The United States Are Microcosms Of Society Education Essay

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Introduction

Classrooms across the United States are microcosms of society. The faces in classrooms today reflect the changing demographics of the communities in which the schools are located. Today, schools are witnesses to the rapid changes in student demographics, in particular, the growth of Hispanic students in classrooms throughout the United States (KewalRamani, Gilbertson, Fox, & Provasnik, 2007). With rapid changes in demographics, come challenges and issues, in addition to other challenges which schools are trying to meet.

Educators face many challenges in public schools today. District leaders, campus leaders, and teachers must find ways to address such issues as (1) planning and delivering standards-based instruction, (2) meeting the requirements of federal and state accountability systems, (3) doing more with less resources, (4) finding, hiring, and keeping highly qualified teachers, (5) maintaining safe and drug-free learning environments, (6) ensuring all high school graduates are college or career ready, (7) reducing the dropout rates, (8) designing , implementing , and evaluating special programs for struggling learners and academically advanced learners, (9) providing a coherent sequence of courses at the secondary level, (10) incorporating federal, state, or local mandated initiatives, (11) establishing working partnerships with families and communities, and (12) finding ways to address other sociopolitical and sociocultural factors affecting their schools (Conchas, 2009; McNutly, 2009; Nelson, Palonsky, & McCarthy, 2007). Educators must find ways to design, implement, and evaluate instruction and programs for the culturally diverse and language minority students, who now sit in their classrooms, as well (Gay, 2000). This particular challenge has plagued public schools for decades (Editorial Projects in Educational Research Center, EPERC, 2008; National Education Association, NEA, 2007).

From its inception, public education has been considered a means to achieve social, political, and economic benefits. Horace Mann referred to public education as the "great equalizer" ( Alexander & Alexander, ). He and others like him viewed public education as a way for students and families to achieve the aforementioned benefits. But, one must step back and reflect on the history of public education in this country. For whom were the first public schools designed? Who were the children? Which sociocultural groups did they represent? What were the intentions of the public schools who did educate students who did not represent the mainstream cultural group? As individuals peruse the student achievement data, graduation data, dropout data, retention data, suspension and expulsion data, school to prison data, disproportionate representation of cultural and ethnic groups in special program data, college retention rates, and such, there are obvious racial and ethnic disparities and gaps which result in socioeconomic gaps, employment gaps, political gaps, health gaps, and others (____). From the data, one may conclude that the "great equalizer" has not delivered on its promise. However, schools are designed to get the results they get. McNutly (2009) stated that schools have behaved their way into their current situation and schools can behave their way out of it. There are schools meeting the educational and non-educational needs of all students, including culturally and linguistically diverse student groups. Such schools are not only effective but, culturally responsive (Gay, 2000).

I posit that authentically effective schools are culturally responsive schools. The schools are designed to meet the educational needs of the students in their classrooms. The leadership and teachers demonstrate a strong belief that all students in their charge can be successful. These educators collaboratively work with each other, students, and families. I, also posit that the work of theses culturally responsive and effective schools can be replicated. Becoming an effective and culturally responsive school involves a change process that has an impact on every stakeholder at every level in the system (Hall and Hord, 2006). To better understand the position I take, I present a review of the literature. I will share the conceptual framework which guides my study. As I conducted the review of the literature, I did so with the help of four guiding questions adapted from the work by McCarthy (_). McCarthy states that if educators can answer four questions as they plan and deliver instruction, Why, What, How and What if, all learning styles in classrooms will be addressed. I borrowed from McCarthy's work to develop four questions to help me conduct a comprehensive study of effective and culturally responsive schools, in particular, those schools now faced with educating one of largest and fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States and their classrooms-the Hispanic student population (KewalRamani, et. al, 2007). The four guiding questions were: (1) Why is there a need for effective and culturally responsive schools, (2) What are the characteristics of effective and culturally responsive schools, (3) How do schools become effective and culturally responsive?, and (4) What are effective and culturally responsive instructional practices?.

The intent of the literature review is to answer the four guiding questions. In addition, the review includes a limited study of three supporting theories and concepts found in the literature on racially and ethnically diverse students in schools. The three supporting theories are: (a) critical race theory, (b) cultural reproduction theory, and (c) the deficit model. A review of the current context and trends about racially and ethnically diverse students groups in schools will follow. A review of trends and the current context will provide a background to the racial and ethnic disparities in schools today. The following background information will include: (a) the current population data trends, (b) current disparities of educational outcomes along cultural and linguistic diversity lines, (c) an explanation of the anchoring idea by which information is filtered, effective and culturally responsive schools.

Theoretical and Conceptual Framework

Public schools have been struggling with the issue of racial and ethnic disparities in educational outcomes such as student performance, graduation rates, dropout rates, suspension and expulsion rates, disproportionate representation of cultural groups in special programs, and such for some time (NEA, 2007). Scholars (Payne, ) have attempted to explain the disparities along socioeconomic lines. While the lack of resources does have an impact on student achievement, race matters. Gosa and Alexander (2008) found disparities between White students and African-American students from affluent families, thus reinforcing race does matter.

Students come to school with different lived experiences, knowledge, skills, perceptions, and needs (Tyler, Uqdah, Dillihunt, Besatty-Hazelbaker, Conner, Gadson . . . & Stevens, 2008). Students come from different environments and enter school with racial disparities that exist regarding school readiness, over which schools have little to no control (Parret & Barr, 2009). However, racial disparities continue and widen over time in schools. Several scholars posit that it is the schools' structures, policies, procedures, practices, engrained perspectives, beliefs, and values that reinforce and promote racial disparities in educational outcomes (Artiles & Bal, 2009; Gosa & Alexander, 2007, Jay 2003, Ladson-Billings and Tate, 1995). Cultural clashes between school and home, test bias, system bias, negative and positive stereotypical perspectives, poverty, language differences, lack of relational trust, and other sociocultural, sociohistorical, and sociopolitical factors play a critical role in the current racial and ethnic disparities in educational outcomes in our public schools (Skiba, 2009; Salend & Garrick-Duhaney, 2005). Mickelson (2003) stated that educational systems were responsible for the growing racial disparities in educational outcomes and that the disparities widen with each year, cultural minority students attended school. Scholars have tried to explain the existing racial and ethnic disparities in educational outcomes using various theoretical and conceptual frameworks, such as the Critical Race Theory, Cultural Reproduction Theory, and the Deficit Model.

Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory as a tool. An individual's cultural identity is a fluid and dynamic social construct influenced by lived experiences, internal choices, and outside agents' perceptions of that identity (Fergus, 2009; Lee, 2008). Race and racism have shaped the history of the United States and its traditional social institutions (Yosso, 2005). Racism, however subtle, continues to impact social institutions, i.e., schools (Yosso). McNutly (2009) stated that is was not so much an issue of race as it was an issue of participation. Gosa and Alexander reported that race mattered in schools (2008). School contexts shape students' social and academic identities and expectations (Borrero, Yeh, Cruz, & Suda, 2012). Individuals in the position of social power define who belongs and who does not, who represents the standardized norm and who does not, and who is in and who is not (Artiles & Bal, 2008).

School is yet another place where students. . . face labels such as 'gifted,' having 'special needs,' and being 'at-risk,' when in fact, it is the institution itself that holds the power to enforce such labels (Bucholtz & Hall, 2004; Fine, 1992). These imposed categories further separate students into grouping of 'normal' and 'other.' Borrero, et al., p. 5.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) theorizes race (Ladson-Billings and Tate, 1995). CRT was first introduced as analytic tool in the justice system; CRT scholars used it as tool to identify and analyze processes in the judicial system (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Tate, 1997). CRT was introduced by Ladson-Billings and Tate as tool to identify and analyze inequities or equity traps (Linton ) in schools' policies, procedures, practices, and processes that keep cultural groups of students from participating and building social capital, political capital, and economic capital. Scholars can use a CRT lens to identify the what, why, and how (Yosso, 2005) and who, when examining the "ideology of racism" (Yosso, p. 74). It is through the CRT theoretical and analytical lens, that allow CRT scholars to examine, theorize, and challenge the ways racism influences schools and other social institutions (Yosso; Su, 2007).

The themes of CRT. CRT is framed by six themes (Su, 2007). The current themes are (1) race is a social construct which is historically embedded in United States society; (2) racism is common and deeply engrained in United States society and is accepted as normal; (3) color-blind equality reform serves to address grievous forms of racism to individuals but, not structural inequities; (4) United States society was built on the notion of property rights and Whiteness and White privilege are property rights protected by the government; (5) those in the position of power, Whites, are in favor of antiracism structural or policy reform as long as it benefits White privilege and not privilege is lost (interest convergence); and (6) the voice of those most impacted by racism and inequities serves an important purpose in addressing structural and policy inequities, as they share their experiential knowledge (Su).

Race and racism has been part of the history of the United States and its traditional social insitutions.

Cultural Reproduction Theory

Deficit Model

The Why of Effective and Culturally Responsive Schools

The What of Effective and Culturally Responsive Schools

The How of Effective and Culturally Responsive Schools

What are Culturally Responsive and Effective Instructional Practices

Conclusion

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