SCET Journal 2020/2021

« Race Matters Reading Curriculum

Teacher Effectiveness Teacher effectiveness increases academic perfor - mance (Hanson et al., 2020; Duke et al., 2017). Part of being an effective teacher is understanding students in the class. Research shows that African American students tend to have less qualified teachers than White students (Benson et al., 2020). Researchers concerned with race and teacher placement believe that teacher placement is an issue of structural racism that perpetuates the achievement gaps between Afri- can American students and White students (Hanson et al., 2020). Lower teacher expectations coupled with inexperience is an issue that is prevalent in schools with high numbers of African American students. For example, there is research that focuses on the dialect of African American students as a cause for the reading achievement gap (Connor & Craig, 2006; Craig et al., 2004). This theory suggests that students who use African American Vernacular may have a difficult time understanding Standard American English. As a result, teachers have lower expectations for students who use African American Vernacular (Connor & Craig, 2006). Teachers who do not accept African American Vernacular as a valid dialect classify it as a “broken” language. These teachers fail to understand that some research found that students who use African American dialect have strong emerging literacy skills (Connor & Craig, 2006). However, teachers who have positive experiences working with African American students do not judge a student’s ability by their dia- lect (Connor & Craig, 2006; Goodman et al., 2005). The Importance of Cultural Relevancy In the early 1960s, African American children were seen as culturally deprived. Earlier research positioned African American children as culturally lacking. Re- searchers cited the living conditions of African Amer- icans as a reason for the lack of mainstream cultural values in African American children. This research lens viewed African American children from a lens of defi - ciency (Schmeichel, 2012). Later, researchers emerged who challenged the deficit model. They viewed African American students as students with a different culture which should be respected (Schmeichel, 2012). According to Schmeichel (2012), cultural rel- evancy dates to Ramirez and Castaneda (1974) who argued that schools force minority students to assimilate to mainstream cultural norms. Accord-

Reading curriculums that limit writing instruction and reading real books have been cited as a reason for the reading achievement gap (Teal et al., 2007). The urban population in schools is mostly composed of Af- rican American and LatinX students. According to the research, African American and LatinX students ex- perience a large reading gap compared to their White peers. As a result of the reading gap in urban areas, the federal government has spent billions of dollars on teacher professional development, instructional ma- terials, and literacy assessments. Yet the reading gap continues. Teale et al., (2007) assert the reading curric- ulum as a contributing factor. According to Teale et al., (2007), schools spend an enormous amount of time on phonological awareness and phonics instruction, yet neglect instruction that focuses on reading real books. The lack of reading in urban schools not only contrib- utes to poor comprehension but also to poor writing skills. Since spending time reading increases writing ability, schools must provide time for students to read so that they can have examples of different forms of writing. Furthermore, some schools have decreased instruction in science and social studies to spend more time on reading instruction. Despite this extra time in reading instruction, students are now lacking background knowledge in science and social studies because many schools have taken these subjects away in the name of reading instruction. Content Presentation According to Risko and Dalhouse (2007), the way schools present content is a contributing factor to the achievement gap. African American students come from a unique culture that is often devalued in the traditional school system. In the traditional school system, the African American student’s dialect, social linguistics, and community is silent in the curriculum. Risko and Dalhouse (2007) discuss the importance of culture modeling. In culture modeling, schools choose books about the experiences of African Americans and create discussion groups around these experiences. Instead of attempting to change the culture of African American students, cultural modeling advocates for schools to use the funds of knowledge that African American students bring to school (Riscko & Dalhouse, 2007).

South Carolina English Teacher



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