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Equity in Classroom


Submitted By joelow14
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I can recall sitting in science class in high school and thinking, what will I learn than unlearn today? I say this because every day in this class, without fail we would cover a chapter in the book then be asked to take a quiz right after. This cycle would repeat daily and when the course came to conclusion, I can honestly say I learned very little. This was the norm at my school, courses were rushed through so everything could be covered and students with good memorization and test taking skills were awarded and those who lacked in those areas fell behind. With the emphasis being place on standardized tests and teachers covering too much material, certain populations are falling behind and changes must take place with the curriculum and instruction to ensure quality education in today's society. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was passed with a goal of closing the achievement gap between white students and their low-income and minority peers. However research over the past ten years has found that the high-stakes testing policies have not improved reading and math achievement across states, and have not significantly narrowed national and state level achievement gaps (Au, 2009). The high stakes testing and standardization of classrooms has students it set out to help. According to Haretos (2005), “the volatility in test scores makes it difficult for racially diverse schools to make adequate yearly progress (AYP), since every racial and ethnic subgroup must do so. So, when AYP is based on academic achievement levels, the subgroup rules create negative unintended consequences for the students they were designed to help, by subjecting racially diverse schools to sanctions under NCLB.” This consequence also threatens to increase the growing dropout and push-out rates for students in these sub-groups (Darling-Hammond, 2007). This is not just affecting low-income and minority students, but also students in non-minority groups as well. When there is no time for focus on skills that students need to participate in social change, these students will not learn to question practices within society or to work with other students from all different groups and backgrounds in order to effect change. Classes in schools which may contribute to multicultural education, such as social studies and foreign language, are being cut completely in order to spend more time on reading and math (Au, 2009). According to Au (2009), since multi-cultural anti-racist perspectives and content are not deemed legitimate by the high-stakes tests and classroom standards, the end result is that multicultural, anti-racist content and perspectives and not being included in the instruction time or curriculum. In his writings, Youngjoo Kim (2010) compares the phenomenon of standardization and testing in current national policies to the story of Procrustes from Greek mythology. Procrustes lured travelers into his home, and measured them against the length of his bed, cutting off their limbs or stretching them to fit the bed perfectly. Kim relates this story to high-stakes testing and standardization, with our government trying to fit ‘square’ students into ‘round’ holes. Currently, my school is lacking in a lot of areas that I have mentioned. Because of the emphasis on standardized testing and covering all of the required curriculum, students are not being taught the critical and social skills needed to succeed in the 21st century. I propose three solutions to help reduce the marginalization of multicultural education, and in turn reduce the achievement gap between students who are well off, compared to low-income students and students of color, who are being left behind in the wake of high-stakes testing and standardization. First, a course in multicultural education should be required in all states before teachers can acquire or renew their state teaching certificate. This course should also be required in order for a teacher to obtain “Highly Qualified” standing. In 2010, Christine Sleeter stated that “Teachers who are interested in multicultural teaching are caught in between two different sets of assumptions and discourses. Beginning teachers may or may not recognize this or struggle to make sense of it.” As in my own experience, this struggle may cause new or even seasoned teachers to abandon multicultural education, and give in to the pressures of teaching to the test. But through this proposed class, teachers would be given the opportunity to learn or reinforce their practice of Multicultural education. It would also give them the opportunity to network with other educators, and develop curriculum and action plans that would enforce multiculturalism in their classrooms and schools, thus increasing the success of their students. Second, multicultural curriculum should be provided to all districts and schools by the state. According to, “As state-defined standards of learning and standardized tests become more and more closely identified as measures of achievement, teachers are feeling less empowered to employ creative means to make their curricula more inclusive and accessible to all students” (Gorski). By first requiring teachers to take a class on multicultural education so that they understand its goals and then putting the curriculum into their hands that they need to work towards these goals with their students, teachers will be able to provide a multicultural education to their students, while at the same time teaching the reading, writing and math skills that are the primary focus in a standardized classroom. The solutions I have suggested are not outrageous or impractical. With the right support they are very doable, but they would require policy changes before they could be implemented. The first two suggested solutions would require changes in policy at the district and/or state level, and the last would require a policy change at the national level. I can see several challenges standing in the way to these policy changes. First, new curriculum and a new teacher education course would require both a cost and time investment by the state. In my own state, where per-pupil-spending is already extremely low and funding for education has been excessively cut in recent years, it would not be easy to get each district to reallocate their funds. To overcome this challenge, it would require massive fundraising efforts, as well as community outreach in an effort to educate our city and state on the importance of multicultural education. Although the ultimate goal would be to provide a complete curriculum transformation once enough funds were collected, a short term solution would also be to get books such as “Planning to Change the World: A Planbook for Social Justice Teachers” into the hands of every teacher. This type of handbook “is designed to help teachers translate their vision of a just education into concrete classroom activities” (Planning to Change). Second, a policy change at the national level poses the biggest challenge, but it would be needed in order to change our accountability system which is currently mandated under NCLB. While there are many who recognize the need for these policy changes, there are also those who oppose them. While our current President Barack Obama has stated that he recognizes the need for a reform of the NCLB Act and has gotten the ball rolling on these reforms (Muskal, 2012), they have not made enough changes to the type of accountability system in place. In order to overcome this challenge, the voices of large and powerful groups working together towards our common goal will need to be heard. Groups like and, are already working hard towards this goal and they have many ways for educators, parents, and concerned citizens to get involved and many resources for those who want to start raising awareness in their own towns. We cannot simply wait for the national government to take action. These proposed solutions will benefit not only the students who were previously being left behind, but they will also make a positive impact on our school environment as teachers learn to work together again instead of competing with one another. Finally, our communities will benefit as well as students take their multicultural educations home with them.

Au, W. W. (2009). High-Stakes Testing and Discursive Control: The Triple Bind for Non-Standard Student Identities. Multicultural Perspectives, 11(2), 65-71.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2007). Race, inequality and educational accountability: the irony of 'No Child Left Behind'. Race, Ethnicity & Education, 10(3), 245-260.
Darling-Hammond, L. The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. New York: Teachers College, 2010.
Haretos, C. (2005). The No Child Left Behind Act Of 2001: Is The Definition Of "Adequate Yearly Progress" Adequate?. Kennedy School Review, 629-46.
Kim, Y. (2010). The Procrustes' Bed and Standardization in Education. Journal Of Thought, 45(3/4), 9-20.
Planning to Change the World. Retrieved November 6th, 2015 from
Sleeter, C. (2004). Critical multicultural curriculum and the standards movement. English Teaching: Practice & Critique, 3(2), 122-138.

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