Cultural Competency 101: Do The Research (Lesson 2)

One of the more annoying parts about writing a paper in college was doing the literature review. The Lit Review was as labor of love. This was the portion of the paper where you had to go through books and articles that both cosigned whatever thesis or theory you were asserting in your paper and refute it. I spent countless hours in the library and on the computer looking at all kinds of materials to gather that would serve me best in the document I was putting together at the time. My painstaking than that was the process of organizing all of that information in a way that made sense so that I could articulate that information in an academic context. It was tough at times, but I think that I’ve become good at it. I haven’t had to do too much of that since grad school but the times where I have had to digest information and spit it back out, I’ve fared well. But I know what you’re thinking… I don’t want to do any literature reviews now that I am out of undergrad or grad school; my researching days are over you say… Au contraire mon frère; in fact they have only just begun.

You will be researching information for the remainder of your life or until you can afford to pay someone else to do it for you. Do you plan on moving into an apartment or house? You’ll have to research complexes, homes, neighborhoods, schools, and locations adjacent to the main roads and stores. You plan on having children one day? You’ll be researching school districts, daycare, after school programs, pediatricians and when they get older, colleges. Don’t plan on taking care of aging parents? You’ll be researching senior citizen communities, hospitals, nursing companies and possible over the age of 55 housing complexes. Do you like to drive? You’ll be researching all types of cars checking how many miles per gallon you can get, how fast the car is, how safe the car is and etc. So you see you’ll never get away from doing research. Do you want to work in a school with a population of students who are nothing like you in an area you’ve never grown up in and you more than likely do not frequent? You’re going to have to do some research to get familiar with the students you’ll be teaching.

Today’s action steps concern researching not the students per se, but the school and the community. Researching the school’s performance and production along with the demographics of the community will tell you a lot about who you will be teaching. Does this require you to go on an expedition with a notepad and/or computer to take notes and create graphs to chart differences and trends? No. It is not that deep. But it will require your time. Unlike lesson #1, you don’t necessarily have to leave the house to complete these action steps. All you’ll need is a computer/laptop, an internet connection, maybe 1 to 2 hours and a notepad to write down key findings. Here are 3 websites that you must visit and 2 things you must ask for from your school in order to gain the vital information you need about your school and the community it is located in:

5 Action Steps

  1. VISIT THE AMERICAN FACT FINDER AT: http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml. Here is the foundation for understanding your students, from a community overview sense. The fact finder on the U.S. Census website and while it has organized recent census data (2010) in a more category rich manner, It also contains data as recent as 2015. The data is rich in statistical information on income, education, population, race, housing, business/industry and poverty. The families your serve as a teacher are found in the data and while the data doesn’t tell the whole story, it can help inform you of the dynamics of the community you serve and the range of backgrounds your students come from. It also is you’re a mirror to your school district; showing them who you educate as well as their past production. This is a good place to start your research voyage; this data will help you with forming your mission as a teacher as you teach those society has forgotten.
  2. VISIT YOUR SCHOOL’S PERFORMANCE DATA. IF YOU ARE IN NEW JERSEY, THAT SITE IS: https://homeroom5.doe.state.nj.us/pr/. If you are in another state, you can most likely find similar data at your state’s department of education website. This particular site (specific to NJ) has data on school population by gender, race and economic status. Also, there is information about test scores, graduation rates, college enrollment rates and dropout rats according to race. Lastly, you can find information on student-teacher ratios, class populations and a list of comparable schools according to the percentage of students who receive free or reduced lunch. This database is the statistical foundation for understanding the student population of your school. Your school’s data isn’t meant to be used as a holy book to throw around to make others feel guilty about the numbers. Rather it is a guideline for you to understand the lay of the land. These numbers don’t tell the whole story about who your students are, however they make clear what they are not. This will help you focus in on their needs and understand the necessary pace your students need in order to succeed.
  3. VISIT THE CIVIL RIGHTS DATA COLLECTION FOR SCHOOL DISCIPLINE INFORMATION AT: http://ocrdata.ed.gov/. This gives you a chance to now look at the discipline side of things at your school and at your school district. This website tracks the percentage of suspensions and expulsions according to race. They also track racial data concerning the percentage of students who’ve enrolled in advance placement courses, the percentage of students who have taken algebra, physics and chemistry, and the percentage of students who’ve taken the SAT and/or ACT. The site also provides the percentage of first and second year teachers at a school and district and some of the same stuff you may find on a school performance report like the percentage of students receiving reduced or free lunch. This information is powerful because you can see where your school and district stands on the school to prison pipeline; does the school contribute to the pipeline or alleviate it? Also, you can build your own style of discipline from this information. With this information, you can decide how you will discipline your students; will you overreact and over discipline? Having the knowledge of who is overdisciplined at your school and within your district may have you think twice before you discipline about how and why you discipline those at risk to be caught up in the school to prison pipeline.
  4. EMAIL THE PERSON IN CHARGE OF SCHOOL DISCIPLINE TO ASK FOR THE PREVIOUS SCHOOL YEAR’S DISCIPLINE STATISTICS. Now you just looked up the discipline statistics for your school and district when you visited the Civil Rights Data Collection. But that data is not up to date. Your school has the up to date discipline statistics. You may get the initial side eye from the person that you ask but if you explain that you’d like to see the information to so that you can be more aware of how you approach discipline issues with your students. Let them that you want to see if there are in trends in who receives detentions, who gets suspended and who gets expelled so that you don’t contribute to the school to prison pipeline. As with number 3, you want to use the information you discover to help craft your own discipline measure that doesn’t have going to the Dean or Principal’s office the first or second option. Even if your school has a strict discipline policy, as many charter schools do, you can use this information to help you as well as challenge your administrators if they challenge you for not meeting a “quota.”
  5. EMAIL THE PERSON WHO IS CHARGE OF THE SCHOOL’S ALUMNI ASSOCIATION: IF THERE IS NO SUCH PERSON OR ALUMNI ASSOCIATION, EMAIL YOUR ADMINISTRATION TO FIND OUT THE SUCCESS AND WHEREABOUTS OF YOUR ALUMNI – IF THE INFORMATION IS NOT READILY AVAILABLE. If your school is new, a charter school in most cases, you may not have a stream of alumni to draw from, let alone an association. But if you work in a traditional public school or a charter that has been around for 10 plus years, you should have a reference base of alumni. I say find out about the alumni because of two reasons. First, you can see what students from your school have gone on to do. This can give you an idea on what your students are capable of and the talent your school is capable of producing. Second, you have a resource of individuals you can tap into if you need someone to speak with your students or offer encouragement or even offer them a summer job (if you have high school students). It also gives you a measuring stick for the caliber of your school; alumni are only as good as the teachers who’ve prepared them.

This will undoubtedly take time and effort… if you do it right. However, stockpiling the information you unearth for yourself will be priceless as you build that cultural currency with your students. This information can change from year to year; you should update your data collection from these pools of information each year. As stated earlier, researching doesn’t end once you graduate from college. If you wish for your students to be lifelong learners, you must become one yourself.

Let’s continue to push to the mark!

Action Steps:

  1. VISIT THE AMERICAN FACT FINDER AT: http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml
  2. VISIT YOUR SCHOOL’S PERFORMANCE DATA. IF YOU ARE IN NEW JERSEY, THAT SITE IS: https://homeroom5.doe.state.nj.us/pr/
  3. VISIT THE CIVIL RIGHTS DATA COLLECTION FOR SCHOOL DISCIPLINE INFORMATION AT: http://ocrdata.ed.gov/
  4. EMAIL THE PERSON IN CHARGE OF SCHOOL DISCIPLINE TO ASK FOR THE PREVIOUS SCHOOL YEAR’S DISCIPLINE STATISTICS
  5. EMAIL THE PERSON WHO IS CHARGE OF THE SCHOOL’S ALUMNI ASSOCIATION: IF THERE IS NO SUCH PERSON OR ALUMNI ASSOCIATION, EMAIL YOUR ADMINISTRATION TO FIND OUT THE SUCCESS AND WHEREABOUTS OF YOUR ALUMNI – IF THE INFORMATION IS NOT READILY AVAILABLE

Lesson Readings:

Lesson Reflection Assignment:

Directions:          Complete all 5 of the action steps and log your findings below. Fill in the spaces the asked for information. You will find the information in the three given websites as well as from your schools discipline statistics and alumni contact or office. Once you have compiled the data, this will become your research fact sheet to refer to when you think about how to pace your lessons, how to become more culturally responsive in your instruction and in your discipline. Please be sure to update the data as it changes each school year.

American Fact Finder [ALL DATA SHOULD BE GATHERED FROM THE 2014 AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY]:

  1. % Municipality Population ___________________________________________________________
  2. % Racial population ___________________________________________________________
  3. % Population Under 25 ___________________________________________________________
  4. % Pop Enrolled in College ___________________________________________________________
  5. % Pop Enrolled in Public School ___________________________________________________________
  6. % Pop Enrolled in Private School ___________________________________________________________
  7. % Pop B.A. or Higher ___________________________________________________________
  8. % Household Earning $35K or Less ___________________________________________________________
  9. % Household Earning $35K or More ___________________________________________________________
  10. Median Household Income ___________________________________________________________
  11. % Below Poverty Level ___________________________________________________________
  12. % Pop Below Poverty-WHITE ___________________________________________________________
  13. % Pop Below Poverty-BLACK ___________________________________________________________
  14. % Pop Below Poverty-LATINO ___________________________________________________________
  15. % Pop Below Poverty-ASIAN ___________________________________________________________

School Performance Report [ALL DATA SHOULD BE GATHERED FROM THE 2014-2015 SCHOOL YEAR OR MOST RECENT SCHOOL YEAR REPORT ON FILE]:

  1. Enrollment by Racial/Ethnic Group ____________________________________________________
  2. Total School Enrollment ____________________________________________________
  3. % Students Met PARCC (or state testing) Expectations MATH __________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

  1. % Students Failed PARCC (or state testing) Expectations MATH __________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

  1. % Students Met PARCC (or state testing) Expectations LANG ARTS __________________________
  2. % Students Failed PARCC (or state testing) Expectations LANG ARTS __________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Composite SAT Score vs. State Avg. ___________________________________________________________
  2. Graduation Rate-DISTRICT ___________________________________________________________
  3. Graduation Rate-WHITE ___________________________________________________________
  4. Graduation Rate-BLACK ___________________________________________________________
  5. Graduation Rate-LATINO ___________________________________________________________
  6. Graduation Rate-ASIAN ___________________________________________________________
  7. Dropout Rate-DISTRICT ___________________________________________________________
  8. Dropout Rate-WHITE ___________________________________________________________
  9. Dropout Rate-BLACK ___________________________________________________________
  10. Dropout Rate-LATINO ___________________________________________________________
  11. Dropout Rate-ASIAN ___________________________________________________________
  12. College Enrollment-DISTRICT ___________________________________________________________
  13. College Enrollment-WHITE ___________________________________________________________
  14. College Enrollment-BLACK ___________________________________________________________
  15. College Enrollment-LATINO ___________________________________________________________
  16. College Enrollment-ASIAN ___________________________________________________________
  17. Faculty to Student Ratio ___________________________________________________________
  18. Admin to Student Ratio ___________________________________________________________

Civil Rights Data [ALL DATA SHOULD BE GATHERED FROM THE 2013 DATA FILE OR THE MOST RECENT YEAR DATA FILE]:

No. Category %Enroll %Calc %Physics %SAT/ACT % In School Suspensions % Out of School Suspensions Expulsions
40. White              
41. Black              
42. Latino              
43. Asian              
44. Other              

 

  1. Total Teachers _____________________________________________________________
  2. Total Counselors _____________________________________________________________
  3. % 1st Year Teacher _____________________________________________________________
  4. % 2nd Year Teacher _____________________________________________________________
  5. Average Teacher Salary ___________________________________________________________

 

School Discipline Data:

No. Category %Enroll %Calc %Physics %SAT/ACT % In School Suspensions % Out of School Suspensions Expulsions
50. White              
51. Black              
52. Latino              
53. Asian              
54. Other              

 

Alumni Data:

  1. % Alumni College Enrollment ____________________________________________________
  2. % Alumni College Graduation ____________________________________________________
  3. %Alumni Full-Time Employment Post Undergrad ____________________________________________________
  4. % Alumni Grad School Enrollment ____________________________________________________

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