INSIGHTS FOR EQUITY
Equity in What We Teach Engages Students (March 2016)
By Mary Bussman, Equity Alliance MN, Equity Consultant, Professional Learning and Program Evaluation
The Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MnEEP) conference hosted several presenters who addressed the need to expand what we as teachers, leaders, and policy-makers are presenting students in the classroom.
Mr. Jose Lara described the process of expanding ethnic studies in the LA Unified district in the opening keynote address. He described that students become more engaged when they see themselves reflected in the stories of the classroom. They participate more fully when critical social issues are addressed or when the pedagogy involves them personally.
On the second day of the conference, Dr. Nolan Cabrera described the ongoing legal battle as educators fight for the right to teach ethnic studies in Tucson, Arizona (and all Arizona) public schools. Their ethnic studies program began with a few teachers including narratives, stories, critical thinking, and academically aligned history of Mexican Americans in their curriculum. Eventually, a Mexican American Studies cohort was developed so that student could take American history and American literature through this cohort. As Latino/Latina students engaged in the lessons, their graduation rates increased, more Latino/Latina students went on to college, and those students in the Mexican American Studies cohort outperformed their white peers overall.. It seemed like a tremendous success. However, the program was closed and legal battles are now in the ninth circuit court of appeals in San Francisco, CA.
Not only were these two advocates speaking about the need for ethnic studies, so too were EMID’s Youth Executive Board members in their Absent Narratives of the Civil Rights Movement! The youth engaged in this project because they didn’t see the stories of their ancestors told in the history or literature classes they attended. The Minnesota Humanities Center has an entire department devoted to telling Absent Narrative stories. (Go to their home page to access incredible resources: http://www.minnesotahumanities.org/absentnarratives).
Here in Minnesota, we have an incredible resource at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Keith Mayes, chair of the African and African American studies department, and colleagues have developed semester-long courses in African American history, Asian American history and Latin American history. Minneapolis Public Schools piloted the African American history course last year and found students to become very engaged in their learning.
The challenge for leaders in Minnesota is to start the conversation about how we can expand teacher knowledge to include history that is presently untold.
Tucson, AZ has shown that it can be done. Are we willing to start the conversation?
"Students become more engaged when they see themselves reflected in the stories of the classroom."