mhm mm. Welcome to Education Matters presented by the public school forum of north Carolina. I’m your host, Maryanne Wolf. Today’s show will be coming from the Deadly Flood Center for Educational Equity and opportunities. Student voices series ensuring access to rigorous coursework for all students hosted by Ashley Kazoo, the associate director of the deadly floods center. Welcome everyone and thank you for joining the deadly floods center for our Student Voices webinar series. My name is Ashley Kazoo. I am the associate director for the deadly floods center and today we’ll be talking about how we can ensure access to rigorous coursework for all students. Um, and to help us in talking about that topic, we will be joined today by two panels. One is a student led panel in which you will hear from the student perspective on how we can ensure that they are all reaching their fullest potential through access to rigorous coursework. And then we’ll also talk to educators in our second panel about how we can set up our classrooms in our schools to provide this rigorous coursework and support and access for all students. As we’ve seen, the research say that there is under representation of students and color and those from low income backgrounds. What are some of the barriers that you have noticed or seen or experienced yourself in gaining access to rigorous coursework or that you have witnessed your classmates um go up against in terms of gaining access to course work um in my school district specifically, it’s been pretty difficult for us to obtain those courses. Um as often when we do apply for them, were we either don’t get into those courses or we’re told that maybe we should reconsider. Um In my experience, I remember last year when I was applying to be placed in a P. English um from my junior class that I was told that maybe I should consider taking the honors classes even though I had an A. That previous semester. Have you witnessed in any way that being virtual has impacted that type of challenge in any way? Has it helped improve getting students to access to these rigorous courses or have you seen more students have trouble getting access to these courses? I think the virtual learning has had a huge impact on these advanced classes and advanced placements. Um For one it’s taking a big toll on kids grades and attendance levels in school. Um And I think that’s very much it affects how they get into those courses and really their application to go on to further classes and more advanced placements. And I think that it also is very hard to balance schoolwork during a pandemic and the mental health crisis we currently face. I definitely agree with you, Ziana. And I’ve actually seen firsthand the statistics of my school. Um we’ve seen actually that the, the gap, but the grade gap and the test score gap between uh students of color in white students has widened in the past year. Ever since we’ve been, you know, at home schooling. And I think that’s currently making making it even more difficult for students of color to want to pursue those higher level level courses. Um and you know, I know this is another topic, but another thing that impacts that is access to resources in order to be able to successfully complete those courses and take those exams. What are some challenges that you’ve encountered while being enrolled in these classes? I know you mentioned that you were one of the only students of color up into a certain grade. Have you all witnessed any other challenges by being in an advanced placement courses? Like she said like being the only person of color in classes? Like I took Math, one in uh english and math and I was the only black person. So some challenge that I face was being the only black person. I really pushed myself harder to do the extra credit and to do more work in these classes because I was basically representing my color in these classes and that really pushed me to succeed. Yeah. You gotta look at representation. And as you said, to begin with, there is low representation of people of color in these um advanced placement courses. And so when um when you look in classrooms and you don’t see many people were black or hispanic or latino or somebody who is not white ethnicity, you look at them and sometimes people want to assume that maybe they they’re kind of like, you know, pitied on because people assume that we don’t have the thought process that, But they’re white students do that may think more critically than other people do. I agree. 100% terrence. And I think another point that I could add to that is that students of color are more likely to join these courses if they see people like them already in these courses. And like you were saying before, I’ve had a similar experience where we start off in these honors courses and there’s only one or two kids that look like us that are in these courses, so we feel like we need to represent the rest of the black students in the school and that we need to put up this kind of facade to make us seem very professional and intelligent. Um, and as we continue to get to higher level courses, there’s less and less of us and that may discourage a lot of students for wanting to proceed, pursue these classes even when they have the full capability and the full potential to succeed in these courses. How can educators prepare support and encourage students to enroll in advanced courses? More and more info out into areas, neighborhoods, for instance, that don’t have the same resources of financially and socially, um with getting information from schools and from teachers and so they might not be able to access these things because their community may not be so much as up to date technology wise with knowing about how to enroll in these courses. And so I think a really good for educators is to consider the fact that um, some students don’t all come from places where there is a free broadband, where broadband is even um, is even available to the um I’m able to be hooked up and so um I advise, you know, going into these um lower funded communities and pushing out the word that, you know, your child is or has the opportunity to enroll in these courses and they should advise that they take the opportunity of this when um when they can, teachers can prepare students to enroll in advanced courses by being transparent with about the workload topics they’ll be dealing with. And this allows for students, have a clear understanding of what they’re signing up for. And also, teachers can support and encourage students to enroll in advanced courses by creating an environment that is open for any grace or your classroom. Do you feel connected in these classes? Do you feel engaged in these classes? Do you feel like your teachers in advanced coursework having a different level of engagement than those in um your standard classes? Most of my advanced teachers have been disconnected from their students and go through the motions with them because they think their intelligence level should be able to push them through the course without the guidance of a teacher. Whereas in lower classes or regular education classes, teachers are very connected with their students and they make them feel known and welcomed and um they guide them through the course work. And I think that could also be a big issue touching on the topic of intimidation into these bigger classes, because if you’re not intelligent enough to be pushed through on your own, then you’re not going to make it. You know, we do have advanced placement courses and that is great, um but we want to make sure that all of our students are being encouraged and challenged to reach their fullest potential. So what advice would you give to teachers in order to make that happen in the classroom? So my advice is for them to say whatever they taught and explain it to their students. How it applies. The rewards were real world situations and experiences is to make students take complex material and think about it any more authentic setting, and like, you know, nowadays, you know, teachers teach the material but don’t really apply to how it can, you know, how students can apply and use it in their uh in their life. A way you can tell if their students are being pushed to think critically, and all of their courses, and not just a p forces is um to look at um if they are staggering that there are being complacent and and what they want to learn and what they’re open to learning, and also integrated to like, do you see if they’re growing, do you see if they’re failing? Um and so if you see that they are being complacent and what they want to learn, and you see that they are not really responding well to um no questions that are being asked, especially if they are consistently ask questions they’re gonna ask over and over again, that are offered the same curriculum and all the same what they are learning continuously. Um that can tell that they are being pushed or not to think more critically. I think adding onto that. Another way to ensure that students do retain this information is when they get to start a dialogue. I feel that I tend to learn material best when I get to discuss my ideas with my peers and get to hear different sides and different perspectives. Another big thing we need to focus on as to stop drawing a line between so called academically gifted kids and regular students. Because I think when teachers do that, they create a stigma that once you’re academically gifted, you can’t go back. And if you are not academically gifted, you cannot work your way up the chain of intelligence. I think setting a welcoming climate is a great thing. Just, you know, being encouraging and being smiling and making sure, you know, your checking on in on the students is great. Um, as well as the appearance of the classroom, um, just having some, you know, happy signs and I don’t know, happy colors that can set a climate um, is a great thing. I can personally speak to where I’ve been in a history class where my teacher had both a confederate and a back the blue flag on the wall, And I’m sure you can imagine that that climate was not comfortable for someone who looked like me when we stepped into that classroom. Yeah, teachers, I mean, just just embracing of everybody. I mean, anything goes, that is simply my personal experience. It’s simply just body language. I mean, uh, I’ve seen in my time where I had a teacher who, you know, the white sense came in. You know, she was all happy and she was just very to talk to them. But you know, when somebody who looked like me came in, it was just like, okay, hi, how are you? You know, like it was never any like pettiness or you know, no excitement rather to see me rather than seeing to watch. What is your response or what has been the response that you witnessed from other students when a teacher or educator suggests that you should not take advanced placement courses. What is the response there? I have somebody a teacher has told me to that I could not take a baby course or take a course like this and my response was to prove them wrong. I’ve seen a lot of my friends and people dot you, let it get to them and inevitably stopped taking the courses. But I have always wanted to be or do something more with my life. So I feel like when somebody tells me I can’t do something, it makes me want to do something even more. I wanted to speak to this because I have had an experience with the counselor where like I was talking about earlier, where they thought I should reconsider being placed in an advanced placement course. And so I just went to another counselor. You know, you just just find people that you know, will, you know encourage you and you know, who will back you up in whatever decision you make. Um And to that point, I also wanted to speak to microaggressions because they remember freshman year of high school. Um I went to honors biology class um and I was there for me the teacher day. Um and I told my teacher like I’m in your first period class and she goes, maybe you want to check your schedule again because that’s the honors class. And I showed her the schedule. I was like I am in your first period class and I wanted to make that clear. So just standing your ground um and making sure that you stick to what you know, you can do and just, you know, the people that you keep around you are those who are you, who you know are going to advocate for you and who, you know, are going to encourage you to pursue what you want to do after the break. We’ll hear from our educators about how we can implement different strategies and programs in our schools and classrooms to ensure that all students have access to a rigorous coursework. Education matters is brought to you each week, in part by town bank, serving others enriching lives. Welcome back everyone and thank you again for joining the Deli Flood Center as we talk about how we can ensure rigorous coursework and access to rigorous coursework for all students. Now, we’ll be joined by educators across north Carolina to hear about how we can implement strategies and programs in schools and classrooms to ensure access and support for students in taking rigorous coursework. What are some common state policies and practices that you utilized or witness in an in identifying students for gifted or advanced courses across the state? We have several key pieces of policy or legislation that really support this work in this area, Um, and then give us kind of a framework for improvement and expectations, but also on our local context and flexibility. The first of those really is Article 9B, which is the legislation that really is about how do we identify and serve academically or intellectually gifted students in our state? You know, while We’re at the state level trying to create systems that are not systems that are exclusive. We’re trying to create systems that that don’t provide barriers. And one of the great things about Article nine B is that it allows local flexibility. So there is no state requirement for identification. There is each districts opportunity, I’d say two to figure out what is going to work in their local context. Dr Bullock. If you could just say, you know, what are the ways in which students are identified in your district? So in second grade in our district we we screen kids across the board, any student that’s enrolled in our school system. Um it has the opportunity to go through a universal screening process. And that that is one of the ways in which we advance um diversity in our A. I. G. Program. Um our director Miss Laura parrot overseas that process. And that’s one of the things that we have seen that um has has just given us a lot of growth in that area. Um When it comes to high school we do a lot of work around advocating for um diversifying our advanced level classes, you know, starting with honors but also of course thinking about A. P. And I be. Um and even opportunities to take college level classes to like making sure that that opportunity and that access to the opportunity is as widespread as possible. What are the barriers that you have witnessed your students face in getting access to those courses? I think one of the first things is communication when I talk with a lot of my students, uh my standard level courses as well as just another standard level courses uh A lot and I honestly don’t even know what a. P. Is uh you know about the opportunity and it’s not told to them. Uh So really, I think in the first steps is allowing the student to be an advocate for their uh for their own pathway, which is was said by one of those talented students in the panel before, which was amazing and that panel was uh mind going and yeah, it was fantastic. Uh so the communication aspect also honestly language. Um, as far as continuously say you are gifted, you are smart, you are intelligent versus something that can be uh can be acquired, something that, you know, for example, like work ethic, uh and where you are encouraging them to think beyond it, it’s just something that you were born with versus something that you can’t actually work for. So, a lot of students, you know, hearing that continuously, you know, every single grade that passes, where they’re not identified as gifted or smart or intelligent, not hearing this certain adjectives to describe them, that confidence uh lowers every single year that goes on. So, kind of changing a little bit of the language where we kind of encourage students to be more inquisitive, enthusiastic advocate for themselves to work harder, uh, you know, to work on their skill set. Uh, it’s gonna be pretty crucial. Dr Bullock, will you please weigh in and just tell us what are some barriers that you have witnessed in your district in education in general, we often create artificial barriers that keep kids out of classes that we we really need to eliminate. And so an artificial barrier, maybe you need to have a 90 in a, like a grade of a 90 a previous class to enroll in an honors class. That is very arbitrary in what goes into that grade that we’re looking for. Um, you know, was that a grade based on work ethic? Was that a grade based on a child’s behavior? Um, you know, and so we put these, um we put sometimes we put criteria for barriers up that just um really give no indication of a student success in the future class. And so if I’m a student who may may have struggled historically in a standard level class due to lack of engagement, and I’m looking to participate in something more rigorous, something more challenging. You know, now my challenges from a previous class are preventing me from enrolling in something more challenging. And I think just generally speaking, we need to use data to be inclusive. And I think Miss Cross spoke about that a little bit earlier. What are the ways in which schools and districts can support and encourage parents to advocate for their students needs? You know, we always talk about, um, as parents are needing to advocate for their students, really starting as local as possible. So bringing in that school, bringing in those parents to provide those opportunities. So, you know, whether it’s, you know, some schools out there that have parent university nights, right, well they bring in parents and they have information sessions just for them. Of course, that was pre covid, I’m not sure, I’m sure they’re doing virtual parent university nights right now. But again, helping them to know the why and understand how this will benefit their student. We think that’s hugely important and then also helping parents to help their students make the connections. There are so many opportunities that are available to our students today. So thinking about really intentionally, what are my interests and passions, what I want to do here in high school but beyond and how can I tap into these programs and opportunities so that I can get to that place? But what advice do you all have for educators and preparing and supporting students and providing access to rigorous coursework? One is to really reflect on your own implicit biases? I think that that’s that’s first, I think they also, I need to know that students can receive the same content or it’s not about receiving the same content at the same time at the same pace. It’s about personalized learning, which can be overwhelming, I think. So. It’s about, um, you don’t have to do this on your own. Most of our districts in north Carolina have professional learning communities, other educators for you for you to lean on and a specialist in the school. And then also with that first part that there may be an equity team at the school. I think it’s, it’s, it’s about being that lifelong learner that we all went into teaching to talk to our students about being, and we’ve got to do that as well. Um, and it’s about recognizing students who come with easily recognizable gifts and talents. Um, and that that’s fine. But it’s about being a talent scout that we’ve mentioned earlier and intentionally creating environments to recognize and develop talents in those who are not yet tap, we know based off the data that we have a huge opportunity gap based off of race and based off of uh, based off, uh, people that have been playing a generation after generation with the poverty. And we have to understand the data is not coincidental, data is consequential and, and it is a consequence of a system that was designed this way. Right? So, um, in order to, to fight for these issues of equity, we have to recognize that students don’t come from the same background, They don’t have the same experiences and they don’t have necessarily the same set of skills and talent. However, so many students have different levels of potential. So I think one of the first things that all teachers have to be willing to do is have that difficult conversation and I was just seeing it uh in the chat and I just really want to address it. Yeah. We have to have the difficult conversation uh of the role that race has played within, recommended recommending kids for A I. G. Or for these honors level courses like Miss Morgan Lopez had said in the student panel, but she went into her class and as soon as I you might need to rethink your schedule because I don’t think you’re in there. And it was only based, I mean we can assume it was only based obviously often for race because that’s the only thing that teacher knew about that student. And so therefore we have to have. The first thing is that these teachers have that difficult conversations and the schools in general have to we have to acknowledge the role that we play in the inequities we see so, but the only way we’re going to see those inequities is to look, we have to look and see how is how is racial inequity, class inequity, whatever manifesting in our school on our watch. And while we can’t own all of the inequity that may happen in our school, due to outside factors, we have to own the part that we play in the Inequities and the disparities. And so honestly, we all included me included, have to be able to identify what I’m doing to close gaps and how some of my practices may actually be widening gaps. And where I see that some of my practices maybe widening those gaps have to change those practices so that we’re increasing opportunities for students. We’re closing that access gap to advanced academics and just making sure that the work that we are doing is done intentionally to um increase and improve outcomes for our most marginalized students. Thinking about these students changing first our mindsets and looking at them as students at potential, not at risk because these kids are not coming to us as empty vessels. They do have strengths and they do have a lot for us to tap into to really reach students. And so, um, just really thinking about that, but but also thinking about mindsets and policy and practice, it really takes all of those things together for us to continue to move forward. And I can just remember, um, not really thinking so much about the policy. You know, that seems kind of dry and, you know, not as interesting. Um, but it’s policy that really has an opportunity to help us move forward leaps and bounds because that then we’re all held to and we don’t aren’t so dependent on a single educator here or they’re willing to have the conversation and willing to step up and advocate, right? It’s it levels the playing field in so many ways. So that that just that that mindset is going to get us huge steps forward, adding that to that. The policy and then also our practices, we think all of those things together that’s going to help us create systems that do help us improve outcomes for students. Thank you all for joining us again. And we want to send a special thank you to our panelists, our students and our educators for joining us today to discuss this topic. And we want to send another special thank you to all of you for taking an interest in education. That’s all for this week. And we’ll see you again next week.