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Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 1

Best Practices Assignment

Daniel Costa

618B | Spring 2019 | Estrada

California State University, San Marcos


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Introduction of Best Practices Assignment (Section 2)

My current research, and associated best practices, have taken an evolutionary course

throughout the 618A and 618B course sequence. Initially, my research focus was on the benefits

of project-based learning amongst special populations, and this is represented in some of the

documentation included within this assignment. To further complicate matters, my CalAPA

focus was CAASPP discrepancies amongst 4th/5th grade EL students in comparison to white

students, and strategies for improvement. Rather than create new materials to create a smooth

transition from one objective to the next, it is my hope that the distilling of my research focus,

data collection/analysis of three varied topics, and determination of best practices over the course

sequence is evident.

After moving beyond initial research of project-based learning, which I considered staid

and lacking in personal passion, I came to a determination: my educational research focus

needed to hold an impactful element of social justice. Within my school district, American

Indian students make up roughly 10% of the population, and at the same time account for a large

majority of suspensions, chronic absenteeism rates, and below-standard test scores. Having the

unique perspective of growing up in the school district where I now teach (and continue to live),

I have personally seen the stagnation of the American Indian student population over multiple

decades. Simply put, local school districts are not adapting to the needs of American Indian

students. I determined to approach this topic by utilizing existing relationships within the local

tribal community and school district, and to step into a potentially uncomfortable space of

addressing a pervasive equity gap that goes largely ignored. This is my research focus, and I

intend to utilize researched best practices to improve academic, social, and cultural outcomes for

American Indian students through creation of collaborative, cross-cultural recommendations for


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implementation. This research does not end with the culmination of this M.Ed. Admin. program.

Rather, I plan to implement many of the recommendations within my school district, observe

data over multiple years, and demonstrate significant change for American Indian student

outcomes in a future dissertation which can become a model for other cross-cultural districts.

Annotated Bibliography: Project-Based Learning and the Achievement Gap (Section 3A)

The following annotated bibliographies consist of three articles demonstrating project-

based learning’s impact on achievement amongst students from special populations. This

information is pertinent to my proposed research on project-based learning and achievement gaps

amongst students from special populations in neighborhood public schools.

Carr, T., & Jitendra, A. (2000). Using hypermedia and multimedia to promote project-

based learning of at-risk high school students. Technology Trends, 36(1), 40-44.

Carr and Jitendra define “at-risk” as students who have the possibility of dropping out of

high school. This study includes service learning within the definition of project-based learning.

The authors state that inclusion of service learning amongst at-risk students allows opportunities

for increased awareness of social issues, motivation, and confidence in natural skillsets that may

have previously gone untapped in the traditional school setting. Study participants included nine

10th grade students, of which two were Caucasian and seven were African-American. All nine

students were from a suburban public school special education classroom, and they all faced

deficiencies in reading levels, aside from most having behavioral challenges. After speaking with

previous teachers and determining a focus of curriculum, study authors aimed to find personal

objectives for each student. One of the primary goals was for students to become active

participants in the study by becoming personally engaged in the poverty project. Students had to

plan, problem solve, and reflect on daily interactions with shelter staff. Ultimately, they had to
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define an argument and support through evidence. Study authors found that attendance rates and

agency dramatically increased during the study, and final presentations - for which the students

were well-prepared for and proud of - were made to parents, board members, and parents.

Filippatou, D., & Kaldi, S. (2010). The effectiveness of project-based learning on pupils

with learning difficulties regarding academic performance, group work and

motivation. International Journal of Special Education, 25(1), 17–26.

This study focused on 24 4th grade students (19 boys and 5 girls) with learning difficulties

whom experienced a unit with project-based learning. Learning difficulties were determined

through previous teacher questionnaire and assessments. The study focus was to gauge

effectiveness of project-based learning as well as success rate of students participating. The study

was eight weeks long, and focused on environmental studies and sea life. Study authors found

that academic performance, motivation, and group work completion rates of the students all

increased during the study. Quantitatively, all 24 students scored at increased levels on the end-

of-unit knowledge test in comparison to peers. Students qualitatively expressed a greater interest

in the group-work and critical-thinking processes of the project-based learning unit in

comparison to their traditional methods of learning curriculum.

Guven, Y., & Duman, H. G. (2007). Project based learning for children with mild mental

disabilities. International Journal of Special Education, 22(1), 77-82.

Study authors worked with seven primary school students (4 girls and 3 boys) with mild

mental disabilities, as determined by previous assessment. All seven students were from a special

education classroom. At the conclusion of the study, all students of the group performed better

on the test than they had on a pretest. Authors desired to create a project-based unit that was

relevant and student-centered in order to develop initial student interest. Prior to beginning the
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unit (which was about the patisserie, a French bakery specializing in pastries), students received

visual questions to gauge their prior knowledge. Phase one of the project involved teachers and

students sharing past experiences at patisseries, as well as art and visuals specific to the

patisserie. Phase two included sharing of the art as well as a field trip to a local patisserie. Phase

three included creation of context maps, where children explained visual representations of their

knowledge base relative to patisseries. Student assessments demonstrated significant growth, and

teachers found a strong sense of socialization as one of the greatest benefits of the project-based

learning unit.

The three studies above demonstrate that project-based learning is fully applicable to

students from special populations. Both high school and primary school students gain benefit

from a properly-defined and benchmarked project-based learning unit. Personally, through

spending time with these three studies, I wonder if my proposed topic of research is too broad,

and I realize that I may need to scale it down by focusing on one group of students from special

populations within my school and the project-based learning setting.

Mini-Literature Review Assignment (Section 3B)

The following information demonstrates failed assimilative educational philosophies

coupled with a collective lack of systemic knowledge for meeting students at their cultural levels

of need. Without question, the institution of school is failing students of American Indian

ancestry. On the 2017-18 California Assessment for Student Performance and Progress

(CAASPP), American Indian students within the Bonsall Unified School District scored 55

points below standard and 81.7 points below the district average score for English Language

Arts, and 78.4 points below standard and 85.7 points below the district average score for Math.

Additionally, in comparison to the 2.5% suspension rate of all students in the school district
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which increased at the rate of .4% from the previous year, 14.2% of American Indian students

were suspended at the increased rate of 3.4% from the previous year. In comparison to the

chronic absenteeism rate of 7.8% of all students in the Bonsall Unified School District which

increased at the rate of .4% from the previous year, 38.9% of American Indian students

demonstrated chronic absenteeism at the increased rate of 8.3% from the previous year

(California Department of Education, 2018). While these numbers are staggering, they are not

out of the norm. Throughout California, Dashboard results demonstrate similar figures.

Statewide, American Indian students scored 36.8 points below standard in English

Language Arts and 73 points below standard in Math, were suspended at the rate of 7.2%, and

demonstrated chronic absenteeism at the rate of 17.8% (California Department of Education,

2018). Ultimately these figures will continue to lead to increased levels of expulsion and

decreased rates of school connectedness and graduation, unless the educational community

creates introspective change in partnership with American Indian families and in alliance with

American Indian values and cultures. Within the Bonsall Unified School District, the above

statistics represent an educational and cultural challenge that has existed for generations –

perhaps because local educators have faced it from the incorrect perspective. “We must look

beyond the metric of achievement to question taken-for-granted notions and ideologies about

what schooling should be” (Brayboy & Lomawaima, 2018, p. 91).

Rather than holding the assumption that the American Indian student is unwilling or

unable to achieve at academic levels of other student groups, the educational community must

instead critique traditional curriculum and mindset, in order to create a more welcoming and

culturally-familiar academic space for the American Indian student. It is paramount that

shareholders determine proactive approaches based upon culturally-relevant pedagogy and


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practices that positively impact all Bonsall Unified School District students, including those of

American Indian ancestry. Some pedagogical and institutional strategies must include awareness

of stereotyping and American Indian misconceptions in curriculum, culturally responsive

teaching, and understanding of American Indian values and learning styles (Morgan, 2009).

Although the literature regarding culturally relevant pedagogy is vast, this review couples

relevant strategies with the unique needs of local American Indian students, in preparation for

case study, thesis, and implementation of change.

-Awareness of Stereotyping and Misconceptions of the American Indian in Curriculum-

Buenrostro (2018) recommends that school board members seek answers to specific

questions in order to better understand local American Indian context; his question “Does the

county or district offer courses that include the experiences and backgrounds of Native American

students (for example, does the history curriculum highlight the achievements of Native

American communities)?” (p. 6) opens opportunity for reflective dialogue about educational

stereotyping and misconceptions in curriculum. This type of question should be asked of all

educational shareholders – including students. Throughout the Bonsall Unified School District in

the current school year, there exist no courses that accurately reflect the contributions of

American Indians. Some history-based middle and high school courses gloss over events relative

to the American Indian, but most of these occurrences fall within a larger fantasized context of

Manifest Destiny. Indeed, most adopted historical curriculum portrays the American Indian as a

one-dimensional placeholder until the archetype American settler bulldozes his way to the

Pacific Ocean. After-school enrichment courses through the Bonsall Education Foundation have

been considered in the area of Luiseńo and Cupeńo language development, but funding has never

been organized to make this a reality. Despite the Pala Reservation comprising the entire eastern
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portion of the 88-square mile school district, the local history of the Pala Band of Mission

Indians remains elusive to the vast majority of Bonsall Unified students. This dearth of local

American Indian history perpetuates local stereotypes and misconceptions, while the glaring

omission of American Indians – and their genocide – from curriculum creates the ghostly void of

an incomplete North American history. According to Chandler (2010), “the study of Native

group in American history or social studies is a truncated, simplified version of actual events,

time periods, and personalities” (p. 42). There are bright possibilities, however, as district and

high school staff are actively discussing adding an A-G American Indian Studies elective to

Bonsall High School’s offerings, and a certification pathway in American Indian Studies through

on-site Palomar College courses, for the 2018-19 school year.

-Culturally Responsive Teaching-

The current and evolving definition of culturally responsive teaching goes far beyond its

initial scope. Phuntsog (1998) delineated five major conditions that determine culturally

responsive teaching: 1) culturally literate; 2) self-reflective analysis of one’s attitudes and

beliefs; 3) caring, trusting, and inclusive classroom; 4) respect for diversity; and 5)

transformative curriculum to engender meaning. Of these five conditions, most district educators

are self-reflective, host an inclusive classroom, and respect diversity, but training is necessary to

understand American Indian cultural literacy and curriculum is a nonexistent opportunity. Within

these five conditions, Phuntsog then developed a five-spoked framework that “recognizes the

central and critical role of the teacher in creating a classroom that respects diversity” (p. 15) and

consisting of “the interrelationships between four levels of culture: personal, microculture,

macroculture, and global culture” (p. 15). By placing the teacher amidst the four levels of
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culture within the framework, Phuntsog demonstrates the need for student-teacher cohesion

within effective culturally relevant teaching.

According to Pewewardy (1998), culturally responsive teaching in alignment with the

American Indian student is “capable of responding in educationally constructive ways in which

cultural learning patterns, pathology, strengths perspective, family structure, multiple

worldviews, tribal languages and Indian English influence the teaching and learning behavior

and mental ecology of the classroom” (p. 4). Savage et al (2011) describe the need for authentic

caring between teacher and indigenous student, which “entails getting to know students…and

valuing identities students bring into school from home” (p. 184). Authentic caring, as described

by Savage et al, must begin at the onset of each school year before any core academic work has

started; this sets the foundational tone for trust and sharing of identity. Harrington & Pavel

(2013) argue that “the solution to transform mainstream education lies in learning about and

using the culturally relevant education that still exists in Native communities” (p. 496).

Culturally relevant education exists in the forms of cultural events, oral histories, and community

partnerships that the school district has not previously taken advantage of. This is the failed

assimilative construct of local and state education, as “the school” retains ownership of all

pertinent knowledge for the school district and its students, rather than expanding into

communities to develop a much richer tapestry of cultural understanding.

-Understanding of American Indian Values and Learning Styles-

As mentioned previously, the rate of chronic absenteeism amongst American Indian

students within the Bonsall Unified School District is growing. Instead of demonstrating proof of

a culture that devalues the importance of education, as it often cited casually by professionals

throughout the district, this statistic only represents that American Indian students miss school at
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a higher rate than their peers. What is valuable is investigating why this statistic exists; instead of

casting generalized blame to an entire tribe of people, educators need to question a larger

institutional framework and reflection of commonly-adopted practices. The elusive solution is

much more nuanced than getting American Indian students to school at a higher rate.

Introspective questioning needs to take place. Is there lack of transportation and/or flexibility

from the district perspective? Does curriculum of life and family outweigh the traditional

curriculum of school? How can the values of school better mesh with the cultural values and

norms of our American Indian students?

In the case of mourning, “…white culture loses sight of how important family is and what

type of mourning periods there are when a Native person passes: The ceremonies being based

not on our Gregorian calendar, but on the moon and nature telling them” (Wilcox, K., 2015, p.

338). As many American Indian students have missed class time for mourning periods, it is

valuable to examine this information further. Perhaps academic flexibility or a community-

approved program of localized academic support in Pala can be instituted to support students

engaged in cultural events or norms during the typical school day. According to Wilcox, Native

values and behaviors can be seen as translating well into students’ behaviors in non-Native

school environments” (p. 339). It is therefore up to the school district to demonstrate a

willingness to learn and understand cultural norms before absenteeism rates have any chance to

diminish. School must become a culturally relevant part of all students’ lives.

Within the traditional American classroom setting, some cite the generalized trial-and-

error process of learning as counterintuitive to the way in which American Indian students learn.

“Learning in traditional Indian cultures can often be described as watch-then-do (e.g. learning to

make a fishnet), or listen-then-do (e.g. learning values through lessons taught by an elder), or
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think-then-do (e.g. thinking through a response carefully and thoroughly before speaking)”

(More, A., 1987, p. 21). This information warrants additional research, as the method in which a

modified culturally-rich curriculum is presented may need alteration to best suit the needs of

American Indian students.

-Conclusion of Mini-Literature Review Assignment-

Achievement is surely defined differently by each student. However, historical statistics

based on failed assimilative educational policy skew how educational professionals observe

achievement amongst American Indian students. This then devolves into curriculum design that

represents only cursory aspects of the rich and varied American Indian experience. Curriculum is

then utilized in classrooms throughout the country, using techniques that function best for only

some students, in a setting that has historically oppressed entire groups of people.

This is the achievement gap. While daunting, there are methods to utilize in which the

educational community can begin to bridge the so-called gap amongst American Indian students.

School boards, administrators, and educators must come to understand American Indian values

and learning styles. This understanding only comes from asking questions and listening, and not

from reading a seminal text or hiring a consultant. Culturally responsive teaching strategies must

be implemented in order for educators to three-dimensionally understand American Indian

cultural literacy, and the hard work of determining rich curriculum that correctly represents and

benefits American Indian students must be undertaken. Within the construct of the classroom,

the understanding of American Indian values and learning styles must be revisited, as the

traditional methods of teaching and learning do not correlate to how cultural education happens

at home.
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The Bonsall Unified School District has much work to do in all three areas of theme

focus, beginning with the reality of understanding that nothing is wrong with our American

Indian students. What is wrong, of course, is the institution of school’s continuance to provide a

one-size-fits-all antiquated model of assimilative learning. How we bridge our own achievement

gap in meeting the needs of our American Indian students remains to be seen. It is my hope that

case study work and research on this project will drive cultural and academic growth for all

involved.
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-Bibliography of Mini-Literature Review Assignment-

Brayboy, B. & Lomawaima, K. (2018). Why don’t more Indians do better in school? The battle
between U.S. schooling & American Indian/Alaska Native education. Daedalus, the Journal of
the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 147(2), 82-94. doi:10.1162/DAED_a_00492

Buenrostro, M. (2018). Native American students in California public schools. CSBA November
2018 Governance Brief. Retrieved from https://www.csba.org/-
/media/79577873971944CE9B9D7304145D42D2.ashx.

California Department of Education. (2018). Bonsall Unified Dashboard Report [Data file].
Retrieved from https://www.caschooldashboard.org/reports/37768510000000/2018.

Chandler, P. (2010). Critical race theory and social studies: centering the Native American
experience. The Journal of Social Studies Research, 34(1), 29-58.

Harrington, B.G. & Pavel, D.M. (2013). Using indigenous educational research to transform
mainstream education: a guide for P–12 school leaders. American Journal of Education, 119(4),
487-511. doi:10.1086/670962

More, A. (1987). Native Indian learning styles: a review for researchers and teachers. Journal of
American Indian Education, 27(1), 17-29.

Morgan, H. (2009). What every teacher needs to know to teach Native American students.
Multicultural Education, 16(4), 10-12.

Pewewardy, C. (1998, November). Culturally responsive teaching for American Indian learners.
Paper presented at the Kansas Institute on Effective Teaching Practices for Indian Education,
Lawrence, KS.

Phuntsog, N. (1998, April). The magic of culturally responsive pedagogy: in search of the
genie’s lamp in multicultural education. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the
American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Savage, C., Hindle, R., Meyer, L.H., Hynds, A., Penetito, W., & Sleeter, C. (2011). Culturally
responsive pedagogies in the classroom: indigenous student experiences across the curriculum.
Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 39(3), 183-198.
doi:10.1080/1359866X.2011.588311

Wilcox, K. (2015). “Not at the expense of their culture”: graduating Native American youth from
high school. The High School Journal, 98(4), 337-352. doi:10.1353/hsj.2015.0011
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Data Collection, Analysis, and Conclusion (Sections 4-6, 7A*)

*Best Practices identified and recommended beginning on page 23 of this document

include:

 adoption of and district-wide training for state-adopted Math and ELA

curriculum, including EL language acquisition resources

 implementation of regular and ongoing ELD site-based professional

development and training across the five district schools, including

achievable benchmarks that will be collaboratively reviewed at the site level

 plan to provide bilingual substitutes at the school site for ELPAC

administration and other related areas of need, in order to ensure ELD staff

is fully supporting EL student achievement in the classroom

Step 1: Investigate

Data Collection, Summary, and Equity Gap Analysis Template

I. School Vision

1. Describe the school’s vision and equity-related goals.


[Bonsall Elementary School has a long-standing successful academic program, and teachers are
devoted to the wellbeing and academic, social, and physical development of each student on
campus. Students at Bonsall Elementary School have historically performed well on large-scale
assessments, but changing demographics (becoming more suburban and more culturally diverse,
with several large developments underway) have changed academic needs of student population.
As determined in Bonsall Elementary School’s SPSA and other supporting documentation,
equity-related goals include but are not limited to: reading intervention programs to assist
struggling and EL readers, additional academic assistance to students (including EL) in grades
K-5 in preparation for Smarter Balanced Assessments in both Math and English Language Arts.]

II. Initial Data Collection

Directions: For each of the indicators you have chosen, record the quantitative data you have
collected across three years. Record whole group data and data disaggregated by federally
designated and California-designated priority student groups (e.g., English learners, Standard
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English learners, students whose families qualify for free and reduced-price lunch). Please
note: While this template reflects the categories found on the California School Dashboard,
you may alter the categories as needed to capture your data.

Indicator (e.g., academic performance): [Academic Performance in Mathematics for 4th Grade
on Smarter Balanced Assessment Test: % Met or Exceeded Standard]
Last Year Two Years Ago Three Years Ago
All Students 56.81% 62.18% 60%
English Learners 25% 44.44% 16%
Foster Youth NA NA NA
Homeless NA NA NA
Socioeconomically 37.5% 54.84% 34%
Disadvantaged
Students with 26.09% 40% 30%
Disabilities
American Indian 23.07% NA NA
Asian NA NA NA
African American NA NA NA
Filipino NA NA NA
Hispanic 36% 56.36% 32%
Pacific Islander NA NA NA
Two or More Races NA NA NA
White 70.79% 71.25% 73%

Indicator: [Academic Performance in English Language Arts for 4th Grade on Smarter Balanced
Assessment Test: % Met or Exceeded Standard]
Last Year Two Years Ago Three Years Ago
All Students 57.65% 60.26% 59%
English Learners 29.16% 40.74% 35%
Foster Youth NA NA NA
Homeless NA NA NA
Socioeconomically 46.43% 53.22% 41%
Disadvantaged
Students with 25% 20% 30%
Disabilities
American Indian 30.77% NA NA
Asian NA NA NA
African American NA NA NA
Filipino NA NA NA
Hispanic 41.18% 52.73% 44%
Pacific Islander NA NA NA
Two or More Races NA NA NA
White 67.42% 66.25% 66%
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Indicator: [Academic Performance in Mathematics for 5th Grade on Smarter Balanced


Assessment Test: % Met or Exceeded Standard]
Last Year Two Years Ago Three Years Ago
All Students 58.94% 64.08% 68%
English Learners 31.58% 12.5% 44%
Foster Youth NA NA NA
Homeless NA NA NA
Socioeconomically 52.64% 42% 55%
Disadvantaged
Students with 47.37% 28.57% 15%
Disabilities
American Indian NA NA NA
Asian NA NA NA
African American NA NA NA
Filipino NA NA NA
Hispanic 52.73% 40% 45%
Pacific Islander NA NA NA
Two or More Races NA NA NA
White 67.11% 75.73% 81%

Indicator: [Academic Performance in English Language Arts for 5th Grade on Smarter Balanced
Assessment Test: % Met or Exceeded Standard]
Last Year Two Years Ago Three Years Ago
All Students 68.87% 67.07% 64%
English Learners 52.63% 37.5% 28%
Foster Youth NA NA NA
Homeless NA NA NA
Socioeconomically 66.92% 54% 45%
Disadvantaged
Students with 36.85% 21.43% 5%
Disabilities
American Indian NA NA NA
Asian NA NA NA
African American NA NA NA
Filipino NA NA NA
Hispanic 65.45% 48.89% 39%
Pacific Islander NA NA NA
Two or More Races NA NA NA
White 75% 74.76% 77%

III. Extended Data Collection

Directions: Based on your evaluation of quantitative data and your selected focus area,
identify and collect at least three sources of qualitative or other data (e.g., interviews with
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students, faculty, and/or families; observations; document review) for the school that will
provide deeper insights into the equity patterns and/or trends you identified in the quantitative
data.

Data Sources Qualitative Data Notes


Interview with students Conference with several 4th grade students, some of whom
were EL learners, regarding motivations for and interests
in Math and English Language Arts. Questions were
meant to bring about discussion and avenues for
recommendations.
1. What do you like about Math? About English
Language Arts?
Response Summary Math: One answer, will help
me in life, like a puzzle
Response Summary English Language Arts:
Creative, like reading, like writing, different
stories, teacher makes fun
2. What are challenging or hard parts of Math? Of
English Language Arts?
Response Summary Math: Don’t understand all
concepts, boring, confusing
Response Summary English Language Arts: Don’t
understand all concepts, vocabulary, writing is
hard
3. What could be done differently to help you be
more successful in Math? In English Language
Arts?
Response Summary Math: More practice with
problems, not rushing me/class, individual help
Response Summary English Language Arts: Break
down paragraph writing, help with vocabulary,
more practice in class
Observation English Language Arts/4th Grade Classroom: direct
instruction, small-group heterogeneous grouping with
task(s), quiet work time, 1:1

 Students with IEPs received significantly more 1:1


assistance than peers
 During direct instruction, varying levels of
interaction and attention
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 Quiet work time was challenging for some


students (stifled/needing motor movement?) but
teacher effectively reached most students
 EL learners received significant assistance in
comparison to peers
Interview with teachers Conference with several 4th grade teachers at site. Review
of lesson plans, assignments, assessments and practices.
1. What could be done at a district level to benefit
EL instruction in Math and/or English Language
Arts? School level? Classroom level?
Response Summary/district level: Funding for EL
paraprofessionals, funding for additional trainings
Response Summary/school level: Collaborative
time to share successful EL strategies, comparing
assessments/homework
Response Summary/classroom level:
Differentiation, intentional groupings, peer
mentors
2. Do you have enough resources to adequately
prepare your EL students for academic success?
Response Summary: In most cases, answer was
yes with exception of need for classroom
support/paraprofessional
3. What needs to happen in order for EL students to
achieve a higher rate of success on academic
benchmarks (e.g. report cards, classroom tests,
Smarter Balanced)?
Response Summary: Sharing of best practices,
coordination and inclusion of EL families,
additional bilingual opportunities that benefit all
students, learn personal motivations of students,
increase comfort levels of students, determine
quality texts most appropriate to EL reading levels

IV. Data Summary and Equity Gap Analysis

Directions: Respond to the following prompts to explain the decisions that you made
regarding data collection and summarize the data you collected. Cite research that supports
your analysis as appropriate.

1. How are these data indicators relevant to the vision for the school?
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[The data indicators of Smarter Balanced assessment results in Math and English Language Arts
in both 4th and 5th grades are relevant to the success of Bonsall Elementary School because there
remains a need for support and improvement of scores of EL learners. These data indicators
demonstrate 4th/5th EL cohort needs, which if enacted upon proactively, have the opportunity to
benefit the entire student population of the school.]
2. Describe the specific quantitative data indicators that you included in Section II. How are
these data indicators relevant to understanding equity issues at the school?
[The quantitative data indicators used in Section II include:
 Academic Performance in Mathematics for 4th Grade on Smarter Balanced Assessment
Test: % Met or Exceeded Standard
 Academic Performance in English Language Arts for 4th Grade on Smarter Balanced
Assessment Test: % Met or Exceeded Standard
 Academic Performance in Mathematics for 5th Grade on Smarter Balanced Assessment
Test: % Met or Exceeded Standard
 Academic Performance in English Language Arts for 5th Grade on Smarter Balanced
Assessment Test: % Met or Exceeded Standard

These four data indicators are relevant to understanding equity issues at Bonsall Elementary
School because they demonstrate significant achievement gaps between various groups of
students. As the teaching staff is committed to improving equity for all students, these
indicators show areas of need to be specific to EL learners and students with disabilities. In
comparison to white 4th grade students, who met or exceeded the standard at rates of 70.79%
(Math) and 67.42% (English Language Arts), 4th grade EL learners met or exceeded the
standard at rates of 25% (Math) and 29.16% (English Language Arts) and 4th grade students
with disabilities met or exceeded the standard at rates of 26.09% (Math) and 25% (English
Language Arts).]
3. What student learning and/or well-being focus area have you identified for further
investigation? What equity-related patterns and/or trends did you identify for this focus area
in the quantitative data that you collected and analyzed?
[The student learning and/or well-being focus area identified for further investigation is
academic performance in both the Math and English Language Arts sections of the Smarter
Balanced Assessment, for both 4th and 5th grade students. Equity-related patterns and/or trends
identified for this focus area in the quantitative data collected and analyzed include score
variances/learning gaps with EL learners, students with disabilities, socioeconomically
disadvantaged, and Hispanic students all in comparison to the scores of white students.]
4. Identify the three qualitative or other data sources that you included in Section III. How did
these sources provide more information about the focus area?
[The three qualitative data sources chosen included interviews with students, observation, and
interviews with teachers. Interviews with students provided context for personalized needs and
potential recommendations to classroom teachers for lesson plan modification. The observation
was important to gain context for concerns that students were expressing, as well as what was
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 20

reported on by teachers. Interviews with teachers provided context to addressing learning gaps
found on Smarter Balanced results, as well as identification of recommended needs at the
district, school, and classroom levels that could be utilized to address equity issues.]
5. What patterns and/or trends related to the equity issues did you find in the qualitative data?
How do they relate to the quantitative data patterns and/or trends?
[Patterns and/or trends related to the equity issues found in the qualitative data included lack of
professional resources (paraprofessionals) and EL supports, as well as variances in student
engagement dependent on type of lesson and peer working group, observed during observation
and expounded upon during interviews with both students and teachers. This qualitative data
relates to the quantitative data patterns and/or trends as they demonstrate some reasoning behind
the learning gaps between EL learners, students with disabilities, socioeconomically
disadvantaged, and Hispanic students in comparison to white students.]
6. How does your data analysis connect to the school’s vision and goals?
[There is a significant learning gap as demonstrated by assessment results, between EL learners,
students with disabilities, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and Hispanic students in
comparison to white students, sometimes by as much as 50% standards met and/or exceeded.
The school’s vision includes the academic, social, and physical development of each student on
campus, while SPSA-designated goals include reading intervention programs to assist struggling
and EL readers, and additional academic assistance to students (including EL) in grades K-5 in
preparation for Smarter Balanced Assessments in both Math and English Language Arts.
Together, the data analysis and school’s vision/goals prove the necessity for academic supports
and additional resource allocation for students in need.]
7. Define each equity gap you have identified through your data analysis, including:
a. the priority student group or groups that are affected by the equity gap(s)
[The priority student groups that are affected by the equity gap includes EL learners, students
with disabilities, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and Hispanic students.]
b. the services, resources, and/or outcomes within which there are equity gap(s)
[Resources for which an equity gap exist include lack of EL paraprofessionals. Outcomes for
which an equity gap exist include academic performance and assessment/achievement within the
subjects of Math and English Language Arts.]
c. research that supports your data analysis and findings, as appropriate
[Bonsall Elementary School currently has a significant achievement gap, of meeting or
exceeding the standard in Mathematics and English Language Arts for 4th/5th grades on the
Smarter Balanced Assessment. This gap exists between EL learners, students with disabilities,
socioeconomically disadvantaged, and Hispanic students in comparison to white students. The
school’s Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) highlights equity-based issues and needs
that correlate to quantitative and qualitative data discovered through this protocol. Within the
realm of English language development, the awareness of individual speech sounds in one’s
native language correlates with the awareness of individual speech sounds in a second language
(Gersten & Geva, 2003, 44). This component alone demonstrates that educators consider
effectiveness of merging both native and second language development to hasten route to verbal
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 21

and written fluencies. The educational community at Bonsall Elementary School must take into
account internal and external factors when reassessing practices for language acquisition and
mathematical competency. According to Kieffer (2008), reading research has identified several
factors—in addition to initial English proficiency—that are associated with greater risk of
reading difficulties, including a low-income family background, being a student of color, and
attending a school with a high concentration of poverty and/or a high concentration of students
of color (p. 7).

Gersten, R. & Geva, E. (2003). Teaching reading to early English learners. Educational
Leadership, 60(7), 44-49.

Kieffer, M.J. (2008). Catching up or falling behind? Initial English proficiency, concentrated
poverty, and the reading growth of language minority learners in the United States. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 100, 851-868. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.100.4.851]

Step 2: Plan

Potential Causes and Problem Statement Template

I. Potential Causal Factors

1. What potential causal factors are suggested by the data you have collected and analyzed that
contribute to the equity gap(s) you identified? Cite evidence-based practices and/or research
pertinent to the causal factors you identified.
[Based upon data that has been collected and analyzed in Step 1, potential causal factors that
contribute to the identified equity gap of EL student performance on CAASPP testing in
comparison to white students at my identified site include a) no state-adopted Math and English
Language Arts curriculum and supporting resources over the past three school years, b) no site
professional development or trainings specific to ELD best practices throughout the 2017-18
school year, and c) 50% reduction in ELD certificated/paraprofessional support for EL learners
over the past three school years. Hill (2012) argues that the new [Common Core] curriculum
raises the bar for the use of complex English in all academic subjects. This is expected to pose
particular challenges for EL students, who are already struggling to learn basic English (p. 6).
With Common Core standards being difficult for all students, the lack of state-adopted
curriculum at my identified site might bring variance to the ways in which individual teachers
deliver and implement the new standards with EL students. Combined with the lack of ELD
professional development, reduction in classroom ELD support, and no usage of essential
standards, these four causal factors have most likely impacted EL learner student success as
evidenced on recent CAASPP testing.

Hill, L. (2012). California’s English learner students. Retrieved from Public Policy Institute of
California website: https://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/R_912LHR.pdf]
2. How do these specific causal factors, including institutional and/or structural factors, support
or hinder student learning and/or well-being for specific student groups?
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 22

[a. No state-adopted Math and English Language Arts curriculum and supporting resources

Without a universal state-adopted Math and English Language Arts curriculum for which to
serve as foundation for student learning, EL students are more likely to receive variable
education on curriculum, which can hinder progress and eventual reclassification. Without
curriculum, each teacher is left to her/his own practices. This hinders student learning and well-
being for EL learners as they may receive Common Core instruction at varying levels of
effectiveness, therefore delaying language acquisition and reclassification.

b. No site professional development and trainings specific to ELD best practices during the
2017-18 school year

Without any site or district professional development and trainings specific to ELD best practices
during the 2017-18 school year (and 2018-19), classroom educators are left to collaborate at the
site level and determine their own best practices. While this has the potential to be effective, the
lack of site or district professional development over the previous 18 months demonstrates a
concern that the school district may not place enough institutional importance on EL student
performance and improvement, which could lead to different prioritization for on-site educators.
This issue hinders student learning and well-being of EL learners.

c. 50% reduction in ELD certificated/paraprofessional support for EL learners over the previous
three years

ELPAC testing has dramatically changed how ELD instruction is administered at the site. At the
site, there are two ELD classroom teachers and three ELD paraprofessionals. These five
employees miss up to 50% of annual class time with their EL students, as they are pulled from
the classroom regularly to administer the ELPAC, serve as translators, and sit in on IEP
meetings. Therefore, the two ELD classrooms have the highest rate of substitute assignment in
the school. This issue hinders student learning and well-being of EL learners.]
3. Cite research related to your findings regarding causal factors that may be contributing to the
equity gap(s) you have identified.
[According to O’Hara & Pritchard (2008), the provision of English language and subject matter
instruction to English learners is one of the most critical challenges confronting teachers and
teacher educators today (p. 43). Related to the school site’s causal factor of no state-adopted
curriculum, this leaves teachers vulnerable to providing the appropriate content to EL learners,
who are at the greatest need for English acquisition. District-mandated but unsupported
initiatives such as this do not typically end with success, and EL learners will suffer the greatest.
Similarly, sustained professional development in academic language development produced
correlative effects of improved rates of district assessment benchmarks and state testing
benchmarks for EL learners (O’Hara, S. et al, 2013, p. 274).
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 23

O'Hara, S., Pritchard, R., Huang, C., & Pella, S. (2013). The teaching using technology studio:
innovative professional development to meet the needs of English learners. TESOL
Journal, 4(2), 274-294. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/tesj.58

O’Hara, S. & Pritchard, R.H. (2008). Meeting the challenge of diversity: professional
development for teacher educators. Teacher Education Quarterly, 35(1), 43-61. Retrieved from
https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ810649.pdf]
4. Identify one or more areas of educational need related to equity at the school based on your
causal factor analysis (e.g., supports or materials needed at the school, necessary specialists
or counselors, after school programs for students).
[Educational needs related to equity at the school based on the causal factor analysis include a)
need for adoption of Common Core Math and Language Arts curriculums including EL language
acquisition resources, b) the need to implement regular and ongoing ELD site-based professional
development and trainings across the five district schools, including achievable benchmarks that
can be collaboratively reviewed at the site level, and c) the need to provide bilingual substitutes
at the school site for ELPAC administration and other related areas of need, in order to ensure
ELD staff is fully supporting EL student achievement in the classroom.]

II. Problem Statement to Address an Area of Need

Directions: Prepare a problem statement that culminates from your data collection and
analysis. Your analysis may have surfaced several causal factors that impact the equity gap(s)
you identified. Some of these causal factors may be larger societal issues while others may be
related to specific practices at the school. Select from the areas of educational need you have
identified that could be addressed at the school level and develop one problem statement.

5. Problem Statement: Define the area of educational need (achievement and/or well-being) that
you have identified.
[Based on the equity gap and causal factor analysis of the school site studied (for the purpose of
reducing the gap between EL students and white students on CAASPP testing results), the area
of educational needs developed as a problem statement is:

Curriculum, professional development, and bilingual substitutes are resources that are currently
not adequately provided the school site, and this lack of support detracts from EL student
achievement.

Step 3: Act

Planning for School Improvement and Promoting Equity Template

Directions: Respond to the prompts below (up to 4 pages). Type your responses within the
brackets following each prompt. Do not delete or alter the prompts.
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 24

1. Describe the potential strategies you have identified for equitable school improvement and
how they are to be used.
[I have identified three best practice strategies for equitable school improvement, with each
strategy arising out of an identified need from the causal factor and equity gap analyses of Steps
1 and 2. The equity gap analysis demonstrates a 30-40% reduction in standard met/not met
success on CAASPP testing in both Math and English Language Arts, in comparison to white
students, in both 4th and 5th grades. The determined strategies fit within the mission and vision of
the school, which states a devotion “to the wellbeing and academic, social, and physical
development of each student on campus.” The three best practice strategies are: a) adoption of
and district-wide training for state-adopted Math and English Language Arts curriculum,
including EL language acquisition resources; b) implementation of regular and ongoing ELD
site-based professional development and trainings across the five district schools, including
achievable benchmarks that will be collaboratively reviewed at the site level; and c) plan to
provide bilingual substitutes at the school site for ELPAC administration and other related areas
of need, in order to ensure ELD staff is fully supporting EL student achievement in the
classroom. Inclusion of these three strategies will benefit teaching practitioners at the school site,
and EL learners will have the proper educational resources needed to achieve.]
2. Explain how the potential strategies address the equity issue described in your problem
statement and the student learning and/or well-being need found in your equity gap analysis.
[The three potential best practice strategies address the equity issue described in the problem
statement

Curriculum, professional development, and bilingual substitutes are resources that are
currently not adequately provided the school site, and this lack of support detracts from
EL student achievement.

and the impact on student learning and well-being found in the equity gap analysis (that EL
students are scoring between 30-40% less on CAASPP Math and English Language Arts testing
than white students), by developing all three strategies as one unified approach. Rather than
implement one strategy at a time, and potentially further delay the necessary equity for EL
learners, I would like to implement these strategies simultaneously to maximize effect. As part of
the three-pronged strategy, I would like to utilize distributed leadership to form teams with
teacher leaders, who check-in with leadership as needed, or as scheduled. While this equitable
approach will benefit the student learning and well-being of the site’s EL learners, and meet the
vision of the school, it will also benefit all students. It is my belief that these implemented best
practice strategies will begin to chip away at the equity gap as found in CAASPP testing data.
Assessments and constant revision, with parent, teacher, and student input, will also be of great
service to seeing these strategies through to successful and fully equitable completion.]
3. Explain how your potential strategies for improvement address or take into account the
potential causal factors—including institutional and/or structural factors—contributing to the
equity gap, and align with the school vision and/or equity goals.
[The potential strategies for improvement address the potential causal factors contributing to the
equity gap, because it directly addresses the problem statement, the desired vision for the school
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 25

site, the achievement problem as addressed by the gap analysis, and considers both institutional
and structural factors.]
4. Describe the feedback you received from your supervisor and/or other key stakeholder(s),
and explain how you will adapt your proposed strategies for equitable school improvement
based on that feedback.
[As I would like to begin rolling out implementation as soon as possible, the school site
supervisor provided me worthwhile feedback. The supervisor suggested that I continue to fill in
details for all three target areas of strategic improvement. She suggested that I consider budget,
human resources, and school year timeline, amongst other factors, as I continue to move toward
implementation. The supervisor also suggested that I continue to collect all available data –
including historical - in order to provide a cumulative look at information for potential
stakeholders in the plan for implementation. The supervisor suggested that, although a significant
equity gap does indeed exist, and that the three strategies are worthwhile and needed, it is
important to first develop and then present a very detailed plan to stakeholders. I was encouraged
to take emotion out of my consideration for improvement, in order for the end result of equitable
improvement and achievement even more successful. Lastly, she encouraged that the plan
become “owned” by others instead of just myself; by bringing a few leaders – perhaps the
teacher team leaders – into the role of ownership, buy-in will be stronger at implementation. In
summary, site supervisor did not recommend any alteration to the three strategic concepts
coming out of the causal factor analysis, but did strongly recommend a greater focus on detail. I
found this all to be very worthwhile feedback, as I needed to slow down my emotions. Seeing
this equity gap brought about a desire to change and implement immediately in order to benefit
the EL students on site, but in speaking with the site supervisor, I now understand that planning
and developing stakeholders will make implementation much more effective, and better for EL
students in the long term. ]
5. Once you have updated your strategies based on feedback, describe steps you would take to
create stakeholder buy-in and anticipated challenges you may encounter.
[Having updated my strategies to include additional details and adding to the timeline, thereby
allowing myself a slightly longer timeframe to build stakeholder buy-in, I feel much more
confident in the eventual success of the strategic implementation. The most challenging part to
step back from has been the emotional pull I feel toward the EL students who have suffered due
to the lack of resources. This is not equitable and does not meet the vision of the school.
However, in order to have a successful implementation, the plan needs to be very detailed, and
must require additional data to demonstrate equity gap and causal factors to potential
stakeholders. Steps I will take to create stakeholder buy-in:
 Host a series of three meetings on site to share my process to date. In order for team
members to share buy-in on the strategic value of the initiative, they must understand the
methodology that led me to my original concern. Each of these meetings will cover one
of the identified strategies (curriculum, professional development, and bilingual
substitutes).
 During each meeting, we will collaboratively take a deep dive into the specific strategy,
including addressing any/all anticipated challenges that we might encounter. Per site
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 26

supervisor recommendation, we will discuss budget, human resources, and school year
timeline.
 After the three meetings, stakeholders and I will polish up plans for the three strategies,
before presenting to the site supervisor for final site approval.
 We will then meet with district staff to discuss budgetary and human resource
needs/wants.
 Ideally, I would like to begin implementation of these strategies in the fall of 2019.]

Step 4: Reflect

Reflective Narrative Template

Directions: Respond to the following prompts (up to 2 pages) with a focus on leadership
capacity to analyze data and propose school improvement strategies that address issues you
have identified at the school. Type your responses within the brackets following each prompt.
Do not delete or alter the prompts.

1. How did your work in Leadership Cycle 1 help you identify, describe, and understand the
potential causal factors of and strategies to address equity gaps at the school?
[The thorough process of Cycle 1 helped me to identify, describe, and understand the potential
causal factors and strategies to address equity gaps at the school by taking me through the entire
process of decision-making within a school leadership position. An equity driven leader must
take both structural and foundational needs into consideration when determining a plan of action
and achievement. I was able to research and compare data, determine patterns and gaps of
inequity based on that data, identify structural and foundational causal factors that may have led
to the gap, determine a plan to remedy the gap, receive feedback from a supervisor on the gap,
and implement a vision for implementation. Reflection was required at each step along the way,
as I tried to consider myself as a site leader. I learned that being able to describe a problem, such
as the equity gap, is almost as important as the plan to fix the problem. Describing the problem to
various stakeholders requires a heavy leverage of data combined with vision. Building this buy-
in allows for a distributed ownership and more varied passion for the solution. Most helpful to
me through this process was the realization that I need to lead with a mix of fact and of desire to
do right by students. Immediately, I started to make big plans to implement sweeping changes
that may have benefited EL learners in the short run, but might have not been effective in
building long-term shareholder support for sustained improvement. Meeting with the site
supervisor allowed me feedback to continue with data mining and planning that I had not
considered, which is supremely valuable. I felt as though Cycle 1 allowed the appropriate
amount of flexibility to determine one’s own strategies for improvement while providing the
framework for equity-based decision making. It is evident that data, when compared with like
data, can demonstrate equity-based issues previously unknown or ignored, but when accessed
and planned upon, this data can very positively influence future academic achievement and
socio-emotional wellbeing of students.]
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 27

2. Based on insights developed through completing this cycle, summarize what you have
learned about equity-driven leadership. How does understanding the political, social,
economic, legal, and/or cultural context(s) influence your ability to provide equity-driven
leadership?
[Based on insights developed through completing this cycle, I have learned that equity-driven
leadership is difficult, frustrating at times, requires patience, must be based on data, and needs to
involve stakeholders from the community and school. While the data at face value might show a
glaring inequity (such as EL students scoring 30-40% below white students on CAASPP testing),
it is important to understand the structural and foundational factors that relate to the various
contexts. For a seemingly straightforward plan to move the school closer to its vision statement
of being devoted to the wellbeing and academic, social, and physical development of each
student on campus, I (as a site leader) would also need to consider contextual lenses of politics,
economics, and law. Questions should and did begin to pop-up: Will anyone in the community
think this is a waste of resources? Are there budgetary resources to implement these strategies?
Who will be the flag bearers of this project with me? Who will I need to speak with individually
versus in a large group? Equity-driven leadership calls for humility, as just one person cannot
affect worthwhile and long-term change. Multiple people and talents are required, as well as
significant feedback loops amongst stakeholders, in order for change to be carried forward.
Above all else, the process demonstrates that equity-driven leadership is always moving as
challenges do not remain stagnant, and students continue to progress through a broken system.]
3. How did completing this cycle help you understand your current professional leadership
capacity?
a. Discuss your strengths in the areas of data analysis, identification of equity gaps and their
potential causal factors, and development of stakeholder support.
[I learned how important data is to an eventual plan and outcome. My natural inclination is to fix
anything – and as quickly as possible - that holds inequity over students, regardless of data,
stakeholders, or causal factors. While tedious, the end result of Step 1 was interesting, as it
forced me to rely on the data and put my own concepts to the side. Then, determination of the
causal factors led me in entirely different directions than what I would have originally
considered. This makes me hopeful to my leadership capabilities, as I consider myself a strong
coalition builder but not as strong in data collection/usage. I feel that after this cycle, I will be
more comfortable letting the data lead my decisions, and that I will move toward being more
balanced as an equity-based leader.]
b. Based on these experiences, what would you like to further develop and why?
[I would like to develop this process as a month-long professional development opportunity for
all teachers at the site. It is beyond valuable to step out of the role of teacher, to pull up and
reflect upon data, determine factors for improvement, and to make plans with shareholders for
improvement. This concept for professional development might allow teachers to feel
empowered, collaborative, and data-driven. So often, teachers feel that they help create the data,
but that the data is owned by district leadership. This process might give some confidence to
teachers that their oft-held beliefs about improving student learning might have relevance. The
process would also allow teachers to feel more ingrained within the larger context of the school
as community, as stakeholders and context lenses would also need to be considered. I could see
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 28

this process bringing about many very unique, teacher/student driven ideas for passionate site-
based improvement.]

Chapter 2 of Thesis/Literature Review (Section 7B*)

*Best Practice focuses identified and recommended beginning on page 30 of this document

include:

 (Awareness of) Stereotyping, Bias, Perceptions, and Comfort Levels of

American Indians at School

 (Implementation of) Culturally Relevant Education: Complementing

American Indian Values and Learning Styles

 (Implementation of) Culturally Relevant Schools and Communities

The institution of school is failing students of American Indian ancestry. On the 2017-18

California Assessment for Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), American Indian

students within the Mt. Fairview Unified School District scored 55 points below standard and

81.7 points below the district average score for English Language Arts, and 78.4 points below

standard and 85.7 points below the district average score for Math. Additionally, in comparison

to the 2.5% suspension rate of all students in the school district which increased at the rate of

.4% from the previous year, 14.2% of American Indian students were suspended at the increased

rate of 3.4% from the previous year. In comparison to the chronic absenteeism rate of 7.8% of all

students in the Mt. Fairview Unified School District which increased at the rate of .4% from the

previous year, 38.9% of American Indian students demonstrated chronic absenteeism at the

increased rate of 8.3% from the previous year (California Department of Education, 2018).

While these numbers are staggering, they are not out of the norm. Throughout California,

Dashboard results demonstrate similar figures.


Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 29

Statewide, American Indian students scored 36.8 points below standard in English

Language Arts and 73 points below standard in Math, were suspended at the rate of 7.2%, and

demonstrated chronic absenteeism at the rate of 17.8% (California Department of Education,

2018). Ultimately these figures will continue to lead to increased levels of expulsion and

decreased rates of school connectedness and graduation, unless the educational community

creates introspective change in partnership with American Indian families and in alliance with

American Indian values and cultures. Within the Mt. Fairview Unified School District, the above

statistics represent an educational and cultural challenge that has existed for generations, perhaps

because local educators have faced it from the incorrect perspective. “We must look beyond the

metric of achievement to question taken-for-granted notions and ideologies about what schooling

should be” (Brayboy & Lomawaima, 2018, p. 91).

Rather than holding the assumption that the American Indian student is unwilling or

unable to achieve at academic levels of other student groups, the educational community must

instead critique traditional curriculum and mindset, in order to create a more welcoming and

culturally-familiar academic space for the American Indian student. It is paramount that

shareholders determine proactive approaches based upon culturally-relevant pedagogy and

practices that positively impact all Mt. Fairview Unified School District students, including those

of American Indian ancestry. Some pedagogical and institutional strategies must include

awareness of stereotyping and American Indian misconceptions in curriculum, culturally

responsive teaching, and understanding of American Indian values and learning styles (Morgan,

2009). Although the literature regarding culturally relevant pedagogy is vast, this literature

review couples relevant strategies with the unique needs of local American Indian students. The

research question that guided this case study was: What personal factors, community programs,
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 30

and school supports most affect academic, social, and cultural success of local American Indian

high school students?

In 1991, the U.S. Department of Education’s Indian Nations at Risk Task Force reported

conditions such as an unfriendly school climate that fails to support student development, a

Eurocentric curriculum, low expectations, relegation of American Indian students to low-ability

tracks, poor academic achievement, lack of American Indian educators, lack of parent and

community involvement, overt and subtle racism, and the highest subgroup dropout rate in the

country (Mackety & Linder-VanBerschot, 2008). Nearly 30 years later, schools are still failing

American Indian students on most of these fronts. The time for change is now.

Stereotyping, Bias, Perceptions, and Comfort Levels of American Indians at School

Beginning with deceptive constitutional loopholes and broken treaties of the 18th and 19th

centuries, and leading to assimilative policies of the early 20th century, the historic relationship

between the American public school system and American Indian achievement is smeared with

inequity and caricature. When treaties were dismantled and supported by official protocols, such

as the Removal Act of 1830 or the Allotment Act of 1887, the government facilitated the “spread

of European Americans westward across the continent” (U.S. Department of State, n.d).

Boarding schools, including most famously the Carlisle Indian School of Pennsylvania, served as

vehicles for American Indian assimilative indoctrination into this new American way of life, as

children were ripped from their homes, native languages were outlawed, and cultural dress was

considered disobedient. With schools serving as catalysts for American Indian cultural

destruction, it is simple-minded for current educators to let it be; it is paramount that the

institution of school evolves in cultural and curricular partnership with the American Indian
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 31

communities of North America. Repatriation is attempted in many ways, but rarely is it

considered within the sphere of education.

Masta (2018) states that “if mainstream schools are designed around the dominant group

(in this case, White students) and Native American students feel that this creates a mismatch

between themselves and school environments, one factor that might influence their experience in

school is how comfortable they feel expressing themselves as Native American” (p. 23).

According to Martell (2013), “studies have found that students of color often believe they

are taught primarily “White people’s history” in school. Moreover, White teachers are often

uncomfortable discussing race, which is a disservice to the learning of their students” (p. 72).

However, after utilizing consistent culturally relevant practices in his own classroom, Martell

found that students of color were more connected to the history, and white students were not

alienated (Martell, 2013). This demonstrates that a rich culturally relevant pedagogical

experience is beneficial to all students while simultaneously breaking down American Indian

stereotypes.

Lomawaima & McCarty (2006) argue that in mainstream American schools, Native

American students have historically been represented as being intellectually and academically

deficient in comparison to their White counterparts, and that this representation has continued as

larger context of assimilation (as cited in Masta, 2018, p. 23).

In the case of mourning, “…white culture loses sight of how important family is and what

type of mourning periods there are when a Native person passes: The ceremonies being based

not on our Gregorian calendar, but on the moon and nature telling them” (Wilcox, K., 2015, p.

338). As many American Indian students have missed class time for mourning periods, it is
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 32

valuable to examine this information further. Perhaps academic flexibility or a community-

approved program of localized academic support in Suplawut can be instituted to support

students engaged in cultural events or norms during the typical school day. According to Wilcox,

Native values and behaviors can be seen as translating well into students’ behaviors in non-

Native school environments” (p. 339). It is therefore up to the school district to demonstrate a

willingness to learn and understand cultural norms before absenteeism rates have any chance to

diminish. School must become a culturally relevant part of all students’ lives.

Culturally Relevant Education: Complementing American Indian Values and Learning

Styles

Truly culturally relevant education must begin with historical basis of fact. Because most

history-related textbooks and curriculum utilize 1492 and the arrival of Columbus as the

beginning of North American historical relevancy, students are subconsciously indoctrinated that

events and people occurring before Columbus’ fateful voyage merely exist in order to progress

toward the cataclysmic cross-continental meeting. Most textbooks, curriculum, materials, and

environment are completely lacking in indigenous content and worldview, and the culture is

invisible (Putnam, Putnam, Jerome, & Jerome, 2011). Why wouldn’t American Indian students

feel that school is not representative and supportive of their unique cultural and academic needs?

Instead, Putnam et al argue that culturally relevant curriculum is developed in a cross-cultural

manner and involves culturally relevant experiences, developmentally appropriate curriculum,

active learning, play, multiple intelligences, parent/family and elder involvement, and language

(p. 10). Skinner (1999) advocates for a “National Native Curriculum Project” in which the need

for more accurate learning experiences are made available for all students in the country. This

curriculum would be energized at the local level, with regional offices partnering with tribal
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 33

historians to cultivate a living curriculum that most resonates within the microcosm of

community.

According to Kreb (1999), individuals who cross cultural boundaries by belonging to two

or more cultural systems are defined as edgewalkers. Within the current educational and tribal

systems, edgewalking adults are a scarce resource that must be cultivated, in order to develop

culturally appropriate curriculum for American Indian students that also provides the necessary

academic rigor. Amongst students, very few would identify as an edgewalker; many American

Indian students enter the white-construct institution of school as an outsider with very little

systemic supports for success. This cultivation of the edgewalker begins with trust and an

understanding that the education of young American Indian students is not owned by a school

district, but is the responsibility of the larger community, including the school district and tribal

influences. Within this context of American Indian students as edgewalkers, Klump & McNeir

(2005) cite the Center for Research in Education, Diversity, and Excellence (CREDE) as having

developed five standards of effective pedagogy, which emphasizes the multicultural student-

teacher relationship as center of the educational model for success. CREDE’s five standards

include: 1) teachers and students working together; 2) developing language and literacy skills

across the curriculum; 3) connecting lessons to students’ lives; 4) engaging students in

challenging lessons; and 5) emphasizing dialogue over lectures (p. 7).

The current and evolving definition of culturally relevant education goes far beyond its

initial scope. From early efforts in a post-segregation United States, the two multicultural

academic focuses of culturally relevant teaching and culturally relevant pedagogy both embrace

social justice and view the classroom as a site for social change (Aronson, 2016). According to

Ladson-Billings (1994), research demonstrates that there are five areas that matter a “great deal
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 34

in the education of a multicultural population: teachers’ beliefs about students, curriculum

content and materials, instructional approaches, educational settings, and teacher education.

Important to note is that all five areas are required for a consistently effective and authentic

culturally relevant educational experience” (p.22).

Ladson-Billings (1995) further advanced culturally relevant educational research with a

seminal study in which three main themes along a continuum of teaching behaviors were

determined: “the conceptions of self and others held by culturally relevant teachers, the manner

in which social relations are structured by culturally relevant teachers, and the conceptions of

knowledge held by culturally relevant teachers” (p. 478). Phuntsog (1998) delineated five major

conditions that determine culturally responsive teaching: 1) culturally literate; 2) self-reflective

analysis of one’s attitudes and beliefs; 3) caring, trusting, and inclusive classroom; 4) respect for

diversity; and 5) transformative curriculum to engender meaning. Of these five conditions, most

educators are self-reflective, host an inclusive classroom, and respect diversity, but lack

professional training in understanding American Indian cultural literacy and curriculum. Within

these five conditions, Phuntsog then developed a five-spoked framework that “recognizes the

central and critical role of the teacher in creating a classroom that respects diversity” (p. 15) and

consisting of “the interrelationships between four levels of culture: personal, microculture,

macroculture, and global culture” (p. 15). By placing the teacher amidst the four levels of

culture within the framework, Phuntsog demonstrates the need for student-teacher cohesion

within effective culturally relevant teaching.

According to Pewewardy (1998), culturally responsive teaching in alignment with the

American Indian student is “capable of responding in educationally constructive ways in which

cultural learning patterns, pathology, strengths perspective, family structure, multiple


Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 35

worldviews, tribal languages and Indian English influence the teaching and learning behavior

and mental ecology of the classroom” (p. 4). Lee (2010), who works with Navajo and Pueblo

American Indian students, explains that “socio-culturally responsive education encompasses

more than simply incorporating language, cultural knowledge, and cultural perspectives into

course curriculum; rather, it also implicates pedagogy, cultural values, educational and personal

vision, teacher preparation, school climate, and assessment” (p. 199). Savage et al (2011)

describe the need for authentic caring between teacher and indigenous student, which “entails

getting to know students…and valuing identities students bring into school from home” (p. 184).

Authentic caring, as described by Savage et al, must begin at the onset of each school year before

any core academic work has started; this sets the foundational tone for trust and sharing of

identity.

In his advocacy for a culturally sustaining pedagogy, in which additional emphasis is

placed on the academic development of language and culture above simple relevancy, Paris

(2012) calls for a resistance that embraces cultural pluralism and equality. “Without such

resistances students will continue the age-old American saga of being asked to lose their heritage

and community ways with language, literacy, and culture in order to achieve in U.S. schools” (p.

96).

In her 2012 study, Sleeter warns of culturally responsive education leading to

marginalization of students if implementation is not tied to academic outcomes. Sleeter issues a

call for three needs: connection from evidence-based research to student academic outcomes,

education of what culturally responsive education is and how it is achieved through critical

reflection and cultural competency, and reform of education through willingness for public

debate over who holds societal power (Sleeter, 2012). Similar to Banks (1992) who argued for
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 36

standardization of multicultural education through integration into general education courses,

Sleeter shares concern that culturally responsive education does not limit academic opportunities

for the very students its methodology is attempting to reach. Through my research, I attempt to

demonstrate progression toward Sleeter’s recommended needs.

Using a lens of critical race theory and teacher-researcher, Martell (2013) describes

findings that students of color can be empowered by a curriculum that connects to their ethnic

and racial backgrounds; White teachers of students of color must concentrate their efforts on

understanding the racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds of their students; and White teachers -

but especially White teachers who work with students of color - must examine their Whiteness”

(81).

Harrington & Pavel (2013) argue that “the solution to transform mainstream education

lies in learning about and using the culturally relevant education that still exists in Native

communities” (p. 496). Culturally relevant education exists in the forms of cultural events, oral

histories, and community partnerships that school districts often do not take advantage of. This is

the failed assimilative construct of local and state education, as “the school” retains ownership of

all pertinent knowledge for the school district and its students, rather than expanding into

communities to develop a much richer tapestry of cultural understanding.

Culturally Relevant Schools and Communities

In Williams’ (2013) study of building cultural competency of a primarily non-Native

teaching population that worked with Mohawk students in New York, four areas of conflict

between the two communities emerged: “contrasting conceptions of cultural competency,

cultural disconnect, intercultural miscommunication, and issues of trust” (p. 32). Although
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 37

Williams, as a non-Native teacher-researcher, succeeded in building outsider-trust relationship

with Mohawk tribal leadership, these conflicts between some tribal members and district

employees proved challenging during creation of a culturally relevant professional development

program. Part of the disconnect related to conceptions of cultural competency was Mohawk

leadership’s desire to have the culture acknowledged and validated in mainstream schooling, and

while 77% of the district teachers agreed, they were unsure about how to seek out this

information (Williams, 2013). Lack of trust and prioritized understanding seems to be a common

barrier to cross-cultural awareness and progress between tribes and school districts; open

dialogue with a focus on celebration of culture and student achievement can begin to eradicate

these long-standing and assimilative divisions. As Brayboy & Castagno (2009) state, “pedagogy

and curriculum must be developed with the local culture in mind” (p. 46).

As mentioned previously, the rate of chronic absenteeism amongst American Indian

students within the Mt. Fairview Unified School District is growing. Instead of demonstrating

proof of a culture that devalues the importance of education, as it often cited casually by

professionals throughout the district, this statistic only represents that American Indian students

miss school at a higher rate than their peers. What is valuable is investigating why this statistic

exists; instead of casting generalized blame to an entire tribe of people, educators need to

question a larger institutional framework and reflection of commonly-adopted practices. The

elusive solution is much more nuanced than getting American Indian students to school at a

higher rate. Introspective questioning needs to take place. Is there lack of transportation and/or

flexibility from the district perspective? Does curriculum of life and family outweigh the

traditional curriculum of school? How can the values of school better mesh with the cultural

values and norms of our American Indian students?


Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 38

According to Brayboy & Castagno (2009), there is no research that demonstrates that

American Indian students should learn tribal languages and culture at the expense of mainstream

academic subjects in school. The “both/and” approach, which blends traditional academic

curriculum infused with cultural relevance, is strongly recommended. “When…schools provide a

challenging and high-quality education that is…relevant to tribal communities, they will be far

more likely to graduate youth who are academically prepared, connected to, and active members

of, their tribal communities, and knowledgeable about both the dominant and their home

cultures” (Brayboy & Castagno, p. 38).

All students face systems in their educational lives; some of which encourage or dissuade

racial identity. One system is adult norms and values held by teachers, which can include

expectations and attitudes of school employees who are often White. Another system involves

peer norms held by students, which include expectations for how peers fit within the larger

school community. For American Indian students who share different cultural systems at home,

navigation of these at-school dominant systems can prove difficult and defeating (Masta, 2018).

Taking CRE beyond the classroom represented a double benefit: bringing students’

extracurricular lives into the classroom was closely associated with academic and cultural

benefits, while taking it back to the community helped dialogue and understanding (Aronson,

199). On this point our school has much work to do. Considering social justice and building

bridges with communities, taking educational concepts to various populations in our district for

the purpose of open cross-cultural dialogue can demonstrate that sincere outreach is desired, and

necessary.

Lee (2010) suggests that school administrations and teachers must “build coalitions and

community with local tribal education leaders, ensure that Native cultures are integrated into the
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 39

curriculum, and provide professional development workshops for teachers to learn how

curriculum can be made relevant to students’ lives in multiple ways” (p. 205). The concept of

student resiliency must be overlaid with all culturally relevant pedagogies pertinent to American

Indian achievement. Resiliency must become a positive component of school culture, through

professional development of staff, ongoing resiliency-based knowledge acquisition of

stakeholders, and development of resiliency-promoting skills. Resilient American Indian youth

will face improved rates of success at school when staff is best trained to support this innate skill

(Thornton & Sanchez, 2010).

Indigenous language acquisition seems to be at the core of culturally relevant education

pertaining to achievement. Although their focus was on culturally sustaining/revitalizing

pedagogy and language acquisition of Navajo, Lakota, and Tiwa at the Native American

Community Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, McCarty & Lee (2014) demonstrate a

universal truth for all indigenous language. “…Teaching Native languages is a culturally

sustaining and revitalizing practice...It is associated with creating a sense of belonging for

students” (p. 109-110). Currently, the Cupeño language of the Cupa people of the Suplawut

Band of the Mission Indians is considered an extinct language, which is only taught informally

by reservation elders and sporadically by the local community college.

While research demonstrates that teachers who share their students’ cultural background

have been positively associated with achievement (Lopez, Heilig, & Schram, 2013), Waterman

(2007) adds that non-Native faculty can be effective mentors for Native American students if

they develop cultural knowledge during the course of the mentoring relationship and if they are

respectful about Native students’ cultures (as cited in Lundberg & Lowe, 2016, p. 5).
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 40

Sykes (2014), who is a member of the Chickasaw Nation based in southern Oklahoma,

urges school leaders and institutions to promote the pedagogical value of investigating

intersections of culture and identity, by allowing learners to find meaning from their own

immersive and culturally relevant experiences in school.

Buenrostro (2018) recommends that school board members seek answers to specific

questions in order to better understand local American Indian context; his question “Does the

county or district offer courses that include the experiences and backgrounds of Native American

students (for example, does the history curriculum highlight the achievements of Native

American communities)?” (p. 6) opens opportunity for reflective dialogue about educational

stereotyping and misconceptions in curriculum. This type of question should be asked of all

educational shareholders – including students. Throughout the Mt. Fairview Unified School

District in the current school year, there exist no courses that accurately reflect the contributions

of American Indians. Some history-based middle and high school courses gloss over events

relative to the American Indian, but most of these occurrences fall within a larger fantasized

context of Manifest Destiny. Indeed, most adopted historical curriculum portrays the American

Indian as a one-dimensional placeholder until the archetype American settler bulldozes his way

to the Pacific Ocean. After-school enrichment courses through the Mt. Fairview Education

Foundation have been considered in the area of Cupeńo language development, but funding has

never been organized to make this a reality. Despite the Suplawut Reservation comprising the

entire eastern portion of the 88-square mile school district, the local history of the Suplawut

Band of Mission Indians remains elusive to the vast majority of Mt. Fairview Unified students.

This dearth of local American Indian history perpetuates local stereotypes and misconceptions,

while the glaring omission of American Indians – and their genocide – from curriculum creates
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 41

the ghostly void of an incomplete North American history. According to Chandler (2010), “the

study of Native group in American history or social studies is a truncated, simplified version of

actual events, time periods, and personalities” (p. 42).

While development and implementation of a Native American Studies course is part of

my site’s short-term improvement plan, the implications of its absence since the school opened

in 2014 has surely sent a clear message to students searching for cultural identity at school. As

Metzger, Box, & Blasingame (2013) mention, in their research of a new Native American

Literature course at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona, students had previously been

“taught specific viewpoints about history and literature, most of it being from a European-

American viewpoint” (p. 59). With a 63% white teaching population as opposed to a 22% white

student population (California Department of Education, 2018), there is a disconnect between

district directives and curriculum, comfort levels of teachers, and academic and cultural needs of

students.

Within the traditional American classroom setting, some cite the generalized trial-and-

error process of learning as counterintuitive to the way in which American Indian students learn.

“Learning in traditional Indian cultures can often be described as watch-then-do (e.g. learning to

make a fishnet), or listen-then-do (e.g. learning values through lessons taught by an elder), or

think-then-do (e.g. thinking through a response carefully and thoroughly before speaking)”

(More, A., 1987, p. 21). This information warrants additional research, as the method in which a

modified culturally-rich curriculum is presented may need alteration to best suit the needs of

American Indian students. As Ladson-Billings (2003) states, most official curriculums only

reinforce that people of color are relatively insignificant to the nation, and represent a drain on

resources. It is time to properly teach the historical reality of North American people of color.
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 42

Conclusion

Achievement is surely defined differently by each student. However, historical statistics

based on failed assimilative educational policy skew how educational professionals observe

achievement amongst American Indian students. This then devolves into curriculum design that

represents only cursory aspects of the rich and varied American Indian experience. Curriculum is

then utilized in classrooms throughout the country, using techniques that function best for only

some students, in a setting that has historically oppressed entire groups of people.

This is the equity gap. While daunting, there are methods to utilize in which the

educational community can build equity amongst American Indian students. School boards,

administrators, and educators must come to understand American Indian values and learning

styles. This understanding only comes from asking questions and listening, and not from reading

a seminal text or hiring a consultant. Culturally responsive teaching strategies must be

implemented in order for educators to three-dimensionally understand American Indian cultural

literacy, and the hard work of determining rich curriculum that properly represents and benefits

American Indian students must be undertaken. Within the construct of the classroom, the

understanding of American Indian values and learning styles must be revisited, as the traditional

methods of teaching and learning do not correlate to how cultural education happens at home.

The Mt. Fairview Unified School District has much work to do in all three areas of theme

focus, beginning with the reality of understanding that nothing is wrong with our American

Indian students. What is wrong, of course, is the institution of school’s continuance to provide a

one-size-fits-all antiquated model of assimilative learning. How we bridge our own achievement

gap in meeting the needs of our American Indian students remains to be seen. It is my hope that
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 43

case study work and research on this project will drive cultural and academic growth for all

involved.
Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 44

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Running head: BEST PRACTICES ASSIGNMENT 48

Culturally Proficient Action Plan (Section 8)

Per assignment due date, to be completed and submitted on or before May 1, 2019.

Conclusion to Best Practices Assignment (Section 9)

Over the coming months, I look forward to implementation of identified best practice

focuses to 1) improve CAASPP scores for ELD learners at Bonsall Elementary School and to 2)

improve academic, social, and cultural outcomes for American Indian students throughout the

Bonsall Unified School District. Through best practice focuses of state-adopted Math/ELA

curriculum with EL language acquisition resources, regular ELD professional development and

training, and a plan to provide bilingual substitutes for ELD classrooms, I anticipate that data

will begin to demonstrate trends of CAASPP score improvement. Similarly, through best

practice focuses of identification, awareness, and alleviation of institutional biases toward

American Indian students, implementation of culturally relevant educational practices, and

growth of culturally relevant schools and communities, I have faith that there will be a drop in

suspension and chronic absenteeism rates, and increases in standardized test scores.