Late Summer Issue
What did the Fri. Conf. Plenary say?
STANDALONE DEV ED USEFUL
2. Race: RACIAL LITERACY EDUCATION: A COLLECTIVE
3. Pedagogy: HOW SHOULD YOU
SAY A STUDENT’S NAME?
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1. What did
the Fri. Plenary say? STATS ARGUE
STANDALONE DEV ED USEFUL
The MnWE Conference offers
two plenaries each year.
Friday’s Plenary was “Re-envisioning Developmental Education Reforms.”
The speakers were Yanmei Jiang, Century College; John Schleuter, Saint
Paul College; and Alex M. Goudas, Delta College. (Jesse Mason,
MinnState, was unable to attend.) The three speakers explored what the
statistics suggest regarding keeping
or jettisoning English developmental education.
courses in Minnesota are those taught mostly in MinnState’s two-year
colleges with no college credit attached. MinnState administration
recently decided that no “standalone” dev ed courses will be taught after
2026, and only dev ed combined in a “corequisite” model with a for-credit
class will be allowed.
On the one hand, these administrators and others argue that
the corequisite model alone is a great equalizer giving dev ed students
access to college-level courses right away, thus increasing the
possibility of finishing a program or transferring to a four-year college)
sooner. On the other hand, said all three Dev Ed panelists—as experienced
researchers and dev ed teachers—individual student experiences and
widespread research studies demonstrate a continuing need for noncredit
standalone dev ed to be taught, even as the corequisite model also is
Yanmei Jiang began the plenary by describing her
college’s Express English program, a corequisite model with no remaining
standalone dev ed courses. In its beginning, it included only students
close to the cut-off for college-level English, with standalone courses
for lower-testing students, with the result that the promise of the
corequisite model seemed to be realized.
However, over time, students with much lower academic ability began being
placed in the corequisite model.
As a result, especially in the context of the pandemic,
students in particular who struggle with economic instability did not
succeed in the corequisite model and left higher education. These
students, said Jiang, easily might be dismissed as minor numbers in the
research data, but they are important people with dreams and contributions
to colleges and communities. In solidarity with the students who weren’t
served by the corequisite model, all three panelists argued, we need to
consider the benefits of standalone dev ed courses to make sure we support
the success of all of our students.
John Schlueter argued that socioeconomic inequity, and
not a particular model of dev ed, is the root cause of students struggling
to stay in college in their first two to three semesters. To improve
retention and success, he said, schools should focus on mitigating
socioeconomic inequality by investing in assistance for tuition, books,
transportation, and better access to counseling, technology, and advising.
He argued for robust support throughout the lifecycle of the student, not
just at the beginning and pointed at longer-term studies (of more
semesters) showing the problem exists for students in the corequisite
model, as well.
He said that unfortunately, a belief is common, now. that the
standalone dev ed curricula cause students to leave after a semester or
two—and an attractive belief, as well, because it suggests that if we just
get rid of standalones, we can close this gap. Truthfully, though, he
added, schools cannot eliminate the gap without broader social changes,
such as economic reform and reparations. We can move the needle only by
focusing on the root cause: socioeconomic inequality. Eliminating
standalone dev ed courses actually decreases the amount of time students
spend with dedicated faculty, thus not moving the needle for them in the
long run as much as we could have by letting them take standalone dev ed.
Alexandros Goudas explained that when we look at lower
outcomes for certain students, we assume that the cause must be the course
they are taking. That first course usually is in dev ed, so dev ed is
blamed. However, the real barrier is the first course, no matter what it
is. Goudas explained that even the researcher cited in all efforts to get
rid of standalone courses or eliminate all dev ed, Dr. Tom Bailey, has
said, himself, that his research does not advocate for the elimination of
dev ed or a wholesale shift to a corequisite model.
Indeed, Goudas emphasized, if you include both transfer and
graduation as successful outcomes, then after three years, there is no
statistical difference between the success of corequisite and standalone
groups. In addition, Dev ed English and Math courses present no greater
obstacle to overall completion than gatekeeper, non-dev ed courses like
Biology 101. National Student Clearing House data show that at community
colleges, 25% of students leave after first year no matter which courses
are offered, no matter which year. The attrition is very consistent, so
thinking that it is caused by one specific type of course, dev ed, in the
first semester of college is a very narrow view that confuses correlation
All three panelists concluded that the MinnState system
(and other schools) should not focus on eliminating or changing one
course—standalone dev ed. Instead, they said, the solutions for problems
of student attrition in the first year of college need to address larger
issues and keep standalone dev ed as an important option for supporting
students who need it.
Goudas’ Slides and Data from MnWE
presentation, along with Other Researchers’ Works on Maintaining
Standalone Dev Ed:
CAPR Website (against Standalone
RACIAL LITERACY EDUCATION: A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
by Alison Bertolini, North Dakota State University
Why assign racial literacy works
and activities in graduate and upper-division undergraduate courses?
How do they best work?
I assigned a new text
about racial literacy in fall of 2022 in the wake of the murder of
George Floyd in nearby Minneapolis. Shortly after, American citizens
started seeing firsthand
how age, race,
ethnicity, socio-economic status, legal status, and other identity
characteristics contributed to poor outcomes and increased mortality rates
for certain segments of the population during the Covid-19 pandemic (WHO).
The text, Advancing
Racial Literacies in Teacher Education by Price-Dennis and Sealy-Ruiz,
is short and readable, and encourages teachers to position equity as a
central tenant of classroom instruction. Its professed focus is equity in
digital spaces, but the framework can be applied in most pedagogical
I used it in North Dakota
State University’s (NDSU) Graduate Scholarship course in English, which
introduces graduate students to professional standards in literature,
rhetoric, and writing. The course also provides opportunities for
discussion of racial inequities in education and beyond, to prepare
graduate students, many of whom will go on to be teachers themselves, to
lead racially literate classrooms.
The text asked Graduate
Scholarship students to discuss the importance of assigning diverse
content, creating assignments that deliberately explore
intersectional identity, and fostering conversations about racial
inequities within the educational system and beyond. Our work was grounded
in the idea that we must be continually and consistently self-reflexive,
to reduce our own potential bias and prejudicial beliefs about others (Kishimoto;
Price-Dennis 72). Here I briefly recap important topics of discussion that
easily can be built into other first-year graduate courses.
written by diverse authors are important for two primary reasons: first
for exposing students to points of view that might fall outside of their
own experience and so provide a window into ways of thinking that differ
from their own; and second, for authentically representing nondominant
cultures in the assigned literature, thus validating the experiences of
students from those cultures and encouraging them to share important
aspects of themselves with classmates.
One classroom exercise
I’ve devised to overturn misguided assumptions such as the “bootstraps
myth,” and to get students thinking about stereotypes within education,
requires students to consider “Why might children from low-income families
do poorly in school?” Students discuss how socioeconomic status can
influence student success and perpetuate cycles of poverty, listing
factors such as “limited access to books/libraries/internet, “food
scarcity,” and “having to work to contribute to family income.”
The exercise paves the way
for more difficult conversations about systemic imbalances. For example,
studies show that compared with White students, Black students in K-12 are
more likely to be suspended or expelled, less likely to be placed in
gifted programs, and subject to lower expectations by their teachers
Much of this treatment can be caused by
the implicit bias of educators. This returns us to discussions about the
importance of constantly reevaluating our own ethics and beliefs, as well
as finding other ways to productively identify and shift inequalities.
Graduate students are eager
to include assignments that promote racial literacy in their own
classrooms. While such assignments must be course-specific, composition
teachers might assign writing activities that encourage undergraduates to
investigate their own intersectional identities or family histories. Essay
assignments might include a remembered event, a remembered person, or a
profile, to allow individual experiences to be highlighted.
We can further facilitate inclusion and
respect by “providing a space in the curriculum for students to explore
questions that are significant in their lives and address issues connected
to race and equity” (Price-Dennis 80). In other words, fostering difficult
conversations in a safe and supportive environment can model and teach
students how they might do the same in their own future classrooms or
careers. Price-Dennis and Sealy-Ruiz stress the importance of emotional
intelligence when engaging in such discussions (93, 103), including
learning how to name and process feelings, and how to hear perspectives
that challenge our life experiences (93). Such introspective work can last
a lifetime as our thoughts and perspectives continue to evolve.
Advancing racial literacy is
not simply about including diverse content in our courses (although that
is one piece of the puzzle) but is also about how we approach teaching
that content—awareness of our own biases, willingness to listen to the
experiences of others without judgment, and comfort with addressing how
racism is systemic. The techniques described here can encourage graduate
and undergraduate students alike to cultivate productive methods for
equitable change within their own careers.
This article has been adapted from a
presentation at MnWE 2023.
Kishimoto, Kyoko. “Anti-racist
Pedagogy.” Race Ethnicity and Education, 2018.
Price-Dennis, Detra and Yolanda
Sealy-Ruiz. Advancing Racial Literacies in Teacher Education,
Teachers College P, 2021.
Weir, Kirsten. “Inequality at
a Fair and Equitable Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic,”
Pedagogy: HOW SHOULD YOU SAY A STUDENT’S NAME?
School is starting. More
cultural mixes are happening on campus, and individual names are
becoming ever more creative. What and how should you call people?
The Chronicle’s free,
weekly, online newsletter Race on Campus paraphrases Prince
George’s Community College professor of communication Clover M.
Baker-Brown in its April
12 issue: “People’s names
are tied to their cultural dentity. Learning how to pronounce someone’s
name is the first of many steps that one can take to convey respect. It
also makes students feel more comfortable and fosters a more inclusive
Some say that mispronouncing a
student’s name repeatedly is a microaggression. However, saying it right
often has an opposite, very positive effect. I remember when I joined Boy
Scouts and the middle-aged Scoutmaster asked me what name I wanted to use.
I said, “Everyone calls me ‘Ricky.’” He gave me a look, then said, “What
do you want to be called?” I paused–it was a looming question to
which I’d given much thought–then said, “Rick.” From that day on, in
Scouts and school, that’s who I became. Just that little change made a big
difference in my respect for him and my resulting positive, lifechanging
Scouting experience. Names matter, even if they are mispronounced once or
twice by a dominant culture—or, unfortunately, never said at all.
Here are some positive suggestions
from Race on Campus about calling students by name:
Examine class rolls beforehand: learn how to pronounce
(1) If possible, don’t mispronounce someone’s name, especially more
than once or twice: it makes you look unqualified to teach and culturally
(2) Use online searches. In classroom platforms like
Zoom, direct students to show both a normal and a phonetic pronunciation
of their name. In any class, if someone gets another student’s name wrong,
add a sentence of your own that is related to the content of the
discussion, and gently throw in a correction of the name.
(3) Ask, ask, and ask. Say hello to each student
individually during your first few minutes of the term’s classroom, and
ask them then for guidance on any pronunciation you haven’t yet figured
out. Wherever you’re at with a student’s name now, it’s not too late to
(4) Have students introduce themselves one by one to
the rest of the class, stating their name clearly, and take your own notes
on any student’s name you don’t yet know how to pronounce.
(5) Practice. Repeat each name until you get it right
so that saying the name becomes second nature.
The name you don’t use may be the student you lose. It seems
a small detail, but to the individual, it signifies your respect and, more
important, it shows you really care.
More resources from Race on Campus:
Hispanic Students at Your College
Value Your Chinese Students?
Hundreds of Stories, Families, and Hopes at One Commencement
Diversity Books: What might you or your students enjoy reading
Graphic Novels Offering Diversity:
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