Posted tagged ‘Eric L Waters’

Redemption, Return, and Recovery: The Future of the Three R’s

September 13, 2010

Intro

Several years ago, I was charged with the responsibility of supervising an urban school district’s online credit recovery program.   At first, I reasonably questioned the validity of such a program relative to authentic student achievement and the dedication of non-traditional and at-risk students who formerly exhibited a devalued sense of the educational process and the associated achievement that can be realized through rigorous commitment.

For those unfamiliar with a credit recovery program, they are generally grounded in disruptive innovation theory and provide non-traditional student populations with an opportunity to claim academic credits that were lost due to course failure or excessive absence and time away from the traditional learning environment.

There are myriad examples of credit recovery programs currently in operation in the nation’s public schools.  I’ve witnessed everything from watered-down summer school programs to thoroughly organized,  demanding, and standards aligned  programs providing an asynchronous technologically integrative platform.  Like the Promise Academy Charter School in Cleveland, Ohio, which serves upwards of 750 students in an online credit recovery program housed in a three story renovated bank located in the business district of downtown Cleveland, Ohio, I chose to model what I observed to be a very successful and well managed program.  I flew from central Pennsylvania to Cleveland, Ohio and embarked on a two day period of intense site immersion in an attempt to collect the most relevant data for analysis towards the construction of an authentic framework for implementation back at home.

The purpose of this particular entry is not to necessarily focus on online credit recovery programs, but briefly provide insight as to the benefits of such a program to a challenging minority student population.

School records, Communication, and Re entry

The school district of record was experiencing a significantly high number of credit deficient students.  Roughly 1 in 5 students was behind in course credits, not on grade level, and prone to two outcomes:  dropout or attend school for more than the traditional four years. Even more impactful was the 10% drop in student population over the course of eight years. This indicated a serious dropout dilemma in the school district.

With this data in hand, I immediately began to work proactively by advertising this opportunity to administrators, guidance counselors, frustrated parents, community leaders, and anyone who was willing to hear my story whether at church, the grocery store, or barber shop.

Once the word got out that we were making a valid attempt to offer a paved road void of the obstacle laden experiences of their past, students ranging in age from sixteen to twenty-one flooded my office for an application, consultation, and request for immediate enrollment.

In the very least, the groundswell indicated the want to secure a high school diploma.  The current and former students wanted to get their lives back on track beginning with the successful completion of high school.

Consultation

To understand the gravity of this experience, interviewing the students and collecting the necessary information related to their enrollment and academic plan, I must admit that I was often left with critically consuming emotions.

The potential student population served through the credit recovery program ran the gamut.  From students who had not attended school in over one hundred days to relatively new mothers to young men recently released from juvenile detention facilities and county prison, these were the students that were lost in the downward spiral of the system.  These students existed within a grey area that was often dismissed by educators.  They were the non-traditional, the at-risk, and those who experienced a less than favorable experience while in school.  These students represented a growing trend in American society.  I realized that we could not dismiss them, ignore them, or relegate them to a life of low stratification wrought with the cascading dilemmas of an adult life burdened by a lack of personal achievement and ancillary resources.

As I interviewed the students and family members, my administrative office morphed into a counseling center as I listened intently to stories filled with the sorrow, regret, and a legitimately overstated want for an attempt at academic redemption.  Kleenex™ was a standard desk item.

Students were experiencing such a dearth in course credits that a return to a traditional high school setting was not a consideration.  For example, a nineteen year old teen mother who amassed just twelve academic credits and had not been to school for two years was not a candidate for reentry into a traditional school setting.  Her needs eclipsed those of the typical junior in high school.  She needed daycare, employment, and housing.  The only way to successfully claim lost credits was through an online credit recovery program.

A Commitment to Recovery

During the course of the year, we successfully enrolled three hundred students with close to two hundred claiming a number of lost credits, returning to the traditional high school at grade level, and subsequently graduating eighty eight students who would have either dropped out or taken another year and a half to graduate.

As I frequented the two classrooms housing the credit recovery students, a phenomenon was occurring beyond that of the intended credit accumulation.  Students were attending with a higher frequency than at the traditional high school.  Students were developing an independent nature that somehow never developed prior to this progressive technological experience.   As students accumulated credits, a circularity developed that caused them to add credits at an alarming rate.  Again, many of these students were the castaways, push outs, and discipline problems.  They moved through the academic program modules that were aligned to state standards and district textbooks. They were given periodic online assessments.  If they did not score proficiently in the online assessment, the module automatically reverted to a tutoring module that emphasized the areas of low performance.  Once completing these tutoring modules, students were, once again, assessed for proficiency with an entirely different assessment set.  The ability to fail and not be permanently penalized helped boost the self-esteem of the students.  They were able to develop their own learning and evaluative processing style that transcended the learning environment to their lives outside of school in terms of situational evaluation techniques.  Further, they were able to exist as themselves in an unbiased setting that too often challenged their identity during the most intense moments of identity development, consideration, and commitment.

Success

As another school year came to a close, eighty eight students were getting sized for graduation gowns, drafting lists of announcement recipients, and planning for a life after high school graduation.  As the administrator of a program that was criticized by both teachers and administrative peers caught in the architecture of a century old traditional model, I stood before these students with adulation and pride.  Many had overcome situations that you and I would never want to endure.  Many parents and students alike never thought that this day would occur.  Thankfully, online learning has made this a reality for over two million of America’s children.

Outro

The successful completion of the credit recovery program increased the graduating class of 2009 by twenty five percent. 

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Literacy, ADHD, -isms, and the intersectionality that is Marvel Comics: 1973 – 1980

April 25, 2010

From the time I was five until twelve years old, I would spend every Thursday night from six o’clock until eight o’clock at the grocery store with my mother as we set forth on our weekly food shopping expedition.  This grocery store was the finest in the area in terms of product quantity and customer service. Of course, to anyone born after 1983, the thought of anything but expansively marketed products and consumer driven technological advancements seems Paleolithic in terms of efficiency and availability.  Nonetheless, this grocery store was not only the kingdom of all things Stauffer’s and Kellogg’s, but  housed a serious comic book section that only a visual learner, like myself, could truly appreciate to a point of adolescent homage. Remember folks, this is several years before Atari released PONG in home version and cable was limited to thirteen channels.  

As we entered the grocery store, my mother would reach into her purse for a single one dollar bill. This dollar was presented as payment for completed domestic chores. Each week, I would use this dollar bill to purchase four comic books.  Multiply that by four [weeks], by twelve [months], and by eight [years] and the final product exceeds one thousand.

Research has stated that boys are two to four times as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD (Dulcan, 1997; Singh, 2008). As a precocious but restless young boy, comic books were the perfect cost-effective medium to provide an educational experience that did not require hours of direction, direct instruction, or numbing concentration.  Boys, as we know, have the attention span of…boys.  With this, Marvel Comics™ were the ideal remedy for a learned child [and parents] dealing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder before current medicinal interventions were prescribed to a vast population of children. 

Marvel Comics™ were my comic of choice. Since I lived in one of the Mid-Atlantic States, I had an affinity for the northeastern quadrant of the United States and Marvel Comics™ stories was realistically set in none other than Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs of New York City.  The impact of these comics was more salient than DC Comics™ because artists at Marvel Comics™ used existing buildings, museums, and parks as the backdrop to the serial dilemmas and periods of identity flux and transformation. For example, the renowned Frick Museum located at Fifth Avenue and East 70th Street was used as the template for Avengers Mansion.

Beyond serving as an instrument to quell my gregariously unfocused behavior, my vocabulary increased significantly during this period.  By third grade I was able to pronounce as well as understand and use such words as nefarious and loquacious in well constructed sentences.  I even expanded my knowledge of Greek mythology in 1977 while reading a comic book series of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: The Avengers.  It was through this two comic story that I was introduced to the Oedipus Complex through the villainous exploits of the cyborg, Ultron as he set forth on a quest to claim his creator’s wife as his own.  People may argue that Greek mythology and Freudian references may not be the best discussion topics for a nine year old, but learning was occurring. My mother could never argue that.

Marvel Comics™, to a kid in the 1970’s, was akin to reading Time Magazine as an adult.  The social issues and very real politics of the time were explicitly weaved within every story.  It was during this time that a rise in sub-group representation occurred. African American, Hispanic (East Coast), and Native American characters began to appear more frequently.  Also, there was the emergence of socially conscious story arcs that referenced government manipulation of populations and resources while expanding capitalism and monopolies behind a veil of chaotic episodes and conspiracies. In essence, reading a comic book during this period was like taking a class on current issues, topics, and terrorism.

Beyond the aforementioned, I was introduced to other social and governmental –isms such as sexism (Wolverine), feminism (Phoenix and Storm), racism (Luke Cage/Power Man and Falcon), idealistic patriotism (Captain America), and political theories such as communism, socialism, fascism, and liberalism.

Finally, I learned about the value of investments.  Several years later, I was able to sell these very comics for thirty times what I paid.

The owners of Comix Connection have donated over one hundred comic books to my wife for distribution to her second grade classroom. 

Dulcan, M. (October 1997). Practice parameters for the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 36 (10) 85S–121S. Retrieved from http://meta.wkhealth.com/pt/pt-core/template-journal/lwwgateway/media/landingpage.htm?issn=0890-8567&volume=36&issue=10&spage=85S.

Singh, I. (December 2008). Beyond polemics: science and ethics of ADHD. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience 9 (12): 957–64.

Ethnogender Stratification and High School Graduation

February 26, 2010

The National Women’s Law Center’s report, When Girls Don’t Graduate, We All Fail: A Call to Improve High School Graduation Rates (2007) discusses the short and long-term implications for females when high school graduation does not occur.  Women who do not complete high school have limited opportunities to secure employment and receive wages that allow for financial security (Barton, 2005; Britt, 2006). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Governor’s Alliance, and America’s Promise Alliance indicate that dropouts are likely to be stricken by poverty, unemployed, have poor health, receive public assistance, and are often single parents with children who have an even higher potential to drop out of school. To stress this point further, a report prepared by Fogg (2007) for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry indicates that during the year 1979, dropouts earned seventy-five percent of what high school graduates earned and forty-one percent of those with a bachelor’s degree. By 2006, that number had plummeted to under sixty-six percent when measured against high school graduates and thirty-three percent when measured against those who had obtained a bachelor’s degree.

Statistics compiled by city-data.com (2009) reports that 47.9 percent of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania residents who did not graduate from high school live in poverty as compared to a 17.5 percent poverty rate for high school graduates.  Furthermore, female residents are more likely than males to be in poverty during peak working years (Jones-DeWeever, 2009).  According to a report published by the Pennsylvania State Data Center (2006), females earn 74.5% of what their male counterparts earn in similar occupations.  Moreover, the cost of childcare and the financial burdens on a female headed and single-parent household places females at an economic disadvantage.  Therefore, from statistical research, it can be implied that African American females have the most to gain by securing a high school diploma as we witness the feminization of poverty (Hilfiker, 2002).

Literature focusing on racial identity has grown in popularity as America has increasingly recognized diverse populations across the vast landscape.  Nonetheless, the intersectionality of race, gender, and class has been male focused while discounting the importance of the African American female. Moreover, Psychology textbooks have historically excluded ethnic females from their writings on female development (Santos De Barona, 1992) and the various tracks by which ethnic minority females must navigate.  

Historically, African American females have been relegated through various exclusionary social practices that exist as a part of the fabric of the United States (Lewis, 2006).  The media’s promotion of negative imagery through the denigration and portrayal of African American females as poorly educated mothers to illegitimate children affects the development of positive identity traits in African American female adolescents. Further, through the annals of interpretive commentary, African American females are overlooked for their contribution, self-determination, and ability to establish a sustainable balance through their efforts.  Furthermore, a study of African American females (Jones-DeWeever, 2009, page 16) indicates that their view of femininity “includes both hard work and perseverance; self-reliance and tenacity; care giving work and wage-earning work; along with egalitarian notions of sexual equality”. With minority race and gender status coexisting, the many exclusionary societal roadblocks that impede development, opportunity, and access to resources for African American females places their identity concerns and perceptions of their lives at the forefront for possible observation. Additionally, African American females are confronted with discrimination from an array of sources and directions. Discrimination in resources, education, and employment are primary discussion points when addressing the topic of exclusion.

The term double jeopardy has been assigned to African American females by creating two distinct and separate veins; one being race, and one being gender (Greenman, 2006; Kim, 2008; Robinson, 2001; Sanders, April, 1989). The Theory of Intersectionality (Knudsen, 2006; Morris, 2007; Nash, 2008) intertwines this stratum in an attempt to address race, class, and gender in the conceptualization of an African American female population.  Black Feminist Thought (Collins, 1990) as a juxtaposition to Critical Feminist Theory (Marshall, 2005) speaks to overwhelmingly oppressive patterns “by placing Black girls at the center of its analysis” (Jones-DeWeever, 2009, pg. 14) while advancing a clear theoretical comprehension of the intersectionality of race, gender, and class as aspects of a historically imposed system.  To this point, Evans-Winters’ book, Teaching Black Girls: Resiliency in Urban Classrooms (2005), places the African American female at the center while amalgamating several schools of thought including Black feminism.

Again, the voice of the African American female has been silenced and her experiences ignored. For years, the popularity of the Feminist Movement muffled the issue of race. This Progressive Era movement consisted of primarily white, heterosexual, Christian wives of the white middle and upper class. Black Feminist Thought (Collins, 1990; Holcomb-McCoy, 2005), as a reform movement and as a resistance to racial exclusion, emerged from the original Feminist Movement to advance a cause more specific to the legacy associated with the African American female population in terms of addressing not only gender, but race (Morris, 2007). The intersectionality of race and gender was able to exist under the broader female centered agenda of the earlier Feminist Movement. This inspired women to seek deeper meaning in their existence and prompted a level of consciousness that evoked an inner networking towards social justice for all women.  Through this, revealing a broader image of the African American female can significantly extend the range by which African American females are positioned within society.

In general terms, there is no doubt that self-concepts and identity awareness are impactful on the academic achievement of America’s public school students.  The degree to which these self-concepts affect student achievement and resilience cannot be assuredly quantified.  Evans-Winters’ (2005) ethnographic study of a group of African American female students residing in an urban school district over the course of three years identified support systems available through community, school, mentorships, and federal and state funded programmatic initiatives.  Jones-DeWeever’s (2009) study of 128 African American females in New York City is an insightful study that investigates their perceptions and attitudes as they navigate the urban terrain of New York City. Many of the responses within focus groups and through surveys gives way to further understanding of this vulnerable population of girls. Survey responses identified the people in their lives that have had the most impact. The most influential people in the lives of the female study participants have been mothers at forty-eight percent followed by female authority figures who play a significant role within the family structure. Unfortunately, fathers were at eight percent and teachers at three percent. The study did not identify the reasons for such a low percentage for fathers and teachers. The study concluded that simultaneous access to support systems such as mentorship programs, faith-based initiatives, community groups, and service providers aids in the resilience of Black [African American] female students. However, further investigation into the processes and stages of identity development for African American females remains valuable towards understanding the contributory relationships impactful on African American female values and attitudes towards academic achievement.

Barton, P. (2005). One-Third of a Nation: Drop Out Rates and Declining Opportunities. Policy               Information Center. Educational Testing Center. Retrieved on April 9, 2009 from http://www.ets.org/Media/onethird.pdf.

Britt, P., Thomas, C., Blackbourn, J., Blackbourn, R., Papason, B., Tyler, J., & Williams, F. (2006). Listen to the Children: Students At Risk for Academic Failure Speak Out. National Forum of Applied Educational Research Journals (electronic)  Retrieved on March 30, 2009 from  http://www.nationalforum.com/Electronic%20Journal%20Volumes/Thomas,%20Conn-Listen%20to%20the%20Children%20Students%20At%Risk%20For%20Academic%20Failure%20Speak%20Out.pdf

City-Data.com (2009). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (PA) Poverty Rate Data – Information About Poor and Low Income Residents.  Retrieved on April 7, 2009 from http://www.city-data.com/poverty/poverty-Harrisburg-Pennsylvania.html.

Collins, P. (1990). Black Feminist Thought:  Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of       Empowerment. Retrieved on January 20, 2009 from http://media.pfeiffer.edu/lridener/courses/BLKFEM.HTML.

Evans-Winters, V. (2005). Teaching Black Girls:  Resiliency in Urban Classrooms. NY. Peter Lang Publishing.

Fogg, N., Harrington, P., & Khatiwada, I. (2007). The Long Term Labor Market Consequences of Dropping Out of High School in Pennsylvania. Center for Labor Market Studies: Northeastern University.  Retrieved on April 9, 2009 from www.paworkforce.state.pa.us/youth/lib/youth/pdf/pa_long_term_labor_consequences.pdf.

Greenman, Emily, and Yu Xie. (August, 2006). Double Jeopardy or Compensating Disadvantage? The Interaction Effect of Gender and Race on Earnings in the U.S. PSC Research Report No. 06-604.  Retrieved on July 3, 2009 from http://www.psc.isr.umich.edu/pubs/pdf/rr06-604.pdf.

Hilfiker, D. (2002). Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen. NY, Seven Stories Press.

 Holcomb-McCoy, C. (2005). Empowerment Groups for Urban African American Girls: A Response. Professional School Counseling. Retrieved from https://libproxy.temple.edu:2343/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ714278&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Jones-DeWeever, A. (2009). Black Girls in New York City: Untold Strength & Resilience. Retrieved on June 10, 2009 from http://www.iwpr.org/pdf/BWBGreport.pdf.

Kim, M. (October 1, 2008). Women of Color: The Persistent Double Jeopardy of Race and Gender.  The American Prospect. Retrieved on June 22, 2009 from http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-37297262_ITM

Knudsen, S. (2006). Intersectionality – A Theoretical Inspiration in the Analysis of Minority Cultures and Identities in Textbooks. Retrieved on July 12, 2009 from http://www.caen.iufm.fr/colloque_iartem/pdf/knudsen.pdf.

Lewis, M. and Lockheed, M. (2006). Inexcusable Absence:  Why 60 Million Girls Still Aren’t In School and What To Do About It. Washington, DC: Center for Global Development. Retrieved on June 22, 2009 from www.cgdev.org/doc/books/Inexcusable%20Absence/Chapter%202.pdf .

Marshall, C. and Gerstl-Peppin, C. (2005) Re-Framing Educational Politics for Social Justice. Boston, MA. Pearson.  

Morris, E. (2007). “Ladies” or “Loudies”? Perceptions and Expectations of Black Girls in Classrooms. Youth and Society, 38(4). Retrieved June 10, 2009 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p19106_index.html.

Nash, J. (2008). Re-thinking Intersectionality. Feminist Review, 89(1). Abstract retrieved July 9, 2009 from http://www.palgrave-journals.com/fr/journal/v89/n1/abs/fr20084a.html.

National Women’s Law Center.  (October 30, 2007). High School Dropouts:  A Problem for Girls and Boys.  Retrieved March 13, 2009 from http://www.nwlc.org/pdf/DropoutReport.pdf.

Robinson, M. (January 8, 2001). African American Businesswomen Face Double Jeopardy. Retrieved June 13, 2009 from http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/african_american_history/57073.

Sanders, K. (April, 1989). Double Jeopardy – The Precarious Status of Women of Color:  Issues of Race/Ethnicity and Gender at the Storrs Campus.  The Status of Women at the University of Connecticut.  Retrieved June 20, 2009 from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/20/5a/d0.pdf.

Santos de Barona, M. & Trotman Reid, P. (1992). Ethnic Issues in Teaching the Psychology of Women. Teaching of Psychology. 19(2). Excerpt retrieved July 20, 2009 from http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst;jsessionid=KyJJpjhNp7JCsXs4KsvD7yLfJ5xnvp1pQ1xJgTmTz5dzc8TYWCbB!1296077275!275188706?docId=77521040.