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.

murphyBook Author: Joseph Murphy and Daniela Torre (2012)

Following up on previous work on school improvement that stresses the importance of academic press and school culture (Murphy, 2010), Murphy and Torre's Creating Productive Cultures in Schools illustrates the role of leadership and community in the pursuit of strengthened school culture. This book starts with the characterization of a model for building a personalized community within and around schools that emphasizes a leadership engine that both overcomes liabilities and builds on assets. The book then turns to practices of collaboration in professional culture and analyzes successful frameworks and models for creating communities of teacher professionals. For readers, Murphy and Torre split attention between the "'what'— ingredients that define professional learning culture" (p. viii) and the 'how'—dimensions of capital (knowledge and cultural) that deepen professional norms and attitudes (Murphy and Torre, 2014).

When it comes to closing the achievement gap for any group of students, we know that a focused and targeted professional learning agenda is a critical feature of the effort. How we tackle this agenda is based, in part, on a thorough understanding of current student performance as well as a deep understanding of our own personal and systemic strengths, skills, and challenges. Reflections on these variables can yield insight into professional learning priorities and strategies.

“The key person in the learning equation is the student.” - 

Murphy, J. & Torre, D. (2014)1  

As the summer (or at least part of July) offers a brief respite from the anticipated and unanticipated events of a school year, we hopefully can take time to reflect on the past year in anticipation of the upcoming school year.  With a lens on students with IEPs, there are many variables that are impacted by our leadership and make significant differences in outcomes for these students. Academic learning, social learning, increasing self-confidence, gaining a sense of one’s own agency, are critical components (among others) of a growing portfolio of personal capital for students.

"Opportunity to learn" as a concept, policy framework and strategic discussion starter has been part of our public education landscape for over two decades (or more). A little over a year ago, the U.S. Department of Education released the report of the Commission on Equity and Excellence in Education. In the forward to the report, Congressman Mike Honda (CA) stated: "This game-changing report embraces the urgent truth in education reform: that parity is not equity. The report commits to a transformative vision on how local, state and federal governments can, and should, wield power to ensure excellence in education all of America's children." As a policy-influencing document, the report is all about assuring equity in opportunity to learn..

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