Changing and Sustaining a Positive Culture in High-Poverty Schools

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Information about Changing and Sustaining a Positive Culture in High-Poverty Schools

Published on March 15, 2014

Author: ncmsa



Poor academic performance; low student and staff morale; prevalent discipline issues-sound familiar? In an era infatuated with achievement test scores, educators struggle to find an appropriate balance between demonstrating that students are, indeed, learning while also providing rigorous and relevant lessons which engage students’ minds and hearts. This session will inspire participants to empower students to be learners no matter where they lie on the continuum of achievement.

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S.T.E.M. Strategies that Engage Minds of High Poverty Students Wayne County Public Schools Middle School Conference March 18, 2014 Stacy Whitney, MSA

Group Activity

Truth “Far earlier than we are willing to admit, we condition children to think that their status is set.” Ray McNulty

Introduction  The entire nation is painfully aware that a growing number of students experiencing failure are African American (Ford, Obiakor, & Patton, 1995).  Statistics indicate that every seven seconds of the school day an African American student is suspended from public school. Every forty-nine seconds of the day, an African American student drops out of school (Ford, Obiakor, & Patton, 1995).  A considerable measure of academic peril for these students is created by teachers’ diverse cultural ineptness, improper attitudes, and differential behaviors toward African American students (Nieto, 1992).

African American Males Lagging in Education  As many as 76 percent of males don’t graduate from high school in some areas of the nation, according to the Urban Institute.  According to the Urban Institute statistics show that African American males are more likely than any other group to be suspended or expelled from school, only half of all African- American men who are 16 to 24 years old who are not in school are working and about one-third of all young African-American men in the U.S. population are in jail, prison or on parole or probation.  African American males are often categorized as at-risk in educational systems, and they often lag behind African-American females and their white counterparts. They are more likely than any other group to be suspended from schools, and they are often underrepresented in gifted educational programs or advanced placement courses and often experience the most challenges in higher education settings both students and teachers according to research. (Lewis, 2006)

What the Research Says:  “Strayhorn (2008) concluded in his research that teachers have a lower expectation for the academic achievement of Black males. Enhanced teacher effectiveness, advanced pedagogical practices for teaching Black males, and being highly qualified educators do not seem to keep a comparative number of Black males in school and graduating. The reasons may be numerous; however, the reality is singular in nature. Black males are dropping out of school at alarming rates” (Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2010) (Bell, 2010).

What the Research Says:  “Black males are often misguided and are broken down mentally by those who lack the capabilities and dispositions to effectively work with them in our nation’s classroom” (Anthony, Krissonis, and Herrington, 2007; Sen, 2006). “More than any times in America, people who are not of the same racial or cultural backgrounds as Black males are now educating more of this population” (Douglas, Lewis, Douglas, Scott, and Garrison-Wade, 2008).

Many more boys than girls:  Drop out of school  Repeat a grade  Are color blind  Are identified as learning disabled  Are left-handed  Have attention deficit disorder  Are hyperactive  Fail school  Perform below grade level academically  Are late readers  Receive compensatory services i.e. Title 1  Are Autistic  Have Tourette's syndrome  Have Asperger syndrome  Stutter  Have behavior problems  Commit suicide at a rate of 4 times that of girls 1998 Crystal Springs Books

Avoiding Bias Teachers must take an introspective look at their own cultural background, understanding the effects their biases have when interacting with students. Only then can teachers examine the backgrounds and needs of their student population and understand their students' cultural biases as well.  Recognize and understand the cultural differences among students from diverse backgrounds, and treat such differences with respect.  Intervene immediately, should a fellow student disparage a Black student's culture or language  Value the broad and varied experiences Black students bring to the classroom, and promote their acceptance.  Avoid segregating students by cultural groups, and do not allow the students to segregate.

Avoiding Bias Cont…  Expand students' capacity to appreciate and deal with the differences in others, and help students to perceive self in a multi-cultural perspective.  Demand the same level of excellence from all students.  Have high expectations for all students; positive expectations increase student achievement.  Many black students speak Ebonics; these differences in dialect must only be perceived as language variances, and not as a set back. These students should be accepted with a positive attitude and aided in the mastery of Standard American English.  Students should be judged based on current situations and circumstances, not on previous mistakes.  There exist congruencies between a student's learning style and the teacher's teaching style.

Classroom Strategies  Display flexibility in the context of a structured learning environment.  Learn as much about minority students as other students.  Respond fully to the comments of all student, especially minority and female students.  Lead a classroom discussion on stereotyping ( minority and gender) and the consequence of stereotyping.  Involve the minority students who are not participating in classroom discussions.  Especially monitor achievement of minority students on a regular basis.  Follow-up on students expressing interest in enrolling in advanced courses. ( Some minority students often do not follow through due to anxiety or outside discouragement. To teach minority students equally well, you must understand how their cultural background may influence their classroom interactions.  Permit students to bring life experiences into the learning environment. ( All students, especially minority students tend to perform best when content is related to previous experience.)  Devise exercises and activities that foster success on the part of all students, especially including minority and female students.  Institute some activities without grade assessment, which can help students, (including minority students) overcome initial anxiety.  Recognize effort as well as accomplishment, especially for minority and female students.  Use computers for more than drill exercises for all students, especially minority students. (Access to computer technology for creative activities increases motivation and awareness of useful applications).  Be a classroom activist. Take on different roles for different cultural backgrounds and to vary your methods of instruction to ensure that you address all students.  Use the student's culture to help the student to create meaning and understand the world.

Make Some Learning Competitive Here are some concepts to consider about competition:  Because boys have more testosterone than girls, they have more of a biological disposition to compete.  Competition helps boys determine pecking order, which is important to them when interacting socially.  Boys are having increasingly fewer opportunities to experience competition because many schools have eliminated competitive sports- like dodge ball-from gym class, and because school populations have grown so large that many boys who want to play on school teams can’t due to the limited number of positions.  The lack of competitive learning experiences in school sports makes the use of competitive academic formats even more important.  Competition engages boys in learning and gives them incentive to achieve.  When boys are engaged in learning, they learn more and behave better. Making Minds Matter, LLC

Tips to Keep in Mind When Teaching Boys  Use good visuals to reinforce auditory presentations.  Provide additional wait time/think time to process information, especially when presented auditorly.  Incorporate a good deal of manipulative, regalia and models in your instruction. Legitimize touching the material.  Provide frequent talk breaks to foster processing as well as preventative way to decrease classroom disruptions.  Don’t routinely take away recess as a punishment for boys, use only as last resort.  Always incorporate tactile/kinesthetic opportunities when teaching boys.  Use color and novelty in your instruction as a way to wake up the brain and enhance learning.  Keep in mind boys need extra time for task completion.  Boys in general tend to mature at a slower rate than girls; therefore, may not be ready for their assigned program/grade placement.  South Paw alert! Be aware that left-handed boys suffer learning disabilities 10 times more the rate of the righties.  Keep in mind that boys are less accurate at “reading” faces than girls. This can affect your ability to discipline nonverbally.  Remember that girls tend to “whisper”, while boys tend to “shout”  Boys make up 80-90% of discipline referrals.  When possible place some boys with a male teacher. (role model (coaches)

Marzano’s Nine Instructional Strategies  Identifying Similarities and Differences  Summarizing and Note Taking  Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition  Homework and Practice  Nonlinguistic Representations  Cooperative Learning  Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback  Generating and Testing Hypotheses  Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers

Best Practices for Teaching African American Males 

Switching Gears

We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty. Mother Teresa

Our daily life experiences and how we get information shape the ways in which we relate to one another, our expectations, and how we experience the world. The context in which we are born and grow up shapes our view of what is possible, defines, our values, and creates our worldview. People from

Focuses of Those in Poverty •Where will we sleep tonight? •What will we eat? •Can we find a way to keep our heat and lights turned on? •Whose car got towed? •Whose license got suspended for no insurance? •Do people like me? •Can I trust people outside my inner circle? The MAJOR focus is on making it through the day. They are taught to make do with what they have?

Appearance People in poverty describe a world where they felt their value as human beings was judged by their appearance. I hated school. No one like me. Everyone could tell I was poor by my ragged clothes, horrible shoes, and free lunch tickets. --Julie

Inadequate Housing Limited employment opportunities and poverty income levels affected the stability of individual’s housing experiences. Most often, the housing situation adds to their feelings of being “ashamed” and increased their perception that their family was “different’ and they did not belong. I could never bring anyone home to our dump. I never wanted anyone to know it was my home. --Zach I went to a friend’s house once. She had bowls that matched. I always wanted bowls that weren’t Golden Soft margarine containers. --Kathy We lived in a car most of the time. I tried so hard to hide that, but kids found out, and they could be vicious.” -- Megan

Food is Seen as a Status Symbol Like housing, food is not only a necessity to the people in poverty, but also has gained additional importance by becoming an important status symbol that they also associate with their own worth and belonging. I had cold pancake sandwiches for lunch. They were just awful. I just wanted what the other kids had. --Joyce I worried about my shoes and my lunch. Both always embarrassed me. It was such a thrill to have the treats that other kids had, like Twinkies.” --Diane

Life Is Out of Control Individuals from poverty do not feel they are in control of their lives. They have described feelings of inner shame and humiliation because of their poverty. Most go on reacting to the events in their lives rather than having opportunities to shape or choose their futures. Life just happens. No one makes plans. When you are poor, it’s like life has spun out of control and there is nothing you can do. --Joann

The Meaning of Money People in poverty reported that not having money to get the basic necessities contributed to their feelings of “hopelessness.” When asked what money meant to them and their family, many associated money with safety, security, and choice. If you have money, your problems don’t seem as big. You can get help and solve them before everything is out of hand. --Phil Money can open doors. The doors may not be sealed, but they are hard to get into if you don’t have money. --Larry

Health People in generational poverty have little or no medical care. In addition to lack of medical care, they rarely have the money to purchase prescriptions, or if they did get their prescriptions filled, they had on many occasions share medicines— including antibiotics—with other family members and friends. Access to dental and vision care is even harder, and simply impossible in most cases.

 1 - According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately one out of every six Americans is now living in poverty. The number of Americans living in poverty is now at a level not seen since the 1960s.  2 - When you add in the number of low income Americans it is even more sobering. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either "poor" or "low income".  3 - Today, approximately 20 percent of all children in the United States are living in poverty. Incredibly, a higher percentage of children is living in poverty in America today than was the case back in 1975.

 4 - It may be hard to believe, but approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are currently living in homes that are either considered to be either "low income" or impoverished.  5 - Poverty is the worst in our inner cities. At this point, 29.2 percent of all African-American households with children are dealing with food insecurity.  6 - According to a recently released report, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.  7 - The number of children living on $2.00 a day or less in the United States has grown to 2.8 million. That number has increased by 130 percent since 1996.

 8 - For the first time ever, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless. That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.  9 - Family homelessness in the Washington D.C. region (one of the wealthiest regions in the entire country) has risen 23 percent since the last recession began.  10 - One university study estimates that child poverty costs the U.S. economy 500 billion dollars each year.  11 - At this point, approximately one out of every three children in the U.S. lives in a home without a father.  12 - Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.  13 - Today, there are approximately 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing. That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

 14 - About 40 percent of all unemployed workers in America have been out of work for at least half a year.  15 - At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.  16 - There has been an explosion in the number of "working poor" Americans in recent years. Today, about one out of every four workers in the United States brings home wages that are at or below the poverty level.  17 - Right now, more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government. And that does not even include Social Security or Medicare.

 18 - An all-time record 47.79 million Americans are now on food stamps. Back when Barack Obama first took office, that number was only sitting at about 32 million.  19 - The number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of Spain.  20 - According to one calculation, the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of "Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming."  21 - Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps. Today, close to one out of every six Americans is on food stamps. Even more shocking is the act that more than one out of every four children in the United States is enrolled in the food stamp program. vLqX2ANV4&feature=em- share_video_user s/frontline/poor-kids

Strategies for Teaching Children of Poverty  Build Relationships  Understand and Control Stress  Develop a Growth Mindset  Build Executive Function  Boost Engagement Eric Jensen

More Strategies  Create Engaging Classrooms  Respect Individual Intelligences  Explore and Explain  Differentiate  Movement  Allow Students to Work in Groups  Allow Students Time to Reflect  Communicate High Expectations Dr. Carol White

Understanding children in poverty and getting an insight on the world of poverty should be the building blocks in our attempts to serve children in poverty. As a teacher, you need to be armed with the facts that shatter myths about poverty, face the realities of social class, explore and understand the barriers to success that in poverty are facing, and learn about the unique strengths and characteristics of people who live in poverty. The main goal for helping people in poverty is to help them see the possibilities for success, believe in their worth, and let them know they have something to offer.

References  Bell, E. E. (2010a). Letters and Lessons for Teachers. Raleigh, NC: All About Children.  Bell, E. E. (2010b). Understanding African American Males. Retrieved from ERIC database.  (ED511010)  Bell, E. E. (2009). Impact of self-self-esteem and identification with academics on the academic achievement of African American students. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from  Costello, Bill, 2007. “Making Minds Matter, LLC”  Lewis, Chance, 2006. “African American males lagging in education.”  Maxwell, Bill, 2004. “On Campus, grim statistics for African-American men”.  Michael, Robin, 2009. “Young African American men at Bancroft Middle School and San Leandro High explore “What is blackness?”  Richardson, Jeanita, 2002. “African American Males in School and Society: Practices and Policies for Effective Education.”  Bridgie Alexis Ford, Festus E Obiakor, and James M. Patton , 1995. “Effective Education of African American Exceptional Learners- New Perspectives.”  Herbert Grossman (1995). “Teaching In A Diverse Society.” Allyn & Bacon A Simon and Schuster Company Needham Heights, MA  

“If” If you think you are beaten, you are; If you think you dare not, you don't. If you'd like to win, but think you can't It's almost a cinch you won't. If you think you'll lose, you've lost, For out in the world we find Success being with a fellow's will; It's all in the state of mind. If you think you're outclassed, you are: You've got to think high to rise. You've got to be sure of yourself before You can ever win a prize. Life's battles don't always go To the stronger or faster man, But soon or late the man who wins Is the one who thinks he can." — Walter D. Wintle

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