Financial Aid in College: What Does Race Have to Do With It?

tichavakundaToday’s blogger is Antar Tichavakunda, doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California and researcher in the Pullias Center for Higher Education. Read his full article, “Perceptions of Financial Aid: Black Students at a Predominantly White Institution,” in The Educational Forum.

The scholarly work examining the complexities of Black students’ experiences at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) is expansive, but no prior research has studied these students’ interpretations of financial aid. The purpose of my study recently published in The Educational Forum was to address this research gap.

Why look at race and financial aid?

Student perceptions of financial aid are informed by more than socioeconomic status. The way Black students perceive financial aid may be affected by the campus climate of the schools they attend. Some scholars have argued that PWIs cater to White students and groups that assimilate with the majority population.

At a school where the Black student population is the small minority, their interactions and experiences with support services, such as financial aid, may be distinct from those of racial groups that make up the largest proportions of the student population. Financial aid policies may be well suited for the majority of the student population; with research, officials can determine whether these same policies work for smaller minority groups as well.

Based on the findings of my study, I suggest that the complexity of financial aid forms and a lack of outreach from the financial aid office may contribute to a stressful financial aid experience for many Black students relying on aid.

Understanding financial aid requires more than identifying the difference between a grant and a loan. Navigating financial aid as a college student requires more than turning in specific forms before certain dates. Ensuring that students correctly fill out their financial aid forms their first year may not be enough. Students busy with studying, socializing, and organizational involvement might benefit from more checking in from financial aid offices.

My research indicates that we can learn how to better support and reach Black students at PWIs so that they might make the best decisions about financial aid with less stress.

In the second part of this blog series I will highlight the “Dos and Don’ts” of supporting all college students in their interactions with financial aid.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Antar Tichavakunda’s article with the education community for free through February 28, 2017.

Not All Students Are As Fortunate

Since I first learned to read and write, I was always slow and careful.

In kindergarten during a parent-teacher conference, my teacher remarked upon my perfectionism and slow pace, noting that it might become an issue later on in school. It didn’t seem to be much of a problem then—I was just thorough and precise. It was a non-issue.

But sure enough, when I reached high school, gone were the days of unlimited time on tests and long project time-frames.

Freshman year, I relied more on my innate abilities, earning high marks while struggling to finish timed assessments. I often stayed up into the late hours of the night finishing homework. Many of my teachers that year assumed that I, like my peers, just needed to adjust to the faster pace and demanding workload of high school. One teacher even tried to tell me that I just needed to work faster and more efficiently.

No matter how hard I tried, I still floundered in all of my classes, rushing on tests in an attempt to finish, and running on just a few hours of sleep. I didn’t need to adjust, my schooling did.

After talking to my guidance counselor, she suggested that I get tested as a first step in the lengthy process of requesting a variation on an individualized education plan (IEP).

She warned that the entire process would most likely take a few months and that I would have to seek the necessary testing on my own. The testing, spread out over two weeks, took a few hours each day. The results showed a significant discrepancy between my intellectual/academic capabilities and my processing speed.

In other words, my brain processes information at a slower speed than average, and I take more time to complete most tasks.

After an hour of meeting with my guidance counselor, vice principal, parents, and all of my teachers, I was granted special accommodations, most notably, extra time on tests.

Since then, my anxiety revolving around timed assessments has diminished. However, while I was able to receive the necessary accommodations to help me succeed in school, many others have not.

My parents and I were able to advocate for my education and we possessed the resources to seek the testing required to begin the process. Not all students are as fortunate as me.

Furthermore, a stigma still surrounds those with learning disabilities. For some it may not seem to be worth the trouble; it may seem easier to struggle in silence, especially if they already appear to be successful in school.

Focusing on providing students with the tools to succeed should not be the anomaly—it should be the standard.

barowsky-sophie-1Sophie Barowsky is a senior at Framingham High School in Framingham, Massachusetts. In college, she hopes to study neuroscience or psychology.

Every Student Succeeds Act: School Leadership Interventions

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

The only thing that makes the leader special is that she or he is a better follower: better at articulating the purposes of the community; more passionate about them, more willing to take time to pursue them.Thomas Sergiovanni

In the wake of the growing school accountability movement, campus leaders are facing immense pressure to improve student achievement.

In response, the role of principal has moved beyond focusing merely on campus administration to serving as an instructional leader, a profession requiring expertise in assessment, instruction, curriculum, and data analysis. However, given the complexities of human interactions, intervention strategies, and student learning, boosting student achievement is not always a simple matter. Schools are unique places; relationships among school employees, students, and families more closely resemble those in a family or small community—and applying managerial principles to places characterized by crayons and e-books presents challenges not typically found in most organizations.

Why do administrators struggle with making strides in improving student achievement?

Perhaps part of the problem lies with graduate leadership programs in the preparation of future principals. While many graduate programs do concentrate on instructional strategies with an emphasis toward school leadership interventions, some unfortunately do not adequately prepare principals for today’s realities. As a result, campus leaders fall short in applying effective interventions when addressing the challenges of improving student achievement.

Whatever the cause, there is good news when it comes to the development and implementation of school leadership intervention programs—long recognized as a vital component of educational improvement. With the passage of ESSA, states and local education agencies now have added opportunities for funding evidence-based intervention programs that target school leadership.

Funding for school leadership intervention is available through several title programs in ESSA.

Not only can Title I funds be used to support school leadership initiatives, but under ESSA guidelines, states can also use up to 2% of their Title II funds to create or expand teacher-, principal-, or leadership-preparation programs for those serving in high-need schools. Moreover, an additional 3% of Title II funds can be earmarked for leadership development—including academies, training programs, or other support for school leaders—for a total of 5% set aside for initiatives to improve leader and teacher training.

While states have always been allowed to use Title II funds for principals and school leaders, resources dedicated to educator development have traditionally gone to teachers.

Not surprisingly, school leadership experts have commended this legislation “for recognizing the role principals and school leaders play in teacher and student success, for the clarity on the uses of funds, for including teacher-leaders and principal supervisors in the programs that could be funded under Title II, and for providing concrete examples of initiatives that states may consider.”

With states playing a pivotal role in the implementation of ESSA, our work as educators to respond to the new legislation is just in the beginning stages. We have seen the research and read countless stories pointing toward the positive effect principals can have on student achievement.

Given that ESSA puts a greater emphasis on program development at the state and local levels through increased federal funding, including on activities such as recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers and principals and the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, it is now up to these agencies to collaborate with stakeholders, including parents and teachers, to fill in the gaps.

Call to Action

Join this week’s ESSA discussion on KDP Global about these questions:

  1. Who are the primary stakeholders that states and districts need to involve when selecting evidence-based school leadership activities? Why is their feedback important?
  2. Do you agree with the quote from Thomas Sergiovanni at the beginning of the blog post? Why or why not?

image_millerDr. Gary Miller is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at the University of Texas Tyler and a member of the Kappa Delta Pi Public Policy Committee.

Refugees: The 21st Century Challenge – KDP at the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations Conference

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Srecko Mavrek, Dr. Basanti Chakraborty, and Dr. Rose Cardarelli (L-R)

Dr. Rose Cardarelli is a Kappa Delta Pi NGO Representative to the United Nations.

On January 27, 2017, Kappa Delta Pi representatives attended the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations conference on the theme “Refugees: The 21st Century Challenge.” This conference brought together more than 700 educators from the United States and around the globe to learn about the primary challenges confronting refugees, and especially issues concerning education.

A refugee is a person who is forced to flee their home country to escape persecution, war, or violence. Per the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 21 million people worldwide are classified as refugees, with half that number under the age of 18. An additional 10 million people around the world are stateless, meaning they may have been denied access to any education.

As educators, we are aware that education can empower and transform lives, reduce poverty, provide employment skills, and facilitate better health opportunities.

Education can change lives, communities, and countries. Therefore, the plight of these refugees should concern all of us.   

Highlights of the conference included the following sessions:

  • The opening session consisted of a discussion on current challenges confronting refugees. Panelist Ninette Kelley (UNHCR) provided background information, Bob Clark (Rockefeller Archive Center) contributed historical perspective, and Maher Nasser (UN Department of Public Information) shared his thoughts about growing up as a refugee from Palestine. The panel stressed that because of the challenges facing youth refugees, educators were vital and UN influence was critically important. To address how educators could help, the panel suggested activities such as including refugee issues in curriculum, pursuing advocacy and scholarship, and celebrating World Refugee Day to enhance awareness. Nasser said that refugees ultimately want to return to their homeland and stated, “Education is the best response to the most vulnerable—when they go to school, they can make a difference.”
  • The morning panel on refugee issues was moderated by Rima Salah (UN Secretary-General’s Panel on Peace Operations) and included Bill Frelick (Human Rights Watch), Emily Garin (UNICEF), and Mark Harris (ELS Educational Services and Berlitz, emeritus). Frelick stated, “We need bridges, not walls, and engagement, not containment.” The panel also discussed the risks refugees face, such as family separation, disappearance, death, statelessness, social exclusion and discrimination, disrupted education, violence, exploitation, and abuse. Harris shared how challenging it could be for educators who had refugees in their classrooms because they needed to understand the students’ language, observing, “Language is the key to opening the doors to education, and a common language enhances understanding.”
  • Several students from Kenya, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, and Burundi spoke about being refugees and the invaluable educational opportunities provided by UN programs. They also discussed how difficult it was to attend school while in a displaced situation. Sometimes they had to choose between having water, food, or an education because not all were always available. If schools were provided, there would be no distinction between or separate classrooms for different grades. Power and toilets were not always present. As one student stated, “Everything becomes difficult.”
  • Additionally, conference awards were presented for Excellence in Education and students’ graphic art posters. KDP representative Dr. Basanti Chakraborty was one of the award recipients recognized for the poster competition at the conference, on behalf of students from Balasore College. KDP was also acknowledged for its participation in the conference.

The following is a sample of some of the services and resources identified at the conference. They can assist educators in learning about the circumstances affecting displaced students and the related challenges to obtaining a quality education. (Inclusion is not necessarily an endorsement.)

KDP members are encouraged to review the UN website for NGO relations, where there is a wealth of information and resources enabling educators to cultivate global citizenship in their classrooms.

Every Student Succeeds Act: Professional Development in Impoverished School Systems

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

You have just earned your professional teacher’s certification and are excited about the positive impact you will have on the students you will teach.

Your college and student teaching experiences have prepared you to foster academic growth and development for all students.

The school year will be beginning soon, and teaching jobs in the affluent school district in your hometown have all been filled.

The closest school district with openings is about 30 miles away. The socioeconomic status in that area is at or near the poverty line, and test scores are at or below average.

Nevertheless, you are eager to face the academic challenges that await you.

You interview and are awarded a position as a professional teacher.

On your first day, your principal shows you to your classroom and begins to discuss the possibility of homeless students being enrolled in your course.

Reality sets in, and you realize that most of your college courses did not prepare you for what you are about to experience. Are you sure you’re ready?

Retaining highly qualified educators in impoverished areas can be quite challenging, and professional development is particularly critical for strengthening the skills of educators in these districts.

However, as federal funding to states fluctuates, academic programs that encourage comprehensive learning tend to receive priority, not teacher professional development.

In response to this problem, ESSA highlights the immediate need to build upon existing networks and establish alliances by seeking support from local leaders and community stakeholders to address professional development challenges. Some may believe that providing more money to these districts and more training for teachers would be beneficial. It is fair to observe, though, that increased funding for professional development alone would not alleviate various underpinning situations such as homelessness, lack of parental involvement, or inadequate support for tutoring programs and extracurricular activities.

That said, as the opening anecdote suggests, homelessness and poverty are synonymous in some areas across the nation, and many teachers could benefit from professional development to learn more about the needs of homeless students. With the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, reauthorized in 2015 through ESSA, increased attention is paid to the role of professional development in strengthening educators’ awareness of the needs of homeless children and youth.

How can administrators ensure that teachers receive effective professional development, even if they are working in less affluent school districts?

At the beginning of each academic year, school administrators may want to outline the expected goals for their teachers and students, identify possible challenging circumstances (e.g., homelessness or academic and behavioral problems) that may occur, and discuss how these issues can be resolved at discovery. Additionally, administrators should provide teachers with continuous in-district and cooperative partnering initiatives outside of their classrooms.

Including educators in the development of such programs could be a sustainable method of retaining highly qualified personnel by constructing professional development programs beneficial to their daily experiences.

Educators new to the cultural and socioeconomic status of their students should be well prepared.

New teachers need to determine whether they are a “good fit” for the students they teach early in the school year and take steps to educate themselves as necessary. If new teachers are not supported by their administration teams and parents, relevant, sustainable professional growth could become stagnant and difficult to maintain.

Continuous professional development is imperative for achieving ESSA’s goal to promote equal educational access and opportunities for K–12 students nationwide.

For additional information on rural, impoverished school systems, visit http://www.corridorofshame.com.

For additional information on student homelessness in public schools, visit http://naehcy.org/essa-training-and-professional-development-resources.

 Call to Action

Join this week’s ESSA discussion on KDP Global about these questions:

  1. How can ESSA assist poor school districts with professional development opportunities for new educators?
  2. Does your state recognize schools’ immediate teacher professional development needs, and if so, what training is in place to address those concerns expediently?

image_mccoy-wilsonDr. Keisha McCoy-Wilson is an Army School Liaison Officer with the Department of the Army, an Education Policy Fellow, and an adjunct professor at Southern Wesleyan University. Dr. McCoy-Wilson is a member of KDP’s Public Policy Committee.

Every Student Succeeds Act: School Discipline, Student Safety, and Bullying Prevention

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

ESSA requires schools to address non-academic factors in their educational policies and practices, including student discipline, harassment, and school climate. Teachers play a vital role in reducing incidences of bullying and violence within the classroom setting and ensuring that every student feels safe, supported, and significant. Their efforts can build a collaborative classroom culture and lead to improvements in attendance, discipline, and student achievement.

What are some steps that educators can take to create a learning environment that supports these goals?

One strategy is using a Success Protocol, in which a teacher asks students to write down examples of recent academic success (improved grades, completing homework, etc.) and personal success (extracurricular activities, hobbies, etc.). Working in pairs, students take turns reporting to the class on their partner’s successes. This protocol should be used consistently throughout the year, allowing students to reflect upon and document their own personal gains while embracing a personal and academic growth mindset. This protocol also encourages collaboration and active listening. By highlighting personal successes, teachers and students get to know—and more importantly, appreciate—the unique strengths, talents, and passions of every student. When students truly know one another and develop mutual understanding and respect, educators have the opportunity to reduce and prevent discipline, bullying, and safety issues within the classroom.

Through recent school observations, I have found numerous exemplars of policies and practices that promote safe and supportive learning environments:

Discipline/Bullying Data Collection and Positive Behavior Celebrations

  • At B. Combs Elementary (Leadership Magnet) in Wake County, NC, classrooms collect discipline/behavior data, and if a class meets its goal, they participate in the coveted Silver Tray Luncheon, with festive fanfare and formal dinnerware. This special event celebrates classes each quarter who have met their behavior goals and highlights the expectations of mutual respect, leadership, and kindness.
  • In a Flagler County, FL, pilot program, schools offset discipline referrals and bullying incidents from the district’s online reporting tool by actively seeking out and recognizing students and bystanders who are positively representing their school “brand” of empathy and collaboration. This focus on the greater school community and rewarding positive behavior has resulted in decreased discipline referrals and increased attendance for both students and teachers.

 Collaborative Classroom Culture and Peer Leadership/Support

  • In New York City, the teachers at the High School of Fashion Industries have incorporated the use of “restorative circles,” or small-group meetings in which students and a teacher mediator harness the power of communication within classrooms to publicly address and collectively solve discipline/bullying problems. Teachers also host lunchtime “office hours,” during which students can express concerns and issues in an inviting atmosphere.
  • At the Aventura City of Excellence School in Miami-Dade County, FL, boys in Grades 5–8 participate in a Men in the Making Mentoring Club to learn how to reduce negative behavior and bullying by building their confidence and abilities through life skills and character development. These young men develop leadership skills by mentoring younger students to support the creation of a sustainable, positive, and success-driven classroom environment.

Call to Action

Join this week’s ESSA discussion on KDP Global about these questions:

  1. After reading about some of the ways schools are addressing discipline, harassment, and school climate, what is one strategy you can extract from these best practices and use in your own school?
  2. What are some of the best practices you have implemented to help create a positive, violence-free learning environment in your classroom?
  3. What are some ways teachers can collaborate and help each other prevent discipline issues across grade level and content areas?

ohlson-photoMatthew Ohlson, Ph.D., is a faculty member in the College of Education and Human Services and Director of the C.A.M.P. Osprey leadership-mentoring program at the University of North Florida. His teaching, scholarship, and service focus on leadership development for administrators, teachers, and students to increase achievement and organizational culture.

Stopping a Disastrous Cycle

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© Getty Images

Imagine going into the hospital to have your tonsils removed and the operating room is filthy, the doctor is using decades-old instruments, and there are no nurses available to assist.

Most of us would turn around and run.

So, why do we send our children into schools every day with the same conditions—unsafe surroundings, lack of necessary materials and resources, and a staff without the specialties needed to address critical social-emotional issues that stand in the way of academic success?

Sadly, these students can’t turn around and run away, or at least not until they get older and drop out.

A federal suit filed with the U.S. District Court in Michigan last fall on behalf of five students from some of Detroit’s lowest-performing schools reveals the realities faced every day by students, parents, and teachers. In these schools, nearly all students read four to five years below grade level; enter buildings that are unsafe, vermin-infested, and filthy; have few textbooks, with some dating back to 1998; and lack staff members who are trained as literacy specialists, English learner instructors, and to reduce teacher turnover that negatively impacts academic achievement.

This class action lawsuit argues that the students have been denied their constitutional right to literacy as a result of the absence of oversight, inadequate funding, and little support by state officials. As an organization with a legacy of equity and a commitment to a quality education for all students that spans more than 105 years, Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) filed an amicus curiae brief, or friendly brief, that provides the court with additional information and facts, and supports the case presented in the lawsuit.

KDP’s brief asserts that while there isn’t explicit language in the Constitution about a right to literacy, citizens must have a certain level of literacy to be able to exercise their rights, such as obtaining a driver’s license, completing a job application, and joining the armed forces—most of which require the equivalent of a ninth-grade education.

“No skill is more important to the future of a child and to a democracy than literacy. Unfortunately, for many U.S. children, their fate is determined by their zip code,” said Faye Snodgress, KDP Executive Director. “Because education is the path to a better world, KDP supports educators around the globe to provide resources and services to improve academic outcomes for all students.”

By ignoring the conditions of these schools, everyone is paying a price—literally and figuratively.

Children are being denied a chance to fulfill their full potential as productive participants in the economy, constructive community members, and engaged citizens—which squanders our country’s youngest and most important resource.

This pattern perpetuates a life in poverty and translates into lost productivity, lower tax revenue, higher medical costs, increased crime and violence, and social instability.

KDP is pleased to have the International Literacy Association and the National Association for Multicultural Education join us in advocating for the right to literacy and a quality education for all students. As parents, educators, businesspersons, and community members, it is up to us to be a voice for equitable funding and resources, safe and clean schools, and qualified and supported teachers, which are essential for every child to reach his or her full potential and lead a fulfilling life. Find the official press release here.

Faye_S_7-1-14Faye Snodgress is the Executive Director for Kappa Delta Pi.