Welcome to EL Extra. We have designed questions to help you and your colleagues foster meaningful discussions around this issue of Educational Leadership.
This study guide will not cover all aspects of the issue, but we hope that it will help you generate a conversation around key ideas. Feel free to adapt the questions to be more relevant to your school or school district. Although you can consider many of the questions on your own, we encourage you to use them in pairs, small groups, or even large study groups.
Many articles in this issue are about the changing demographics of the United States and how they influence the education community. After reading Harold Hodgkinson’s “Educational Demographics: What Teachers Should Know” (p. 6), think about how key demographic shifts are affecting, or will affect, your school, district, or state.
First, create a demographics chart for your school or district. Is it rural, urban, or suburban? Where is it located? What is the racial, ethnic, or gender mix? What about the socioeconomic status of your students? Consider transiency, graduation rates, and the percentage of students who go on to college.
Next, discuss the school’s past and future. How have the demographics changed over the past few decades? Encourage veteran teachers or administrators in your school to share firsthand information. What changes do you see coming in the next decade, particularly in relation to Hodgkinson’s data? Are you in one of the five states that will see increased student enrollments? Is your area becoming increasingly diverse? Is the community around your school aging? How is your school responding to all these changes?
Read Hodgkinson’s “Demographic Tips for Teachers” (p. 11). Which of these tips might apply to your classroom or school? What others might you add to his list?
What Is Schooling For?
Carl D. Glickman’s “Holding Sacred Ground: The Impact of Standardization” (p. 46) broadly examines how schools need to hold on to the democratic ideals of public education. He resists a single, overarching definition of an educated person and instead believes that we need “more varied concepts of education—concepts that also thrive on student accomplishments and successes and promise a toehold in the future of American education and democracy.”
Whether or not your school or district has an explicit mission statement, it is organized and driven by a unique sense of purpose, values, and goals. In small groups, try to determine your school’s definition of an educated person. Is it congruent with your personal belief of what schooling is for? How is that definition communicated to your students? How might your students define an educated person?
Sticks and Stones
In “Sticks and Stones” (p. 28), Stephen L. Wessler provides several provocative examples of how namecalling and verbal harassment can often lead to physical violence in schools. How prevalent is the use of degrading language in your school, particularly slurs toward specific groups, such as girls, ethnic or racial minorities, or homosexual students? Share examples. What formal or informal structures are in place to address harassment—verbal or otherwise? What can your school do to improve its harassment policies—not only for the victim, but also for the aggressor? Do you think it is the school’s responsibility to take on such a task?