Access to Postsecondary Education for Socioeconomic Disadvantaged


Frempong, G., Ma, X., & Mensah, J. (2012). Access to postsecondary education: can schools compensate for socioeconomic disadvantage?. Higher Education, 63(1), 19-32.


The analysis of access to postsecondary education is essential to me as I embark on my journey with action research in education. I recently finished the article Access to postsecondary education: can schools compensate for socioeconomic disadvantage, which provided me with excellent insight on the relationship between socioeconomic status for high school students in Canada, and their access into higher education. The research was particularly concentrated on those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The author’s analysis was focused on research that continued to support a number of studies that have demonstrated that youth from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds experience some level of exclusion in postsecondary education systems (Frempong, Ma, & Mensah, 2012).

As I read through this article, I found it very easy to compare it to several readings that I have recently completed, as well as active discussions that I find myself interacting with in my professional life. The discussion of access to higher education is a common theme of discussion amongst professionals in higher education, especially at the community college where I work. It is very typical for a topic of discussion to focus on underrepresented youth and access for minorities in college, in my work community. Hence I felt much of the subject matter in this reading was very easy to relate to. I also found the article very interesting in its approach to weigh heavily on its data model and analysis to support the findings of the researchers in this piece. The use of multilevel models to examine access to education was an approach that I had not often seen, so I found it quite interesting.


In looking at the organizational flow and consistency of this article, I found it had a well-developed argument supported by previous research and current data. The paper first introduced the reader to the challenges of access to higher education for high school students in Canada, while also citing similar challenges in the United States. The authors called on several authors and scholarly research that was completed prior to their research to guide the reader in understanding the problem that students face. I found this key in helping the authors frame the need for their research and to then be able highlight the difference in their research and findings, as opposed to other research on similar subject matter. The data analysis helped to drive the idea of the research and to formulate the research’s significant findings. The authors then finalized their piece by presenting their findings in a five step model to ensure the readers had a clear vision of the data as it related to the research conducted.

Contribution to the Field

Did I feel this journal reading was worthwhile and carried strength in its argument? Yes, I believe this article can be a resource for me moving forward in my own research. It contributed to my knowledge base by increasing my awareness in regards to the challenges of access in higher education outside of the U.S. I believe working domestically can sometimes narrow the concept of professionals and researchers in respect to the trials that face the academic world on a global level. The research presented in this article also supports the idea that socioeconomic status is prevalent in communities across the world, just as it is in my own community. The presentation of findings in this report were essential for me. The way they were presented was clear and concise, making it easy for readers to comprehend. I see that as an asset in identifying ways I can present my own research. I certainly see some of the research conducted with this study as a resource for me, as I move into my participatory action research experience.

Literature Review

As previously mentioned, the arrangement of findings and the presentation of the research were key pieces for me with this reading. I respected the way the authors presented their findings in five phases based off the strategic questions they wanted to answer. In my opinion, it helped frame the organization of their research to their audience. I also felt that the use of statistical analysis to show the limitation of access to postsecondary education based off of socioeconomic status and challenges was excellent. The reading did take on a more scientific feel because of this; however I was still captivated, by the way the authors related their data to the various student backgrounds and societal makings of the community in which they were conducting their research. In an example, the authors use the results from a Youth in Transition Survey as the basis for their research, but then did an excellent job at humanizing the findings by highlighting themes of student-teacher relationships and the vulnerability of student experiences based on school surroundings. The fore mentioned issues played key for me in this reading.

Theoretical Review

The theoretical framework of the study presented in this report was taken through its entirety. The authors showed their framework in the onset of the reading, to help the reader understand what was being questioned. The information connected to prior knowledge, experience, and research from the authors and outside scholars. The intent of the research, the data used, and findings were articulated clearly for the audience. The report gave information that was knowledgeable and appropriate for audiences who seek a better understanding of issues with access to higher education in their communities.

Data Collection and Analysis

The data collection and analysis in this article was one of the most in-depth presentations that I have encountered in a recent review of scholarly writings. The authors in this case were very thorough in the presentation and interpretation of their research for this article. As a reader, I engaged a very a well-defined picture of where the data for this analysis was coming from by way of a survey model. The measures were presented clearly including explanation of dependent variables for the surveys conducted. The use of tables to present data findings was an essential component for readers. Also, another valuable component was the written part on how multilevel analysis was chosen as the primary statistical technique in the current study, because the Programme for International Student Assessment and Youth in Transition Survey data used are multilevel in nature (Frempong, Ma, & Mensah, 2012). Although I have not encountered current readings with this in-depth presentation of data and analysis findings, it is my understanding that the methods used in this study are standard for inquiry in education.

Findings, Discussion, and Conclusion

Although the Canadian education system may encompass some of the same Eurocentric ideas that are established in the U.S., this article helped me to get a sense of similar challenges being faces in other countries. I found the reading significant as I try to narrow my own line of inquiry on access and excellence in education. I am looking to conduct research in the realm of high school to college transition and the community of people within this research were ideal to who I wish to work. I found this research to be grounded, while providing a variety of findings on the limitations of access to higher education for Canadian high school students, based off of their socioeconomic makeup. I had an easy connection to the problem being presented and to the findings that showed relationship between economically challenge schools, students, and families, in relation to their education attainment levels after high school. The research tools I found in this article are important to my educational research objective and I hope to use them as a valuable resource for the future.

More Information Needed

Wildenger, K., & McIntyre, L. (2010). Family concerns and involvement during kindergarten transition. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(3), 387-396.

Transitioning from preschool to kindergarten has been regarded as a “sensitive period” for children (Rimm-Kaufmann and Pianta, 2000).   Recent research findings have concluded that early childhood transition experiences may impact later academic and social outcomes (Eckert et al. 2008). Recently, there has been a growing number of research studies in the area of kindergarten transition experiences and effects, but few studies have addressed the parent or guardian perspective in the area (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010).

Wildenger and McIntyre’s (2010) study on parent concerns and involvement during the transition period between home and kindergarten or preschool and kindergarten aimed to exam transition experiences from the lens of the parents or guardians. They looked at parent concerns during transition, perceived needs during transition, and parent involvement during kindergarten preparation activities.

Results regarding family concerns showed that most parents and guardians had few concerns about their child transitioning to kindergarten (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010). Where there were concerns, they mostly had to do with sociobehavioral concerns, such as following directions and getting along well with others.   The issues of least concern to parents were communicating needs, toileting issues, and the ability to get along with the new teacher (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010).

In the area of the perception of needs, there was a significant area of need identified by parents and guardians concerning what families could be doing at home to help their have a successful transition experience into formalized schooling.   Parents and guardians also listed information on the specifics of the kindergarten program and information about their child’s kindergarten teacher as an area of need (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010). Although these needs were based on a large number of the participant’s feedback, there was still about one-quarter of the participants that felt they did not have any needs in this area.

The last area that was looked at was the level and type of involvement the parents and guardians had in the areas of formal and informal transition activities that the schools offered. The transition activities offered by the schools ranged in format and in nature. Some examples of the activities included visiting the child’s kindergarten classroom, attending a kindergarten meet the teacher or orientation night, receiving information in the mail about the kindergarten program, receiving a phone call from the kindergarten teacher, and receiving a home visit from the kindergarten teacher (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010). The researchers found that the most utilized transition activities for the parents were attending a kindergarten open house or orientation and receiving written communication from the kindergarten teacher about the program (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010). Conversely, parents were least likely to receive a home visit or phone call during the summer transition months.

When looking at the differences in participation in transition activities and socio-economic status, Wildenger and McIntyre (2010), found that total transition involvement was significantly less than for lower socioeconomic groups.

The strengths of this study appear to be the strong focus on parent perspective. It seems that although a significant portion of parent participants reported having needs in the area of information obtainment for transition tips and program details, there were also a significant number of parents that said they did not have any concerns. This indicates to me that in the very least, schools should offer a formalized transition informational event, such as an open house, to be sure that information about program details are communicated. I can also see the value of conducting a home visit during the summer months by the kindergarten teacher. Conducting a home visit would give parents and their child the opportunity to meet and get to know their teacher and also the opportunity to address individual questions or concerns about program details or transition tips. Perhaps for the parents that stated they did not have any concerns about the transition process, a home visit may alert them to some things that they should look out for when they are helping their young one transition into formal schooling. I see this as an educational component about the importance of successful early childhood experiences and some key findings that have proven to be helpful during the transition period. Another argument for making a home visit would be the ability to work around the parents’ schedules and take out transportation and child care as an inhibiting factor.

The issues that I can see arising is that many teachers are not employed in the summer months and even if they are, most teachers do not receive their class rosters for the next school year until just before the school year begins. This has been the case in the school districts that I have worked in. Home visits, just as open houses are, should be a part of the kindergarten teachers back to school contracted hours or it can even be imbedded into a summer transition program that has been created and funded by the school.


Ecker, T. L., McIntyre, L. L., DiGennaro, F. D., Arbolino, L., Begeny, J., & Perry, L.J., (2008). Researching the transition to kindergarten for typically developing children: A literature review of current processes, practices and programs. In D. H. Molina (Ed.), School psychology: 21st century issues and challenges (pp. 235-252. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Rimm-Kaufman S., & Pianta R. (2000). An ecological perspective on the transition to kindergarten: A theoretical framework to guide empirical research. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 21(5), 491-511.

Wildenger, K. & McIntyre, L. (2010). Family concerns and involvement during kindergarten transition. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(3), 387-396.


What do photographs really reflect?

Photographs stand as glimpses into our lives at different points in our journey. Chappell, Chappell and Margolis (2011) see pictures as “memories of seeing” (p. 56) and within an educational journey these pictures can reflect the “face” of the world today but also the ceremonies that many of us go through that shape our future. When I think about educational events captured in photographs, there are two “types” that come to mind for me: graduation and our class photographs.

From childhood, we are gathered every year for our class shot (or at least up to a point in elementary school and maybe junior high). Those pictures are a reflection not only of our own growth but can reflect the make up of a classroom (diversity, gender) but also be reflective of the times (styles, looks, etc). The experience is somewhat of a normative process: something that many (but not all) will have the opportunity to experience.  In that same vein, graduation serves as a transition point to the next stage of life for many young people. When I was growing up, I had two graduations – one from junior high, which signaled my transition to high school and one from high school that signaled my transition to college (or to becoming an adult as I saw it). When I look back at the pictures of these experiences, I think of what that signified to me as a growth opportunity and as an experience that both me as the learner and my family had all hoped for. I think we, as people, want the best for ourselves and our children. These educational experiences become tantamount to not only personal success but may even be considered as a success of the family.

Chappell et al (2011) related educational photographs to a play. In their terms, they indicated that the environment (school) may be the same similarly to how a play is the same but the changes in both of these are the people.  The article was rife with pictures from multiple eras which represented the changing times (racial diversity, gender diversity, etc.). Their notion is that the picture can tell a lot about the progression of our society and how the message of what we stand for could have changed as well. I like to think that we have become a more progressive society and that this is reflected in our societies but that would mean forgetting that there is still a lot of inequality in the world, not just around racial or gender dynamics but around sexuality and even in socioeconomic status and how that may influence who walks across the stage or moves beyond high school. I have worked in higher education for 10 years and I think back on student access – has everyone been given the opportunity to attend? Is it really access for all and if it’s not, are the pictures we take truly reflective of our society or just this segmented piece of it? Thinking through the pictures in the article, it also makes you wonder who are the ones capturing and, in turn, sharing/publicizing the pictures? The individual(s) holding that power are more likely to take it from what they see as relevant than what may actually be reflected in reality.

What will be most interesting for the future is how, in the age of Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, our journey will be reflected and captured when each moment is often the cause for a “selfie” or some other picture. I think through recent graduation at ASU. I sat on the floor with my students and snapped pictures, posting them for share on Instagram. Will these pictures be characteristic of who we are as people and what we stood for or more just a reflection of our society and what we think the “others” will want to see? Will our ability to connect with people from anyone in the world who have access to this technology (again the key is access) influence how we look at the world and the pictures we share back? Hard to say but interesting to see as an articulated story for future generations.


Chappell, D. Chappell, S. & Margolis, E. (2011). School as ceremony and ritual: How photography illuminates performances of ideological transfer. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(1), 56­73.

Peer impact and anxiety in the classroom

Coming from a small town, there was always an interesting dynamic in our school classrooms. Most of my classrooms were small, maybe 20-25 people total, which made for both an intimate learning experience but also one that could be challenging if you not only were a high performer but also suffered from social anxiety. Most people would think an intimate classroom would be a great opportunity for students but for me I felt it was more of a challenge for a different reason. I did well in school, being for the most part a solid “A” student. On the social side, I was far more on the geek end of the spectrum than the popular end. Standing out in a classroom as someone who understood their Shakespeare or excelled in biology could make life difficult outside the classroom. It was for that reason that I often held back in the classroom – why stand out in the crowd when it resulted in being made fun of? By drawing as little attention to myself as possible, I felt I could slide through school with ease. I could do my homework and excel that way and avoid the social stigma of being a “dork”.

Pivovarova (2014) in a recent article discussed the impact of peers on learning and environment, whether mixing levels of achievement in the classroom had negative/positive impacts on those individuals (p. 2). Besides the fact that Pivovarova (2014) looked at 6th graders from Ontario, Canada where I’m from, her findings were interesting in the ways in which peers influenced each other for good or bad, for example, in how a student who was a low achiever may perform better surrounded by high performers and how a high performer was somewhat of an “independent learner” (p. 19) in the classroom. This idea of “low” or “high” performers to me took on a different meaning. Why was someone performing lower than another student? I was performing at a high level despite my terror of what that performance would result in outside the classroom but what else could be going on within the other students lives.

Reading this article and with influence from recent discussions in my Doctoral classes, I began to wonder what other issues could be creating low versus high performance. Maybe these “low” performers had challenges not linked to the classroom that were impacting their lives in a way that made it hard to focus on school (family dynamics, money, health). Would putting them in a classroom with a “high” performer really help? What if there was a learning challenge (A.D.D., language barrier) that created issues and that student wasn’t receiving the support they needed. What if just the label of being a “low” performer created a perception that they couldn’t achieve success and created a ceiling that prevented development? My school was also a predominantly white school in a predominantly white farming community in Canada. For those few students of color, I began to wonder what challenges they may have faced in a white institution in a predominantly white town – were they getting fair treatment and access to the same resources or were they being marginalized within the school?

Looking back it makes me wonder about all the challenges and what “low” and “high” performance could really mean when it’s not such a cut and dry term. I realized that none of these ideas had crossed my mind as a child as I was too preoccupied in my own world. As I move forward in my educational journey, I find myself begin to question beyond just the surface issues of a situation to understand what other layers may exist that are far more pressing than was apparent. I hope that the courses continue to influence me towards a better understanding of all the dynamics a situation may hold, whether it be similar to this article in a classroom setting or within my own research pursuits and I hope that this understanding provides the fairness needed to represent all the individuals that may be impacted by that research.


Pivovarova, M (2014). Should We Track or Should We Mix Them? Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Tempe: Arizona State University.

Do Only “Good” Peers Matter?

In this article, Pivovarova (2013) discussed and evaluated the school tracking system. Tracks are classrooms or programs targeted toward homogenous groups. As an economist, her perspective is interesting in that she is considered the financial cost of the trade off between providing an educational experience that is equal or efficient. Pivovarova (2013) states “school tracking is defined as ability grouping with or without design of the specific curriculum for different ability groups. The opponents of tracking argue that channeling students into different tracks increases the inequality of opportunity and aggravates future economic inequality. Proponents of tracking usually cite the increased efficiency when students are grouped by abilities in schools or classes” (pg. 4).

The article includes a thorough literature review and presentation of current models. I found it interesting that a mathematical formula was used to evaluate the data and try to assess the influence of students’ academic performance on one another. The Linear-in-means model of classroom interaction seems to be the common model used to assess peer learning. Pivovarova (2013) was analyzing data available through existing educational assessments and applying this model to determine the model’s applicability.   In the literature review, Pivovarova (2013) shared multiple research views and stated, “the overall consensus in recent literature on peer effects in education is clear – the data do not support the simple linear-in-means model. The evidence suggests that the structure and nature of peer effects in elementary and middle school are more complicated than the standard linear-in-means model implies” (pg. 7).

The researcher was questioning how peers in classrooms affect classroom learning and how do the students in the classroom complement and influence the learning environment. I had always thought of success in school being a function of ability and attitude. I have certainly always loved learning. However, my experience included tracks. I was tracked in gifted programs and had some fantastic educational experiences. I have always wondered what my other classmates did when we all left the room to participate in “gifted” activities. This was my peer, my community. The cost of delivering this type of unique experience for gifted students was the additional instructor and the expenses of the additional programming. When considering the cost of that, the school systems need to consider the cost of delivering a program that is targeting only one group. This would not be inline with an approach trying to provide a high quality experience to all students. There is a cost, according to Pivovarova’s (2013) findings. The costs are financial and beyond in the sense that students who are low achievers might not be receiving the best education if grouped in a certain way. Ultimately, the findings were that high achieving students added to the environment advanced the group even further.

I work with a group of high achieving students. I define them that way based upon a couple of measures. The first is the College Index (CI) score. This is a measure that is determined based upon a variety of typical high school related measures (SAT score, ACT score, class ranking, GPA). The average CI score of the students I work with is 126. The highest possible score is 144. (Interestingly, there are specific programs at ASU for students who have a score less than 100 and those who score at a high level are invited to other specific programs). The other measure I use to qualify my evaluation of the students is that our major has the most students than any other major in the Barrett Honors College (BHC). We have two groups of students in the major, those in BHC and those not in BHC. Pivovarova (2013) found that high ability students do well when grouped with other high ability students. However, the impact of lower ability students was not as clear.

As I read the article, I reflected on the students in this major and what the experience must be like as a “lower” achieving student. I’m not even certain how I would define that, except that I do perceive an imbalance between the two groups based on how they refer to one another. It definitely made me reflect on the programming we deliver and how we frame advising conversations with students.


Pivovarova, M. (2013). Should we track them or should we mix them? Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University.



To Track or Not to Track

To track or not to track, that is the question. All administrators grapple with this question because there are pros and cons to ability tracking students. Personally, I have experienced student placement based on ability tracking as well as placement based on a more heterogeneous approach but I have yet to decide which approach I prefer. Pivovarova’s 2014 article opened my eyes to the pros and cons of particular classroom designs and allowed me to begin formulating a better understanding of best practices for placing students in classroom.

During my first four years of teaching, I was asked to be involved in the student placement process for the middle school students. Our process for placing students was not a fine science but instead based on teacher observations such as, student behavior, gender, and grades. With these traits in mind, we attempted to evenly distribute the students into each homeroom with the intention of creating heterogeneous classrooms. This type of distribution seemed to be effective but I always had to wonder how the lower achieving and behavioral issue students were affecting my higher achieving students. I felt a sense of guilt every time I had to stop the class to handle a behavior or begin my lesson with foundational pieces that my higher achieving students already understood. Although I saw some negative aspects to this classroom design, I also was able to witness outstanding cooperative learning moments where higher achieving students would help instruct lower achieving students. I believe this was not only beneficial to the lower achieving students but it was also incredibly advantageous for the higher achieving students. With that being said, Pivovarova (2014) stated that both low and high students benefit from these exchanges and there is a “positive effect of diversity of abilities in the classroom supports the idea that students learn from each other not only from their teacher, and class interaction play an important role in learning and transmission of knowledge” (p. 24).

During my fifth year as a teacher, I was introduced to the concept of student achievement tracking. The middle school students were placed according to achievement on Arizona’s high-stakes test, AIMS (Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards). All high-performing sixth through eighth graders were all placed in the same class, all middle achieving students were placed in another class, and all low-achieving students were placed in a class. The first thing I noticed upon walking into the classroom was the morale of the students; the high-achieving students were upbeat and motivated; the middle-achieving students lacked motivation and were complacent; and the low-achieving students had poor morale and continuously referred to their class as the “dumb class”. Pivovarova (2014) came to a similar conclusion; she stated “while grouping by ability seems to be beneficial for high-achieving students, there is no evidence to support the tracking model for all students” (p. 27). Although it was extraordinary to watch the higher-level students excel and work on more advanced assignments, I knew my lower students were academically stagnant.

By utilizing achievement tracking are we perpetuating the intellectual perceptions that the students already have? I believe so, because it was a daily struggle to get our middle and low achieving students to believe that they can achieve at high ability levels. Unfortunately, I watched as my middle-achieving students, who were capable of meeting our standards and excelling, simply gave up because they were not labeled as “high-level” students. Placing students in these levels, I believe will select an educational path that students will be confined to for the remainder of their academic careers. Is this fair? Is this the message we want to send to our kids?

I still do not have a definitive answer to the question: should we track our students? There are valid pros and cons to both sides of the argument and as a school administrator; I am left to make this challenging decision for my students. After reviewing Pivovarova’s 2014 article, I believe that it would be in my students’ best interest to remain in heterogeneous classes due to the moral obligation I have to do what is best for all students, not just a select few. All students deserve to have access to an excellent education.




Pivovarova, M. (2014). Should We Track or Should We Mix Them? Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College. Tempe: Arizona State University


Access, Equity, and Community Colleges


Gilbert, C., & Heller, D. E. (2013). Access, Equity, and Community Colleges: The Truman Commission and Federal Higher Education Policy from 1947 to 2011. Journal Of Higher Education, 84(3), 417-443.


The role of the community college has recently been brought to the forefront of higher education by current President Barack Obama as the United States strives to be a global leader with educational attainment. However, it was the Truman Commission that first brought concerns to Capitol Hill in 1947 with the concern of access and equity in higher education in the United States. In Access, Equity, and Community College: The Truman Commission and the Federal Higher Education Policy from 1947 to 2011, Claire K. Gilbert and Donald E. Heller offer a lens through which we can view and understand the trajectory of U.S. thinking about higher education policy from the end of World War II to the present day (Gilbert & Heller, 2013).

I personally connected to this piece because I have made my career in the community college sector for the last six years. I found some direct correlation to the articles general material and findings, based on recent experience at a professional conference for higher education, in which one of the presenters focused on similar material as the discussion focused access to higher education, and the role the community will play. Many of the topics I read through this article were familiar because of active research and development in my professional role. However, some of the historical information and findings from the authors were new to me, so I found that very appealing. The article did make a new idea for me in regards to research. The way these authors were able to springboard directly off of prior research to focus on what is happening today seemed simple yet essential to their piece. As I evaluate my own potential research methods, this article will be a valuable tool on how to use others research materials to bring credibility to my own. Another thing that grabbed my attention is how forward thinking and innovative ideas can pave the way for impact and change. The ripple effect of the Truman Commission is still being felt today. This article will influence me to strive for change with my own action research project to support access and equity in higher education.


Gilbert and Heller’s research was well developed and organized in its presentation to readers. The article did a great job of first introducing their audience to what they hoped to accomplish with their research. Next the article provided a solid background of the basis for their research, in this case The Truman Commission of 1947. The researchers laid out the initial intentions of the President’s Commission on Higher Education and their intent to review the progress that has taken place in the United States since the recommendations of the committee were presented. The report then concluded with findings that compared the commission’s recommendations against what has been accomplished to date. The article ready very clear and concise while presenting reliable information to engage readers.

Contribution to the Field

This article is important to my existing role as a leader working in an institution of higher education, and it is entirely appropriate to my current area of inquiry as an academic researcher. It contributes to the field of study because of the data and empirical evidence it provides. The author’s findings present detail on a monumental topic in higher education and how this movement affected access and equity in higher education. I also acknowledged strength in the author’s outcomes when they did not hesitate to recognize the shortcomings that still plague the education system in the United States beyond the Truman Commission findings. I found this article extremely valuable to me because it highlights the integration of the community college system and its purpose to help with access to education, which I hope to investigate more.

Literature Review

There were many points of this article that stood out to me. However, the key pieces of information that were most powerful to me is to see how progressive the idea of this commission was for the U.S. in the 1940’s. And also the material presented that shows how far we still have to go with improving access and equity in higher education system in 2014. Before this article I had some understanding of the Truman Commission, but not to the extent I do now. The article did an excellent job of educating me as a reader on the enormous impact this commission had on education policy and the development of the community college system while also guiding me to see the inadequacies of governmental processes in terms of education policy today. The author’s modelled the idea that although the commission paved the way for great change, several years later our country still faces challenges with many of the topics presented in this study.

Theoretical Framework

In reflecting on this article, I feel the author’s presented the reasoning behind their research and report. The article provided useful insight that help frame Gilbert and Heller’s intention to look at what has come about in a way of results in the U.S. since 1947 when the President’s Commission on Higher Education was introduced. The framework carried through the text appropriately presented analysis that supported the authors message that regardless of whether the report has been explicitly adopted into legislation and policy, its ideals and many of its specific recommendations have been incorporated over time (Gilbert & Heller, 2013).

Data Collection & Analysis

The data collection for this article was very clear. Gilbert and Heller used the 1947 President’s Commission on Higher Education report, as the basis to their research. They discuss the original report in great length to help layout the point of their research. They also use a variety of scholarly research findings, state and national statistics on higher education to help support their findings. The author’s presentation of statistics and data to support their findings were essential to me as a reader understanding the progression of the research results. Without some of the metrics being given in the writing, I would have found it hard to see the results in some of the findings being presented. The methods of data collection and presentation of the material seemed very traditional and easy for the reader like myself to follow and potentially replicate in the future.

Findings, Discussion, and Conclusion

The article Access, Equity, and Community Colleges: The Truman Commission and Federal Higher Education Policy from 1947 to 2011 brought some very significant findings to light. Gilbert and Heller were able to make logical connections to legislative and general changes in higher education since 1947. Their research document presented appropriate findings that helped me see some of the progress that has been made in higher education since the Truman Commission. I was convinced as a reader that there were sufficient evidence and findings presented for me to find this reading valuable and important in my research arena. The material presented made good connections to relevant material supported by qualitative and quantitative supporting evidence in supporting their research of change in access and equity with community colleges in the U.S. post 1947.

Increasing Access to Study Abroad Via a Blended-Learning Experience Model

Slotkin, M. H., Durie, C. J., & Eisenberg, J. R. (2012). The benefits of short-term study abroad as a blended learning experience. Journal of International Education in Business, 5(2), 163–173. 

With the 2013 Open Doors report finding that 76.4% of U.S. study abroad participants are White, there is much discussion in the education abroad field about how to increase access to study abroad for underrepresented groups (Institute of International Education, 2013).  Particularly given that the demographics of higher education participation are changing to include increased numbers of Black, African American, Hispanic,  Latinos, and non-traditional students, institutions like ASU are trying to determine how best to help their study abroad participation rates reflect their institutional enrollment makeup.  The article written by Slotkin, Durie, and Eisenberg details an emerging model that may hold promise for helping other institutions offer study abroad opportunities to these and other traditionally underrepresented groups.

Slotkin et al. describe a short-term study abroad program began in 2011 through the Florida Institute of Technology’s College of Business (FTCoB).  The FTCoB program included a short trip abroad to Madrid Spain in conjunction with an online learning component, thus constructing the blended-learning experience for this short-term study abroad program.  The reasons for the implementation of such a model are primarily because of the unique makeup of the FTCoB student population whereby:

  • 60% of the FTCoB students are enrolled in online programs
  • 39.4% of students enrolled in the offsite campuses identify themselves as minority students
  • 34.8% of online undergraduate students identify themselves as minority students
  • Online students are typically mid-career, full-time professionals pursuing a degree part-time
  • Offsite campus students are predominantly active military personnel, military veterans, or employees of U.S. government contractors and typically adult learner, part-time students

Because of the high level of minority and less-traditional students comprising the FTCoB’s student population, creation of the blended-learning study abroad experience was essential in ensuring its viability and being able to serve the disparate needs of these minority groups.

This article did not carry out a research study per se; instead it utilized a brief literature review to form the basis of the benefits likely to be derived for distance-learning students participating on a study abroad experience and then offered perspectives and discussion based on the experiences of the FTCoB program.  The review of the literature explored studies such as Donnely-Smith (2009) which made comparisons between distance learning and short-term study abroad, “mirroring previous debates held on the efficacy and rigor of online education, academics and administrators question if students can receive the same benefits in a short-term as opposed to mid or long-term programs” (Slotkin et al., 2012, p. 165.)   It appears that the debates about online learning bare similarities to those which are being launched at short-term study abroad programs at the moment.  Slotkin et al. continue by presenting literature (Donnelly-Smith, 2009, Mills, Deviney, Ball, 2010) which suggest that short-term programs can actually be ideal in that they afford students a more structured learning environment and that having an abroad experience to then translate into future career skills is particularly important for business students.  In terms of access, Slotkin et al. also cite literature that suggests short-term programs afford students, who have other obligations such as family or work and who represent minority or low-income populations, the opportunity to participate in an abroad experience that, “provide[s] them with the cultural and academic skills they will need to compete in a global workforce” (Mills, Deviney, Ball, 2010).

In terms of its strengths and areas for improvement, the article is very well organized, providing the reader first with an essential background into the unique demographics and structure of the Florida Institute of Technology and then presenting the authors’ hypothesis based on relevant literature.  The article ends with a succinct outline of the makeup of the program and a recapitulation of the main benefits the authors believe the blended-learning study abroad program afforded students.  Its contribution to the field is strong because, as previously stated, increasing the number of minority and less-traditional students in study abroad is a current topic of interest for the field at large, as evidenced by international education organizations such as the Diversity Network, and the numerous conference sessions at NAFSA: Association of International Educators and the Forum on Education Abroad dedicated to the topic.  However, as the article freely admits, research on the intersection of education abroad and online learning is in its infancy, and so there is much room for growth.  In the case of this particular article, the FTCoB program is relatively new and therefore its numbers too small to form generalizations for the field, however Slotkin and Eisenberg’s arguments are grounded in logical assertions based on the literature and hold promise for future research to be done in this area.

The perceived benefits that Slotkin et al. outline include:

  • Enhanced viability: the ability to pull from the online and offsite campus student populations meant a better chance for the study abroad program to meet its necessary enrollment numbers to be able to offer the program in the first place.
  • Enhanced diversity:  “Of the remote students who constituted the FTCoB study abroad, more than 70 percent identified themselves as African-American or Latino, in stark contrast to the predominantly white and international mix hailing from the main campus” (p. 168).
  • Enhanced experience for distance-learning students: whereas the online students typically only had interaction with university faculty via phone and e-mail, the study abroad program gave them a chance to interact with FTCoB professors, foreign professors, and their peers with many remarking “that they missed the process of contemporaneous discussion with their peers and professors” (p.169).
  • Enhanced relationship with the main campus: by affording online students the ability to have face-to-face interaction with campus constituents, Slotkin and Eisenberg propose that the FTCoB study abroad program may lead to increases in alumni participation and giving rates by this student population.  This is grounded in the claim they cite from Black et al. (2006), “campus visitation may increase the distance education student’s sense of inclusion into the university community at large.”

When I think about Slotkin, Durie, and Eisenberg’s article in relation to my experiences in working with short-term programs at ASU, I am excited at the possibility of further developing the blended-learning model to increase access for these underrepresented populations.  ASU currently does run a few short-term programs that include an online pre-trip module so I will plan to run some statistics to see if these programs have a higher participation rate of students from the ASU Online community or other marginalized populations than do our non blended-learning programs. With 9,612 students enrolled in the ASU Online program (Keeler, 2013), this seems like a sizable population from which to draw upon for study abroad participation and I have noticed an increasing number of online students apply to programs which I coordinate.  I think the possibility for more targeted marketing, advising, and resources for this population is great.

In terms of further study that might effectively build on this area of research, I think that it would be important to examine the needs of distance-learning students and non-traditional students in preparing for an study abroad program.  As I have slowly begun to see an increase in participation on study abroad programs from these two groups, I have noted that they involve different processes in preparing them for the experience.  One example is as basic as course the course registration process for online students.  Currently, there is not an automated process for allowing these students to register for study abroad courses as there is for our regular campus students and there is a lot of troubleshooting that goes on.  Similarly, when working with non-traditional students, they have specific advising needs in light of their family and professional situations that I feel would warrant specialized advising and pre-departure orientation sessions.  It would be very beneficial to learn what other specific needs these populations might have when pursuing a study abroad program.

Donnelly-Smith, L. (2009), “Global learning through short-term study abroad”, Peer Review, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 12-15.

Institute of International Education. (2013). “Profile of U.S. Study Abroad Students, 2001/02-2011/12.” Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. Retrieved from

Keeler, S. (2013). Record number of students choose ASU. Retrieved June 13, 2014, Retrieved from

Mills, L., Deviney, D. and Ball, B. (2010), “Short-term study abroad programs: a diversity of options”, The Journal of Human Resource and Adult Learning, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 1-13.

Slotkin, M. H., Durie, C. J., & Eisenberg, J. R. (2012). The benefits of short-term study abroad as a blended learning experience. Journal of International Education in Business5(2), 163–173.

Looking for students in all the right places

Imagine you are responsible for recruiting high quality students for your university. What if you knew of a group of prospective students who would add rich diversity and bring their unique experiences and skills to your university?  What if these students created an environment in which learning was enriched for your other students and them?

Here are some of the characteristics of the group.  They are hopeful and believe they can overcome substantial obstacles that many of your other students will never have to face.  They are multilingual with good cross-cultural awareness, literacy and math skills, teaching and tutoring skills, civic and familial responsibility, and are socially mature.  They draw from and give back to a strong network of social contacts (Yosso, 2005).  The individuals in this group have and rely on a strong family orientation and possess a deep sense of community history and culture.  They are adept at finding their way in unfamiliar situations and have developed capabilities by opposing societal inequities (Yosso, 2005).

Who are these students?  They are People of Color in groups who have been historically marginalized in our society.

Tara Yosso’s (2005) “Whose Culture Has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth” provides an opportunity for institutions of higher learning to positively transform the access, scholarship, and impact they provide by including groups that have historically been marginalized.  The article details the concept of critical race theory, which is called community cultural wealth.  Yosso (2005) describes critical race theory as a framework that can be used to theorize, examine, and change the ways race and racism affect social structures, practices, and discourses.  Community cultural wealth as defined in the article is an array of knowledge, skills, abilities, and contacts possessed and utilized by Communities of Color to survive and resist macro and micro-forms of oppression (Yosso, 2005).

Yosso (2005) believes that deficit thinking is one of the most prevalent forms of contemporary racism in United States’ schools.  Deficit thinking blames minority students and families for poor academic performance because: 1) students enter school without the normative cultural knowledge and skills and 2) parents neither value nor support their child’s education.  Basically, deficit thinking says it’s your fault you don’t fit in our model, we know our model is right, and we’re not interested in changing it.  In stark contrast, community cultural wealth calls attention to the unique aspects and contributions of marginalized groups.

Communities of Color nurture cultural wealth via at least six forms of capital including aspirational, linguistic, familial, social, navigational,  and resistant (Yosso, 2005).  Aspirational capital is the ability to maintain hope for the future, despite real and perceived obstacles.  This capital is about the community dreaming beyond their present circumstances.  What if?

Linguistic capital includes the intellectual and social skills attained through experiences with more than one language or style.  When I studied for my masters I had the opportunity to take a foreign language. As a result of this experience I developed a deeper appreciation for the culture of the language I was studying.  An additional bonus was an improvement in understanding my native language.  Non-native English speakers possess a rich cultural heritage that complements the study and acquisition of English.  Children in these communities often have engaged in storytelling, which involves memorization, attention to detail, vocal tone, and rhyme(Yosso, 2005).

Familial capital is the cultural knowledge nurtured by family that consists of community history, memory, and cultural intuition.  Through the strong family bond, individuals learn the importance of maintaining a healthy connection to the community and its resources.  Social capital includes networks of people and community resources (Yosso, 2005).  An example of social capital is the importance of community support in Latina/o students going to college (Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, & Cooper, 2009).

Navigational capital is being able to find the way through social institutions, particularly those that were not designed with Communities of Color in mind.  Lastly, resistant capital is the knowledge and skills that have developed by opposing inequity (Yosso, 2005).

There is a great need for universities to welcome individuals from Communities of Color.  By valuing community cultural wealth and changing the lens through which prospective students are viewed, we will improve access to our institutions and increase the excellence and impact we create.


Liou, D. D., Antrop-Gonzalez, R., & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College-Going Information Networks. Educational Studies Journal of the American Educational Studies Association, 45(6), 534–555. doi:10.1080/00131940903311347

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69–91. doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006

Leadership and Innovation

Arizona’s education system is failing our students, with “85% of high-growth, high-wage jobs in Arizona [requiring] some form of higher education and work experience” (Expect More Arizona, 2014) yet “53% of Arizona’s graduates do not qualify to enroll in our state’s public universities (Expect More Arizona, 2014). It is clear that drastic changes need to be made to Arizona’s education system but where do we start? The key to excellent schools is exceptional leadership at every level: administration, teachers, and students. Yesterday, I asked a colleague, who is a leader at a local Title I school district, about the successes and struggles at the schools in his district. As we discussed the nineteen schools, the conversation continuously circled back to a dialogue on strong leadership at all levels. If the success of students depends on leadership, what qualities do academic leaders have to possess?

Due to my passion for Title I Arizona schools, I am going to focus my discussion on the leadership of schools that contain a large population of low-income and minority students. First and foremost we need our educators to re-evaluate how they perceive our students, according to Tara Yosso in her 2008 article, “educators most often assume that schools work and that students, parents, and communities need to change to conform to this already effective and equitable system” (p. 75). Unfortunately, this is not the case and many of our schools are underperforming and lack the leadership required to offer an excellent education to all students. We need to have an approach to education that is culturally relevant and views our students as culturally wealthy learners. In order for a change to be made all educational leaders must possess the following qualities: ability to understand different cultures and the capital they bring to the table, competence to help others achieve success by recognizing individual strengths, capacity to give all people a voice, faculty to help create constructive moments of uncertainty, and ability to create an environment that is positive and culturally relevant to allow all to achieve access, excellence, and success. If these leadership skills begin at the district level, I believe there will be a trickle down effect into school and classroom leadership. Each of the qualities is relevant in the support and growth of a diverse staff and student body.

Outstanding leaders are able to put aside a deficit approach to thinking and begin looking at the cultural capital, which is the “accumulation of cultural knowledge, skills and abilities possessed and inherited by privileged groups in society (Yosso, 2008, p. 76), that all of our students and staff possess. According to Yosso (2008), we need to begin empowering people of color to recognize their cultural capital and use it as a resource to assist in higher achievement. Administrators, teachers, and students of color come with a significant amount of “cultural wealth through at least 6 forms of capital such as aspirational, navigational, social, linguistic, familial, and resistant capital” (Yosso, 2008, p. 77). It is in the best interest of all leaders, whether it is an administrator, teacher, or student, to recognize the extraordinary advantage that cultural wealth can offer to the school and assist individuals in the process of recognizing theses traits. A great leader strengthens the community they are working with by empowering all parties to utilize all traits that they possess. It is time for our leaders to “restructure US social institutions around those knowledges, skills, abilities, and networks” (Yosso, 2008, p. 82) that all individuals possess.

Strong leaders not only empower individuals they work with to explore and utilize their cultural capital, they also make a conscious effort to give a voice to all members of the community. Encouraging individuals to have a voice, leads to innovation, thought provoking conversations, and progress in the school system. If all parts of the community of practice feel as if they are heard, they will continue to discuss important topics and help push towards positive change.

Along with valuing cultural capital and giving all individuals a voice, leaders must also be able to manage uncertainty, especially if they wish to see growth, progress , and innovation within the educational system. Uncertainly is defined as “an individual’s subjective experience of doubting, being unsure, or wondering about how the future will unfold, what the present means, or how to interpret the past” (Jordan & McDaniel, n.d., p. 3). Managing uncertainty is important to problem solving and community building, which makes for a stronger community of practice. Leaders must “generate productive uncertainty when they [encourage others to] problematize disciplinary content and actions” (Jordan et al., n.d., p. 5) in order to assist in the learning and growth process within a community of practice. If there is a high level of confidence in regards to problem solving, a greater number of individuals in the community will attempt to address issues and take positive action steps towards solutions.

If our education system saw an improvement in leadership at the district, school, and classroom levels, we would see a higher level of academic excellence, access, and impact. If we are to improve our education system we must start with the leaders and ensure that they possess the skills required to help all community members reach their maximum potential and continuously strive towards excellence. When leaders are equipped with the skills necessary to empower participants of their community of practice, we will begin to see higher levels of student engagement, encouragement of all individuals to use their cultural knowledge, and more culturally relevant material in the classrooms.



How it Affects us. Expect More Arizona. Retrieved 06, 2014, from

Jordan, M. E. & McDaniel, R. (in press). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity. Journal of the Learning Sciences. doi: 10.1080/10508406.2014.896254

Tuhiwai Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples. New York: University of Otago Press

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community and cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 1(8), 69­91.

Making the Transition: High School to College


Venezia, A., & Jaeger, L. (2013, Spring). Transitions from High School to College. Future of

     Children23(1), 117-136.

In continuing my review of scholarly writings this week I found the article Transition from High School to College that provided information that directly relates to my line of inquiry. The title from the article led the way as a direct intro to the subject matter that was being given by the authors. The focus of this piece was to provide research and insight on the current trends of providing interventions to improve access into higher education for high school students in the United States. Venezia and Jaeger (2013) presented their research and information by looking at the state of college readiness among high school students, the effectiveness of programs in place to help them transition to college, and efforts to improve those transitions.

In looking at the formulation of the research presented in this reading, it was very easy to see from the onset that the authors were first focused on using more quantitative data to support their findings. The researchers looked at statistical data from various sources including the National Center for Educational Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, College Board “SAT Report”, and several others. I felt the research was conducted from a more analytical approach than anything. Although the text provides some excellent support to the author’s positions, it seemed to be a report more motivated to impact policy makers. The study showed very little humanizing elements, telling me it was a more data driven approach with research methodologies used for this report.

The information presented to readers was turned to help one understand first and foremost, that there is a problem in the U.S. with students being ill prepared for college entrance. The report also lightly approached the idea that social inequity continues to hamper access to college in underserved communities in the U.S. The paper leaves readers contemplating the effectiveness of current measurement tools for college readiness, because it is something that history shows challenging to track. The report also helps readers to understand that college transition challenges for high school students is recognized at the national level. Hence, there is state and federal funding currently being used for success programs like TRIO, Early College, Gear UP, and Upward Bound programs. The article also reflects on common core standards, the push at the national level for college preparedness, and also presents readers with the idea that there is not one particular fix to guiding students in college and career readiness. The end findings of this article can be summed up in one of the author’s final statements.  According to Venezia and Jaeger (2013) “While great variation in approaches and implementation strategies will no doubt continue, the field would benefit from a more comprehensive and consistent method for learning what works across different types of reforms—for example, using similar definitions and metrics—to help clarify what is transportable, effectively, across different contexts and scaling needs” (p.132).

As a reader, the authors of Transition from High School to College did an excellent job of initially capturing my attention by presenting their stance and position on what the readings was going to present. The piece itself was very coherent from start to finish, and all topics were placed in a safe fashion, to help the reader understand both problem, potential solutions, and end findings. The data was structured into this writing nicely to help support the authors points and to help users continue to build on understanding the issues of high school to college transitions in our country. One of the strongest points made in this article came as the development of the argument was laid out. As a reader, I could feel that there was not going to be any healthy final recommendations to solve the issues being presented.

In reflecting on this reading, I think it may contribute to my research and field of inquiry. Was this article worthwhile? I would say yes to an extent. I will keep it in my archive for reference points that I felt were very sound. I will say the strength of the argument was not supported as well as I thought it could have been, because of the lack of connecting the reader with the human side of the challenges being presented. I know not all scholarly writings are intended to appeal to a reader’s emotion, but if the authors could have provided a more human element, this reading would appeal to me even more.

Some of the key items in this article were highlighted in the way the authors framed their argument and presented their story while supporting it with data. As I read through the material, the author helped me to see some of the challenges that are faced in measuring the topic at hand. Another part to this writing that impressed me was the author’s last take on the analysis presented. In addition to directly supporting academic preparation for students, capacity-building efforts need to focus on ensuring that large comprehensive high schools have strong college-going cultures, on providing the necessary professional development for educators to help all students meet college readiness standards (Venezia & Jaeger, 2013), was well stated. Again, not robust findings, but the author helped me understand there is more research needed in this area.

The authors of this paper made good connections with analysis and material being presented. As a doctoral student who is looking at research methods and tools, I defiantly found some of the examples and materials used as potential tools for my future research efforts. I found clarity in the way some of the material was presented, but also questioned some portions to the writing. I learned from this piece that sound data and resources can help the reader better understand the issues you are looking at. But when topics are presented that have little findings to help support current actions being taken, it can call for challenges in trying to transfer your message to the intended audiences.

I selected this article to review because I found some positives and negatives in how it read. My final thoughts were that the use of statistics and data can do an excellent job in helping support an issue you want people to recognize. The authors of this article did an excellent job at using national statistics and measures to help show readers the impact of the issue at hand. In my professional setting working in higher education, I have to work with top level leadership occasionally to present my view or ideas, and to gain support or funding for projects or other needs. The use of data to support my argument seems always to play a vital role in the impact I can have on my audience. The use of solid supporting quantitative data to help support any measure can always help. On the other hand, this study might be able to build on its argument and position by bringing more qualitative research. Story telling focused on the collective impact of the challenges being faced and the results to be had by some of the programs discussed may help this research become even sounder for the future. The result in reflecting on this article; I had some positive takeaways to help me in the review of research practices, but still many questions to ensure I can be a successful academic researcher in time. a successful academic researcher in time.

Keeping Up the Good Fight: Reflections on Writing for a Highly-Specialized Audience

The website “Existential Comics” is one of my very favorites. It has a great nerdish sense of humor, and it gets at some of the more complicated informal components of why studying philosophy can be such a challenge (i.e. is it possible that Kant actually wanted someone to understand the Critique of Pure Reason? Why is symbolic logic such a pain in the neck? Why are there so few women represented in philosophy courses? What’s with all the beards?). In one of their best comics, a handful of philosophers are playing the game Pictionary and arguing the entire time. In one of the panels of the comic, Jeremy Bentham, one of the theorists responsible for the development of Utilitarian philosophy, leans over to Martin Heidegger and says “Oh look at that, you *can* communicate in a way that is comprehensible.” It doesn’t have the same chortle-inducing hilarity to it when writing it out in a blog post, but what really caught me about this missive is that it reminded me that it can be quite difficult to take on a reading for which you may not have been part of the authors’ intended audience.

Huh? Heidegger is known to be a bit challenging to understand.  Source

Huh? Heidegger is known to be a bit challenging to understand. Source:

Take the article on Flores v. Arizona published by Thomas et. al out of Arizona State University in the Policy Futures in Education Volume 12. The article is an interesting one for a number of reasons, but for the purposes of this entry, I’d like for the readers here to think about the audience for the article; let me give a brief summary. The authors are writing about a landmark case in education out of Arizona; the case (Flores v. Arizona) is centered on whether or not a public school is obliged – via U.S. Civil Rights law – to provide instruction that supports English Language Learners (ELL). There is a brief description of the demography and language characteristics of the state of Arizona, a detailed legislative and legal history of the lawsuit/case, a comprehensive description of the data methods and motivations, and orientation on the scholarly research that applies to the case, and as a bridge to the conclusion, a lengthy detailing of neo-liberalism, its challenges, shortfalls, and its morphology in U.S. politics.

The sections on demography and language policy are clear. The growth of the Latino/a population in Arizona is substantial and is projected to rise, and many of the children in these families will be ELLs, so there is a clear need for more resources and planning to ensure that language acquisition instruction is provided to the populations that need it.  Similarly, the history of the Flores v. Arizona case is straightforward and is replete with references to literature that supports the history of the case and the media attention it has received. The section on methodology comes as a mildly jarring turn: a discussion of the technical details of how research was conducted on the media attention on the case. There is a lengthy section here intended to orient the reader to the research literature, too, with a multitude of references.

Here’s where the fun really begins, though, in the sections on neo-liberalism. The writing is at once descriptive of the general political-economic philosophy of neo-liberalism and also the way it is intertwined in the developmental arc of U.S. politics in the last 30-40 years. There are sections describing the central problems of the neo-liberal state, the academics who developed the theory, and the characteristic markers of a neo-liberal state in the way its legislation and cultural posture foster the creation of a specific set of values (rather than serving as a moderator of citizens’ civil liberties).

The conclusion comes down to making a connection between neo-liberalism and the education-legislative footprint of Arizona as viewed through the lens of the Flores v. Arizona case. One comes away from the article with a sense that of what neo-liberalism is, what its flaws are, and how it’s connected to Arizona legislation. Also, the Flores v. Arizona case is used as a tool to demonstrate that neo-liberalism is a narrow window through which to view civil rights and education.

The connection here between the cartoon where Bentham gives Heidegger a hard time and the article is around finding an audience. While reading the article, I found myself wrinkling my brow, wondering why the authors continued to pepper the writing with the word “discursive” and undefined phrases like “appropriate education.” I kept finding myself wondering when the authors would say something along the lines of “we argue,” or “based on our research findings, we contend,” or some other clear marker of a formal argument being made. I read the article a second time, more slowly, making notes along the way to ensure I hadn’t missed something while looking for the argument.

What I realized is that I am approaching the article, and all of the readings for that matter, from a source of bias. I have a mental model, a framework of understanding academic literature, that requires me to be able to pull out a contestable thesis, and after thinking carefully about the article, I am left with the following possibilities: (1) the argument in the article is that the description of the demography, legislation, case history, and neo-liberalism is valid, or (2) that there should be non-neo-liberal ways of viewing civil rights cases such as Flores v. Arizona.

Neither one of those arguments is contestable, to my mind, and so I imagine that I’m missing some critical reflexivity, some sense of the community of practice in higher education research, and some general understanding of the audience of the article. Heidegger isn’t terribly accessible, but if you can be professionally socialized into the field of Continental philosophy, his work on defining what it is to “be” is fascinating, and is critical to the development of the field of existentialism. Similarly, I am reminded that the literature in the field of higher education will be a new journey, and one that will require me to develop a new set of analytical frameworks to appreciate and understand the efforts therein.

As for finding an audience, this article is a reminder that as I write, considering my audience will be critical to my success; as I conclude, I wonder if I’ve been able to hit the mark in that regard.  The notion that “access” is a multifaceted concept is, I hope, one that doesn’t require much qualification.  But as I process this piece of writing, especially in the context of the literature I’ve read recently on communities of practice, part of the “access” conversation, I would contend, includes the concept of making your arguments accessible as a scholar to those who would both follow in your footsteps and those who would use your work to influence policy.


Melinda Hollis Thomas, Dinny Risri Aletheiani, David Lee Carlson, Ann Dutton Ewbank (2014). ‘Keeping Up the Good Fight’: the said and unsaid in Flores v. Arizona, Policy Futures in Education, 12(2), 242-261.

It’s like learning a whole new language.

It’s only when we have really mastered something that we can make it more accessible to others.

A big part of my job as a school psychologist is to explain test results to parents. It’s really important to me that they understand my results – how the information fits with what they already know about their child and how we can use the information to make school better for them.

And every time I get an intern, their first report looks something like this, “The Fluid-Crystallized Index (FCI), measures general intellectual ability, including both fluid and crystallized intelligence.  The FCI is obtained by combining the Sequential Index, the Simultaneous Index, the Learning Index, the Planning Index, and the Knowledge Index, and is considered the best measure of cognitive ability……

WHAT??? What does that even mean???

WHAT??? What does that even mean???

I know why this happens: at the beginning of the year interns don’t really understand what they’re saying, so they parrot what the professor or test-maker says. But by the end of the year, it starts to make more sense. They are able to make connections between the theory they’ve been taught and the real-life child sitting in front of them, and so they are able to use words that normal people actually understand.

It’s only when we have really mastered something that we can make it more accessible to others.

The articles and journals and book chapters I read last week knocked me on my butt. For one reading, I was on google every three minutes looking up words and phrases that I had never heard. Or I’d heard the words, but never together in that phrase. Or I’ve heard the phrase a hundred times and have always gotten by on just having a general understanding of it – but now I need to really grasp it to deepen my understanding of other concepts. Literally, I am not exaggerating – every three minutes.

It sucked.

I read several chapters from the Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (Denzin, Lincoln & Smith, 2010), which explores ideas such as localized critical indigenous theory and critical indigenous pedagogy. (Click on the links. You’ll enjoy it.) Essentially, they make the case that non-indigenous peoples (i.e. white/Eurocentric scientists) should not be the ones researching indigenous peoples (people groups native to a land, such as Native Americans in the Americas or the Māori people in New Zealand). To explain, I will use the word “We” in place of “non-indigenous peoples”, because of all the people groups described in the book, that is the one with which I most closely identify.

When We go into a place to do research, complete anthropological studies, or collect information to better understand a people group, We are really imposing Our own thoughts and ideas on Their culture. They already understand Their culture, but We don’t accept that. We want to find things for Ourselves, and then let The Rest of the World know what We learned. Linda Tuhiwai Smith, a professor of indigenous education at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, is the leading expert in this field. She purports that They should be allowed to do Their own research within Their cultural norms and bounds, and the research should not necessarily satisfy the rules Our scientific method has put in place.

Smith and other experts in this field suggest several structures that would identify cultural and critical pedagogy, which they explain in the book. But I found a buried line from the critics that spoke to my soul, “Working class educators criticized the theory because they felt its language was elitist and created a new form of oppression.” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2010)


This is my frustration with peer-reviewed research and generally with people in graduate school (especially those in doctoral programs). We can be annoying when we talk to non-doctoral people. We are just starting to learn about these amazing new theories and ideas that are blowing our minds. We want to share them with the world, but we don’t actually understand them yet, not in a way that we can internalize what they mean and explain them in a way that general society can understand. So we parrot what the professor says, or what we read in books, or what that really cool blog said. We may sound smart to some people, but in real life most are just tuning us out.

I have condescendingly called it “Drinking the Doctoral Kool-Aid,” and I have vowed not to do it.

But now I question my resolve. Language is truly acquired when we use it with understanding. I would never expect a child to wait until they could speak in full, understandable sentences before they talked to other people. And I would never expect someone practicing a second language to wait until they had fully mastered it before trying it out. In fact, it would be just the opposite – I applaud and praise their attempts, even when incorrect or incomplete. The only way they will learn and truly internalize this new language is by using it. Perhaps the same is true of doctoral students. We’re learning a new language, and we need to practice it. I give grace to my interns practicing their new language… perhaps I need to offer myself the same grace.

But I do still think that – at the end of the day, after we have mastered the concepts and the new language – we need to take it back down a notch. Research and innovations don’t create Access or Equity if they require rapid-fire google skills.


Denzin, N. K.,  Lincoln, Y. S., & Smith, L.T. (2010). Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies.  Los Angeles: Sage.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2010). Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies. In N. K. Denzin, Y. S. Lincoln, & L. T. Smith (Eds.), Critical Methodologies and Indigenous Inquiry (2nd ed., pp. 1–20). Los Angeles: Sage.

A Battle for Access

It’s scary how politics holds the reins over the educational system in the United States, particularly in regards to Arizona. ‘Keeping Up the Good Fight’: the said and unsaid in Flores v. Arizona (Thomas, Aletheiani, Carlson & Ewbank, 2014), paints a dark picture of the struggle in funding English Language Learning (ELL) programs in Arizona. Thomas (2014) depicts the struggle of ELL programs since 2001 by portraying the over twenty court cases, appeals, bills, and reforms in one linear chart (p.245-247). The chart provides only a snapshot of the struggle but shows the blatant disregard of Arizona’s politicians and society not protecting non-english speakers rights to be equally educated. The authors’ main argument can be summed in in one statement.

“Policies and practices follow a market-driven mentality in which the whims of supply and demand dictate who gets what, how much, how often and at what cost…language is left to the competitive market, a place where individuals and groups have to battle with each other for access” (Thomas et al., p. 250, 2014).

I hold this sentence to be representative of many of the struggles in education in the state of Arizona. The fact that Arizona’s legislators are more concerned with the bottom line than the improvement and success of those who need it is astounding. The ten years of fighting to disassemble ELL programs and the over 21 million dollars in fines that the state was willing to pay to not have to support students who were trying to learn english is a stark example of the growing disparity in education. Although this article only shows us the struggle of ELL programs and those in them, Tyrone Howard in Why Race and Culture Matter in Schools (2010), shows us the growing disparity between white and nonwhite students. A large reason for this growing disparity is due to the racial inequality throughout the history of the United States. This history of racial inequality is then reflected by Arizona’s resistance to help underprivileged groups such as non-english speakers.

I am also disappointed to say that the fault not only lies on the shoulders of Arizona’s politicians, but on Arizona’s society as well. I am ashamed to admit that I was not very aware of the struggles with funding ELL programs in Arizona. One of the reasons I (an active participant in Arizona) did not know about the programs is I took little to know time to even find out about or care about it. I was more focused on problems that I saw more pertinent such as higher education funding, taxation, teacher pay, and other various community issues. In this barrage of political topics, I neglected to even think of others outside my direct scope. I briefly remember reading the headlines in the local newspaper about ELL programs but glanced over it because it did not pertain to me. It was not until I read this article that I really began to understand the struggles of non-english speakers in the K-12 education system.

This article shows that it is important to listen to those affected by our political system. It should not take fines and court rulings for us as a society to listen to quieter voices. If people are asking for help so that they can succeed within our educational system, we should listen to their needs, not to the economic bottom line. One should not have to beg and file lawsuits to get educational programs that help them assimilate into a society in which they belong, we should encourage them by giving them the financial and physical resources support they need. By helping others grow as contributing, educated members of society, we help our community grow and learn in the process.



Howard, T. (2010). Why Race and Culture Matters in Schools: Closing the Achievement Gap in America’s Classrooms.  New York, NY: Teacher’s Press

Thomas,M.,  Aletheiani, D., Carlson, D. & Ewbank, A. (2014). Keeping Up the Good Fight: the said and unsaid in Flores v. Arizona. Policy Futures In Education. Vol. 12.


Community Cultural Wealth and High Stakes Information

“I do all kinds of work with people in the community. I work with the Private Industry Council and help people get jobs. I also work with the Historical Society. These jobs keep me busy and focused on school and help me meet lots of interesting people.”

-from “Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College-Going Information Networks” by Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, and Cooper.

The word “community” means different things to different people. For me, my community is multi-faceted. My blood family, my in-laws, my spiritual influences, and now, my doctoral program cohort, are all part of my community through shared passion, interests, and goals. I see my community as more than people; they are a network of resources for me to draw from for knowledge and support. The article, Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth Research discussed the collaboration of students, teachers, researchers and other community entities engaging in action-research to identify and solve systemic issues in education (Bautista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza, & Matthews, 2013). Wegner (2000) discussed how organizations should design themselves to act as social learning entities to foster a “sense of belong” thus enriching the community of practice holistically. The authors of Keeping up the Good Fight used Flores v. Arizona as a basis for presenting a framework, and approach to having a purposeful discussion on English learning programs and the ways in which the community offers rationalities in support of such programs (Thomas, Aletheiani, Carlson, & Ewbank, 2014). Communities, whether social, familial, educational, and practice-based should be the network in which educational capital and success is cultivated.

In my effort to formulate research focused on micro-inequities and their impact on student retention in higher education environments, I found Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, and Cooper’s (2009) article on community cultural wealth to be a strong connection to not only my research interests, but to the theme of how community systems impact student learning and their aspirations to attend college.  In short, the article discusses the ways that college-orientated information is shared between teacher-educators and students who have college aspirations, primarily those who come from Latina/o communities. This is a different argument entirely from the large amount of research centered upon access to higher learning for minorities. Rather, this argument seeks to expose the ways in which minority students are not provided with necessary information, also known as “high stakes” information, to be successful in obtaining a college degree (p. 542). An example of this finding can be seen when a guidance counselor holds a belief that all students shouldn’t go to college because there would be no car mechanics, landscapers, or housekeepers in society, further suggesting that these positions are of value to those who’ve obtained a higher-economic status as validation for the argument (Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, & Cooper, 2009).

The findings of the article discovered that the Latina/o students analyzed within the study found alternative ways to seek high stakes information to fulfill their collegial dreams through social, familial, navigational, and linguistic information networks (e.g. building relationships with fellow church members and pastoral staff for guidance and encouragement to keep aspirations intact). This is in comparison to White students who are given a wealth of information such as ACT/SAT supplies, information on Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Dual Enrollment courses, and pre-professional materials (health professions and legal professions) because there is a general belief that they should reasonably be able to attend, and succeed in college.

The negation in delivering high stakes information is, in fact, a micro-inequity because the teacher-educator makes an assumption that students of color, especially those with undereducated parents, shouldn’t be expected to attend college, and thus, denies the student high-stakes information to prepare and succeed in a collegial environment. This act is largely different than overt discrimination, because it is a very small message that is sent to the student throughout their schooling that suggests they have no place in higher education. Unfortunately, some students will succumb to this aggression choosing menial employment positions which perpetuates poverty within their community, while others will use this experience to fuel their aspirations leaning on those information networks mentioned previously.

Information networks are crucial parts of cultural capital, especially for minority students (Yosso, 2005). Where a White student will contact a tutor or guidance counselor for information or advice, minority students may choose to talk to a family member or church parishioner for support. Various experiences and identities contribute the overall cultural wealth and capital of the community. As teacher-educators, it is of the utmost importance that we continue to build and draw upon the identities of our own and those of our students to maintain cultural relevance within our practice.


Bautista, M. A., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D., & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory action research and city youth: Methodological insights from the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record, 115(100303), 1-23.

Liou, D. D., Antrop-Gonzalez, R., & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the promise of community cultural wealth to sustaining latina/o students’ college going information networks. American Educational Studies Association, 534-555.

Thomas, M. H., Aletheiani, D. R., Carlson, D. L., & Ewbank, A. D. (2014). Keeping up the good fight: The said and unsaid in Flors v. Arizona. Policy Futures in Education, 12(2), 242-261.

Wegner, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization Articles, 7(2), 225-246.

Yosso, T. J. (n.d.). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-91. doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006

Improving Access for Success


Engle, J., & Tinto, Vincent. (2008). Moving beyond access: College success for low-income, first generation students. The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, 1-30.

In looking at a variety of scholarly readings this week, I discovered Moving Beyond Access: College Success for Low-Income, First-Generation Students. This reading was focused on college attainment rates in the United States for underrepresented populations. The authors focused on providing a well defined report that, “examines the current status of low-income, first-generation college students” (Engle & Tinto, 2008). The information presented was supported by data from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, Beginning Postsecondary Students Study, and Baccalaureate and Beyond Study. Included in the report were metrics on degree attainment rates and persistence. The report also provided details on barrier’s that are being faced by the students in the selected research community.

The writers in this case introduced their research with an executive summary that focused on the four following topics.

• Why does college success matter?

• How do low-income, first-generation students fair in college?

• What are the constraints on college success for low-income, first-generation students?

• How can we promote college access and success for low-income, first-generation students?

Each of these topics was represented with supporting material that helped to frame the problem. The introduction of the study then continued to outline the issues at hand with degree completion numbers with the fore mentioned student populations. Graphical charts and information were presented throughout to show data and statistics on first to second year persistence, six-year outcomes by types of institutions first attended, transfer rates, student retention rates by major, degree completions rates, and many more.  Essentially the article was inundated with materials to help support the position being presented. Engle and Tinto (2008) feel that large gaps persist in terms of access  to and success in higher education in this country.

As an individual who is looking to develop my own research skills, I have put lots of thought into the best way to present my research to ensure it will be able to have an impact in the future. After reading this article by Engle and Tinto, it helped me to see that it is important on how you organize and present your research information and data, to engage and capture your intended audience. In presenting information and supporting data in a coherent manner that flows smoothly for the reader, it can make a difference on capturing a wider audience. For those who are interested in looking at research on educational attainment rates and college completion rates, I would recommend this reading. The strength of the argument was good, and the supporting material helped support the argument of the authors.

Moving Beyond Access: College Success for Low-Income, First-Generation Students grabbed my attention not only for the subject matter being discussed, but also because the smooth format, flow, and clear presentation of data within the report. It read as a very well put together writing with both clean, clear, and concise information while also showing support for key topics. The use of research data and statistics, to help support the final recommendations was a sound approach for this reading. Each area of the article was well defined, sections were strategically placed to capture the reader’s attention. The visual aids of charts and graphs were well placed, and  helped me see the result of what the writers were intending for readers to gain from their study. The reading certainly helped me see, “that while college access has increased for low-income, first-generation students, the opportunity to successfully earn a college degree has not” (Engle & Tinto, 2008). I will also note that the data and information were presented in methods that I understood and could see myself duplicating a similar style in my own research, in the future.

The findings that were presented in this report were significant and presented with a logical approach. Engle and Tinto did a good job at presenting appropriate materials by use of their research data, to support their theory. The examples presented throughout the writing engaged me as a reader and the authors choice to use visual aids helped to grasp my attention as a reader. Because they offered such a wide variety of data and material, the visual aids were well placed in were key to the supporting metrics not get lost in the writing. Although my preconceived knowledge agreed with their position, the study findings did help to reinforce my position that there is a problem with low-income, first-generation college students and the various barriers that are continuing to hinder college completion rates for this student population.

The conclusions to the reading were determined to provide insight and data to support efforts for educators and policy makers to improve college access and success. (Engle & Tinto, 2008) There was  a connection made to materials being presented and the theoretical position of the authors. The authors had a well stated position from the initial summary and introductory pieces; that continued to flow through their concluding words. I felt this article did a nice job of summing it all up in the end by making  sure readers understood the problem presented, and the recommendations to help combat the issue moving forward.

After reading Why College Retention Matters, I noticed its relation to the study Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection by Tyrone C. Howard. Although they are not directly linked, both articles crossed paths with their communities of practice, in focusing on low-income, first-generation college students, their access, and the educational attainment rates of these populations. I think further study in the combined areas of critical reflection, educational attainment rates, and research looking at success rates for minorities might help me build on this research. In looking at both readings that I blogged about this week, they have helped me as a reader come up with new ideas for research as my action research cycle swings into motion.

Equally Inclusive to All – Connie Hahne

The newspaper heading every week for the last 20 years could have read as follows, “Education leaders looking for a fix to student underachievement!” Placement of the blame would most likely change weekly.  Ideas for educational reform include more funding, better teachers, smaller class sizes, Common Core Standards and more rigorous assessments. Does a fix really exist within the walls of the school building? How inclusive of all students are the present educational reforms?

I believe most educators and administrators are unaware of or understand how racism affects students’ ability to receive an equal and fair education in today’s schools.  Racism in not an issue of the past, nor was it a passing problem resolved during the Civil Rights Movement.  According to scientist and paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, “Racial prejudges may be as old as recorded human history.”(p.32)  “All American culture heroes embraced racial attitudes that would embarrass public-school myth makers.” In his book, The Mismeasure of Man. Gould identifies Thomas Jefferson, Plato, and Benjamin Franklin as scholars that published articles about the inferiority of people labeled in present times as minorities.  American school age children learn about these men as the country’s founding fathers, greatest inventors, and philosophers that shaped ways of thinking and living today.  Many contemporaries may state that their racial views hold no detriment on modern society. On the contrary, looking at the current state of our school systems and the struggling students which have been identified as low-income, minority, at risk, and English language learners; it is evident that past racial beliefs from these American cultural heroes has seeped down into school practices, teaching methodologies, and mainstream beliefs about student achievement and behavior.

In his article, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection, Professor Tyrone C. Howard refers to DuBois'(1903) prediction that racial issues would plague the 20th century is even more unsurpassable in the 21st century. All data on student achievement or lack thereof, directly segregates levels of academic success between racial groups.  The dominate culture scoring the highest and the minority groups still struggling and filling up the seats in the alternative placement and special education classrooms.  “Between 1990 and 2012, the educational attainment rate of 25- to 29-year-olds who received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent increased for Whites (from 90 to 95 percent), Blacks (from 82 to 89 percent), Hispanics (from 58 to 75 percent), and Asians/Pacific Islanders (from 92 to 96 percent). The percentage of Whites who received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent remained higher than that of Blacks and Hispanics.” (NCES 2013).

To increase the quality of education for non-dominate culture and non-mainstream students, schools and classrooms need to embrace alternative pedagogy that is inclusive of all students with assessments that are nonbiased to any specific group of students. (Garcia and Ortiz, 2008) Educational reform includes teaching both experienced and new teachers how to best work with diverse populations of students. “Teachers critically analyze important issues such as race, ethnicity, and culture, and recognize how these important concepts shape the learning experience for many students. More specifically, teachers must be able to construct pedagogical practices that have relevance and meaning to students’ social and cultural realities.”(Howard 2011). Students are viewed as valued contributors in the classroom.  The role of learner and teacher bounces back and forth between students and teacher.

True mindfulness, acceptance of a problem, extensive education, and retraining of educators and policy makers are possibly the only ways to break the cycle of centuries long racism.  Martin Luther King believed that all people are ultimately connected. He said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”We are intimately connected.  We cannot continue to ignore a segment of the population and hope the problem will disappear.  Eventually, racism and inequality in education will be detrimental to all.


Garcia, S.B. & Ortiz, A.A. (2013). Intersectionality as a framework for transformative

research in special education. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 13(2) 32­47.

Fast Facts. (n.d.). Fast Facts. Retrieved May 26, 2014, from

Gould, S. J. (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York: Norton.

Howard, T. C. (2003). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients For Critical Teacher Reflection. Theory Into Practice, 42(3), 195-202.

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2013). The Condition of Education 2013 (NCES 2013–037),

Resetting and renewing approaches to student support: reflecting on personal bias

While reading Stephan Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man (1981) which focused on racial and cultural biases that were taken as fact due to “scientific research” that was not challenged and was taken as pure fact during the 1700 and 1800’s.  Further, through the readings of Medicine Stories (1998).  I found myself posing two questions. 1. Am I’m biased in the approach I take working with my students?  2. Are the actions and interventions I am implementing with my colleagues helping the student, or actually fixing the problem?  When looking at the former, I know that I am not looking to disenfranchise a population of people that could be inferred through Gould (1981) The Mismeasure of Man, rather that I have some preconceived notions of backgrounds on my students and may not truly know the root of issues as suggested by Howard (2003). In my nine plus years of working in higher education, primarily in housing, at large public institutions and mid-sized private schools, I have had the opportunity to work with a large and diverse student population.  Throughout this time I have dealt with student issues pertaining to academics, behavior, adjustment and personal development.  I have always taken the approach that each student is an individual, I need to hear their story, only then can I begin to help them.  However after several years and multiple stories, I cannot but help to start categorizing and making assumptions about my students before even really hearing their complete story.  I contradict myself as it relates to one of the central tenets “rejection of deficit-based thinking” (Howard 2003, pg.197).  Now I know that students from diverse backgrounds and of lower socio-economic standing can achieve academically, but I also see these two factors as the root of the issue, not looking deeper into the individual. For instance, some colleagues and I have worked with a student that is from an underrepresented group, comes from low income and is first generation.  The student was struggling academically and was disengaged from peer groups.  Naturally conversations went towards helping the student get connected socially; perhaps through student groups, mentorship, etc., help the student learn study skills, and connect them with opportunities for employment, done and solved.  This was not the case though, I did not listen to the story, and I did not do a critical reflection of myself and the student.  After another colleague had the opportunity to talk (listen) to the student, we discovered the student to be from the foster system, providing for another family member, was hungry, and has a distrust in authority figures.  After reading Howard and Gould I had the gut check moment of how easy it is to fall into patterns, seeing a demographic, a university indicator score, a geographical location and say to myself, here is the issue and here is the solution, when in fact, this could be further from the truth. In Medicine Stories by Aurora Levins Morales, she talks about whom as the authority to tell stories, dictate what is and will become history and more importantly how people and groups can initiate change.  While some of the stories in the collection really made think about my own history, where I grew up and the influences/biases I was predisposed to think, I feel that through my education and interactions with others I can see the other sides and what is not being said.  This was a high moment for me, what grounded me was the reference to the feminist that is able to create equality and shared duties in her own home with her husband, although great for her, does not solve the overall problem in which she is committed too. I like to think that the work I do with the individual student is what I am supposed to be doing, however when looking at the overall theme of access, equity and impact, while the impact for that individual is great, the overall concept of equity and access to the whole, assuming that there is more than just the one student out there that needs help, I am failing.   I am able to help those that ask questions, are willing to talk, share and be open to assistance.  If I truly want to help students, I need to look at the bigger picture, the root of issues and look to solve from the onset, rather than from the after effects. Overall the readings were a reset for me, a reminder that there are plenty of personal bias and assumptions made by myself and others that have a lasting effect on the student populations we serve and are here to help.


Howard, T. C. (2003).  Culturally Relevant Pedagogy:  Ingredients for critical teacher reflection, 42(3), 195-202.

Levins-Morales, A. (1998).  Medicine Stories: History, Culture, and the Politics of Identity.  Cambridge: South End Press. Gould, S.J. (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company. Shulman, L., Golde, C., Bueschel, A., & Garabedian, K. Reclaiming Education’s Doctorates: A Critique and a Proposal. Educational Researcher43, 25-32.

Disrupting Small Business Owners Realities

For the week 3 readings, Bautista et al. (2013) stood out the most to be, particularly in the idea around limitations of what is available to students and disrupting their reality around all the possibilities out there (p.9). The idea that many of these students could not even think about how good their school could be and what resources could be available to them spoke to the ceilings that we can create for ourselves. Disruption to their reality broke open the idea that there was so much for them.

This reminded me of the small business learners I work with in my Small Business Leadership Academy Program. The program itself is an 8-week, scholarship based program designed to help local small business owners be better business leaders. Within the program, these business owners are exposed to strategy, services, negotiations, systems and organizational behavior lessons all in an effort to improve their business acumen while also building a network of small business peers.

Many of these individuals have never pursued higher education, often coming to their business through family. Much like the students in the Bautista et al (2013) reading, the small business owners often do not know what they do not know meaning they often move forward with their business only doing what they are aware of, not realizing the resources or opportunities out there for them. Our program often serves as a disruption to their reality in a way that helps them find greater success through exposure to new lessons, life experiences from peers and understanding of what resources are available to small business owners within the community.

This actually made some connections to me within Denzin et al (2008) through the idea of shared “lived experiences” (p. 89) as well as getting “voices from the bottom” (p.94). Although Denzin et al (2008) is referring to Critical Race Theory (CRT), I see the parallels here with the small business learners. This is a group that is truly living and breathing their practice every day and often have to make decisions that will shape the rest of their future.

Being exposed to shared lived experiences with other small business owners, even if it is across industries, often does more for their success than our business lessons. Hearing the struggles and successes of others in similar situations as them often inspires them to new heights. Small business research is often done not from the perspective of a small business owner but from statistical or financial perspectives that dehumanize much of their experiences. The idea of having more small business owners take control of some of that research and get involved makes so much sense in the potential outcomes.

As I look towards my professional practice, these readings, along with the other week 3 readings give me much to consider. One area I want to focus on within my research is the application of supply chain principles to graduate business student processes from admissions through graduation. While looking at things from a process perspective, the readings from this week remind me that I need to think about setting up processes that don’t leave the student behind but take into perspective their ideas, knowledge and potential.

Bautista, M., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D. & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory Action
Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth Research.
Teachers College Record, 115(100303), 1-23.

Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y. & Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2008). Handbook of Critical and Indigenous
Methodologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

The ability to reflect and analyze individual actions or attitudes and behavior can have a significant positive influence on personal and professional growth.  Howard (2003) discusses the importance of having teachers participate in honest self-reflection and critique of their own thoughts and behaviors as it pertains to race in cultural contexts (2003). The goal of critical teacher reflection would be to give pre-service or practicing teachers a space to reflect on and analyze important issues such as race, ethnicity, and culture and recognize how their own attitudes and beliefs can dramatically impact outcomes for students. The act of reflection gives attention to one’s own experiences and behaviors. The meaning that is developed from the act of reflection can help inform future decision making (Howard, 2003).   Through this process, pre-service and practicing teachers can develop pedagogical practices that are racially affirming, culturally relevant, and socially meaningful. This type of awareness and development of culturally relevant pedagogy, I feel will help teachers provide equal access to education for all students regardless of their cultural or ethnic background. In the article, Howard (2003) discussed how Ladson-Billings (1994) argued that one of the key components of culturally relevant pedagogy is the authentic belief that students from culturally diverse and low-income backgrounds are capable learners and if students are treated in that manner, then they will ultimately demonstrate high degrees of competence.

I personally place a high value on teacher self reflection in all areas of teacher pedagogy for both pre-service and practicing teachers. When I think about my teaching experience over the last 13 years, I believe that my success has had a lot to do with natural reflection in my teaching experiences. While I feel that it is innate for most people to reflect on experiences, I think the real skill that brings reflection to life is the ability to honestly engage in reflection in a way that takes a critical look at personal beliefs or actions and makes use of the success or failure of them to make changes that will improve future experiences. Sometimes it can be true that a teacher may not recognize the key areas in their teaching where reflection is needed. This is where mentoring comes into play. Having a mentor to guide the reflection process is crucial for active reflection to be successful. My research interest is in the area of looking at the translation of knowledge and experiences from teacher preparation programs into successful teaching experiences for beginning teachers. For many of the student teachers I have mentored, the act of reflection seems to be a bit unfamiliar. Sometimes pre-service teachers place “blame” on factors that are seemingly out of their control when discussing a lesson that was taught or an interaction with students that may not have gone as planned. As a mentor, I attempt to help student teachers reflect on how their beliefs or actions may have impacted the lesson or the situation. In the area of culturally relevant pedagogy, and awareness of how your beliefs have an effect on your expectations and interactions with students of different ethnic or cultural backgrounds can help pre-service and practicing teachers avoid deficit based-thinking when teaching. It will also allow students to have access to an education that views each individual as equally capable regardless of background and sets a level of high expectations for success for all students.


Howard, T.C. (2003). Culturally relevant pedagogy: Ingredients for critical teacher reflection. Theory into Practice, 42(3), 195-202.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465-491.

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Self Reflection

According to Tyrone Howard (2003), “the formation of a culturally relevant teaching paradigm becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, without critical reflection. The nature of critical reflection can be an arduous task because it forces the individual to ask challenging questions that pertain to one’s construction of individuals from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds” (p. 198). As an academic advisor, I am often the very first person a new student meets upon being accepted to the university. Therefore, I am constantly mindful of how my past experiences, expectations, and biases can be passed on to my students which can result in a positive or negative first impression of the university on the part of my students.

This article was particularly poignant in that it identified a problem of practice and posed a relevant solution that can implemented in a variety of educational settings. The issue is that teacher-educators lack self-reflection in determining how their biases affect their pedagogy. The article posed the question, “what does race have to do with teaching?” Teachers generally build curriculum based on theory and desired learning objectives rarely considering the cultural and ethnic background of their students. While viewing students as learners, regardless of their cultural experience, is one way of leveling the playing field between students, it omits the tendency of students to relate principles to their own experiences. To remedy this problem of practice, Howard (2003) presents the notion of cultural reflection in which teacher-educators become culturally relevant by reflecting on their own experiences and biases in order to see how their position in the learning process affects the student in a positive or negative way.

Howard (2003) proposes a solution to the question at hand by suggesting that teacher-educators engage in a self-reflective process to examine their own biases and how their pedagogy and classroom environment are impacted by those biases. I agree with Howard’s point that the process of cultural reflection poses a challenge for teacher-educators because it forces them to question their own construction and ideas of students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Facing the arduous and possibly painful process of reflection in which the educator must identify the complexities of teaching students who are from backgrounds different from their own. Howard (2003) suggests the process is often painful because it forces the educator to recognize their views on cultural differences were instilled by family members who may have impressed their prejudiced views on the educator, which innately impacts the learning process in the classroom, especially for ethnic minorities.

Cultural reflection also requires that teacher-educators take personal accountancy for their own pedagogy and teaching methods (Ladson-Billings, 1995). While the district or university may mandate certain curricula and learning objectives in the classroom, educators must take personal action to ensure the academic and social competence of their students remains intact. This notion can prove to be challenging as it calls educators to find a balance between the student’s home life and school environment, however, doing so will produce students who are successful academically, are culturally competent, and socially equitable (Ladson-Billings, 1995).

As an African American, I greatly understand the importance of culturally relevant pedagogy in the learning environment. When I was in first grade my teacher sent me home with a homework assignment. The following week we would be studying the 1950’s in class. The teacher asked us and our parents to conduct some research about the decade, and come dressed in the fashion of the day to share with our classmates. The purpose of the exercise was for us to reflect on the “good times” of the decade and pay homage to the happenings of the era. Needless to say, my mother, who was a child during the ‘50s was extremely angry with this assignment, for the era was anything but “good times” for people of color. Sadly, the assignment objectives were completely lost on me as the cultural difference between my teacher and myself (family) were at odds. While the intent was not necessarily one of malice, the learning objectives were not socially, nor culturally relevant to me. Howard’s notion of cultural reflection could have been applied to this example resulting in greater impact for the classroom environment.


Howard, T. C. (2003). Culturally relevant pedagody: Ingredients for critical teacher reflection. Theory into Practice, 42(3), 195-202.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465-491.




Intersectionality and Gifted Education


The article, Intersectionality as a Framework for Transformative Research in Special Education (2013), connected to many professional experiences I have had but not necessarily for the more direct or obvious reasons.  The article describes in detail the boxes we put students into, quite literally on forms to begin with, and the more expansively in our experiences with how we treat students in the education environment.  Intersectionality is the term the article uses to explain as the basis of two or more markers of identity and difference (e.g. race, class, and gender)  (Garcia and Ortiz, 2013).  The article tackles the theory that students are judged and discriminated against in the educational system based on the categories and labels of how they are assessed.  They authors make five points as to the impact of intersectionality: 1. Students are complex and the categories they fit into should not be viewed through narrow lenses  2. How these categories are interconnected should be carefully evaluated  3. Ethnic groups are misrepresented within every category based on stereotypes in that there seems to be a minority that is stereotyped into a program at some level 4. Intersectionality attempts to create layers to the system so that students are no longer viewed as one-dimensional and 5.  The power base that the system is created on needs to be evaluated and addressed, and ultimately changed. This creates an unbalancedsystem that our students are experiencing.  As an educator, that is something that I see needs to desperately to be addressed.  Teachers need training in order to address this issue and become more skilled.

Many of the examples given were concerning student ability, minority status, and the students’ economic status. Much of the article was focused on creating opportunities to redirect students out of ELL and special education classrooms.  However, my connection to this article was with the comment regarding minority students and having access to gifted education.  I teach in a school with very few minorities but my district does have Hispanic students in significant numbers at other schools.  I obtained my endorsement in gifted education several years ago and became aware of the underrepresentation of minority students not only in my district but also  nationwide.   The lack of access to gifted services for minority students is often due to language or cultural barriers inhibiting their success on the assessment we have.  The head of our district’s gifted department at the time I was obtaining my endorsement chose to remedy that by giving all ELL students a non-verbal gifted assessment to see if some of those students might qualify.  The value of enabling all students to have their needs fully met with the education system was immeasurable and it saddens me to think of how many gifted students did not have the opportunity to receive the benefits prior to that.  I am pleased, though, that I witnessed her use her voice as a scholar to create a balanced system during the time that she was there.

Having access is only important if the program itself leads to excellence.  The irony was that as the gifted system was set up at the time, students could qualify for services in up to three different subjects: verbal (reading), quantitative (math), and non-verbal (spatial).  The students who received services for non-verbal only attended for one, 45 minute session a week.  Although it is better than nothing, it certainly is not likely to fully meet the needs of a student who is gifted but is unable to demonstrate it due to a language barrier.

Referring back to the fifth point in the article above, our district now has had a change in the head of our gifted program (i.e. a “power”).  Non-verbal no longer exists once a week as this leader believes the program should be set up differently.  However, an entirely new test is used for students to be able to qualify for the gifted program.  I do not have access to the results but after reading this article, I wonder how many of our ELL students are being impacted by the current test that was chosen and if anything is being done to reach out to ensure that their needs are being met.


Garcia, Shernaz B. and Alba A. Ortiz (2013). Intersectionality as a Framework for Transformative Research in Special Education.  Multiple Voices,  13(2),  32-47