Using Equity Audits in the Classroom to Reach and Teach All Students

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Kathryn Bell McKenzie & Linda Skrla

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    Foreword

    ChristineSleeter

    I wish I had this book 20 years ago! At that time, after having learned to identify institutionalized patterns of discrimination in schools that can be changed, two colleagues and I tried to help teachers in four schools analyze their own schools and classrooms. We developed a package of data collection tools designed to guide their investigation into patterns such as race and class backgrounds of students in academic tracks or ability groups, race and gender representation in the curriculum, race/ gender patterns of interaction in classrooms, and gaps between teaching styles teachers used and those students preferred (Sleeter, 1992). For a year, teachers in the four schools gathered mountains of data.

    Gradually, however, two problems became apparent. First, the amount of data that had been gathered far exceeded the time teachers had to analyze it. My sense about what data were relevant had been guided by my experience conducting ethnographic studies in schools, and as a result, we far overshot what was manageable. Rather than helping teachers focus attention on a few key factors they could address, we overwhelmed them. Second, we realized that we lacked a process to help the teachers “make the familiar seem strange” so that they could think differently about problems they took for granted and ineffective “solutions” they were used to. As data they managed to analyze suggested patterns that we believed should be confronted, such as disproportionate disciplinary referrals of African American students, we realized that the teachers did not necessarily see themselves as able to address or responsible for addressing those patterns.

    In Using Equity Audits in the Classroom to Reach and Teach All Students, McKenzie and Skrla offer a clearly focused, highly usable set of tools that enable teachers to pinpoint and begin to address central equity problems in classrooms. McKenzie and Skrla are very well versed on the range of persistent inequities based on race, gender, language, and disability that are deeply embedded in the structures and practices of schooling. But they are also pragmatic change agents. The brilliance of this book is that, by beginning with the question of who is actively engaged in your classroom and who is not, and by identifying the evidence you are using to assess students' engagement, the authors make use of your professional knowledge and honor your ability to think through problems when guided in asking and reflecting on the right questions. In a sense, this book offers a tool for teachers that models forms of teaching that most contribute to student learning.

    Hattie's (2009) comprehensive meta-analysis of research evidence highlights the predominant influence of the teacher on student achievement. Specifically, teachers whose students achieve academically seek feedback from their students regarding what the students know and understand, and where they are confused and are making errors. Such teachers have a clear understanding of what they want students to learn and what learning looks like, and they can guide the students interactively, providing regular feedback. Using Equity Audits in the Classroom to Reach and Teach All Students zeroes in on a problem teachers care about—students they are not reaching. Although McKenzie and Skrla are not working personally with you, through this book they engage you in active investigation into your own practice, interacting with you along the way.

    To be sure, this book does not take on the wide range of inequities in schools and the wider society. School curricula, for example, are generally based on the worldview of members of the dominant society. Many students in urban classrooms come to school from communities that are systematically oppressed through racist housing patterns, an absence of good jobs, routine racial profiling, and ongoing violence (McCarthy, Crichlow, Dimitriadis, & Dolby, 2005). Despite these huge and persistent problems, however, McKenzie and Skrla challenge us to break the link between academic achievement and students' racial, gender, language, disability, and social class backgrounds. Breaking that link, in itself, matters greatly to students, and it is doable. I recall watching the same groups of students in a diverse, urban secondary school move from one classroom to the next, encountering markedly different experiences from one teacher to the next. While one teacher found most of the students unteachable and poorly behaved, the next teacher engaged the very same students in worthwhile academic learning. Teachers have power to facilitate academic learning among virtually all of their students. I greatly appreciate McKenzie and Skrla for not only believing this, but helping teachers become better at using that power.

    Reference
    Hattie, J. A. C. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of 800+ meta-analyses on achievement. New York: Routledge.
    McCarthy, C., Crichlow, W., Dimitriadis, G., & Dolby, N. (Eds.). (2005). Race, identity, and representation in education (
    2nd ed
    ). New York: Routledge.
    Sleeter, C. E. (1992). Restructuring schools for multicultural education. Journal of Teacher Education, 43(2), 148–156. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022487192043002007

    Acknowledgments

    We first wish to thank the educators—teachers and leaders—in the schools and school districts with whom we work as researchers and professors. What we have learned about equitable and excellent classrooms is grounded in field experiences that were possible only because generous practitioners opened the doors of their schools and classrooms for our research and because our master's and doctoral students teach us as much as we teach them. Particularly, we wish to acknowledge Aldine Independent School District and Superintendent Wanda Bamburg for their ongoing commitment to working in partnership with Texas A&M University to support research on effective classrooms, schools, and districts for highly diverse student populations, as well as all the administrators and teachers in Bryan Independent School District who have helped to generate and refine many of the strategies suggested within this text.

    Additionally, we would like to thank the foundations whose financial support enabled us to conduct our research—the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Houston Endowment. Without the commitment of these foundations to supporting research on school success for children of color and children from low-income homes, our work would not have been possible.

    Last, a special thanks to the third member of our creative team, Jim Scheurich, who was not along for this latest adventure because he was immersed in a project of his own, but whose ideas and ongoing friendship remain important parts of everything we produce.

    Kathryn's Acknowledgments

    Linda, thank you. Working alongside my best friend and traveling buddy, not to mention my daily sounding board and cheerleader, is a gift. Thanks also to my loving and supportive family: Martyn, who is hiking the world with me, all along sipping champagne, gulping coffee, and having great conversations; my children, whom I am so proud of, Kelsey and Kolter McKenzie; my newest family members, Sophie, Andy, Caroline, and Daniel Curtis, who have brought great friendship and joy into my life; and our newest addition, granddaughter Maddox Kincaid McKenzie, who of course is perfect and gifted. She is also a constant reminder that every child is the manifestation of potential, and developing that potential for goodness depends on all of us and our willingness to care for each child as if that child were our child. And finally, thanks to the other sentient beings that give me a giggle, love me no matter what, and get muddy paw prints all over the furniture, Macy, Nils, and Hank.

    Linda's Acknowledgments

    I am blessed to work with a colleague who also is my dearest friend; thanks, Kathryn, for everything that you are in my life. Thanks also to Michelle Young and Andrea Rorrer for their friendship and professional expertise that we all share in the midst of incredibly busy lives.

    Much love and thanks to my family for their unwavering love and support. My three sons—Steve, Scott, and Eric—are all amazing young men of whom I am incredibly proud. My mom, Mary Jane, and my sister Sandie are strong, smart, and beautiful women who have always believed in me. And my furry family members, Shelby and Drake, provide warmth and love that I could not do without. Thanks also go to the wonderful friends I have made in my “second life” as a serious classic rock and roll fan and Journey aficionada, most especially Debbie and Tom.

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the following individuals for their editorial insight and guidance:

    • Dano Beal, Gifted/Talented Ed Specialist
    • Lafayette Elementary School
    • Seattle Public Schools
    • Seattle, WA
    • Rosalind Pijeaux Hale, Professor, Chair, and NCATE Coordinator
    • Division of Education
    • Xavier University of Louisiana
    • New Orleans, LA
    • Nicky Kemp, Principal
    • North Callaway R1-Williamsburg Elementary
    • Williamsburg, MO
    • Debra K. Las, Science Teacher
    • John Adams Middle School
    • Rochester, MN
    • Betty Brandenburg Yundt, Curriculum Coordinator
    • Walker Intermediate School
    • Fort Knox, KY

    About the Authors

    Kathryn Bell McKenzie is associate professor of educational administration and affiliated faculty member in Women's and Gender Studies at Texas A&M University. Prior to joining the faculty at Texas A&M, Kathryn worked for over 25 years in public education as a classroom teacher, curriculum specialist, assistant principal, principal, and deputy director of the University of Texas/Austin Independent School District Leadership Academy. Maintaining her commitment to practice and practitioners, Kathryn consults and researches extensively in public schools. Her areas of research include equity and social justice in schools, school leadership, and qualitative methodology. Kathryn is associate editor for Educational Administration Quarterly and the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. She has published extensively in the major journals in her field. Kathryn and her colleagues Linda Skrla and Jim Scheurich are the authors of the bestselling Corwin (2009) book, Using Equity Audits to Create Equitable and Excellent Schools.

    Linda Skrla is professor of educational administration at Texas A&M University. Prior to joining the Texas A&M faculty in 1997, Linda worked as a middle school and high school teacher and as a campus and district administrator in public schools. Her research focuses on educational equity issues in school leadership, including accountability policy, high-success school districts, and women superintendents. Linda is vice president of Division A of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and editor of Educational Administration Quarterly. She has published extensively in academic journals and has coauthored or coedited five other books, the most recent of which is Using Equity Audits to Create Equitable and Excellent Schools (Corwin, 2009).

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    Theriot, M. T., Craun, S. W., & Dupper, D. R. (2010). Multilevel evaluation of factors predicting school exclusion among middle and high school students. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(1), 13–19. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2009.06.009 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2009.06.009
    U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Office for civil rights. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/aboutocr.html
    U.S. Department of Education. (2009). Annual report to Congress of the Office for Civil Rights fiscal years 2007–08. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/ocr/annrpt2007-08/annrpt2007-08.pdf
    Washington Alliance for Better Schools. (2003). A new wave of evidence: Relationships between effective parental involvement and student achievement. Retrieved from http://www.newhorizons.org/trans/wabs.htm
    Weiss, H. B., Mayer, E., Vaughan, P., Kreider, H., Dearing, E., Hencke, R., & Pinto, K. (2003). Making it work: Low-income working mothers' involvement in their children's education. American Educational Research Journal, 40(4) 879–901. doi:10.3102/00028312040004879 http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/00028312040004879

    CORWIN: A SAGE Company

    The Corwin logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK-12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”


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