Tag Archive for socialjustice

Faculty Summer Reading

book covers
The faculty summer read promotes the sharing of fresh perspectives on education among us when students are away, and classes are not meeting. The book supports next year’s professional development work: to create program proposals for year 1 of our new strategic plan. During opening meetings, we will meet to discuss the books and identify promising ideas.

U Prep purchases these books and provides them to all faculty members and those staff members who would like to participate.

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— Citizen: An American Lyric —
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2014, by Claudia Rankine

“Marrying prose, poetry, and the visual image, Citizen investigates the ways in which racism pervades daily American social and cultural life, rendering certain of its citizens politically invisible. Rankine’s formally inventive book challenges our notion that citizenship is only a legal designation that the state determines by expanding that definition to include a larger understanding of civic belonging and identity, built out of cross-racial empathy, communal responsibility, and a deeply shared commitment to equality.”—National Book Award Judges’ Citation

Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seemingly slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV—everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.

More information: https://www.graywolfpress.org/books/citizen
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— Brooklyn Dreams: My Life in Public Education —
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2015, by Sonia Nieto

In Brooklyn Dreams, Sonia Nieto—one of the leading authors and teachers in the field of multicultural education—looks back on her formative experiences as a student, activist, and educator, and shows how they reflect and illuminate the themes of her life’s work.
Nieto offers a poignant account of her childhood and the complexities of navigating the boundaries between the rich culture of her working-class Puerto Rican family and the world of school. Brooklyn Dreams also chronicles her experiences as a fledgling teacher at the first bilingual public school in New York City—in the midst of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville strike—and the heady days of activism during the founding of the bilingual education program at Brooklyn College and later in establishing and running an alternative multicultural school in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Along the way, Nieto reflects on the ideas and individuals who influenced her work, from Jonathan Kozol to Paulo Freire, and talks frankly about the limits of activism, the failures of school reform, and the joys and challenges of working with preservice and in-service educators to deepen their appreciation of diversity.

Brooklyn Dreams is an intimate account of an educator’s life lived with zest, generosity, and warmth.

More information: http://hepg.org/hep-home/books/brooklyn-dreams
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— The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness —
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2016, by Todd Rose

Are you above average? Is your child an A student? Is your employee an introvert or an extrovert? Every day we are measured against the “average person,” judged according to how closely we resemble the average–or how far we exceed it. The assumption that average-based yardsticks like academic GPAs, personality tests, and annual performance reviews reveal something meaningful about our ability is so ingrained in our consciousness that we never question it. But this assumption, argues Harvard scientist Todd Rose, is spectacularly wrong.

In The End of Average, Rose, the director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program at Harvard University, uses the new science of the individual to reveal the remarkable fact that no one is average. Not your neighbors, not your co-workers, not your kids, and not you. This isn’t hollow sloganeering or ivory tower esoterica—it’s a frank mathematical fact with enormous practical consequences for your chances for success. Our schools and businesses are all designed to evaluate and promote talent based upon the mythical notion of the average person, a one-size-fits-all model that ignores the true nature of our individuality. But in The End of Average, Rose finally provides the tools to break free.

Weaving science, history, and his own experiences as a high school dropout, Rose offers a powerful alternative to the average–three key principles derived from the science of the individual: The jaggedness principle (talent is never one-dimensional), the context principle (personality traits do not exist), and the pathways principle (we all walk the road less traveled). These “principles of individuality” unveil our true uniqueness, long obscured by an educational system and workplace that relentlessly judges our value by weighing us against the average.

An empowering manifesto in the ranks of Drive, Quiet, Mindset, and The Power of Habit—Dr. Rose’s book will enable you to reach your full potential by leveraging what is truly distinctive about you.

More information: http://www.toddrose.com/endofaverage/
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— Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance —
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2016, by Angela Duckworth

In this instant New York Times bestseller, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”

Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research, Angela explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success.

Angela has found that grit—a combination of passion and perseverance for a singularly important goal—is the hallmark of high achievers in every domain. She’s also found scientific evidence that grit can grow.

Angela gives a first-person account of her research with teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers—from JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.

Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference.

More information: http://angeladuckworth.com/grit-book/

People of Color Conference 2016 Proposals Accepted

We are delighted to receive the news that the NAIS People of Color Conference accepted two of our faculty proposals. It is encouraging to receive affirmation of our ongoing efforts to revise course curricula for cultural competency and social justice. We will see you in Atlanta in December 2016!

¡No más!: Integrating Topics of Social Justice into the High School Spanish Classroom

Elena Tello and Ciara McGrath

Session participants will learn specific strategies to incorporate topics of social justice in the language class. Some topics include: Afro-Latin Identity, Argentina’s Dirty War, Pinochet’s Dictatorship, Bolivia’s Water War, and Immigration Routes to the North. Two presenters will share techniques used with students to enhance their understanding of past and current world events and lead to successful culminating projects and creating cultural experiences in the target language.

What About the Content? Revising Curricula For Social Justice and Educational Equity

Richard Kassissieh and E-chieh Lin

Has teaching for social justice and educational equity penetrated core secondary school curricula? Students spend three quarters of the school day in classes, working to master the knowledge and skills in discrete academic subjects. While diversity programs have made progress in improving classroom climate, launching new elective classes, and running special social justice programs, the content required of all students cannot remain unchanged if we are to fully serve our students. Participants will analyze selected independent school curricula for principles of human and civil rights, address questions of student inclusion and access, imagine an alternate vision of what their own school might teach in the future, and identify points of access to the process of curriculum revision.

New Courses Feature Next Generation Learning

University Prep has conducted a strategic planning process for the last year. One of our three focus areas, Next Generation Learning, concerns the design of learning opportunities to prepare students for a rapidly changing world. Initiatives in this area include:

  • Further implement a blend of face-to-face and online learning to personalize the educational experience for students and underscore University Prep’s commitment to intellectual courage
  • Extend and deepen instruction for computer science and computational thinking, both as a distinct field of study and integrated across the curriculum
  • Develop and implement a social and emotional learning program to build self-awareness, social awareness and cultural competency so that students may realize their full potential and contribute as socially responsible citizens of the world
  • Design more interdisciplinary opportunities in areas such as research, advocacy, and entrepreneurship in Seattle to promote student agency

A Next Generation Learning leadership team comprised of trustees, faculty, parents, staff, and students worked for a year to develop these initiatives. All parents were invited to provide input in after-school meetings. All faculty members contributed to the ideas during professional development days, and students provided feedback during our meetings period.

The new courses proposed for next year already support these strategic planning initiatives. How did this happen so quickly? We tapped department heads and other teacher leaders to serve on the leadership committee. Therefore, teachers who were likely to revise curriculum also reviewed and synthesized community input together. As a result, we are off to a fast start in the first year of our new strategic plan. Not only will students get to take these courses right away, but we will also get the opportunity to pilot prototype versions of these strategic planning initiatives before making larger scale program changes.

New and Revised Courses for 2016-2017

Middle School
Game Design
The Other Story of Math: Foundations and Social Justice
The Presidential Election: from Convention to Inauguration
Topics in Geometry

Upper School
Computer Science IIB
Digital Music
Environmental Ethics, Civics, and Advocacy (blocked class)
Global Online Academy (new offerings)
History of Cuba
M.A.T.H. – Math in Art, Technology, and History
Mathematical Finance
Science Olympiad
Social Entrepreneurship
Topics in United States History: War
Topics in United States History: Current Events
Topics in United States History: Race, Ethnicity, (Im)migration
Topics in United States History: Women in US History
Topics in United States History: The American Dream
Visual Art 123

How are these courses innovative?

Game Design, Digital Music and Mathematical Finance explore essential concepts in each discipline through relevant, contemporary applications. Students will study real-world topics using core academic concepts. With The Presidential Election, History of Cuba, and Current Events, these topics concern contemporary events. Students who want to devote time in their academic programs to applying disciplinary concepts to the news of the day will find a place in these classes.

Computer Science IIB adds a new course to the Upper School computer science sequence, bringing the program to seven courses total. Students who have completed CS I and IIA (or equivalent) now have a third course to deepen their study. Like our other courses, the emphasis lies on developing understanding of key computer science principles by grappling with well-designed problems and building small applications. Computational thinking (featuring logical and sequential reasoning) is both integrated within required courses in other subject areas and featured in these elective courses.

Global Online Academy has expanded their offerings to 55 courses. In particular, GOA’s new Learning Studios feature student choice and project direction through subjects such as Entrepreneurship in a Global Context, Water: from Inquiry to Action, and Power: Redressing Inequity Through Data. 30 of our students took a GOA course this year. The new offerings will allow our students to pursue their passions, learn with students and teachers from other parts of the world, and develop the skills of independent study and online communication and collaboration.

Interdisciplinary study is strong with these new courses. Two new math courses explore applications of math in history, the arts, social justice, and finance. Environmental Ethics is now a blocked double class that satisfies graduation requirements in English and Civics. Visual Art 123 has merged the study of drawing, painting, and mixed media into a single sequence that will better support advanced study in the visual arts. These courses increasingly address subjects of personal identity, culture, and social justice.

Student agency is alive in these curriculum revisions. An enterprising student wrote the Social Entrepreneurship course proposal. This innovative class will not have a full-time teacher. Rather, students in the class will study social issues in Seattle, design a social venture, and invite parents and teachers to contribute as guest speakers and course consultants. In history, students came to us this year and asked for more opportunities to find their histories in our courses. The new Topics in United States History options provide more options to a student body with diverse backgrounds and interests.

We look forward to offering these new courses to students next year and learning from these experiences in a way that will inform further curriculum development and revision.

What About the Content? Revising Curricula for Cultural Competency

NAIS People of Color Conference 2014

Sarah Peterson and I will be presenting this session on Thursday, December 4 at 10:00am in Room 204. We look forward to seeing you there.

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What About the Content slides  (+ hi-res version)

Thursday morning, my colleague Sarah Peterson and I will present “What About the Content? Revising Curricula for Cultural Competency” at the NAIS People of Color Conference in Indianapolis. The presentation reflects several goals, and participants will play a major role. We hope that you will be able to attend or otherwise share your stories with us.
Focus on Curriculum Content
Why have we focused this study specifically on curriculum content? Substantial, excellent work exists on school climate, classroom environment, teacher qualifications, and student empowerment. Yet, the content that we teach students plays a central role in their education and speaks powerfully about what (and who) the school values.
Focus on Required Courses
A school’s course of study typically includes required and elective courses. Teaching for cultural competency can be more easily found in elective courses, where teachers have greater freedom in curriculum development. However, the students we most need to reach may avoid such classes, and our diverse student body deserves a culturally representative learning experience in their required courses. We have chosen to focus this study on the core curriculum, while acknowledging that it is the hardest to change.
Share Examples from University Prep
On the one hand, we can proudly point to teachers and courses that have made tremendous strides in teaching for cultural competency. On the other hand, our students tell us that we still have much ground to cover. We will share a number of examples in this presentation that reflect our ongoing work toward a truly representative, relevant, and empowering core curriculum.
Share Participant Experiences and Points of View
While we have a lot to say on this subject, we are by no means experts, and the collective experiences and perspectives in the conference hall will no doubt exceed ours. We will take advantage of this gathering of attendees and ask everyone to participate first in small group discussions and then share out selected examples with the whole group. As a result, the session will end having identified a substantial number of curricular innovations in the required courses in our school.