Saturday, May 29, 2010

Disproportionality: A Little Dose of Honesty

In my search to blend the 21st Century World with a strong Pedagogical Framework, I sometimes encounter "disconnects" that demand attention.  In our new collaborative world, the most fortunate thing is that we now have multiple opportunities for conversation and action that we didn't have even 5 years ago.  The unfortunate thing is that those conversations continue to gloss over some of the major issues in education that will continue to plague our efforts at globalization until we take action.

Last week, I participated in a great opportunity to work with local counselors and a Teacher's Resource Center.  Much of our conversation was around articulating a purpose and vision for the work these counselors do.  Each piece of the conversation opened up a new can of worms, considerations that had to be discussed so that real transformation was possible.  The director of the Teacher's Resource Center added that much of the concern had to do with disproportionality, or the over representation of some groups either in special education, or as high school dropouts, or as behavior problems.

Part of the conversation was a discussion of resources around strategies for dealing with and undoing disproportionality.  We put research to work for us in the classroom for all kinds of opportunities to impact student achievement, why not do the same to help equalize the playing field for our students?

I think it would be easy to say that our problems are the result of environmental factors that we can't control, or parents that won't participate, or an increase in violent activity among youth, or even just laziness--on the part of the students and the teachers.  I don't really think that's true, though.  There might be a fear of trying new strategies which risk the loss of instructional time, or limited information around research based instructional strategies that WILL work in a classroom.  Whatever the reason, we need to get more analytical about our practices, see what we need to keep and what we need to cut.  Our obligation here isn't education for those that we might deem deserving of it, our obligation is education for all.

I wanted to share the recent resources I've found, in hopes that it will help to light a fire of change, of advocacy, and of real growth for the kids we serve:

The National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems
Technical Assistance Center for Disproportionality
Advocacy Guide from ASCD
Response to Intervention and Disproportionate Representation
What Works Clearinghouse

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