Voices in Education

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Reculturing Schools for Gender Equity The COVID-19 crisis has created an unexpected window of opportunity in education. Out of necessity, families and educators are increasingly willing to reimagine schooling: where learning can take place, what content to include, and how to deliver instruction. Convention is being replaced with improvisation and innovation. One convention that merits examination is how gender shapes and is shaped by our school structures and educational practices. Our K–12 schools lag behind new knowledge about gender identity and expression. Moving forward, schools need to challenge binary notions of gender, affirm transgender and gender-expansive youth, and reculture K–12 schools for gender equity.
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The Critical Role of Science Teaching and Learning during COVID-19: How Teacher Educators Can Support Science Teachers Learning and Preparation in These Times This year we have seen science being made publicly and in real-time as a result of the current COVID pandemic. Science teachers and science teaching have never been more important and urgent as they are in this era of COVID, when our everyday, personal, and family decisions about safety—how to survive and attempt to engage in daily tasks—require understanding and weighing of scientific evidence. How do we know which mask is most appropriate? How do we determine when our children can safely return to school? If a vaccine is developed, how do you choose if you would take it? As our understanding of the virus has changed, the recommendations around our activities have shifted over time. Understanding how scientists produce knowledge is critical for shaping how we learn science, most especially in the context of making decisions about human health in relationship to novel diseases or viruses.
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Equity Ethic: As STEM Fields Become More Racially Diverse, New Values Emerge Dr. Manu Platt, a Black engineering professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has a world-class biomedical engineering lab, yet he spends countless hours designing and running after-school and summer internship programs for Black high school students. At the University of Texas at San Antonio, Dr. María G. Arreguín-Anderson leads a team of researchers and teacher educators who specialize in culturally responsive and critical STEM education to support the growing number of Hispanic educators who teach computer science to K-12 students. Scientist B.K. Goldtooth of the Navajo Nation joined members of other tribal groups—Alaska Natives and Hawaiian Natives, Canadian Natives, and Native youth—at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991 and helped to shape its landmark Principles of Environmental Justice. Goldtooth and other Indigenous peoples were the earliest and some of the most effective US environmental justice activists, understanding that their movement would strengthen global efforts to eliminate environmental racism.
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How COVID-19 Laid Bare the Strengths and Weaknesses of Schools Early in the pandemic it became clear that students from high-income families were doing much better with remote schooling than students from low-income families. Schools in wealthy communities could successfully launch live instruction online because their students already had access to computers, the internet, and parents who could oversee instruction while working from home. However, in low-income communities, many—often most—families lacked devices, reliable internet connections, and parents whose employers allowed them to work remotely. The digital divide was, in fact, very real.
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“We Are the Forgotten of the Forgottens”: The Effects of Charter School Reform on Public School Teachers In 1997, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed legislature that paved the way for the charter school movement. The supporters of charter schools include current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who has made millions from school privatization, as well as low-income Black and Latinx families, who are searching for better educational opportunities for their children. Charter schools are one of the few educational reforms that bring people together across class, politics, and race.
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On Centering Teacher Voice The largest school district in the United States closed its school buildings on March 23 in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. New York City’s 1.1 million children and 75,000 teachers left their classrooms, gyms, cafeterias, auditoriums, schoolyards, stairwells, hallways, desks, rugs, and chairs and went home, reconnecting in the digital spaces of Zoom, Google Classroom, and Hangouts. Teachers had three days to prepare for this transition to remote teaching and learning, a transition that went as well—or as poorly—as could be expected within a deeply segregated and inequitable school system. At the close of the school year, the NYCDOE sent out a survey to parents and students asking about their feelings and preferences on reopening school buildings and resuming in-person learning, with 301,000 parents and 117,000 students responding. The teachers were not asked.
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Designing Educational Gateways to a New Democracy Through Speculative Civic Literacies As the coronavirus pandemic has upended lives and societal structures around the world, the thoughts of many have begun turning toward what life could (and should) look like on the other side of this crisis. In a widely circulated article, “The Pandemic is a Portal,” author Arundhati Roy warned against the yearning for a return to a “normal” characterized by social inequity and environmental degradation. Instead, Roy suggests that the virus has opened a “gateway between one world and the next,” giving humanity the opportunity to imagine alternative forms of shared existence.
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Student Voices Needed in COVID-19 Crisis The voices of students of color from low-income communities are needed now more than ever as we address the crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Young people are raising issues that have been largely ignored, like the mental health crisis facing students isolated at home. They are also organizing to support each other when systems fail and preparing to take advantage of opportunities the crisis might open up for more radical change.
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School Buildings – The Last Domino: It’s Time for Learning Spaces to Catch Up In the debate about reopening schools, everyone seems to agree about one thing: bringing children back to their physical school setting is important. A new study published by MIT’s Teaching Systems Lab titled Imagining September notes, “One of the most important insights from school closures is the incredible importance of physical school buildings to the work of schools.” The study goes on to quote a district leader who said, “building time will be ‘gold.’”
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Engaging Students in Digital Learning With the almost universal transition to digital and remote learning in response to COVID-19, parents, caregivers, and teachers are all asking the same question: “How can I engage my students in learning on virtual platforms?” As decades of research into the digital divide have illustrated, and COVID-19 has laid bare, there are very real structural barriers affecting how students engage in digital learning. Schools, districts, and states should marshal intensive efforts to bring about equitable access to the tools for digital learning—devices, high speed internet, and programs—and for high-quality digital instruction.
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