Students of Color and the Achievement Gap
Eliminating the achievement gap for students of color has been a priority at both the federal and state levels. Issues of cultural relevance, rigor, and belonging are just a few that educators must consider when creating and implementing lessons. On this page you will find an ever-growing archive of articles, tools, and resources focused on effectively teaching these students.

According to EdWeek, 62 big-city school systems have pledged support to President Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative dedicated to improving academic outcomes for African-American and Latino males.1 But keeping this pledge will require educators, throughout Michigan and across the nation, to address the often uncomfortable issues around how they feel about and deal with young males of color. It also means moving beyond negative stereotypes and preconceptions. According to Dr. Darron T. Smith, "Negative representations of African-American males are readily visible and conveyed to the public through the news, film, music videos, reality television and other programming and forms of media."2

Our failure to engage in this most important dialogue about race, racism, power... significantly limits the manner in which various individuals can talk about their experiences [and] also prevents us from hearing and empathizing with the pain, frustration, and deep seated anger... particularly our young people, because they have been told that race is unimportant.

- Tyrone Howard, 2008.

In a previous article, I asked educators to consider the stories they could tell using culturally-situated data dialogues. Here I return to the significance of centering culture in data dialogues, because discussions about student academic performance and overall development are inadequate and potentially harmful when excluding explicit examination of how issues of race, ethnicity, gender, language, and social class shape instruction and learning outcomes. Oftentimes students who have been historically disenfranchised by the educational system are the subgroups of focus for academic intervention (e.g., low-income students, boys of color, English Language Learners). Using data dialogues to better understand how culture mediates school leadership, parent engagement, teacher instruction, and student learning can result in more focused goal-setting for school improvement plans and identification of expectations that are culturally relevant and responsive.

cultural proficiency journeyBook Author: Campbell Jones et al. (2010)

The diversity in today's schools is continually increasing and educators are being called upon to teach every child, regardless of race, class, gender, disability, or other indicators of difference. This raises questions such as:

  • What are the most effective instructional techniques needed to educate students from diverse backgrounds?
  • What levels of cultural knowledge do teachers and leaders need to educate children from diverse backgrounds?
  • And in what ways can schools fulfill their responsibility to educate every child? (p. iv)

When Dorinda Carter Andrews was a high school teacher, she was her own worst critic about how issues of culture, power and privilege impacted her teaching. She devoted time and energy toward reflective practice and trained to be a more effective multicultural educator. Now an associate professor at Michigan State University (MSU), Carter Andrews shared in last month’s MI Toolkit article strategies to become a more effective multicultural educator which, she says, is “not an option but a must” to serve all student demographics.

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