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Discussions About Ethnicity, Race and Gender in the Classroom Benefits Young Latinos and Blacks, not Color-Blind Approach

First Posted: Apr 26, 2015 04:39 PM EDT
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Young black and Latino men and boys benefit from discussing race, class and gender topics.

According to new research, the decision to forgo a color-blind approach and, instead, encourage frank discussions about ethnicity, race and gender in the classroom could yield impressive results, including differentiated instruction, frequent family engagement, a positive culture and professional educational environments.

The latest report issued by the Center for Collaborative Education and the Annenberg Institute, "Promising Practices and Unfinished Business: Fostering Equity and Excellence for Black and Latino Males," offers recommendations and findings aimed at helping study commissioners, Boston Public Schools, to become the first district in the country to eradicate gaps, which separate students from success. The international approach to supporting Latinos and Blacks is expected to significantly strength outcomes.

The publication's scholars suggest that carrying out explicit conversations about the impact of racism, anti-racist school culture and a sense of belonging for students of color in school can lead to empowerment and better outcomes. Unfortunately, many teachers are apprehensive about addressing race/ethnicity and including it in their curriculum or practices because of "good intentions."

The expression, "I don't see color," often hinders the person of color more so than the white educators or peers. The color-blind mentality can make black and Latino male students feel invisible, and often, "They don't find themselves in the curriculum," Andresse St. Rose, senior director of research and policy at the Center for Collaborative Education, told The Boston Globe.

The Barr Foundation paid for two related reports, both identifying cavernous achievement gaps experienced by black and Latino males and their white and Asian counterparts. The second report focused almost exclusively on what steps must be made to address those gaps.

An evaluation of four schools revealed that black and Latino males, representing 40 percent of Boston's public school enrollment, perform reasonably better than the district average, although the schools' lack of cultural competency meant that results were "mixed at best."

Ethnic incompetence was demonstrated in numerous ways, including: instructors referring to all Hispanic students as "Spanish"; a Mexican holiday was incorporated into multicultural education although none of the students were of Mexican descent; also, when race was addressed during art or history, the contributions of Latinos or African-Americans were often omitted.

The report's researchers listed recommendations. They suggested that ongoing improvement efforts and systematic actions should include communicating a vision of high expectation for student learning, including college readiness and attendance for each student, including Black and Latino males -- also, helping those students toward those goals. Another proposal, the school district must update its School Quality framework to include practices in the Indicator Framework for Black and Latino Male Equity and Excellence.

Moreover, racially, culturally and linguistically diverse and effective professionals should be recruited and retained; standards and strategies for culturally responsive practices for educating black and Latino males ought to be enforced with use of guidelines to implement and assess; and cross-functional professional learning communities should communicate throughout school and district levels, for opportunities to collaborate.

Additionally, there should to be peer-to-peer classroom demonstration lessons and observations; culturally responsive curriculum, instruction and assessment; an increase in black and Latino male engagement, identity and voice; the creation of clubs for groups of students sharing identity; theories shared about the education of students of color so that they can perfect concise talk about racism and other -isms; facilitation of race/ethnicity/gender dialogues in schools and communities; engagement with families, particularly families of black and Latino males, with student learning at school and/or at home; communication with family members, sharing positive news about their child's progress; and the creation of ongoing and effective partnerships with communities that provide opportunities for Black and Latino male students to learn about and experience how college works.

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