversity, I agree with Nieto and Bode to begin discussing racism early on, and to eradicate “colormuteness” which they define as the unease many people experience when discussing racism (p. 73). While my feelings on how to combat bullying are a large and important part of how I believe the social environment of a school could be effected, the topic is too personal of an issue, which would require tangent upon tangent. I will say that administrators and teachers must be more active in how they handle situations. From my own experience, teachers tend to find it easier to turn a blind eye or act oblivious, but it is their voice and actions that can make all the difference, especially for children too afraid to speak up. While I am sure that a perfect school does not currently, nor will it ever exist, trial and error as well as committed teachers and parents can make a huge difference in the future success of students.

References

Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education. Boston, MA: Pearson.

 

How can multicultural education help close the achievement gap?

 

 

The philosophy of Lincoln Elementary School is one that has worked at fostering a learning community that has virtually diminished the achievement gap. This “gap” is one that effects lower classes and minority groups and allows economic resources to determine educational outcomes. In Learning Matters’ video The Achievement Gap, Ron Ross argues that SAT scores predict the income of the student’s family, rather than intelligence. Unfortunately, this video does little to provide administrators with ideas of how to improve their school’s current standing. By placing high quality, innovative teachers in a school in a disadvantaged neighborhood, their solution is found in human resources. This resource may not be available to most schools. Lincoln’s location outside of Manhattan provides them with the advantage of having a larger human capital available to them. While I applaud the school for finding individuals with a commitment to closing the achievement gap, I believe the focus should lie more in career development, and providing teachers with the knowledge they need to create an environment equitable for all children.

 

A lot of the problems I have noticed are economic, after all, Andrew Shapiro reports in Open Minds to Equality that the U.S. as having the “number one in highest-paid athletes, but last in teachers’ salaries” (p. 25). Schniedewind and Davidson discuss the Common Sense Budget Act, which would reallocate $60 billion of federal funding towards schools, medical research and job training rather than unneeded programs in the defense budget (2006). The importance of money in our country has formed a gap socially that has leaked over into academics. However, a recurring question is constantly whether or not to address these problems in school, or allow them to occur naturally. Where should the focus in multicultural education lie?

In Affirming Diversity, Nieto and Bode refer to Jonathan Kozol’s concept of sanitizing curriculum. There are positive ways and negative ways in which curriculum changes can provide students with a positive multicultural experience. Exhausting the stories of heroes such as MLK and Rosa Parks is not one of these ways. Nieto and Bode discuss the European American way of thinking, and believing their way of life is the normal way, and “anything else is “ethnic” and exotic” (p. 49).  Realistically, providing students with a separate unit focused on slavery and segregation will likely not affect their experience or understanding of other ethnic groups.

Sleeter & Grant take a more Humanistic approach on multicultural education in An analysis of multicultural education in the United States. They suggest that by opening communication in the classroom, students are able to improve their relationships with one another and select literature that provides multiple perspectives for all races and ethnic groups. However, this methodology lacks any long-term goals, and while one classroom may wholly embrace this approach, universal practice of this theory may be too idealistic.

Multicultural Education by Banks takes a multipronged approach, which focuses on various facets of the students and the school. With minimal focus on the curriculum, Banks looks mostly at prejudice reduction and knowledge construction. Prejudice reduction begins in Kindergarten and has been researched using intervention in young children. These methods provide reading materials informing children of the experiences of different ethnic groups, and in doing so reducing white bias. Banks references Cohen while discussing the interracial interaction disability that causes white and minority students to automatically expect whites to dominate a situation. By intervening early, it is situations like this that may have the possibility of disappearing from academic, if not all, social circumstances.

Whether Lincoln has been a model of advancement in the academic community, or whether they are the result of luck, it is hard to say. However, by becoming better educators and preparing teachers for changing classrooms that are becoming increasingly more diverse, we may begin to see a closing of the education gap.

 

Banks, J. (1993). Multicultural education: Historical development, dimensions and practices. Review of Research in Education, 19, 3 – 49.

 

Learning Matters. (2003, November 12). The Achievement Gap. [Video]. Retrieved from http://learningmatters.tv/blog/on-pbs-newshour/watch-the-achievement-gap/14/

 

Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education. Boston, MA: Pearson.

 

Schniedewind, N., & Davidson, E. (2006). Open Minds to Equality. Milwaukee, WI: Pearson.

 

Sleeter, C., & Grant, C. (1987). An analysis of multicultural education in the United States. Harvard Educational Review, 57(4), 420 – 444.

 

Why are the histories of certain groups silenced?

As such an ethnocentric culture, I feel as though so much history has been lost and, as Americans, we tend to discard any information that is not relative to ourselves. It was interesting to read about events in American history that were based solely on the interactions between two ethnic groups, neither one being of European descent, similar to what Takaki describes in his lecture as the “master narrative of American history” (2004). History, for me, has always included the Civil War and World War II, briefly focusing on the struggles of those involved in slavery and the Holocaust. Of course, both of these events also contain an ending in which Americans were able to put aside their egos and rescue groups in need of salvation. However, it was the unknown history of my European ancestors that shocked me most.
One surprising historical event was how much cannibalism was present among the early European settlers. John Smith tells the story of one settler who “murdered his wife, ripped the child out of her womb and threw it into the river, and after chopped the mother in pieces and salted her for his food” (Takaki, 2008, p. 35). The passage also explains how poor the English were at rationing their food, and often relied on either the kindness of the Native Americans or brutality against the Native Americans as a way to replenish their supply. Not surprisingly, my second revelation in American history also included mistreatment towards Native Americans. Jefferson’s manipulation against the Native Americans’ finances was something I had never heard about before. Takaki describes Jefferson’s plan as a way to involve Native Americans in the marketplace, only to have them spiral into debt, and eventually have to sell off their land as repayment (2008). The lack of regard towards the native people and the audacity of these white politicians to displace and bankrupt such a peaceful group is an unsettling occurrence in America’s dark past.
As for why I believe certain voices get silenced in American history, I am not entirely sure. As I previously stated, as an American I often feel that early on egocentrism and ethnocentrism are ingrained in us, and it is difficult to remove the “American Dream” glasses from our eyes that allow us to look past anything that may divert us from our own interests. The consequences that are involved in this scenario often serve as a vehicle to disconnect us from the events occurring around the world. Prior to one year ago, I would not have been able to tell you about the UDHR or even human rights in general, and the multiple ways this document was being violated every single day. My previous ignorance regarding the world outside of my American bubble, which I am positive many people are still experiencing, is what I believe is a consequence in disregarding the history of the unfamiliar.
Another consequence is what I believe to be the result of overexposure to crime in the news. By focusing on the crimes committed by specific minority groups, it creates a culture where people fear those groups constantly being linked to crime. With the recent violence and tragic events occurring in Washington, The Times of India is already describing it as an “African-American revolt,” which will likely make its way into U.S. headlines in no time, though my knowledge of the situation proves that it has already worked (Rajghatta, 2013).

References

Rajghatta, C. (2013). Warning bells: Is US shutdown a brewing African-American revolt? The Times of India. Retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Warning-bells-Is-US-shutdown-a-brewing-African-American-revolt/articleshow/23601211.cms

Takaki, R. (2008). A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. New York, NY: Back Bay Books.

Takaki, R. (2004, February 6). America in a Different Mirror with Ron Takaki. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpq722mR6nE