Skyline staff devotes time to study, aims to end achievement gap

Below: A list of the selected books

From AAPSNews Service and Skyline High School staff

In an effort to eliminate the achievement gap, the staff at Skyline High School has committed this school year to a study of race in the classroom. Four pivotal books were selected by Skyline’s Equity Team and each of the Small Learning Communities within the school is engaged in a study of one of these books.

Skyline teachers are devoting this year to reading books to help close the achievement gap.

“We are educating ourselves around issues of race,” said choral music teacher Lyn CieChanski. “We are learning to open our eyes, listen to the stories of our black and brown colleagues, and to forgive ourselves our past ignorance.

“We do this work with ‘big hearts’ so that all students succeed at Skyline and in the wider world.”

Skyline’s school motto is “Agile Minds. Big Hearts. Deep Questions.” Teachers at the district’s newest comprehensive high school say they want to demonstrate their commitment to study their craft and to keep their minds agile while teaching children from the heart.

“We study together seeking answers to deep questions about student achievement.  We are committed to walking the talk,” added Sara Duvall, lead for Media & Technology at Skyline.

Each Small Learning Community will present and share the main ideas of their book at the school’s February professional learning community meeting. Then the groups will rotate the books until the staff has read all four books.

The book study will evolve into further professional development surrounding “differentiated instruction” strategies and equity. Differentiated instruction means providing students with different avenues and ways to learn.

Duvall said such techniques that are successful with black students “actually increase the success of all students. That’s why we are so committed; it is best practice for each and every student,” she said.

“It’s a lot of work to change how you teach. But if we really intend to have every student of every ethnicity succeed then we must teach for all learning styles,” added Pat Jenkins, lead for the Skyline Communication, Media, and Public Policy Magnet. “Every teacher in our PLC is reading and learning and working together to perfect instructional strategies that address the learning needs of every student. Our hard work is very intentional.”

Principal Sulura Jackson said the goal of the reading project is solid and ties into the school’s overall approach to students. “Our goal is to deepen our commitment purposefully to change how we teach so that all children learn,”  she said.

Content for this article was provided by Sara Duvall, lead for Media & Technology Skyline High School.


The books selected by Skyline staff, and s synopsis of each:

“Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom” by Lisa Delpit. Delpit is the Benjamin E. Mays Chair of Urban Educational Leadership at Georgia State University.
Children of color, as well as poor children … are often victimized by school administrators and others who see “damaged and dangerous caricatures” instead of able youngsters who are capable of learning in a mainstream setting.

“Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity” by Beverly Daniel Tatum. Tatum is a developmental psychologist (Mt. Holyoke Coll.) with a special interest in the emerging field of racial-identity development, and is a consultant to school systems and community groups on teaching and learning in a multicultural context.
Anyone who’s been to a high school or college has noted how students of the same race seem to stick together. Beverly Daniel Tatum has noticed it too, and she doesn’t think it’s so bad.

“The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children” by Gloria Ladson-Billings. Ladson-Billings teaches curriculum and instruction, University of Wisconsin.
Although statistics paint a harsh picture of the education of African American children, Ladson-Billings integrates scholarly research with stories of eight successful teachers in a predominantly African American school district to illustrate that the “dream” of all teachers and parents-academic success for all children-is alive and can be emulated.

“White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son” by Tim Wise. Wise is an activist, lecturer and director of the new Association for White Anti-Racist Education, or AWARE.Wise recounts his path to greater cultural awareness in a colloquial, matter-of-fact quasi-memoir that urges white people to fight racism “for our own sake.”

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