Education

Want To Address Teachers' Biases? First, Talk About Race

Aug 12, 2016

As Ayana Coles gazes at the 20 teachers gathered in her classroom, she knows the conversation could get uncomfortable. And she's prepared.

"We are going to experience discomfort — well, we may or may not experience it — but if we have it that's OK," says Coles, a third-grade teacher at Eagle Creek Elementary School in Indianapolis.

Coles is black, one of just four teachers of color among Eagle Creek Elementary's 37 staff. Throughout last year she gathered co-workers in her classroom for after-school discussions about race.

I was reporting recently on the challenges the DIY "maker movement" faces as it moves into more classrooms, when I flipped through a copy of new book, The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them. It's based on a popular course at Stanford University.

Hmm, M is for Making.

A group of recent studies on technology in education, across a wide range of real-world settings, have come up far short of a ringing endorsement.

The studies include research on K-12 schools and higher ed, both blended learning and online, and show results ranging from mixed to negative. A deeper look into these reports gives a sense that, even as computers become ubiquitous in classrooms, there's a lot we still don't know — or at least that we're not doing to make them effective tools for learning.

First, a quick overview of the studies and their results:

Macmillan Publishers

Most people in Milwaukee know Charlie Sykes as a leading voice in conservative talk radio.

Sykes' daily program broadcast out of WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee has become a place for high-profile guests and news-making conversations.

But the AM host has also made a name for himself as an author. He has penned eight books, many on the topic of education. 

Rachel Morello

Over the years, parents and educators have touted the benefits of arts programming in schools.

Visual arts, music, dance and theatre have long been promoted as creative outlets for kids during what might otherwise be considered a fairly routine schedule of classes: math, English, science, social studies.

But many artists and educators in Milwaukee see things a different way. They say it’s all about integrating the arts into those other subjects, to make the school day one big lesson and help kids make connections in their learning lives.

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Several of the nation's most prestigious universities were sued yesterday by their own employees. MIT, Yale and NYU are facing class-action lawsuits over their retirement plans. Here's NPR's Chris Arnold.

For a moment, let's pretend.

That everything you know about America's public education system — the bitter politics and arcane funding policies, the rules and countless reasons our schools work (or don't) the way they do — is suddenly negotiable.

Pretend the obstacles to change have melted like butter on hot blacktop.

Now ask yourself: What could — and should — we do differently?

If colleges are a hunting ground, as they've been called, for sexual predators, advocates say that high schools are the breeding ground — and that any solution must start there. They say efforts at college are too little, too late.

Mayte Lara Ibarra and Larissa Martinez had just finished their senior year of high school when they each decided to go public with their immigration status. Both Texas students came to the U.S. illegally, and they didn't want to keep that fact a secret any longer.

Ibarra identified herself on Twitter as one of the 65,000 undocumented youth who graduate high school in the U.S. Martinez revealed her status in the commencement speech she delivered at graduation.

Their actions sparked support and pointed criticism. That was more than a month ago.

At first glance, it looks like an ordinary gym class at a public school in Yibin, a city of about a million people in southwest China's Sichuan province.

But then you notice that the students are wearing signs: "Nitrate," "Sulfate," "Phosphate." In their game of tag, they chase the classmates they need to start a chemical reaction.

This is how gym and chemistry classes are combined at the Cold Water Well Middle School. Upstairs, in a combined history and math class, students use statistics to find patterns in the rise and fall of nations.

To be human is to be constantly at war between our lofty goals and our immediate impulses.

Future Me wants me to run five miles. Right Now Me wants a cookie.

Unfortunately, that totally understandable tendency is one factor that can stop people from completing their education:

  • Ninety-three percent of high school seniors say they intend to go to college, but 1 in 10 of those never apply.
  • Between 10 and 15 percent of those who are admitted never register for classes.
WavebreakmediaMicro / Fotolia

With less than one month left until school starts, kids will soon trade in their play-dates for pencils, and get back to the lessons they left for summer vacation.

The big question for teachers: how much review will their students need at first? Educators often wrangle with the "summer slide," varying degrees of academic regression students face upon returning to school, after taking a three-month break from regular daily instruction.

In a post a few weeks back, Tania Lombrozo drew attention to research showing that students using laptops and other digital devices in the college classroom are less likely to perform as well as students not using them.

Seven teenagers stand in the courtyard of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, dressed in costumes and surrounded by onlookers. Some of the characters they play are immediately recognizable — Malcolm X, Albert Einstein — and others don't register until they announce their names.

"We stand before you as a reflection of community," the group announces in unison.

One after another, they speak up: "As reminders of social activists." "Some of us are leaders." "Or presidents." Then, together again: "All of us are citizens."

The field of educational technology is mourning a visionary whose work was considered 50 years ahead of its time.

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