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Note to Educators: The Time Is Right

Springtime is here! In Chicago, as in many cities, we are excited to finally see the sunrise before students arrive and the sunset long after they leave. Yet, deceptively, the hours of the day remain the same. During this season of the year, when state mandated testing is in the forecast, we wish for more time; more minutes in each class, more hours in the day, more days in the week to work with, guide and offer feedback to our students. We wish for just enough time to deliver on that work and still ensure that night-time can deliver on the promise of rest.

In the third quarter of the school year, on average, students have received nearly 60,000 minutes of instruction; a persistent stream of seconds. Planning for upcoming streams of time, in lessons, units and quarters can often stir up anxiety from the sense of responsibility to positively impact all students with each minute spent. That stream of responsibility can be daunting, appearing more like a roaring river capsizing your neatly planned unit, washing it up on the shores of “failed lessons” instead of lessons achieved.

That stream of responsibility can be daunting, appearing more like a roaring river capsizing your neatly planned unit, washing it up on the shores of “failed lessons” instead of lessons achieved.

With the proper guidance, time and experience, we learn to navigate the rocky waters known as education. We learn to respond to the chaotic day-to-day as we strive to create learning environments where all students achieve at high levels. Yet, collectively, have we truly learned to navigate, or have we just learned how to survive?

What we thought were strategies to navigate, have become mere coping mechanisms of survival, so that we can make it through to the next lesson, unit, quarter and upcoming school year. For example, cultural competence is a methodology used by educators to address the gap in achievement. While this helps to shape our interactions into a more welcoming atmosphere amongst different cultural groups, it does not address the racism informing our implicit bias when we come together. As we use these limited strategies to carefully wade through the rising river of time, our students languish.

Taken from the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis, the figure below captures eighth-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scores by race, from 1975-2013. There are two key trends to highlight: 1) White students outperform Black and Latino students persistently over this 30-year period - the gap in achievement is historical; and 2) While the growth of achievement amongst Black and Latino students (+18, and +15 points respectively) is nearly triple that of White students’ (+4 points) over this period, the gap in 2013 is still over 20 points.

Figure 1. Eighth-grade NAEP reading scores by race, from 1975-2013

The racial achievement gap highlighted in the figure above is just one snapshot of data. Unfortunately, this same gap in achievement persists across other marginalized student groups, like for those who speak less English, and for those whose families earn less income. These outcomes are a glaring reminder that while our strategies may help us, the time we use in schools still results in problematic outcomes for our most marginalized youth.

Imagine, for a moment, if we were able to shift our use of time in schools and effectively channel it to lead all of our students to oceans of thriving opportunities!

The time for equity is right!

Equitable outcomes can only come, however, from our willingness to face social inequity as a reality. We must recognize that this reality deeply informs our own thinking, and thus, ultimately manifests in our daily interactions, our classrooms, and our schools. Only with this recognition have individual educators and school systems been able to shift the direction of the river of time, allowing all students to thrive.

When this shift takes place, the intimidating river looks less daunting. In fact, when time is used right, educators begin to invite the river to ROLL ON, knowing that it is truly leading toward justice for all students, an outcome that motivates us all to remain committed to this noble profession! As we gear up to close out this school year, and prepare for the next, how do you plan to shift the use of your time?

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