Tag Archives: Equity

This is What Segregation Looks Like, and How Heinemann Fellow Dr. Kim Parker is Working to Change It

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I teach at Cambridge Rindge and Latin high school. Rindge sits in the shadow of Harvard University—one of the best institutions for higher learning in the world. Yet, despite many who insist that my school’s diversity and opportunity are afforded to all students, I know otherwise. Here, students begin the ninth grade on one of two tracks: the (misnamed) College Prep track or the Honors track. The College Prep (CP) track (or “Colored People” track as some students unofficially call it) serves students of color, students with disabilities, students of lower socioeconomic class, and others. The Honors track tends to include students who are white, middle or upper class, and who have parents who are actively involved in their educations.

Students experience education differently depending on their track designation.

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Alfie Kohn: What Kind of Learners Do We Want Our Children to Be? [Video]

Recently, Tom Newkirk joined Alfie Kohn to talk about Kohn’s new book, Schooling Beyond Measure and Other Unorthodox Essays About Education. In today’s clip, they discuss enthusiasm for learning, intrinsic motivation, and if current education policies and practices actually support this.

Watch the entire clip:

Alfie Kohn’s new book, Schooling Beyond Measure, is a collection of provocative and insightful essays that address big-picture policy issues as well as small scale classroom interactions. In it, he looks carefully at research about such topics as homework, play, the supposed benefits of practice, parent involvement in education, the alleged inferiority of U.S. schools relative to those in other countries, and summer learning loss—discovering in each case that what we've been led to believe doesn't always match what the studies actually say.

Click here to learn more about Schooling Beyond Measure and to read a sample from the book. Follow Alfie Kohn on Twitter @alfiekohn or visit his web site at AlfieKohn.org.

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​Alfie Kohn has been described in Time magazine as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores.” The author of over a dozen books, he has helped shape the thinking of educators and parents for over two decades. Kohn has been featured on hundreds of TV and radio programs, including the “Today” show and “Oprah”; he has been profiled in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, while his work has been described and debated in many other leading publications.

Alfie Kohn: Testing Does Not Promote Equity [Video]

Recently, Tom Newkirk joined Alfie Kohn to talk about Kohn’s new book, Schooling Beyond Measure and Other Unorthodox Essays About Education. In today’s clip, Kohn talks about the flawed belief that the standards and testing movement is essential for helping the most disadvantaged students in our country. Rather, he argues, this focus on test scores does even greater harm to the schools and students that have the greatest need.

Watch the entire clip:

Alfie Kohn’s new book, Schooling Beyond Measure, is a collection of provocative and insightful essays that address big-picture policy issues as well as small scale classroom interactions. In it, he looks carefully at research about such topics as homework, play, the supposed benefits of practice, parent involvement in education, the alleged inferiority of U.S. schools relative to those in other countries, and summer learning loss—discovering in each case that what we've been led to believe doesn't always match what the studies actually say.

Click here to learn more about Schooling Beyond Measure and to read a sample from the book. Follow Alfie Kohn on Twitter @alfiekohn or visit his web site at AlfieKohn.org.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

​Alfie Kohn has been described in Time magazine as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores.” The author of over a dozen books, he has helped shape the thinking of educators and parents for over two decades. Kohn has been featured on hundreds of TV and radio programs, including the “Today” show and “Oprah”; he has been profiled in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, while his work has been described and debated in many other leading publications.

The Heinemann Fellows: Lisa Birno on Purposeful Use of Talk

Lisa Birno is a Heinemann Fellow with the 2014–2016 class, and has been an educator for 27 years. In today's post, she discusses her action research as it relates to the purposeful use of talk in classroom equity.

by Lisa Birno

He was that kid. The kid who spent too much time out of the room, too much time with his head on his desk, too much time avoiding anything and everything. The kid with a history of too much time spent living down to his perceived low expectations.

But today he spoke.

“It’s obvious—she’s afraid of what they’ll think.” It was a simple statement. But it was accurate. It was insightful. And it came from a child who, up until that moment, had rarely participated in a class discussion. Cautiously, I asked him to explain his thinking.

“It said she was hesitant and she was thinking about the other girls,” he replied, referring to the text. “That’s what you do when you’re worried about what they’ll think.”

Other students began snapping their fingers to agree with what he said. I wanted to bottle the moment. A child who struggled in many ways was suddenly providing insight for the class.

I first became interested in the purposeful use of talk as a vehicle for thinking and learning when after years in the classroom teaching primary and intermediate grades, I became an elementary reading specialist teaching struggling readers. Little did I know how much these students would teach me.

It didn’t take long to understand a bit about what it feels like to be called a struggling reader. I learned that interventions don’t reveal our strengths. I learned that the way teachers view children is powerful—and potentially damaging. I learned that the person who really needed to learn was me.

For the next six years I was a reading specialist in my suburban school district. Our demographics changed over this period. We had more kids of color, more second language kids, more diversity in our population, and it brought richness to our community. It also brought challenge. This richness meant that our differences were more noticeable. It was clear now that not every child learned the same way. I needed to find new ways to reach my students.

I realized that the purposeful use of talk unlocked many of the barriers my students faced.

As a district we began exploring how better to meet the needs of our diverse community, but it was a wise mentor who pointed me toward the purposeful use of talk. She helped me see that talk is the foundation of literacy. I began to read about accountable talk: Peter Johnston, Maria Nichols, Ellin Keene, all helped me see clearly what James Britton described: “Reading and writing float on a sea of talk.” As I continued working with struggling readers, my beliefs shifted. I saw that these readers are often still struggling simply because we haven’t figured out the best way to teach them. It was humbling to say the least.

I realized that the purposeful use of talk unlocked many of the barriers my students faced. I saw that talk didn’t just level the playing field for my struggling students. When we used talk effectively, even the highest-achieving students benefited.

Budget cuts and a changing administration prompted me to head back to the classroom. It was time to apply what I’d learned. I was excited to teach sixth graders in an elementary building that was child-centered. The richness I valued was reflected in my class: twenty-eight kids from widely varying backgrounds—different languages, races, experiences. Although I worked to incorporate the purposeful use of talk into my classroom, it didn’t happen overnight. But every time we achieved it, there was another glimpse, another small moment when everyone benefited and we were truly a learning community—building our collective understanding, engaging in our work. It left me eager for more.

This ultimately led to an action research question as a Heinemann Fellow. At our first Heinemann meeting in June of 2014 we listed problems in our practice. Reflecting on my year, I zeroed in on the things I worried about: meeting the needs of all my students; effectively teaching the purposeful use of talk; finding a way to help all students be important contributors to our class; finding the gifts in each child; and ensuring every child achieves at high levels. As I examined the list, I thought back to the small glimpses throughout the past year. These glimpses were the moments I wanted to extend, when the voices we didn’t always expect to lead us did.

And so my journey as a Heinemann Fellow begins. I want to sustain these glimpses. I want to strive for those least-empowered children to join the rest, elevating our collective intelligence. I want to know what instructional strategies help increase equity and engagement through the purposeful use of talk. I want every child to see just how important—and brilliant—she or he really is.

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Lisa Birno is a sixth grade teacher with Eden Prairie Public Schools in Minnesota and a member of the 2014–2016 class of Heinemann Fellows. Her action research will focus on strategies that promote equitable and engaged talk in a Midwestern, suburban sixth grade classroom.

Please visit the Heinemann Fellows page to learn more.