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They recently implemented four days of intensive work with teams from each school, including principals, teacher leaders, union representatives, parents, clergy, business leaders, and community activists from the NAACP and other organizations. One essential outcome in this initial phase of the conversation is to establish that racial, cultural, and economic differences are real—and that they make a difference in education outcomes.

Through this work, Apple Valley educators and community leaders established a climate of constructive collaboration that can be directed toward addressing the district's new challenges. Change has to start with educators before it can realistically begin to take place with students.

The central aim of the second phase of the work is building educators' cultural competence —their ability to form authentic and effective relationships across differences. Young people, particularly those from historically marginalized groups, have sensitive antennae for authenticity. I recently asked a group of racially and culturally diverse high school students to name the teachers in their school who really cared about them, respected them, and enjoyed getting to know them as people. Forty students pooling their answers could name only 10 teachers from a faculty of , which may be one reason this high school has a 50 percent dropout rate for students of color.

Aronson and Steele's work on stereotype threat demonstrates that intellectual performance, rather than being a fixed and constant quality, is quite fragile and can vary greatly depending on the social and interpersonal context of learning. In repeated studies, these researchers found that three factors have a major effect on students' motivation and performance: their feelings of belonging, their trust in the people around them, and their belief that teachers value their intellectual competence.

This research suggests that the capacity of adults in the school to form trusting relationships with and supportive learning environments for their students can greatly influence achievement outcomes. Leaders in the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township, outside Indianapolis, have taken this perspective seriously. Clear data showed gaps among ethnic groups in achievement, participation in higher-level courses, discipline referrals, and dropout rates. In response, district teachers and administrators engaged in a vigorous and ongoing process of self-examination and personal growth related to cultural competence.


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Central-office and building administrators started with themselves. Along with selected teachers from each school, they engaged in a multiyear program of shared reading, reflective conversations, professional development activities, and joint planning to increase their own and their colleagues' levels of cultural competence. They studied and practiced Margaret Wheatley's principles of conversation, with particular emphasis on her admonitions to expect things to be messy and to be willing to be disturbed.

They designed their own Socratic seminars using chapters from We Can't Teach What We Don't Know Howard, and used the stages of personal identity development model from that book as a foundation for ongoing reflective conversations about their own journeys toward cultural competence. When we look at school outcome data, the history of racism, classism, and exclusion in the United States stares us in the face. Systems of privilege and preference often create enclaves of exclusivity in schools, in which certain demographic groups are served well while others languish in failure or mediocrity.

As diversity grows in rapidly transitioning school districts, demographic gaps become increasingly apparent. In phase three, educators directly confront the current and historical inequities that affect education. The central purpose of this phase is to construct a compelling narrative of social justice that will inform, inspire, and sustain educators in their work, without falling into the rhetoric of shame and blame.

School leaders and teachers engage in a lively conversation about race, class, gender, sexual orientation, immigration, and other dimensions of diversity and social dominance. Unraveling social dominance takes courage—the kind of courage shown by the central office and school leadership team in the Roseville Area School District outside the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Roseville is in the midst of a rapid demographic shift. As we approached this phase of the work, I asked Roseville leaders to examine how issues of privilege, power, and dominance might be functioning in their schools to shape educators' assumptions and beliefs about students and create inequitable outcomes.

One of the workshop activities engaged participants in a forced-choice simulation requiring them to choose which aspects of their identity they would give up or deny for the sake of personal survival in a hostile environment. Choosing from such identities as race, ethnicity, language, religion, values, and vocation, many white educators were quick to give up race.

I think if we are honest with ourselves, few would choose to lose the privilege and power that come with being white in the United States. As an outgrowth of the authentic and sometimes contentious conversations that emerged from this and other activities, several core leaders and the superintendent identified a need to craft a strong Equity Vision statement for the district.

The Equity Vision now headlines all opening-of-school events each year and is publicly displayed in district offices and schools.

Developing leadership and expertise in Curriculum, Assessment, Teaching and Learning

It reads, Roseville Area Schools is committed to ensuring an equitable and respectful educational experience for every student, family, and staff member, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, ability, home or first language, religion, national origin, or age. As a result of the increased consciousness about issues of dominance and social justice, several schools have formed Equity Teams of teachers and students, and an Equity Parent Group has begun to meet. The district is looking seriously at how many students from dominant and subordinate groups are in its gifted and AP classes and is conscientiously working for more balance.

In this phase, schools assess and, where necessary, transform the way they carry out instruction to become more responsive to diversity. For teachers, this means examining pedagogy and curriculum, as well as expectations and interaction patterns with students. It means looking honestly at outcome data and creating new strategies designed to serve the students whom current instruction is not reaching. For school leaders, this often means facing the limits of their own knowledge and skills and becoming colearners with teachers to find ways to transform classroom practices.

One of the fastest-growing school systems in the United States, Loudoun County is experiencing rapid increases in racial, cultural, linguistic, and economic diversity on its eastern edge, closer to the city, while remaining more monocultural to the west. Six of Loudoun's most diverse schools have formed leadership teams to promote the following essential elements of culturally responsive teaching CRT : Forming authentic and caring relationships with students.

Using curriculum that honors each student's culture and life experience. Shifting instructional strategies to meet the diverse learning needs of students. Communicating respect for each student's intelligence. New data sources also open up new possibilities for sampling. In theory, the state administrative data systems could provide a much richer portrait of schools, their contexts, and students in the context. These censuses of schools and students in them can provide a sampling frame by providing indicators of structural features of the schools and variation between and within them.

A limitation of state data systems is that they only include public schools.

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Using this information should make it possible to draw samples that are more closely tailored to the purposes of a study, and especially to provide information relevant for targeting oversamples. These possible indicators of opportunity to learn, school quality, and other aspects of the school process and context could be used in sample selection. As suggested above, measuring the effects of school contexts is not only valuable but is best accomplished by considering the interaction of the contexts with the individual.

Several additional issues are worth consideration. Barber et al. As students age they are better able to handle more complex social arrangements, but this pattern also varies according to race and ethnicity, with African American students benefiting longer from the less complex social settings.

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A good example is in the transition from elementary to middle school, which for many students means transitioning to larger classes and classes taught by many different teachers. Although such an arrangement allows students to be taught by teachers with more specialized academic knowledge, it also places higher demands on the student to navigate more relationships and possibly more complex relationships with teachers who may form more superficial impressions of students if they have fewer opportunities to get to know them as individuals.

African American students may face greater risk in navigating these transitions, at least in some settings. Thus, in measuring the context it is important to take into account the age, developmental stage, or other characteristics that might shape the way a student experiences a particular context. It is also important to recognize that students select into contexts, and they are members of multiple contexts, in different spaces and across time. A failure to properly measure the selection or the effects of unmeasured contexts can result in the mismeasurement of the effects of a focal context.

Leadership in Diverse Learning Contexts

Although a full discussion of these measurement challenges is beyond the scope of this article, data generated from non-experimentally designed collections are better suited to descriptive aims, theory building, and hypothesis generation, and are not adequate to determine a causal effect of a context on individual outcomes.

It is especially important to remember that randomized experimental design is better suited to test the potential effect of a particular policy initiative. Structural features of the school context have important implications for students, yet they are often poorly measured in large-scale national studies. These technological advances and new challenges suggest that there would be a substantial benefit from rethinking the traditional models of data collection and analysis for measuring context.

Learning contexts and roles for the learning organization leader

The following priorities take these considerations into account:. Collect data from other members of the school community, for example teachers, counselors, and parents, such that their data can be a linked to focal students and b used to characterize the subcontexts within the school. Rethink what information is necessary to collect directly from students and other members of the school community and what information can be collected through passive approaches.

Information about how students feel about themselves and others, their identity, interests, moral and social development, and expectations and hopes for the future is important for designing successful education policy, and the student most likely must directly report this type of information. Yet, new technology has resulted in an ever-changing landscape for possibilities and costs of data collection and study design. Each new data initiative should reevaluate what is possible.


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Examine the potential of collecting and processing nontraditional sources of data, including but not limited to administrative records from various sources. These data may extend to nonschool contextual settings for the student, such as family or out-of-school activity, and to postsecondary and adult enrollment in schools, courses, and training. Explore innovative approaches to survey methods that use newly available technology and possibly involve passive cooperation of respondents, for example using wearable technology or administrative data.

This research was supported by the Alfred P. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of our funding sources. Her research focuses on the effects of education over the life course with a particular interest in stratification processes related to gender, immigration status, and disability status.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. AERA Open. Author manuscript; available in PMC Oct 1. Chandra L. Muller , PhD. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Copyright notice. Keywords: school context, youth development, social relationships. Students, Schools, and Their Social Contexts Over the course of childhood and adolescence, students spend many hours in classrooms, extracurricular activities, summer programs, jobs, parent outreach events, and other opportunities for interaction of peers, friends, and their families.

The Multiple Contexts of Each Student Within a School Schools are situated in communities and are composed of students and their families, who may reside in diverse neighborhoods. Gaps and Areas for Improvement in Measurement Many of the NCES school contextual databases described above include the same or similar repeated indicators over time to measure trends and to link to databases of individual students in schools. New Opportunities for Measuring School Contexts New approaches for measuring school contexts can capitalize on advances in technology and data availability to better capture the heterogeneity within schools and link context s to individual students.

Special Considerations in Measurement As suggested above, measuring the effects of school contexts is not only valuable but is best accomplished by considering the interaction of the contexts with the individual. Acknowledgments Funding This research was supported by the Alfred P. Are suicidal behaviors contagious in adolescence? Using longitudinal data to examine suicide suggestion. American Sociological Review.

Identity and schooling: Some lessons for the economics of education. Journal of Economic Literature.

Judging school discipline: The crisis of moral authority. Whatever happened to the jock, the brain, and the princess? Young adult pathways linked to adolescent activity involvement and social identity. Journal of Adolescent Research. Phi Delta Kappan. Does neighborhood matter? Family, neighborhood, and school influences on eighth-grade mathematics achievement.

Sociological Focus. Communities, students, schools, and school crime: A confirmatory study of crime in U. Urban Education. Measuring the impacts of teachers II: Teacher value-added and student outcomes in adulthood. American Economic Review. The adolescent society: The social life of teenagers and its impact on education.

Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology. Human nature and the social order. New York, NY: Scribner; Peer context and the consequences of adolescent drinking. Social Problems. New York Times Magazine. The missing manual: Using national student clearinghouse data to track postsecondary outcomes. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Decomposing school resegregation: Socialclosure, racial imbalance, and racial isolation.

As you connect with like-minded partners, colleagues, and community members, these skills will help you form relationships and influence others to accelerate progress toward educational equity. These leaders all draw on the leadership skills they honed in the classroom.

We're a diverse network of leaders committed to expanding opportunity for all children. Sign up for our emails to learn how you can get involved. Read more Right Arrow. Redefine the future for students at Teach For America. At Teach For America, we know lasting change can happen: All children will get the excellent education they deserve. Leadership Four Ways That Teaching Enhances Your Leadership Skills Your experience as a teacher will give you the opportunity to build a unique set of leadership skills that you can draw upon throughout your career.

Teachers Start by Developing a Strong Vision for Their Classroom One of the primary aspects of leadership is having a clear vision for where you are going. Teachers Take Strategic Action to Reach Their Vision Every Day In addition to setting a vision, a key component of leadership is mapping out the strategy to make that vision come true.

Teachers Continually Push Themselves to Learn and Improve Learning from mistakes, seeking feedback, and continuing to evolve are among the traits of effective leaders. Preparing You for a Career of Impact Taken together, these four traits create a strong foundation for effective leadership in any context and reflect the habits of outstanding leaders across sectors. The Power of Leading Together Leadership is not limited to the formal roles we hold, but is a way of operating.

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