Tag Archives: Lisa Delpit

Do Afro-American Students, (Especially Boys) Have Better Outcomes in Classes Taught by Afro-American Male Teachers? Or, Are Rich Curriculum and Rigorous Standards the Pathway to Improve Outcomes for All Students?

My early morning infusion is a doppio from the neighborhood Starbucks, customers, all white, some tapping away on a laptop, most had cups nearby, others not. Needless to say no one was asking the non-drinkers to leave. For many, Starbucks is a virtual office, good WiFi, readily available beverages, and you can work away for hours. The Starbucks “incident,” the arrest of two black men can be described as an example of “implicit bias,”

Implicit bias,

Implicit bias is the automatic associations people have in their minds about groups of people, including stereotypes. It forms automatically and unintentionally, but results in attitudes, behaviors or actions that are prejudiced for or against a person or a group of people.

 Two black men, hanging out, must be “up for trouble; black men, regardless of their income or level of education can regale you with “incidents,” being hassled for being black, experiences that white men never can imagine, they have the protective coating of white privilege.

What is white privilege? It’s the level of societal advantage that comes with being seen as the norm in America, automatically conferred irrespective of wealth, gender or other factors. It makes life smoother, but it’s something you would barely notice unless it was suddenly taken away — or unless it had never applied to you in the first place …. a set of unearned assets that a white person in America can count on cashing in each day but to which they remain largely oblivious.

A few years ago I was at a conference, a session dealt with “culturally relevant pedagogy,” a controversial term. One of the participants commented. “They’re going to teach us to be black.” Yes, controversial.

It was the first day of a graduate class in a teacher preparation program, I began with an ice breaker, “What’s your philosophy of education, (smile) in one sentence.” I nodded to Muhammad, who responded, “All white people are racists; it all depends on how they deal with their racism.”

The class turned to me, “Interesting, I have to give it some thought.”

Some students reacted angrily, “How can you call me a racist, it’s insulting, you don’t know me.” Others agreed, “I’m a white kid from the suburbs, I worry constantly about how I’m going to relate to inner city kids of color, whether they will accept me.”

Was Muhammad a racist? Or, was he pointing to a fact: we all have implicit biases: do we recognize and attempt to alleviate the biases?

The mainstream education commenters emphasize the teaching/learning process: teachers are assessed by frameworks or rubrics, Charlotte DanielsonKim MarshallMarzano  and others, all aver that teaching behaviors are scientifically documented; however, there are key unanswered  questions:  Does a rigid adherence to a set of frameworks guarantee learning? Does the gender, race or ethnicity of the teacher impact student learning? Should we alter teaching strategies based on the gender, race or ethnicity of the student?

I come from the days of the developmental lesson that begins with a motivation: an activity, or a statement, or a cartoon, a brief activity to seize the attention and engage the student. It didn’t always work, was it the inadequacy of my motivation or the alienation of the students? Did my gender/ethnicity impact the effectiveness of my lesson?

I’ve met many teachers who claim, “I’m a really good teacher; some kids just don’t care.” Are they “really good teachers?” Are there kids who “really don’t care”? Is there a classroom triage: we teach the kids we can reach? For many of us failures haunt us: what could we have done differently?

We’re encouraged to differentiate, to change/alter instructional strategies to match the needs of individual kids. If gender/ethnicity of a teacher impacts the teaching/learning process how can teachers alter practices to make up for “belonging” to the “wrong” gender/ethnicity?

There is growing evidence that Afro-American students, especially male students, have better academic outcomes in classes taught by Afro-American teachers.

Read articles here, here and here.

The “why” question is complex: implicit bias? lack of cultural competency? We don’t actually know.

Over the last few decades a new theory has entered the world of education: the theory of culturally competent pedagogy: teaching strategies to match the culture of the students, In Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, Lisa Delpit delves into the question of cultures,

A connecting theme throughout the book is how power imbalances and cultural conflicts within classrooms occur within a larger society that nurtures and maintains stereotypes. The culprit in these situations is not simply racism, though it certainly plays a part. It is the reluctance of people, especially those with power and privilege, “to perceive those different from themselves except through their own culturally clouded vision.” This inability is particularly destructive in classrooms where teachers view low-income and minority children as “other” and “see damaged and dangerous caricatures of the vulnerable and impressionable beings before them” 

New York State is in the process of establishing competencies for school leaders, The “Principal Preparation Project Advisory Team Preliminary Set of Consensus Recommendations,” uses the term “culture” a number of times.

 * Recognize, respect, and employ each student’s strengths, diversity, and culture  as assets for teaching and learning. Ensure that each student has equitable access to effective teachers, learning opportunities, academic and social support, and other resources necessary for success.

 * Confront and alter institutional biases of student marginalization, deficit-based schooling, and low expectations associated with race, class, culture and language, gender and sexual orientation, and disability or special status.

* Promote the preparation of students to live productively in and contribute to the diverse cultural contexts of a global society.

What the numerous mentions of culture  fails to do is to define culture.

An NYU team takes a deep dive in the world of culturally responsive education (D’Andrea,  Montalbano, & Kirkland, (2017), Culturally Responsive Education: A Primer for Policy and Practice), The authors, citing numerous research studies endorse the impact of culturally responsive education (CRE) and explores the challenges,

… the challenge is how to solidify the theory of cultural responsiveness into concrete policies and practices that can support learning for all students. To this extent, its critical lens has been applied to curriculum, classroom design, instruction, home-school relationships, disciplinary policies, and school-wide initiatives to promote equity, social justice, community outreach, improvements to school climate, and academic achievement.

The authors acknowledge the gap between research and the classroom practice.

  Given all this rich scholarship, policymakers and practitioners alike are left with the obvious question: “What do we do with all this?” Assuming everyone accepts the general premises of the largely theoretical research and what quantitative data do exist, what is culturally responsive education? Is it a curriculum? A teacher training protocol or program? An accountability system? Can it be any or all of them? The scholars who helped shape and expand this philosophy differ in both specific and vague ways on such questions.

David Steiner and Robert Pondisico, major education voices, may disagree, and may blame efforts to use race/ethnicity and culture “schemes” for failing to increase outcomes for children of color. I believe they would argue that a rich curriculum and high standards are the only pathway and culturally relevant pedagogy may sidetrack and result in lower standards, effectively, an example of implicit bias.

 A principal friend (black) was in a school waiting in the office to meet with the principal, the dean (white) escorted two girls (black) into office aggressively chastising them, “Fighting is unacceptable, I’d suspend both of you, this isn’t the first time …wait for the principal, it’s up to her.”

My friend walked over to the two girls, who were glowering at each other,

“You girls like Carti – b?”

They were surprised, a teacher, even a black teacher knowing about the latest big voice in hip-hop.

He asked, “Do you know she doesn’t write her own songs, she buys songs.”

One of the girls knew, the other didn’t, my friend engaged the girls in conversation – the principal came out of her office and began to chastise the girls for fighting.

Both girls turned to the principal, “Everything’s cool,” and walked away continuing the discussion.

I asked my friend, “An example of culturally relevant pedagogy?”

My principal friend smiled: “Experience: knowing 12-year olds and the art of distraction, move the conversation away from fighting to a topic that engages them, deal with the fighting later”

I asked, “Culturally relevant pedagogy?”

He laughed, “I’d say a few decades dealing with kids in inner city environments.”

Teaching is about connecting with your students, understanding the world of your students, “catching them” wherever they are and bringing them to where you want them to be.

Yes,  a Black or Latinx or an Asian teacher might  have an initial advantage, a leg up in relating to the student, might become that role model that changes lives, or on the other hand the “advantage” might fade, the teacher might not have the requisite teaching skills.

If culturally relevant education can be taught, can it be translated into engaging students, or, is it an implicit bias from the left, is it a trompe d’oeil?

The most effective teachers have the largest and deepest tool bags.

 

Is “Culturally Responsive Pedagogy” an Evidence-Based Intervention Within the ESSA Law?

Information lead to knowledge, knowledge lead to wisdom/Wisdom lead to understanding, once you have all that/You start demanding justice/Justice is what love look like in public/I ain’t just writing for it, I’m out here fighting for it – Talib Kweli

The dog days of summer are upon us; hot and humid with daily depressing news from the nation’s capital. If you’re teaching summer school, or, you’re a principal, you’re about to flee for a few weeks of vacation before Labor Day. The only bit of upcoming education news will be the state test scores; last year we saw a sharp jump, attributed by most to the movement to untimed tests; sages are predicting flat scores.(“Experts predict less of an increase in state test scores this year, credit elimination of time limits for spike last year)”

I spent the last week trudging through the ESSA draft plan that has been passed on to the governor for review (required by the law) and will be voted at the September Regents meeting and submitted to the US Department of Education.

A very quick review: within the regulations set by the law the state must determine how to identify low performing schools and lay out interventions to remedy the school inadequacies. Under NCLB the only metric was ELA and Math scores on the state tests; the draft plan weighs test scores, usually referred to proficiency as well as growth, referred to as progress. From my point of view fairer; however the state must still identify the lowest performing schools. The intervention side is far more difficult; after all, the state has been identifying low performing schools for decades, remember SURR – Schools Under Registration Review. I served as the teacher union member on many teams – we spent four days in a school, reviewed reams of data, observed every classroom, interviewed everyone we could find and wrote a “findings and recommendations” report based on a 21-topic template. The number one finding was always, “lack of support at the district and school level.”  Very little changed after our visit and report.

The feds currently require “evidence-based” interventions and describes what they mean in detail (See the regulations here)

New York State as a matter of long-standing policy does not require specific curricula, those decisions are made at the local level; however, Engage NY (Check out the site here) , the state website provides extremely detailed curriculum modules that have become the script in most schools across the state.

The 75-page summary of the draft ESSA plan (Read here) is artfully presented, tedious, repetitive and seems to want to satisfy everyone – more a political document than an actionable plan. I’m not being overly critical, to satisfy diverse constituencies you frequently come up with plans that all sides support and are also internally unworkable. A camel: an animal designed by a committee.

As I read and reread the plan one phrase popped up again and again: culturally responsive pedagogy or teaching or practices. The plan does have a glossary that defines the term:

“Cultural Responsiveness: Acknowledges the presence of culturally diverse students and the need for students to find relevant connections among themselves and the subject matter and the tasks teachers ask them to perform”

I’m still unclear: in designing a lesson we all try to tap into the student’s world, we try to develop a connection, we try to motivate and engage the student. On the other hand Algebra or Chemistry or Physics are academic disciplines, perhaps in an English classroom we can choose literature that makes connections with students, or, make sure we include a diverse array of personages in history lessons; for example, Frederick Douglas or WEB Du Bois, or James Baldwin. On the other hand hopefully we’re not throwing Shakespeare off the train.

The term originated with Gloria Ladson-Billings,

Culturally relevant teaching is a term created by Gloria Ladson-Billings (1994) to describe “a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes.”1 Participating in culturally relevant teaching essentially means that teachers create a bridge between students’ home and school lives, while still meeting the expectations of the district and state curricular requirements. Culturally relevant teaching utilizes the backgrounds, knowledge, and experiences of the students to inform the teacher’s lessons and methodology.

Ladson-Billings contends that culturally relevant pedagogy has three criteria:

  • Students must experience academic success.
  • Students must develop and/or maintain cultural competence.
  • Students must develop a critical consciousness through which they challenge the status quo of the current social order

I’m not sure if I know what “cultural competence” means and I’m less sure that the role of a teacher is to teach students to “challenge the status quo of the current social order.”

I do think that Socratic Dialogues are a challenging pedagogical methodology, I favor encouraging students to develop a thesis, back up the thesis with research and defend the thesis to the class.

Lisa Delpit, Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom (1995). is a book commonly assigned in education preparation courses, An Education Week article relates an interview with Delpit,

”   it’s also more complicated than just teaching more and covering more basic skills, Delpit goes on to say in her writings. You also have to recognize, acknowledge, and value the cultural strengths a child brings to school. Teachers who say, “I don’t see color in my classroom,” are doing the opposite, according to Delpit. “What does it say to our children if we cannot discuss a visible aspect of them? It says there’s something wrong with them,” she says.

If you really want to know how best to teach urban children, Delpit maintains, then you must ask them and their parents. You also must ask the teachers who know them best because they come from the same cultural groups.

Delpit maintains that teachers who come from the same “cultural groups” (code for race and ethnicity?) have special knowledge, and, by implication, might be more effective teachers.

Before we get too far down the road let’s examine that question of “evidence.”  The best place to look is the US Department of Education “What Works Clearinghouse.”

Morgan Polikoff, an education professor and University of Southern California and a frequent writer and blogger opines,

… the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) is chock full of programs that don’t seem to “work,” at least according to its own evidence standards, and I don’t think anyone believes the WWC has had its desired impact. (The former director of IES himself has joked that it might more properly be called the What Doesn’t Work Clearinghouse).

[I] … half-joke on Twitter that maybe states or the feds should change their approach toward evidence. Rather than (or in addition to) encouraging schools and districts to do good things, they should start discouraging them from doing things we know or believe to be harmful.

Does culturally responsive pedagogy lead to better outcomes for kids? I don’t know. Would I use socially conscious rappers  to motivate lessons and encourage dialogues – absolutely.

Check out a “socially conscious” rapper:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hpHsxgAyfI

Back in the early nineties the New York City Board of Education introduced the Children of the Rainbow curriculum, out of the 443 pages three pages dealt with teaching about “gays and lesbians” – the firestorm that erupted led to the firing of Chancellor Joseph Fernandez.  – Has the world changed in twenty-five years?  Could the term “culturally responsive pedagogy” create a firestorm?

Some aver the term is meaningless and detrimental to the education of the neediest students and argue for highly specific approaches, for example, ED Hirsch’s Core Knowledge and point to solid research result  See The NYC Core Knowledge Early Literacy Pilot here.

What do you think?

The Suspension Conundrum: Do Suspensions Improve Behavior and Academic Outcomes for All Students or, a Pipeline to Dropping Out and Prison?

A few weeks after the election of de Blasio in 2013 I dropped by the transition tent to listen to a panel of community activists talk education. The panel trashed the Department of Education over excessive numbers of student suspensions, for the panelists, evidence that the “school to prison pipeline” was alive and well.

(Read here, here  and here).

The data is clear, students who are suspended in the 4th grade are likely not to graduate high school and the more frequent the suspensions the more likely the student will enter the criminal justice system.

As a reaction school districts have sharply curtailed the numbers of suspensions, especially in urban school systems.

Twenty-seven states have revised their laws to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline, and more than 50 of America’s largest school districts, serving more than 6.35 million students, have implemented discipline reforms. From 2011–12 to 2013–14, the number of suspensions nationwide fell by nearly 20%.

Is there a downside to reducing suspensions?

Advocates of discipline reform claim that a suspension may have negative effects on the student being disciplined. Critics are concerned that lax discipline may lead to more disruptive behavior, disrupting classrooms and harming students who want to learn.

A just-released report from the Manhattan Institute (“School Discipline Reform and Disorder: Evidence from New York City Public School, 2012 – 2016 “) takes a deep dive into the suspension and school climate data.

The report concludes,

[School discipline] deteriorated rapidly under de Blasio’s. Specifically, teachers report [note: using school survey data] less order and discipline, and students report less mutual respect among their peers, as well as more violence, drug and alcohol use, and gang activity. There was also a significant differential racial impact: nonelementary schools where more than 90% of students were minorities experienced the worst shift in school climate under the de Blasio reform.

Supporters of the regulations limiting suspensions argue that new approaches, restorative justice and, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports  are in the beginning phases of implementation, it will take a number of years to train school staffs and assess the effectiveness.

What is missing from the debate are the underlying questions:

* Are students actually exhibiting behaviors that are inappropriate in school settings, and, if so, why?

* Is the failure of teachers to address these behaviors the cause of the suspensions? Is the preparation of school leaders/teachers inadequate? Are school leaders/teachers culturally and racially insensitive?

* Do suspensions modify the behavior of the students who are suspended?

* Do suspensions improve the outcomes for the remainder of the students in the classes?

and a core question,

Why do schools with similar populations have such different rates of suspension?  Are we preparing and selecting the “right” school leaders?

I was visiting a middle school in community (in)famous for handgun violence. One school was on the first two floors and another on the top floor. As I walked up the stairs it was sadly clear that the school on the lower floors was out-of-control. The school on the top floor was totally in order. Same kids from the same community, different school leaders with different skill sets and different outcomes.

A campus high school, four schools in a building, had a long history of school suspensions. A since retired head of school safety looked over the data and explained how to construct a school safety grid. We mapped the “precipitating event” and time of the “event” on a map of the school. It was fascinating!!  The “precipitating events” took place in and around the student cafeteria and in the hallways. The hallway events were clustered near classrooms with newer and/or less effective teachers.  More supervision in the cafeteria and more help for targeted teachers led to a more orderly school, at least , for a while.

The key to reducing suspension are the effectiveness of the school leaders and the classroom teachers. Should Lisa Delpit (““The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children,”) be a foundational text for every teacher preparation classroom, or, because it is the foundational text, is that the source of poorly prepared teachers?

Will increasing the numbers of black teachers improve outcomes and reduce suspensions of black students? and, if so, why? (Read research findings here)

…there is compelling evidence that when students have a teacher of the same race, they tend to learn more at school (see “The Race Connection,” research, Spring 2004).

Those findings raise a parallel question: Does having a teacher of the same race make it more or less likely that students are subject to exclusionary school discipline?

David Kirkland, A Search Past Silence: The Literacy of Young Black Men (Teachers College Press, 2013)

… argues that educators need to understand the social worlds of African-American males to break the school-to-prison pipeline cycle.  The book asks the education community to listen to the voices of black youth to better understand what it means to be literate in a multicultural, democratic society.

Once again, is the source of the “problem” the failure to properly prepare teachers and school leaders?

If we expect student behavior to improve we must modify our behaviors. Suspension is a last resort, yes, occasionally the “street” does win. Schools reflect the cultures of their communities. The role of a school is to convince students to become “bi-cultural,” to accept that the culture of the street is not acceptable in a school setting. Teachers have argued that a suspension may “straighten out” a kid, and, is a lesson for the other kids: misbehave and you’ll be next to be suspended.  Does zero tolerance or suspensions improve outcomes for the remainder of the class?

The most common place for pickpockets to ply there trade was at the hangings of pickpockets. The area of deterrence theory may be applicable to the question of school discipline “The Deterrence Hypothesis and Picking Pockets at the Pickpocket’s Hanging,”

This study examines the premise that criminals make informed and calculated decisions. The findings suggest that 76% of active criminals and 89% of the most violent criminals either perceive no risk of apprehension or are incognizant of the likely punishments for their crimes.

Studying behaviors of principals in low suspension schools in high suspensions districts is a place to begin. Unfortunately school district leadership usually looks for the quick fix, the “program” that will “fix” the problem. I have no objection to restorative practices or PBIS, I have rarely seen a program that fixes such a deep-seated issue. “Turning off the faucet,” changing the regs to limit suspensions, does not resolve the underlying issue. Harsh and rigid suspension rules do not  appear to impact the suspended student or the remainder of the students.

Some principals and teachers have figured this out, maybe we should find them and listen to them.