Educational disparities among racial groups contributes to a severe achievement gap, and researchers are addressing this reality to bring solutions to educators.
Tyrone Howard, associate dean for equity and inclusion at University of California in Los Angeles, presented his research on making schools culturally and racially inclusive to minority students. The AASA national conference session on Friday became an open conversation for audience members to learn effective strategies for their districts.
Racial disparities in learning and equity in schools were prominent themes in Howard’s lecture. It’s the school leader’s obligation to create an inclusive and comfortable learning environment for all students, he said.
The presentation included statistics on American students’ educational performance disaggregated by race and income. “White and Asians outperform everyone,” Howard said. “There are young children under the age of 10 years old that already have a jump suit on. We fail students holistically just having that as a possibility.”
A student’s race or culture should not be ignored in the classroom, he added. School leaders should make an effort to celebrate their students’ diversity. “You have to learn who your students are,” Howard said. “Ask about their lives and see what they’re about.”
Howard gave the audience suggested resources and tools for eradicating the academic disparity in their local school districts. He suggested educators begin having conversations around how to elevate underachieving students and better understand their various backgrounds.
His lecture challenged school leaders to create humane teaching environments, while building a meaningful connection with their communities outside the classroom. “Effective teaching is not bound by skin color. It’s about a deep understanding for their students’ culture and background,” he said.
Another remedy Howard proposed was to explicitly focus on vulnerable populations. Districts need to have an idea of today’s current racial realities, he explained.
“We have to look at how we inform and enforce cultural knowledge in the classroom,” Howard told the audience. “When you build awareness and knowledge you begin to grasp cultural sensitivity,” he said.
(By Kendall Lawson, a junior mass communication major at Xavier University in New Orleans)