Archive for the ‘Equity’ Category

What We’re Reading: How a Broken Justice System Harms Children

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What We're Reading
The education world is facing an equity crisis. Students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners (to name a few) remain underserved by our current system. While many fight for solutions, gaps in our collective knowledge and understanding of the complexities around educational inequity linger.

Each month, the Rodel team will share some thoughts on a book, essay, article, or video related to equity in education with the hope that we will challenge both ourselves and others to think more inclusively about education reform.

 

What I’m Reading: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

 

While studying as an undergraduate, I interned with the Delaware Center of Justice and became interested in law and public policy. Most of the work focused on the criminal justice system and those most affected by incarceration—disproportionately, African Americans. I put together briefs that detailed the Fair Sentencing Act and how it interacted with mandatory minimum sentencing. It opened my eyes to a justice system wrought with unfairness and suggestions of systemic racial bias.

 

Just Mercy serves as a narrative portrait of Bryan Stevenson’s time spent representing Walter McMillian in his capital punishment case: one that ended with exoneration for a crime he did not commit after a fifth appeal attempt brought light to police coercion, witness perjury, lack of evidence, and a controversial usage of the Alabama practice of “judge override.”

 

What does this have to do with schooling? The book raises questions of intervention and the strain of racial injustice in America.

 

When children come from a broken home or violent neighborhood—or one impacted by incarceration—there is a greater likelihood for trauma to persist, especially when untreated. The role of a school is critical in supporting these students and in responding constructively to crises that affect vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, when a school is unequipped to manage these scenarios, they can end up aggravating the issue further. It’s not uncommon for administrators and educators to actually cause distress when they do not meet a student at their level.

 

This book broadens the conversation of preventative measures, resources, training and the impact of legal remedy. However, its most distinct service is as a mirror. Why do we accept a justice system that harms our most at-risk citizens—the people it was designed to help?

 

For more information about Stevenson’s work, visit Equal Justice Initiative.

What We’re Reading: Does SEL Work for Students of Color?

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What We're Reading
The education world is facing an equity crisis. Students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners (to name a few) remain underserved by our current system. While many fight for solutions, gaps in our collective knowledge and understanding of the complexities around educational inequity linger.

Each month, the Rodel team will share some thoughts on a book, essay, article, or video related to equity in education with the hope that we will challenge both ourselves and others to think more inclusively about education reform.

 

What I’m Reading:  Is Social and Emotional Learning Really Going to Work for Students of Color? (Dena Simmons, EdWeek)

I’ve read a lot about social and emotional learning lately: SEL research, SEL policy, SEL best practices, SEL webinars—you name it. Much of what I come across re-hashes some version of familiar talking points—what students need to know to be socially and emotionally competent, best practices when it comes to setting standards, or engaging districts in implementing SEL programs.

But here, educator and researcher Dena Simmons takes us back to a fundamental question about SEL. Is it going to work for students of color? In all the work we do to advance the education system for “all students,” how often do we stop and ask ourselves if our solutions are going to work for those most in need? This article challenged me to reconsider basic questions about not only SEL, but in all our collective work in education.

Most poignantly, however, Simmons makes me ask: How can we make sure SEL isn’t further perpetuating educational inequities for students of color?

A Reminder from MLK

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Every year on this weekend, I try to read Martin Luther King Jr’s letter from Birmingham jail.  It’s a fairly long letter that he wrote while sitting in his jail cell to the Christian and Jewish clergy that opposed his approach to civil disobedience.

 

The whole letter, written in 1963, nine years after Brown v. Board of Education (1954), is powerful, but as I think of the injustices that our most needy children face throughout this state, and Wilmington in particular, I reflect on what I am not doing to help.  This passage, makes me feel particularly uncomfortable.

 

“…I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

 

If you haven’t read it in a while, it’s worth re-reading.

 

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