researchED and Equity: Eradicating Educational Evidence Deserts

In the past few days, a recent Tom Rademacher piece in Education Post has kicked up a lot dust over on Twitter. The piece implied that researchED is not committed to educationaly equity — insinuating, essentially, that the researchED community is ‘selling the dangerous message that it’s OK to stop trying with all this equity stuff.’

I didn’t much like the piece, of course, as it was over-generalized, over-dramatized, misplaced, and shallow. I’m rather used to that, though, so not a big deal. And, fairly, Rademacher walked back some of his essay in his follow-up conversations on Twitter, saying that he didn’t have all of researchED in mind, only some specific people he calls the ‘Fordham Crew’. See here: evidencedesertsTRTweet

**Before moving on, though, a couple specific quibbles:

  1. The language of the original piece sure sounds like he still means everyone rED-related. If he doesn’t actually mean to say that and has publicly said so, it sure would be nice if he changed or retracted it. I won’t demand it or hold my breath, of course.
  2. I know some members of the ‘Fordham Crew’ pretty well by now, and I have to say I don’t think Rademacher’s reading them accurately. Before assuring readers the ‘Fordham Crew’ are all just extrapolations of a caricature like James Lindsay, Rademacher may want to look further into their work. At the very least, he should show more evidence — because, y’know, he provides none — about how the ‘Crew’ he has in mind ‘eras[es] the work of people of color’. It’s pretty irresponsible, I’d say, to not prop such a heavy charge up with at least a few specific examples.

While I could go on responding to Rademacher’s piece, I’m less interested in the essay itself than I am with the conversation it started. I think it’s very important for the growing researchED US network to wrestle with, and I am very pleased Rademacher’s piece made our little grassroots thing go off and really start wrestling.

NOTE: I apologize that I had to pull back from participating in the conversation as it built up in real time. I have all kinds of plates spinning currently, is all (i.e., a new book I’ve been neglecting to promote, multiple rED events in recent months, piles of work at school, Thanksgiving plans with my parents, a bunch of personal-life stuff…well, that I’d rather not go into here, etc., etc.), and I’ve come to know when it’s a dumb idea to take my eyes off those plates for a few hours so I can huff and puff over a Twitter exchange. Wait: Does that show of social-media self-restraint count as a 21st-century skill?!

And, frankly, it’s an important time to say a few things about where researchED stands (or would like to stand, anyway) within education’s ongoing work to equitably prepare all kids.

On those notes, I’m going to build around a 26 November tweet from my friend Jasmine Lane, as I felt it hit on a crucial point. I’m paraphrasing, but in her tweet Jasmine suggested that, as much as researchED believes itself to be committed to issues of educational equity, critics like Rademacher don’t see researchED as such because researchED doesn’t choose to attack educational equity issues in the same ways Rademacher does. To put it another way: in Rademacher’s view, doing ‘The Work’ (his term) means something very specific. And if researchED isn’t doing that, it’s not actually about educational equity. Her tweet is here:

EvidenceDesertsJLTweet

I appreciate Jasmine bringing it up this way, and I think she’s absolutely right. And if I might, I’d like to expand on it more explicitly. Maybe it’ll shed some light on how I think researchED sees itself (or how we would like to see ourselves, anyway) within education’s ongoing and urgent equity discussion.


To start this expansion, I’ll start with a textbook example of inequity, the food desert.

If you’re not familiar with the term, the Food Empowerment Project defines a food desert as a ‘geographic area where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient travelling distance.’

In food deserts (which occur most commonly in low-income areas where few residents own cars), ‘People’s choices about what to eat are severely limited by the options available to them and what they can afford — and many food deserts contain an overabundance of fast food chains selling cheap “meat” and dairy-based foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt.’

Over long terms, the consequences of constrained access to healthy foods is a main reason that ethnic minority and low-income populations suffer from from statistically higher rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other diet-related conditions than the general population.

Looking more deeply into food deserts and what all’s going on in them, however, researchers have found more challenging layers than sheer geographic proximity. More specifically, this 2018 study suggested that populations living within food deserts tend to be less-educated about what healthful options would be, and accordingly shop for less-healthy foods. In other words: attracting a supermarket to the area and improving the access to healthful options does not alone eradicate the inequity of food deserts.

Again, food deserts’ existence can be seen as a textbook inequity: when healthful food options are further away from folks in lower-income areas, when those options cost more than empty-calorie options do, and when people’s awareness of healthy eating differ according to income level, the ultimate (and shameful) result is that lower-income folks will have worse nutritional habits than higher-income folks over the long terms, and they will in turn experience long-term health issues like obesity and diabetes in much greater proportion.

This all relates closely to researchED’s mission, in that researchED sees the existence of educational evidence deserts — educational settings where practical and operational actions have little evidence to support their selection — as producing greatly inequitable outcomes. And just like the nutritional experts, epidemiologists, and activists working to eradicate the health-related inequities of food deserts, researchED seeks to eradicate,  through professional development and networking ed professionals, learning inequities that result when prioritized practices aren’t soundly informed by what research can tell us about things like how people learn, which instructional practices have produced effective learning elsewhere, and instructional aspirations are just plain hokum. In fact, and to borrow from Tom Rademacher’s piece, researchED is expressly ‘about inequities, about recognizing and working to undo them.’

Look over even one researchED program (let’s take the one from Philadelphia just a couple weeks ago, for example), and it should be fairly plain to see that a wide range of ‘healthful evidence options’ are presented at researchED conferences to help bring some fruit to these inequitable evidence deserts: evidence about why black teachers leave the teaching profession (and what leaders can do) by Dr. Ashley Griffin and Dr. R. Davis Dixon, cognitive-scientific evidence about the importance of background knowledge to all other learning (by Natalie Wexler and David Didau), evidence from classrooms about how cognitive-scientific research can inform teachers’ practice and move student learning (by Patrice Bain and John Mohl), and on and on. And, of course, setting the tone for the day, the keynote address by Baltimore Public Schools CEO, Dr. Sonja Santelises — a system leader who is working to achieve educational equity in her district by bringing evidence-based practices into what she recognized as an educational evidence desert. (NOTE: Dr. Santelises even frames it similarly, but borrows from historic housing policies — namely redlining — to illustrate. If you don’t know about what she’s doing with BCPS’s curriculum work toward equity, you should get to know it. We’ll have video of her rED Philly talk up soon, but you can see a short youtube introduction to her approach and thinking here.)

True, these may not fit ‘The Work’ of educational equity as defined by Tom Rademacher. All of these examples, however, work toward more equitable outcomes for kids by filling gaps in the various educational evidence deserts most education professionals are stuck in — places where research-unhealthy options like 1:1 iPad initiatives and training on growth-mindset interventions (read: two interventions that have shaky evidence, at best, to support them) are much more likely to be enacted and prioritized than a research-verified strategy like knowledge-rich curricula. And, much like the low-income family with no car in a poorer part of town having to arrange a trip to the nearest supermarket, they’d have to go through a helluva lot to find these healthful options on their own. (To wit: see researchED Philly’s panel of English teachers — Lindsay Kemeny, Margaret Goldberg, and the aforementioned Jasmine Lane, all moderated by APM’s Emily Hanford — sharing stories of how they’d been taught to teach reading and what they each had to do to turn their practices around. Once again, this video should be up soon.)

As a network of education professionals, researchED of course still has a long way to go on this score — and I can promise, as the U.S. organizer, that we are working on it. For individuals who disagree with researchED’s priorities to suggest that researchED as a whole is laughing off or not fighting for equitable educational outcomes, however, is simply off-base.

My presentation deck from #rEDPhil19

As my head’s still spinning a bit from last weekend’s researchED US event in Philadelphia (and, of course, as I had to jump back into school this morning), I haven’t had time to prep a recap/reflection post. I will before the week’s out, I promise. If you’d like to get a peek at what others thought of the day before then, check out the #rEDPhil19 hashtag on Twitter. It’s rather lively, and we’re rather proud of that.

…and by all means: if you were there yourself, please feel free to write & post your own! It’s one of the best ways we can spread the word about researchED, after all. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to do anyway and send to me. I’ll post it here. (And think about starting a blog. Seriously.)

While I get on that day-reflection, here is my talk’s presentation deck. In it you’ll see a bit about my new book, What the Academy Taught Us: its intended arguments, why I wrote it the way I did, etc., etc. Be in touch if you have questions!

rEDPhil19_111619

Scenes from the ‘What the Academy Taught Us’ book launch (and the most memorable week ever)

Well, Ed Cases, I don’t think I can say I’ve had a Saturday-to-Saturday stretch anything like the one I had last week.

Going back two weeks ago (to 19 October), I was in Santiago, Chile, speaking at the first-ever researchED Chile. It was a typically great rED event, and I was able to spend good time with friends like Tom Bennett, Pedro de Bruyckere, David Didau, Ben Riley, and Martin Robinson–and make new ones, like Aptus’s Rodrigo Lopez and 1 World Schools’ Sunita Arora. Here’s a tweet someone sent out during my first talk (I spoke twice): rEDChile

During our time there, though, we had a bit of a scare–some protests boiled over into riots, and we found ourselves right in the middle of a tense national state of emergency. When driving through the heart of Santiago the previous Friday, as a matter of fact, we got a bit of a hint of what was to come. I took this pic of riot-geared police out the bus window, actually, in what must have been mere minutes/hours before things became violent. 20191018_152653

After the Saturday curfew, we made it to the airport Sunday to get our flights out. Fires like this one were being set closer to the airport santiagoairport, and scores of flights were canceled, but I was able to make it back toward the U.S. late Monday afternoon–and into MSP late Tuesday afternoon. Was back teaching by Wednesday. Whew.

I worked on adjusting for the next three days, then had a most special night on Saturday, 26 October: the launch party for my new book, What the Academy Taught Us. Held at Minneapolis’s fine La Dona Cerveceria (which is owned by Osseo Senior High grad–and one of my former football players–Sergio Manancero), it was like a most-treasured episode of “This is Your Education Life”. Several former students were in attendance, as were many of my one-time teaching colleagues from Osseo Senior High (and the Sophomore Academy, of the book’s titles). Here are some pics…

IMG_20191026_191053

The Sophomore Academy Team, L to R: Gerry Zelenak, Kelly Skare-Klecker, Eric Kalenze, Eric Ruska, Jackie Trzynka

image000000

Sophomore Academy teachers, plus alumni, L to R: Andrew Tran, Kelly Skare-Klecker, Gerry Zelenak, Faith Mann, Eric Kalenze, Miranda Thune, Eric Ruska, Kendall Cross

The whole thing was even kicked off by our principal (and my mentor), Dr. Bob Perdaems: 20191026_183835I was able to launch with my parents and brother, my good friend and editor Lars Ostrom, plus dear friends from Minneapolis Public Schools, researchED, FIT Academy, and many many others. Some were even nice enough to tweet about it! 🙂

The interesting week didn’t stop there, though, as a bunch of my co-launching friends got me out to a karaoke bar. (But no, I didn’t do it. No way.)

Thanks, everyone, for such a special week. I’ll never forget it.

 

Presentation deck from #researchedchile

I was fortunate to spend last week in Santiago, Chile, speaking at the country’s first researchED conference. While events I’m sure you’ve heard about made it an interesting time to be in Santiago, the rED event was still a huge success: 400+ educators in attendance, loads of high-quality presenters (naturally), top-notch coordination, the works.

Huge congrats to our host, Rodrigo Lopez, and to his entire team at Aptus. I hope I can go back there sometime soon–and that safety and peace can be restored among Chile’s people as soon as possible.

Though I’m sure researchED Chile will be making presenters’ presentation decks available soon, I’m putting mine here in case anyone is interested. Titled “Direct vs Inquiry-Based Instruction”, it’s intended to be an introductory look at inquiry-based approaches’ basic tenets, origins, and results. Those wishing to dig deeper on the topic should see the deck’s final slide, which contains a fairly lengthy list of resources for further study.

ALSO: If you saw the presentation in person and need the slides in Spanish, those are posted here as well.

ENGLISH VERSION: rEDChile_101919

SPANISH VERSION: 2 – Eric Kalenze – Enseñanza directa vs enseñanza por indagación

So much more than professional development: my talk slides from #rED19, plus reflections

Hey Ed Cases! Happy back-to-school to y’all.

I’m checking in quickly to post my slides from Saturday’s researchED National Conference in London. I spoke about my new book, What the Academy Taught Us–what it’s about, how it’s structured, why I took the approach I did for it, and so on. Have a look if interested, and be in touch if you have any questions. Download here: rEDNatl_9719

In all, the conference itself was yet another inspiring researchED experience. Big surprise coming from me, I know.

Seriously, though, if you ever want to see what would get a person so excited about the researchED movement that they’d want to organize it here, you really must make it to one of their events in the U.K. You have to see a crowd of fellow learners that looks like this, get turned away from breakout room after breakout room because they’re already packed with fellow learners, or be greeted like an old friend by people you’ve only known via Twitter (like I was here, by the brilliant Naureen Khalid , or here, by the wonderful rEDBrum organizer Claire Stoneman ).

Due to the size of the crowd and the quality of the program, I wasn’t able to make it to every session I wanted. I did, though, see long-time faves like Daisy Christodoulou, David Didau, Tom Sherrington, and Jo Facer–and take a bunch of blurry photos of them when I wasn’t scribbling notes into my program.

In addition to all I learned from speakers, I was able to connect with many people I’ve built friendly/collegial relationships over years: the lovely James and Dianne Murphy and I were able to catch up for 30 minutes before the day’s first session, I got some one-on-one time with a long-time hero Paul Kirschner on the terrace in the afternoon, reunited with Ofsted’s Amanda Spielman (and David Didau and Jo Facer) over lunch, and on and on.

Then, after putting away chairs (yes, we put away our own chairs ) and helping Tom and Helene tidy up, the after-event pub time just kept giving and giving. I was able to share laughs and ideas with the likes of Stuart Lock, Beth Greville-Giddings, Howard Greville-Giddings, Deep Ghatura, researchED Chile visionary Rodrigo Lopez, Nils Tishauser, Jan Tishauser, Eva Hartell, Joanne Smolka, the ever-marvelous Tarjinder Gill, and many more.

I could of course go into much more detail here, but I’ll hold off. I’ve done so on many other occasions, after all, and shouldn’t simply rehash.

I’ll just close by saying that I feel a lot stronger than I have in some time after returning from #rED19. It reminded me how researchED is about so much more than professional development, all at a time when I really needed it. I wish every person working in education could see one for themselves.

Notes before my first new teacher workshop in decades

Tomorrow, I will do something I haven’t done for well over 20 years: report to a school’s new teacher workshop as a learner, not someone leading the learning.

(Okay, I’ll do some leading. The position I’m moving into kinda requires it. First and foremost, though, I’ll be the new guy.)

If you’ve done this before, you know what my next few days will be like. I’ll get equipment checked out to me, I’ll do some icebreakers, I’ll be let into my classroom for the first time (I have a couple sections of high-school English), I’ll unload a few crates’ worth of resources into bookcases and filing cabinets, I’ll listen to admin talk about crucial policies and procedures, I’ll look over available materials to start sketching units, all that.

…and damn, I’m excited. I seriously can’t wait to get going at my new place.

Don’t get me wrong: I love doing all the other stuff I’m up to in education, and I fully intend to keep doing it all. Over the past few years, though, which included writing this book, visiting with many former students and colleagues to do so, and learning scads more about our enterprise and myself, I realized some things had to change with my full-time work. If I was really going to be the anti-ed-bullshit guy and more directly contribute to the bottom-up improvement stuff I’m always ranting about, basically, I was going to have to find something more concentrated, continual, and contextually driven.

Such work is hard to come by in education’s current top-down milieu, of course, but I found an opportunity where I can do just that. A young charter school I’ve done some consulting for here in the Twin Cities metro is committing resources toward building some vital ‘pillars’ (e.g., research-guided teacher-development processes, knowledge-rich K-12 curriculum, etc.) internally, and they are bringing me aboard to assist with design and execution (and, as mentioned earlier, some teaching [!]). As I’m all about building practices up from a unifying vision (again, see my new book for a fuller justification), I’m both encouraged by the school’s brave commitment and thrilled to be a part of it all. Watch this space for updates on how it’s all going.

Now, though, I have to get washing clothes and getting ready for tomorrow. I can’t wait to be a new teacher again.

researchED US returns in November! #rEDPhil19

As I mentioned in last week’s post, Ed Cases, I have a lot to catch y’all up on. (Thanks, by the way, for all the nice comms regarding the new book. If you pre-ordered, I sure hope you like it.)

Today, just wanted to update you on that planning for researchED US 2019 is fully underway. We’re very excited for the day that’s coming together (which, by the way, is 16 November in Philadelphia–get there and bring an army!!).

If you visit the event site above, you’ll see a decided tilt toward evidence-supported practices — folks coming to share, in other words, about how and why they’re changing practices in their settings: keynote Sonja Santelises (Baltimore Public Schools) and Jackson-Madison, Tennessee’s Jared Myracle will be talking about district-wide work they’re leading, Emily Hanford will be leading a panel of teachers to share about their classroom practices, the Ed Trust’s Karin Chenoweth will be talking about how exemplary schools and leaders are changing practice toward improved outcomes and climates, etc., etc.

We have several more speakers confirmed (and in-progress), and I’ll be getting those up to the site in the coming weeks. (And trust me: they’re pretty damn exciting.)

In the meantime, consider calling a bunch of teacher friends and coming over to Philly the weekend of 16 November. Ask anyone who’s attended a researchED conference and they’ll tell you, you won’t be quite the same afterward.

PLEASE SHARE AND RETWEET

FOR REMEMEBER: YOU, READER, ARE OUR ONLY MEANS OF PROMOTION. THANK YOU!