Tonight at 8 p.m. ET, Education Week hosts the next installment in its regular #ewedchat series on Twitter. This week’s topic: Improving classroom culture to support students of color. I’ll be your moderator (@itsapun).
Research shows time and again that students of color face unique difficulties in school, perhaps most notably in terms of discipline. Black students represented 16 percent of K-12 enrollment in the 2011-12 school year, yet accounted for 33 percent of students suspended out of school that same year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
That may be symptomatic of a broader culture that carries perceived biases against ethnic minorities that directly or indirectly affect such students. Systemic barriers and disadvantages may also play a significant role. In a November commentary for Education Week, Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women’s Law Center, wrote that schools need to better address the needs of young women of color:
Many African-American women and girls are simply stuck on a school-to-poverty pathway, in which poor educational opportunities result in limited job prospects, concentration in low-wage work, and disproportionate representation among those in poverty.
Graves will be participating in the chat as a special guest to expand upon her article’s recommendations.
I’m not sure there’s a way to talk about race in the classroom without also talking about current events, too. Rage over grand jury decisions in the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner has led to numerous student protests and inspired some students to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Discussing such issues in the classroom can be difficult for teachers, but, as social studies teacher Cristina Duncan Evans writes, it should be done with considerable thought and care. Exactly how, though, and in a way that places such events in the broader history of American culture, remains open for discussion. Tonight’s chat has the potential to delve into possibly uncomfortable areas, but hopefully will contain helpful insight, too.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.