The Importance of Incidental Learning

button-download-workshop-filesStrand: Strategies for Equitable Learning Environments
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Session VI: 9:45 – 11:00 AM


Throughout the day, students gain critical information from informal interactions both inside and outside of the classroom. These interactions rely on spoken language to which deaf students do not have access. These informal interactions result in what researchers call “incidental learning.” We will discuss a study comparing incidental learning for deaf students compared to their hearing peers, identify the barriers they face to incidental learning, and the strategies to overcome those barriers.


HOPPER_Mindy 2017Mindy Hopper, Ph.D.

Faculty, Department of Liberal Studies
National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology

Biography: Dr. Mindy J. Hopper is now entering her 35th year of teaching. She earned her Masters in Education at the Illinois State University and Doctor of Philosophy in Education at the University of Rochester.  Dr. Hopper’s pedagogy is based on access to language and students’ motivation to participate in a community of scaffolding events.  A professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, she asserts that Deaf students have been positioned as relegated bystanders due to spoken language privileges and embedded institutional ideologies. Professor Hopper reminds her colleagues that incidental learning, in addition to formal and informal learning, is a vast and critical component of daily learning. Finally, she argues that schools are accountable for ensuring that their environments be conducive to deaf students’ access to incidental learning opportunities.

Denise Kavin, Ed.D.

Co-principal investigator

Biography: Denise Kavin is a Co-PI for DeafTEC at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. DeafTEC is a National Center of Excellence funded by the National Science Foundation. In addition, Denise has been teaching at RIT/NTID for over seven years. As an instructional faculty member in the NTID Department of Liberal Studies, Denise teaches a variety of developmental English courses to deaf students in associate-level programs. Finally, she serves as the Special Assistant to the President of NTID for Strategic Decisions 2020.


Both speakers are deaf, and Dr. Hopper conducted her dissertation on incidental learning. The term “incidental learning” is widely used by Deaf Academics. Their deaf epistemologies inform and elicit a common concern. There is a growing trend among deaf students attending schools with hearing peers, and it is typical to find only one deaf student in a class, often isolated even when receiving access services such as sign language interpreting and notetaking. Research has indicated that deaf adults or college students do not realize how much learning through incidental learning they have missed until later in life, often after completing school, including college.

The key is access to incidental information. The research question for the dissertation was posed as “What do deaf students say about the informal interactions that happen at their schools?” This phenomenological study involved middle-school-aged deaf students who attended school with their hearing peers. This qualitative inquiry interpretive study involved a triangulation of seven data sources. Utilizing a constructivist grounded theory analytical approach enabled a discovery of pertinent themes, relationships, and a theory.

Poignant pieces of data from each theme will be shared. The findings asserted that the deaf students have been positioned as relegated bystanders, thus limiting their access to incidental learning and scaffolding opportunities. Moreover, the deaf students in the study argued that they did not have equal access and prefer to have immediate access in order to have a sense of membership with their hearing friends when they convene and engage in discourses. The overall and main theme was that the deaf students have been savvy navigators. It was confirmed that the deaf students transcended the covert challenges through their patterns of resilience and navigation. The Access-Participation Theory explains how the deaf students were positioned as relegated bystanders. The theory calls for a simple principle: The more increased and immediate access one has to incidental information, the more choices that person has for participation. Deaf students have been excluded from participating and learning from informal interactions, crucial dimensions of school learning–the informal curriculum.

It is often that schools overlook the benefits of informal curricula, and it is proven that school environments are often not conducive for deaf students’ access to incidental learning opportunities. Because deaf students are denied access to the wealth of incidental information and scaffolding opportunities because the spoken language is privileged and not accessible, are our educational systems accountable for this dilemma?

Because implications of accessing incidental learning opportunities will be highlighted, some strategies or ideas will be suggested for educators, vocational rehabilitation, mental health providers, and school personnel to consider and attempt in order to support deaf students’ access to such emergent surrounding interactions.

Learning Objectives

o Participants will learn and identify the difference between formal, informal, and incidental learning.
o Participants will learn how incidental learning is defined.
o Participants will be able to identify the barriers to incidental learning for Deaf/HH individuals
o Participants will learn about strategies to open up incidental learning opportunities for individuals who are Deaf/HH


People who work with individuals with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, and deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals would benefit from this presentation. It is not enough to simply provide access services (e.g., sign language interpreting, real-time captioning, and/or notetaking) in formal settings (e.g., the classroom) to ensure that members of the above identified groups have access to the material that is being shared. Much information is obtained through incidental learning–informal conversations that take place outside of the classroom or other formal settings.


Equity, Inclusion, and Culturally Responsive Practice: Promoting Academic Success for ALL students

button-download-workshop-filesStrand: Strategies for Equitable Learning Environments
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Session V: 8:15 – 9:30 AM


This workshop will showcase the Reading School District’s multi-year journey toward Equity, Inclusion, and Culturally Responsive Practice. Specific implementation details of this systemic process will be presented. The phases and main components of the work will also be discussed. The overarching goal is to provide the best educational experiences and promote academic excellence for ALL students.


ALVARADO_waldo_2017Waldo Alvarado, M.S.Ed.

Equity Director
Reading School District

Biography: Waldo Alvarado is the Director of Equity & Diversity at the Reading School District. He brings to this position over 30 years of combined teaching, counseling, consulting, and school administration experience. He holds PA certifications as K-12 Principal and as Secondary School Counselor. He is a former Fulbright scholar at the University of Pennsylvania where he earned a Master’s Degree in Psychological Services in Education. Mr. Alvarado was a faculty member in the Department of Psychology & Education at the Central American. He also has extensive experience in private counseling work. Mr. Alvarado began his career at the Reading School District in 2001. He first worked as a secondary school counselor; he then served as an Assistant Principal at the Reading Intermediate High School for where he supervised about 500 students and 30 certified educators.

MUMIN_khalid 2017Khalid Mumin, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools
Reading School District

Biography: For the last 18 years, Dr. Khalid Mumin has served in various capacities as a teacher, dean of students, principal, central administrator, and, most recently, Superintendent of Caroline Country Public Schools I Maryland.
Dr. Khalid n. Mumin, superintendent of the Reading School District, has been named a superintendent to watch by the National School Public Relations Association. He is among 24 superintendents nationwide to win the award for the 2015-16 school year.
Dr. Mumin earned a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, as Master of Education in Teaching & Curriculum from the Pennsylvania State University, a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary English Education from Shippensburg University. He also graduated from the Leadership Maryland Program, as a member of the Class of 2012, and is a member of several national and local organizations.


This presentation will address how the Reading School District (the fourth largest in PA) is working collectively to develop equitable teaching and leadership practices to support the academic and career success of ALL its 17,600 culturally and linguistically diverse students. Equity initiatives will be presented with a special focus on our Deep Equity School Leadership Series. This is a multi-year “train-the- trainer” model designed to create Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) Teams. CRT Teams will help schools develop/implement strategies that maximize student achievement as well as improve the climate and culture of our classrooms.

An overview will be offered about how CRT team members will engage with students to bring about positive changes. The student component is The Youth Equity Stewardship Series (YESS!) Process. YESS is designed to prepare middle and high school youth along with adult advocates from across a district to be powerful change agents in building inclusive, innovative, and inspiring school climates. The content combines live musical performance, structured dialogue, creative expression activities, and experiential learning. The arts-based curriculum is designed to build deeper relationships and connections across the spectrum of identities including (but not limited to) culture, race, gender identity, ability, age, belief, economics, learning preferences, and academic history.

The ultimate goal is that these culturally responsive practices will become institutionalized in the social, academic, and disciplinary practices of the Reading schools. Some examples of the strategies already implemented by CRT Teams will be shared such as, peer teacher observation protocols based on the 7 CRT principles, relationship mapping, mentoring, student leadership opportunities, and parent engagement. It is our belief that 21st century high school graduates should be “College, Career and Culturally Ready”. The third “C” will give our students the awareness, knowledge, skills, and attitudes to succeed in an increasingly diverse and globalized society.


School board members, superintendents, central office administrators, school principals, assistant principals, teachers, counselors, parents, community leaders. Beginning to intermediate level of experience doing cultural competence and equity work in a school setting.


Building Relationships and Breaking Barriers: The Power of Story Telling

button-download-workshop-filesStrand: Strategies for Equitable Learning Environments
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Session IV: 3:15 – 4:15 PM


Although there is a sense of urgency for schools to become more culturally proficient, many educators are left wondering where to begin. This presentation promotes personal narratives as a foundation for establishing an equitable learning environment. Participants will be able to use story sharing strategies to build and enhance relationships with students, colleagues, and supervisees. Participants will leave with worksheets, strategies, and activities ready for immediate use.


Walker Sandy 2017Sandy Walker

Supervisor of Equity and School Improvement
Calvert County Public Schools

Biography: Sandy Walker is the Supervisor of Equity and School Improvement for Calvert County Public Schools. He is responsible for the school district’s Equity Plan design and implementation, as well as the oversight of Policy #1015 Regarding Equity, with a goal of providing every student with equitable access to high quality and culturally relevant instruction, curriculum, and academic support. Mr. Walker taught secondary English for 18 years in New York State and Maryland. During this time, he also taught English and Education courses at Notre Dame of Maryland University and Marist College. Passionate about teaching, learning, and equity, he sponsored ELL after school programs, Future Educators of America, Minority Scholars, and served on his school’s equity leadership team and the District Equity Leadership team. Prior to public school teaching, Mr. Walker taught Summer Bridge programs for incoming disadvantaged freshmen students at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Walker Lisa 2017Lisa Walker

Elementary Educator
Calvert County Public Schools

Biography: Lisa Walker started college with an interest in history and culture. She quickly discovered that all of the things she learned informed her how to make decisions in and maneuver through the world. She made it her mission to help children experience this same sense of connectedness and understanding. She has taught English Language Arts and social studies for over 15 years, mostly in a Title 1 school. During this time, she has become a staunch advocate for teaching social studies and providing the opportunity for students to share their voice. Mrs. Walker is a Maryland State Effective Educator Academy Master Teacher, district curriculum writer, and a Maryland State Council for Social Studies Elementary Teacher of the Year.


As educators with more than 40 years combined experience in urban, suburban, rural, and Title I schools, the presesnters have in-depth understanding of the challenges teachers face in reaching their students. Sandy Walker provides weekly presentations to executive leadership, students, and teachers focusing on creating equitable learning environments. Lisa Walker has presented to teachers from across the state of Maryland through the Maryland Effective Educator’s Academy as well as the Maryland Council for Social Studies Annual Conference. Both have applied their understanding of adult learning theory as adjunct instructors for Notre Dame University of Maryland’s education department.

“The real power inside an organization is not buried within a better definition of the box, or the tasks, or a separate department mission and vision to support the overall company mission and vision. The real power is in the relationship between the individuals and with the organization as a whole.” – Keith Richards, THE BLOG The Power of the Relationship

Many districts have realized the importance of equity because of an alarming disparity in academic performance and student discipline among minority groups. Unfortunately, the systemic approach to investigate and remedy these disparities resides in placing students into remedial intervention. This “fix the student” approach falls short for two reasons. First, it ignores a deeper analysis of the quality of the classroom instruction and therefore concludes that students simply need an intervention. Second, it distracts from the focus of our number one resource and strategy for achieving equity: the teacher.

Cultural proficiency is the ability to see the differences among us and to respond to those differences effectively. Furthermore, it is the honoring of the differences among cultures, viewing diversity as a benefit, and interacting knowledgeably and respectfully with a variety of cultural groups. By putting our efforts and resources into helping teachers build culturally proficient learning environments, we can begin to increase achievement for all. A recent study completed by Gelbach and Robinson shows that the teachers who learned of the similarities they shared with students, especially black and Latino students, reported a more positive relationship with their students. Additionally, the achievement gap for their students was narrowed by 69 percent (Fiarman 2016).

Although there is a current initiative for schools to become more culturally proficient, this initiative lacks specific and practical strategies for making cultural proficiency a reality. This presentation promotes the building of equitable learning environments through the use of personal narratives and the building of shared experiences. Participants will be able to use story sharing strategies to build and enhance relationships with other educators and students that are rooted in the respect for, and acknowledgement of, the unique characters of individuals, while recognizing the universal experiences that bind us together.


As participants enter the presentation room they will complete a Gallery Walk by placing initials on all of the 10 posters displaying titles of life events such as “Loss of a Loved One,” “Falling in Love,”” “Birth of a Child,”” etc. that they have personally experienced. They will return to the posters later in the presentation to illustrate the similarities among people of various backgrounds.

Participants will complete part one of a two-part survey. Part one simply asks participants to reflect on a struggling student(s), and/or supervisee. The presentation concludes with participants completing part two of the survey, which gives them the opportunity to develop an action plan based on the specific strategies learned during this presentation.


The presenters will introduce oral histories by displaying an image of Tariq and Tabinda Sheikh, a married Muslim couple who immigrated to the United States. Participants will be asked to reflect on their thoughts and wondering questions as they view the image. Tariq and Tabinda’s 4-minute story from NPR Story Corps will then be shared. Participants will return to their original thoughts and add or adjust. We will discuss how, in listening to personal stories, we come to appreciate our differences while recognizing, and hopefully taking comfort in, the universal experiences that bind us together. Participants will reflect on the warm-up Gallery Walk activity to highlight this idea. The presenters will share and demonstrate their experiences of how building relationships through the sharing of personal stories impacted student growth.

Current research that demonstrates that building teacher-student relationships positively impacts student achievement will be shared. Some of this research is listed below.


Listed below are eight strategies that will be discussed with participants. Participants will complete the “Where I’m From” activity during the session.
1. Where I’m From activity: Begins with poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyons, poem with blanks spaces is given to participants to fill in their personal experiences
2. Family traditions or moment: share unique family traditions, funny or tragic moments
3. Brown bag activity: fill a brown lunch bag with 5-8 items that represent you, present to class or faculty
4. Shared experience: Creating “Our Story”, in what ways can you create a shared memorable experience with students and/or staff?
5. Class project suggestions: paint a mural, plant a school garden, outsource a community project
6. Joke book: Share a Joke a Day with class or faculty
7. Sharing most embarrassing moments: Again laughter brings us together

To conclude the session, participants will complete part two of the survey.


This presentation will provide insight into creating equitable learning environments through the use of personal narratives and by creating shared common experiences. The presentation will benefit any educator that is working to build stronger relationships with students and/or the educators under his or her supervision. There is no prerequisite of knowledge required, from novice to expert.


The Sunflower County Systems Change Project: From Punitive Punishment to Preventative and Restorative Practices in the Mississippi Delta

button-download-workshop-filesStrand: Strategies for Equitable Learning Environments
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Session III: 2:00 – 3:00 PM


Discipline means to teach. Yet many school districts have discipline policies that reflect punitive practices that excessively exclude students, particularly students of color. By providing a living model of “systems change,” this presentation will demonstrate how addressing the systems that impact young men and boys of color (YMBOC) can not only disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, but also help to change the overall narrative of YMBOCs in their local community.


Carson Aisha 2017Aisha Carson, MPA

Advocacy Coordinator
American Civil LIberties Union of Mississippi

Biography: Aisha Carson is the Advocacy Coordinator for the Sunflower County Systems Change Project, a partnership between the ACLU of Mississippi, Mississippi Center for Justice(MCJ), Sunflower County Consolidated School District, and Sunflower County Consolidated School District P-16 Engagement Council. Her work through the Sunflower County Systems Change Project focuses on education policy and the greater issues surrounding school discipline and the criminalization of Young Men and Boys of Color. She is an alumnus of the University of Southern Mississippi, where she received a BA in Political Science with a concentration in Black Studies. Her experience in volunteering for MCJ and as a civil rights researcher in the Center for Oral History exponentially grew her knowledge of the challenges that face vulnerable communities and their access to quality education helped to shape her aptitude for systems change. Aisha also received a Master’s in Public Administration from Belhaven University.

Liner Jacorius 2017Jacorius Liner

Advocacy Coordinator
Mississippi Center for Justice

Biography: Jacorius Liner serves as the Advocacy Coordinator for the Systems Change Collaborative Project in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This collaborative is funded by the W.K. Kellogg foundation to address the disparities and disproportionality of Young Men and Boys of Color (YMBOC) around school discipline and youth court referrals. Jacorius received his undergraduate education at the Mississippi University for Women and his Master’s Degree in Public Policy at Mississippi State University. He also works as a graduate researcher at the Stennis Institute of Government where he’s delved heavily into the practicality of community and economic development literature—economic impact studies, feasibility studies, and other applied research paradigms. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Mississippi State University and his expected completion date is May 2017.


Introduction: The session will begin with a community-building circle, a proponent of restorative justice practices that is a preventive measure used to reinforce positive behavior and build relationships with students. This will provide context for the audience about how tools such as community-building circles can be used in schools to provide supportive and inclusive environments for students of color. After the opening activity, the introduction will resume by reiterating the common uses of discipline as a means to exclude students and the results of exclusion on students of color. Based on the framework for the Sunflower County Systems Change Project (SCSCP), the systems change approach evokes the theory that engaging systems, identifying and remedying ailments, and creating different outcomes serves as a framework for sustainable change. The introduction will conclude with a road map (handout) of the process used to educate and implement the systems change model in Sunflower County to address the excessive suspension, expulsion, and referrals to the Youth Court of young men and boys of color (YMBOC).
Based on the 2006 review of exclusionary and zero-tolerance disciplinary policies, the American Psychological Association found no evidence that the use of suspension, expulsion, or zero tolerance policies has resulted in improvements in student behavior or increases in school safety. It found that suspensions and expulsions are linked to an increased likelihood of future behavior problems, academic difficulty, detachment, and dropout. This section of the presentation will outline how the project team partnered with the school district to (1) provide added capacity in addressing the consistent analysis of discipline data and using data to make informed decisions about discipline; (2) increase community involvement in reviewing and making policy recommendations and actual district policy changes; and (3) provide training and professional development to school personnel, helping to expand capacity about school discipline alternatives. This includes teachers, administrators, staff, and school resource officers.
Each year approximately 1.3 million young people drop out of school. Students who have dropped out or been involved in the juvenile justice system are more likely to have been suspended or expelled than their peers. Students that drop out are three times more likely to be incarcerated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “out of school” youth are significantly more likely than “in school” youth to become involved in physical fights, carry a weapon, smoke, and use alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. Economists estimate that raising high school graduation rates would decrease violent crime by 20 percent and property crime by 10 percent. A key component in addressing school push-out is working directly with the local Youth Court. This portion of the presentation will discuss ways to create communication channels between local school districts and Youth Courts to foster understanding of Youth Court processes to inform school district policies. Using lessons learned from the SCSCP, the presenters will provide ways for local communities and districts to avoid criminalizing behavior and provide alternatives to Youth Court referrals, specifically restitution, community service, and, in particular, case support from counselors. These alternatives can be used in lieu of exclusion or Youth Court referrals, and can offer students limited exclusion and the ability to learn from their behavior.
The media often perpetuate negative perceptions of YMBOC. The systems change element of changing outcomes for YMBOC includes changing the larger narrative through media engagement. The SCSCP has made substantial strides in helping to identify local strategies to prevent the criminalization of YMBOC, including incorporating youth voice. This portion of the presentation will outline clear steps to increase positive messaging around YMBOC in local media to aid in narrative change.
The audience will receive a data report that will also detail the strategies discussed in the presentation. The presentation will conclude with questions from the audience.


Secondary and Postsecondary Educators: new or veteran educators who teach in diverse school settings
Administrators: Specifically administrators who handle school discipline matters
School Counselors: Specifically counselors who work in high-poverty areas or who frequently engage with students with behavorial issues Researchers: Education researchers who have a particular interest in the school-to-prison pipeline and preventative policy

Education, Not Incarceration: Using Higher Education to Challenge Mass Incarceration

button-download-workshop-filesStrand: Strategies for Equitable Learning Environments
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Session II: 10:45 AM – 12:00 PM


More than 2 million people are currently incarcerated in the United Sates. Minorities are disproportionately represented in higher education but represent greater than 60 percent of people in prison nationally. For previously incarcerated students (as is true for students of color), community colleges are the only avenue to higher education. Education is transformative and can lower recidivism while increasing sense of belonging, validation, and student engagement.


VASQUEZ_beto 2017Alberto “Beto” Vasquez

Outreach Coordinator
San Diego Continuing Education

Biography: Beto Vasquez is currently finalizing his studies at UCSD where he is pursuing a Masters degree in biology. He is committed to becoming a community college professor of biology and ultimately an administrator of higher education. As a formerly incarcerated student, he is all too familiar with the multifaceted challenges faced not only by this demographic, but underserved groups generally. He works for San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE). He is an advocate for education, STEM and restorative justice.


(1) Previous experience coordinating, facilitating, and leading a series of professional development workshops in the greater San Diego County area to educate community college staff and faculty titled, “Education, not Incarceration: Facilitating Success for Previously Incarcerated Students.”
Most recently, the presenter partnered with the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges and the Opportunity Institute to host one of three statewide sessions on Supporting Formerly Incarcerated Students.
The presenter currently serve as Chair for the Warden’s Community Advisory Board at RJ Donovan State Prison, President for the Nostros Alumni Association (a nonprofit committed to assisting men in recovery), Co-Founder of the Urban Scholars Union (an education-based support group for ex-incarcerated students), and a founding member of the Region X (Southern California) Consortium on Education for Previously Incarcerated Students.
(2) It is no surprise that although people of color are disproportionately represented in higher education, they represent greater than 60 percent of people in prison nationally (The Sentencing Project, 2016). There are more than 2 million people currently incarcerated in the United Sates. This population has grown exponentially at an alarming rate of greater than 500 percent over the past 40 years. In California, an exacerbated prison system (over 180 percent capacity) (CDCR, 2016) has led to the imposition of federal mandates on state government to decrease populations within the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR). This has led to legislature designed to alleviate prison overcrowding. As a result, thousands of inmates have been released in California over the past couple years. Of those released to San Diego County, realignment efforts have led to individuals serving time out of custody or serving local prison time in county jails. Although the state appears to making strides to decrease the inmate population, there is yet much work to do in helping to rehabilitate the formerly incarcerated.
Rehabilitation is the new reality; these individuals will be our neighbors upon their release regardless of one’s biases. The presenter’s personal story, along with many others, serves as testimony that education is transformative and can change lives. For previously incarcerated students (as is true for students of color), community colleges are the only avenue to higher education. With the ability to meet students wherever they are at, community colleges across the state are equipped to provide the opportunities and resources necessary to increase a sense of belonging, validation, and ultimately the engagement of previously incarcerated individuals. It is important to cultivate the necessary partnerships between community colleges and community organizations to develop programmatic solutions, lower recidivism, and increase enrollment, retention, and degree acquisition rates among this population.
(3) This workshop will consist of a brief presentation covering the climate of our current national stance (with a special emphasis on CA) on mass incarceration, the disparities it leads to, and the need for innovative approaches to restore lives. The presentation will be followed by a student panel of formerly incarcerated students who will share their experiences and speak about education’s impact on their rehabilitative process. The panel will be followed by a brief Q&A session and a group dialogue about restorative practices being used (and challenges) in their regions to assist formerly incarcerated individuals seeking higher education and and an improved quality of life.
(4) Handout will be provided.
(5) The goals are as follows:

  • Challenge stigmas surrounding Currently & Formerly Incarcerated (C&FI) populations
  • Create a dialogue about restorative practices (and challenges) in other regions
  • Increase network of reentry allies
  • Discuss regional challenges for nontraditional students
  • Raise awareness of challenges faced by C&FI individuals
  • Identify ways to improve ability to connect with this population
  • Challenge the ability to identify and mitigate personal biases
  • Understand the political landscape with respect to justice reform
  • Contribute to lowering recidivism


Educators and service providers

Elevating Cultural Competence in 21st Century Educational Leadership: A Role Embedded Approach to Equity & Excellence

button-download-workshop-filesStrand: Strategies for Equitable Learning Environments
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Session I: 9:15 – 10:30 AM


This interactive workshop is designed to build teacher, administrator, and/or district leader capacity to integrate culturally responsive practices into their toolkits. Participants will explore scaffolded information to promote equitable practice and decision-making by (1) establishing culturally responsive norms, (2) incorporating essential elements of cultural proficiency in practice, and (3) utilizing collaborative inquiry as an equitable approach to data analysis and action-planning.


Shaefer_Susan_2017Susan Shaffer

Executive Director, President
Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium – Center for Education Equity

Biography: Susan has been a nationally recognized expert for more than four decades. Her transformational work in public schools has centered on the development of comprehensive technical assistance, training on educational equity, and multicultural gender-related issues. Ms. Shaffer has published extensively on gender equity, family engagement, civil rights, multicultural education, and disability. Ms. Shaffer serves on several boards, including the National Association of Family, School and Community Engagement (co-founder), School of Education, Bowie State University, MD, the MD Women’s Heritage Center, and Harmony through Education. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her service and leadership. She holds a B.A. in History and M.A. in education from the University of California, Berkeley.

Harris_Pam_2017Pamela Harris

Senior Lead Consultant
Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium-Center for Education Equity

Biography: Ms. Harris is a 43 year veteran in service to diverse stakeholders in school district communities, schools and classrooms. Most recently, since 2011, Ms. Harris has served as Senior Educational Equity Specialist, Senior Advisor, Educational Equity and now Senior Lead Consultant for Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium (MAEC) – Center for Education Equity (CEE) (formerly Mid- Atlantic Equity Center (MAC)). In her professional role, she provides leadership in the delivery of capacity building and technical assistance to Region I school districts in the New England, Mid-Atlantic States. Her range of applied knowledge, expertise and experience focuses on educational equity priorities related to civil rights, social justice , public school education and issues related to children, youth and families impacted by gender, national origin race and religion.


Disaggregated data analysis and needs assessments conducted by Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) confirms that there are clear, recurring patterns of low-income and minority students underachieving in regions throughout the United States. Given such recurring patterns, repeating the policies and practices of the past is a sure path to perpetuating ineffective practices that underserve underrepresented learners and lead to failure. To achieve educational equity, progressive and culturally sustaining models of school and classroom organization and culture are required.

To best address the complexities of creating genuine and sustainable equitable classrooms and schools, the presenters will begin with a very basic assumption. Cultural and socioeconomic differences are best seen as assets–not liabilities–to learning. Equal educational opportunity builds on the incorporation of differences and an appreciation that unilateral school cultures are by definition discriminatory. In addition, although certain policies might well lead to a greater socioeconomic integration of schools, their impact will be minimal unless certain key factors are explicitly addressed. These key factors include (1) the intersectionality of the demographic and cultural characteristics of the students, (2) structural racism, (3) concentrated poverty, (4) segregation within school, and (5) the need for cultural competency and capacity building. The critical importance of each of these factors is incorporated into the presentation.

Needs assessments demonstrate that students are not demographically or culturally one-dimensional. For example, the experiences of an African American girl and an African American boy in the same school will, in all likelihood, not be identical. A student from a conservative Christian family may have values that are at times at odds with other students and teachers. The interactions of race, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, ethnicity, and language are complex. Viable strategies require intentional planning that guides policy makers and educators to engage in practices that go beyond good intentions or “”make-shift”” remedies.

Exclusory practices between and within schools are not random; they are structured along class and, particularly, along race and ethnic lines. African American students, in particular, are treated differently from other students. For example, their teachers tend to be younger, less experienced, and less qualified. These teachers also tend to leave schools with a majority of African American students for jobs in other schools. African American students are more likely to receive harsh punishments for relatively small infractions of school policy, have access to few advanced courses, attend schools with few educational resources, have less access to plentiful and healthful food than students in middle class schools, and are exposed to unsafe environments on a regular basis (Cookson 2013). Factors such as these suggest that structural racism is not a result of misguided school policies, but the cause of those policies that work against equitable schools.
Today, over half of the students who attend public schools are poor by government measures. Students who live in neighborhoods where everyone is poor attend schools that, with some exceptions, vastly underperform. The effects of living in an isolated, poor community are profound for students and families alike. We must analyze the consequences of concentrated poverty on readiness to learn and to work closely with schools to develop classroom cultures that meet the needs of all children and low-income students from diverse cultural, linguistic, and racial backgrounds.
Tracking by any other name is still tracking (Oakes 1985). We know the history of tracking and “ability” grouping has resulted in schools where low-income and minority students are offered an inadequate education with less demanding teachers and curricula, chances to develop critical thinking skills, exposure to college and career information, and opportunities to participate fully in the life of the school. If schools are to be equitable tracking will have to be eliminated in favor of other integrative, culturally sustaining pedagogical strategies. This requires a growth mindset and an astute grasp of the complexities of the classroom.

Throughout the workshop, facilitators will model cultural competence while interacting with participants in an effort to demonstrate the values associated with inclusion and integration through daily practices and continuous opportunities to learn and reflect. Teachers and school leaders who do not model diversity and inclusion are unlikely to create schools that are equitable and culturally sustaining.
Our presentation format acknowledges the reality that many schools do not have the tools they need to act on good intentions for best practice. The use of pre-post advance organizers and reflection prompts and performance tasks are specifically designed for safe and user-friendly knowledge exchange, skill development, and practice.

Differentiated prompts or performance tasks will be introduced as advanced organizers for participants for pre- and post-reflection. Self-reflection will be encouraged for participants to initiate thought on how their work-session discoveries connect to educator best practices that best engages today’s students for equitable success.

For each guidepost, this interactive session will use differentiated
reflective practice or performance tasks to guide participant(s)
individual and collaborative responses to questions such as:

Guidepost #1 Culturally Responsive Normsa. (Beginning-Intermediate): What steps will I take to establish culturally responsive norms with my grade-level team?
b. (Intermediate- Advanced): How can I use courageous conversations as a reference for framing the development of culturally responsive norms?

Guidepost #2 Cultural Proficiency Continuum

a. (Beginning-Intermediate): How can I use the cultural proficiency continuum to advance my growth as a culturally competent school educator?
b. (Intermediate-Advanced): How can I use the cultural proficiency continuum as a tool to promote asset-based instructional and behavioral decision-making?

Guidepost #3 Essential Elements of Cultural Proficiency

a. (Beginning-Intermediate): How do I recognize the essential elements of cultural proficiency through the lens of instruction, behavior, school culture and climate?
b. (Intermediate-Advanced): How would I present a crosswalk between the essential elements of cultural proficiency and ESSA to my school-based team?

Guidepost #4 Collaborative Inquiry for Equitable Data Analysis

a. (Beginning-Intermediate): What components are essential to proactive and equitable data analysis?
b. (Intermediate-Advanced): How do risk ratios, implicit bias, micro-aggressions, and vulnerable decision-making frame teacher efficacy for implementing higher level data analysis through an equity lens?”


This presentation is intended for audiences that are responsible for teaching, leadership, and/or decision-making that impact diverse children, youth, and their families. Participants are expected to engage in the session with a mindset that connects intentional thought with considerations related to civil rights and social justice that lead to culturally sustaining practice.