Guest Blogger: Barbara B. Washington, Induction Lead/Academic Equity Specialist Faculty, Concordia University, St. Paul.
It is time again to determine a list of students that will move from one grade level to the next. Sometimes school administrators ask the classroom teacher to recommend which students in their class should remain together in a learning community and which students should be separated; and who would know best besides the classroom teacher? Is it appropriate to make face value judgments about a student’s future learning environment?
How would you choose to participate in such a process if you were asked to make recommendations regarding the students at your grade level or in your program? Would you select out the students labeled as special education (EB/D, LD, gifted, etc.), those preforming below grade level in reading and math, having attendance concerns, or of different ethnicities, races, and so on. Or would you choose a more equitable method to utilize a random selection for the students? As a teacher beginning the initial stages of practice what shall your options be?
Dr. Belinda Williams (1996) led the Research for Better Schools Project that developed the Urban Learner Framework. The framework is an initiative supported by the U.S. Department of Education's Regional Education Laboratory and focuses on recognizing and using the special competencies (strengths) that urban children bring to the classroom. The Urban Learner Framework underscores four assumptions that present a positive characterization of learners as capable, motivated, and able to build on cultural strengths. This educational philosophy (way of thinking) reverses negative labeling of students such as lacking ability, culturally deprived, unmotivated, and at-risk.
Holding a positive asset charged attitude and belief system that is mirrored by teaching style and pedagogy makes the task of creating next year’s class list easy to discern. Dr. Williams would advise us to simply place all of the student’s names in a hat and by lottery determine the two or three classroom assignments as necessary. After completing a lottery style or random selection of students for the next grade level, if in fact the class lists still were to need modification for the purpose of equity it might go something like this: first and last check for gender.