Saturday, December 11, 2010

Guest Blog: Children of Color and the Poor Left Way Behind in the National Governors Association and State Education Chiefs Common Core State Standards Initiative: “Text Exemplars” for Kindergarten through 5th Grade


Jane M. Gangi
 This week's guest blog is authored by a friend, colleague and coauthor of Deepening Literacy Learning, Jane M. Gangi.  In this post, Jane analyzes the K-5 text exemplars recommended in the Common Core State Standards in order to see the racial representation of the texts. It always disappoints me and angers me that limited representation of African American, Asian, Latino/a, and Native American people in the texts offered as exemplars is so often done. Jane's article, "The Unbearable Whiteness of Literacy Instruction: Realizing the Implications of the Proficient Reader Research"(MC Review, 2008) referenced in this blog post offers an important critique of racial representation in the literacy textbooks for teachers and teacher candidates.






Jane M. Gangi, Ph.D.
December 11, 2010

Despite comprising 40% of the population in the United States (and 70% of the world’s), in the K-5 Text Exemplars in the National Governors Association and State Education Chiefs Common Core State Standards Initiative, children of color are represented in just 21% of the selections. Decades of research have taught us that, to become proficient readers, children must be able to make text-to-self connections; they must be able to activate their prior knowledge. When the books we offer children represent mostly European American and middle-class children, European American middle-class children are hugely advantaged.
I analyzed the 88 books in the categories of K-1 stories, poetry, read-aloud stories, and read-aloud poetry; Grades 2-3 stories, poetry, read-aloud stories, and read-aloud poetry; and Grades 4-5 stories, poetry, read-aloud stories, and read-aloud poetry. Of the authors represented 69 were European American; 10 were African American; 3 were Asian American; 5 were Latino; and 1 was American Indian (see Table 1). Of the 88 books, 6 focused on poor and working class children: 7%, at a time when 21% of America’s children live in poverty—about 13 million children. Yet, in many of the stories and poems they find in school, the world is portrayed as white, middle-to-upper-class, and happy. (The informational texts recommended also looked mostly white.)
This pattern continues patterns documented elsewhere—patterns that, taken as an aggregate—persistently marginalize children of color and the poor. For a summary of the  treatment of children of color and the poor in classroom collections, book fairs and book order forms, awards, book lists, children’s literature and literacy text and professional books (the books that teach teachers how to teach), see Hughes-Hassell, Barkley, & Koehler (2010) at http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume12/hughes_hassell.cfm ,and my article (Gangi, 2008), “The Unbearable Whiteness of Literacy Instruction,” at http://www.mcreview.com/members_login/2008/Spring/whitenessofliteracy_article2.pdf .
The Grade 6 and up “Text Exemplars” seem more multicultural than those for Kindergarten through 5th grade—but there are six long years before grade 6 when children can learn they don’t belong, don’t count, don’t have a voice, and that they are “deficient” or “substandard.” When we wonder why so many children of color and the poor drop out of high school, perhaps we should look at our classrooms for the ways we invite children in—or not. And perhaps we should listen to Stephen Krashen and David Berliner who repeatedly illuminate the international comparisons in which the U. S. takes a trouncing: When American students who live in districts with less than 10% poverty are compared internationally, the United States does just as well as Finland, which has a 3% poverty rate, compared to our 21% poverty rate. The National Governors Association and State Education Chiefs Common Core State Standards Initiative Text Exemplars ensures that the status quo will remain the status quo.
The good news is that there are many wonderful multicultural books and authors. Please visit my website for multiple resources at: http://www.wcsu.edu/sps/fbiojgangi.asp. Or email me at gangij@wcsu.edu.

TABLE 1
K-5 “Text Exemplars” Authors and Poets

European American (EA)
African American
(Af A)
Asian American
(As A)
Latino

(L)
American Indian
(A I)
Total
%
K-1 Stories
8
0
0
0
0
8
100% EA
0% Af A
0% As A
0% L
0% AI
K-1 Poetry
7
4
0
1
0
13*

54% EA
31% Af A
0% As A
8% L
0% A O
K-1 Read-Aloud Stories
7
0
1
2
0
10
70% EA
0% Af A
10% As A
20% L
0% A I
K-1 Read-Aloud Poetry
3
1
0
0
0
5*
60% EA
20% Af A
0% As A
0% L
0% AI
2-3 Stories
13
0
0
0
0
13
100% EA
0% Af A
0% As I
0% L
0% A I
2-3 Poetry
7
2
0
1
0
10
70% EA
20% Af A
0% As A
10% L
0% A I
2-3 Read-Aloud Stories
5
1
1
0
0
7
71% EA
14%% Af A
14% % As A
0% L
0% A I
2-3 Read-Aloud Poetry
5
0
0
0
0
5
100% EA
0% Af A
0% As A
0 % L
0% A I
Grades 4-5 Stories
6
2
1
0
1
10
60% EA
20% Af A
10% As A
10% A I
Grades 4-5 Poetry
8
0
0
1
0
9
89% EA
0% Af A
0% As A
11% L
0% A I
Total
69
10
3
5
1
88
78% EA
11% Af A
3% As A
6% L
1% A I
*1 author was anonymous

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting.This could apply to some european countries as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, I am sure it does, Catharine. Is this the case in Italy?

    ReplyDelete