iPadagogy Project Introduction

This week we have a special guest contribution by Dr. Janice L. Anderson, Assistant Professor of Science Education to discuss her collaborative work on iPadagogy.

Technology is redefining the traditional pedagogical paradigms of K-12 schools. In North Carolina, thirty school districts have adopted one-to-one computing initiatives with the goal of developing students’ 21st century skills – allowing students to learn not only content but also acquire critical skills (e.g. creativity, collaboration, and digital literacy) (Pellegrino & Hilton, 2012). The number of districts implementing 1:1 initiatives will continue to expand as the state of North Carolina moves towards funding only digital textbooks by 2017 (News & Observer, December 16, 2013). However, despite these initiatives, research (e.g. Keengwe, Schnellert & Mills, 2012) has shown that while technology is essential in moving students towards these skills, the existing infrastructure, including professional development, is insufficient to develop the desired outcomes.

UNC School of Education professors Janice Anderson and Julie Justice are leading a team of education graduate students in examining how teachers are integrating iPad technology into their daily classroom practice. Using a design-based research methodology, the iPadagogy research team is working directly with a sixth grade team over the course of the academic year to develop instruction that integrates the technology using the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) a framework that builds upon the previous work of Shulman’s (1983) Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) framework.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 9.53.56 AM Each content team is working with the teachers to develop iterative cycles that include:

  1. The design of instruction
  2. The enactment of the designed instruction in class
  3. Reflection on the implementation by the teacher and team
  4. Re-design based upon the reflections and outcomes for the next iterative cycle of instruction.

The goal is to think about the intersection of technology with PCK and to begin to move away from substitution mechanisms of integration (e.g. using math drill apps instead of using math drill worksheets) typically found in classrooms, moving towards an integration that transforms and redefines instruction.

As part of this work the iPadagogy research team and the participating teachers are:

  • Creating a repository of curricular materials including lesson plans, interactive teacher guides and students materials connected to the Essential Standards that have been developed by the teachers and research team and tested in the classroom.
  • Developing a resource of iPad applications that can be integrated into classroom instruction that either correspond to specific content topics or can be used in an interdisciplinary context.
  • Developing a professional development model that will allow teachers to develop technological self-efficacy and improve upon their integration of technology (iPads) into their instructional practice.

These curricular materials will be hosted by the LEARN NC website and iTunesU Channel.  The first installment of the curricular materials will be in Science. The topic will be based upon the standards found in Sixth Grade Science for Sound and Sound Waves. The aim of these materials is to provide a structure for teachers to integrate the iPad technology into their instructional practice.  The materials include:

  • A brief overview of the content
  • A focus on a problem of practice, specific to the discipline, that the technology helps to alleviate
  • An overview of using argumentation in the classroom
  • The inquiry activities with their supplemental materials

Each of the inquiry chapters will be structured in a similar manner. The beginning will overview the apps being utilized, as well as any other technology used in the inquiry.  This will include directions for downloading and starting the app as well as “how to” videos.  The lessons themselves are focused on the North Carolina Essential Standards (and Common Core where appropriate) as well as the Technology Tools and Information Standards. Each inquiry was developed using the principles of backwards design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) as well as the 5E (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate) Model of instruction (Bybee, 1997). Future installments of the iPadagogy Series will include materials for English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Social Studies.


Guest Contributor: Dr. Janice Anderson


Janice L. Anderson teaches science education courses in the Elementary Education program and the Master of Education program for Experienced Teachers. Prior to joining the faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill, she taught biology and anatomy in Ohio and worked in elementary classrooms in Massachusetts. Preceding her classroom experience, she worked in a molecular biology research lab focusing on reproductive endocrinology and biochemistry.


The Changing Landscape of Education

It is that time of year when teachers are inundated with test prep, snow days, and report cards; the media is full of conflicting information about raises, test scores, and other school-related issues.

But there is good news. On Saturday February 8, 2014, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill held the 7th Biennial School of Education Graduate Student Association Research Symposium with the theme The Changing Landscape of Education. This symposium was full of new researchers sharing the many ways that they are bringing their passion to the field in order to make a positive difference in public education. Below I will mention a few of the speakers who shared hope for positive changes for teachers and students. Many of these students are reaching out to publishers and policy makers, working on behalf of all of those involved in public education.

Children with autism from diverse backgrounds

Katharine Robinson’s research goal was to better understand the personal and educational priorities and goals parents from diverse backgrounds have for children with autism, as well as determine how their priorities and goals affect the services and supports parents seek. Here are some of her findings:

  • It is critical for educators to understand parents’ goals for their children with ASD.  It is also important for educators to acknowledge that parents may not have the same goals as educators.
  • Educators should not assume a parent does not value a specific goal simply because they are unable (or unwilling) to implement strategies supporting this goal at home. Parents have many competing demands on their time. Thus, they may be unable to implement strategies to work toward certain goals.
  • Parents need information and feel they would benefit from accessing information regarding school policies and educational resources all in one place.  A natural place to provide such services would be at school.  Easily accessible information and resources could result in parents feeling empowered to access the supports they require for their children.

LGBT youth

‪Bud Harrelson focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. This marginalized population regularly experiences verbal and physical harassment, physical assault, and cyber bullying because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. The school experiences of LGBT students are positively correlated with a relationship with a supportive adult. Teachers and school leaders can do three things to reduce the levels of harassment experienced by LGBT students:

  • Develop a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that specifically protects students based upon sexual orientation and gender identity;
  • Establish a Gay-Straight Alliance;
  • Implement a LGBT inclusive curriculum.

Each of these contributes to creating a safer, more welcoming school climate for LGBT students.

Literacy instruction

Miller reviewed research-driven techniques for literacy instruction for secondary students diagnosed with emotional and/or behavior disabilities.  The points he stresses are:

  • Offer choice in reading topics.
  • Provide multiple instances of checking student understanding.
  • Use discussion to model and promote reading comprehension strategies for secondary students who have been diagnosed with an emotional/behavioral disorder.


Lana Minshew’s research focuses on teachers’ perception of their technology practice as compared to their actual practice.  Key points from her research include:

  • Teachers’ perceptions of what technology they use and how they use it differs from their actual practice in the classroom.
  • Most technology use in the classrooms observed occurred at a substitution level.  For example, teachers might use iPads as replacement for paper and pencil.
  • Minshew discussed that when researchers modeled the use of the Garage Band app to teach sound in a science classroom, the observed science teacher then continued to use the app, rather than showing a video. This may mean that more content-based technology professional development could be beneficial in teacher use of technology in the classroom.

There were several more speakers throughout the symposium and it was clear that researchers are continually working to provide high quality, empirical information to improve education through multiple avenues. This research supports teachers’ work in the classroom, provides strategies for quality instruction, and highlights the importance of the roles of the teacher and families.


Emerging Issues

Andy Mink, the executive director of LEARN NC, attended the 2014 Emerging Issues Forum sponsored by the Institute for Emerging Issues. “The Institute for Emerging Issues brings people together around complex issues in pursuit of a single goal: to ensure North Carolina’s future competitiveness.”  The institute works toward achieving this goal by engaging people from all regions, all sectors, and all points of view who share a will and common vision. This ensures smart, comprehensive, and enduring progress. This year’s forum worked to answer the question, “How do we train, retain and support world-class teachers in every classroom to secure NC’s future competitiveness?” The Forum audience identified five top priorities for meeting this challenge: build career ladders, develop 11-month contracts, increase teacher competitiveness, rebrand teaching, and emulate the medical profession’s structure. While there is more information about these five priorities on the site, they all speak to the importance of the professionalization of the position of the teacher.

Here at LEARN NC we work to treat teachers as the professional educators that they are in our home state of North Carolina, nationally, and internationally, by contributing to a culture of professionalism around teaching. We look to forums such as these, as well as conferences and conversations with teachers, to guide our organization to best meet the needs and support k-12 classroom teachers. Here are some of the many ways that LEARN NC can work for you as continue to do amazing work:

  1. COLT– Carolina Online Teaching Program prepares and certifies teachers to use online platforms to teach courses.
  2. On-line professional development courses
  3. When working with LEARN NC, you are able to work with other professional educators in order to build a strong sense community. For example, presently teachers are working together to develop curriculum exploring aspects of the North Carolina island Ocracoke. Being part of this larger community of educators provides support and resources that you both contribute to and enjoy while building your professional community outside of your home school.
  4. Working with LEARN NC shows that you are a devoted, professional teacher committed to continuing to learn, develop, and display leadership characteristic. Administrators and colleagues will see your work through LEARN NC as professional growth and evidence of leadership to note on evaluations.

The best way to become involved in the LEARN NC community is to reach out to us and begin to embed yourself in our online community via subscribing to our newsletter, following our blogs, and joining us on Facebook and Twitter. We are continuing to offer new and innovative courses, report relevant research and lesson plans, and build our community of teachers working for and with teachers. While this is a difficult time for professionals in education we can work together to support and improve the field by joining forces. LEARN NC offers a supportive platform through which this growth and change can take place.

Success and Latino Males

As the Hispanic population grows nationwide, teachers are asking how they can best accommodate their immigrant and first-generation students and help them to succeed. We often talk about the Achievement Gap in education, but we rarely discuss how it affects the Hispanic population.  UNC School of Education professor Juan Carrillo recently published a qualitative study, The Unhomely in Academic Success: Latino Males Navigating the Ghetto Nerd Borderlands (2013), exploring the ways in which Mexican-origin, working-class, high academically achieving men use their connection to home to achieve academic success .

Carrillo spent a year collecting data from two young men, Mario and Carlos, who are of Mexican origin yet born and raised in U.S. urban settings with a working class upbringing,both attended low-SES k-12 schools, and earned at least a graduate degree (Carrillo, 2013). He conducted four interviews per subject, had the men keep reflexive journals, and analyzed these documents.

Carrillo refers to these young men as ‘scholarship boys’ and ‘ghetto nerds’, terms informed through previous research (Diaz,2007; Hoggart 1957; Rodrigues, 1982), and uses the role of “home” to inform their identities.  Here, home is not only a physical space “but also a psychic, emotional, spiritual, and cultural metaphor that serves as a life-orientation compass” (Carrillo, 194, 2013).  Below are key points  gleaned from this research for teachers to consider as they work with Hispanic young men within their classrooms:

Carrillo, J. F. (2013). The unhomely in academic success: Latino males navigating the ghetto nerd borderlands. Culture, Society and Masculinities, 5(2), 193-207.



imagesJuan F. Carrillo received his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, with a concentration in Cultural Studies in Education, and a Mexican American Studies Graduate Portfolio from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a native of the barrios of south Los Angeles and is the son of Mexican immigrants. His background includes experiences as a high school teacher in low SES public schools, chair of a high school social studies department, teacher mentor and lead positions in curriculum design. He is now an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill within the School of Education.



Busses and Charter Schools

“The importance of bus transportation as a normal and accepted tool of educational policy is readily discernible… Desegregation plans cannot be limited to the walk-in school.”

Chief Justice Burger, Swann v. Charlotte Mecklenburg County Schools (1971)

North Carolina is currently educating 48,795 students within public charter schools (NC Highlights, 2013). As North Carolina continues to add charter schools to its roster, the Department of Public Instruction and the Public Schools of North Carolina State Bard of Education are increasingly concerned with how these additional schools are changing the landscape of public education for all students. This summer, UNC doctoral student Shelby Dawkins- Law and Azaria Verdin, a graduate student at Duke University, worked on a study to determine if transportation is a barrier to economically disadvantaged students’ enrollment at charter schools

Dawkins-Law and Verdin contacted charters throughout the state and used both surveys and a formulated interview process to try to investigate a possible link between transportation and disadvantaged students’ enrollment. Recent studies that have shown that White and Black charter school students are more likely to attend a racially isolated school, while Latino students are more racially isolated within the traditional public schools due to their underrepresentation within charters (Clotfelter,C. Ladd, H., & Vigdor, J., 2005). While this disproportionate representation within charter schools is of major concern, socioeconomic segregation is a far larger problem in North Carolina (Clotfelter,C. Ladd, H., & Vigdor, J., 2013).  Because of this, Dawkins-Law and Verdin examined both economic and racial segregation.

North Carolina law currently requires charter schools to “develop a transportation plan so that transportation is not a barrier to any student who resides in the local school administrative unit in which the school is located”(NCGS 115C-238.29). ”Transportation plan” and  “barrier,” however, are not defined, leaving those determinations up to each individual charter school. Dawkins-Law and Verdin found that while charter schools and public schools receive the same amount of transportation funds, the similarities end there. Traditional Public Schools must use those allotted funds for transportation only, can purchase a bus from the state contract, and are only allowed to use the bus for to- and from-school transportation. Public charter schools may use the allotted funds in any way that they see necessary, have not been in a position to purchase a bus from the state contract and cannot afford to maintain a bus.

Dawkins-Law and Verdin recommend that Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and local charter schools join forces to help support students needing transportation. Due to changes made in 2013 to transportation funding and the longevity of bus utility (extending it from 15 to 20 years), LEAs need more transportation funds. Dawkins-Law and Verdin suggest this path of mutual benefit for the state, districts, and charter schools:

  1. In 2013 NC legislation made several changes to the School Bus Replacement Program keeping more busses on the road for longer periods of time. If LEAs made an in-kind donation of a formerly replacement-eligible bus to a public charter then it allows the charter to have a bus to begin offering transportation without the large initial investment of having to purchase a bus.
  2. Public charter school runs bus only for to-from school transportation. If they use it for instructional activities, they reimburse the state on a per mile basis for that use.
  3. Public charter school is not allowed to use it for athletics or other non-instructional purposes.
  4. Public charter school extends the life of formerly replacement-eligible bus until it qualifies for replacement, per the recent legislative changes.
  5. State replaces bus with a new bus or a bus that is still eligible.
  6. LEA and public charter share the new bus on a route that serves both of their needs.


Clotfelter, C., Ladd, H., & Vigdor, J. (2005). Classroom level segregation and     resegregation in north Carolina. In J.C. Boger & G. Orefield (Eds.)., School             Resegregation: Must the south turn back? University of North Carolina Press.

Clotfelter, C., Ladd, H., & Vigdor, J. (2013). Racial and economic diversity in north       carolina’s schools: An update. Sanford Working Papers Series, 13, (1).

Dawkins-Law, S., & Verdin, A. Financial and business services internship program,                 (2013). Public charter schools with transportation: Increasing access to   learning opportunities for all students. Retrieved from North Carolina    Department of Public Instruction website: http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/docs/intern-research/reports/cstransport.pdf



Shelby Dawkins-Law (pictured) is a first year Ph.D. student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill within the Policy, Leadership, and School Improvement Strand. She completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of North Carolina as well. She worked with Azaria Verdin, is a graduate student at Duke University studying public policy to complete this report.

Turning in the Right Direction

Scaffolding “customized change” with “strong leadership” for turnaround, high-need schools involves the successful, systematic, and sustained implementation of a few core programs.

-Kathleen Brown

According to the 2013 North Carolina Department of Public Instruction accountability reports, 28% of North Carolina’s schools (691 out of 2,405) did not meet expected growth. These schools either are currently labeled or run the risk of becoming labeled as failing schools (NCDPI, 2013).

North Carolina has made reforming these failing schools a priority. But how do we know what reforms are successful? In their recent study, M. Proto , K.M. Brown, and B. Walston (2012) identified attributes of elementary schools successfully reformed using one of North Carolina’s four models (PDF) for turning around failing schools: turnaround, restart, school closure, and transformation.

Using a mixed methods methodology Proto, Brown, and Walston (2012) studied six elementary schools. They evaluated the impact of the Turnaround Schools Program by:

  • Comparing student achievement data changes in the turnaround schools with changes in schools that performed only slightly better prior to implementation of the model
  • Using value-added models to control for differences in student characteristics
  • Conducting onsite interviews
  • Examining plans, reports, and other documents generated during the turnaround period

The study found that the elementary schools that exhibited the most growth all began the process with the appointment of a new principal. The principal in each school set school-wide changes into motion. These changes took place within four main areas of school operation:

  1. Developing the commitment, climate, and culture affecting student learning
  2. Increasing the knowledge and skills of all school personnel
  3. Improving the structures and processes that supported instruction within the school
  4. Strengthening the links between school, the district’s central office, and the community

(Proto, et, al., 2012)

Others best practices identified in the study include:

  • Creating a safe, orderly, caring environment while raising expectations for student learning
  • Replacing personnel and providing quality professional development and coaching
  • Coordinating both curriculum and teacher assignments strategically
  • Working towards building a professional community
  • Supervising instruction
  • Reaching out to connect with community members and the district office

(Proto, et al., 2012)

The study suggests that there is a foundation for optimism about the Turnaround Programs. The observed changes in culture, support, and strengthening of ties show great promise in improving failing schools. The researchers also point out there is room for concern because schools are fluid places: when the loss of vital staff or other change occurs, positive changes may be reversed (Proto, et al., 2012).


Proto, M., Brown, K. M., & Walston, B. (2012). Turning around north carolina elementary schools: Lessons learned from the process of   improvement . Manuscript submitted for publication, School  of Education, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.

Kathleen M. Brown brings 15 years of teaching and administrative experience to the professoriate, having served as a middle school teacher and elementary and middle school principalbrownk in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Camden, New Jersey. She nows continues her work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Professor of Educational Leadership within the School of Education.


Connecting Adult and Child Literacy in the Classroom

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.
Frederick Douglass

Dr. Mary Faith Mount-Cors, a 2009 UNC School of Education graduate, is working towards several publications stemming from her dissertation work in Coastal Kenya. Her mixed-method study both explores and critiques literacy formation using quantitative data from 800 second graders in 40 US-funded schools in Kenya and qualitative data from mothers of children at 3 of the schools. When meeting with Dr. Mount-Cors in early November, we focused on the part of her research that examines the connection between adult literacy and child literacy.

When asked what teachers here in the US could learn from her research, Dr. Mount-Cors said they should look at the whole literacy picture. “Children do better when parents become involved.” She stresses the importance of literacy interventions taking on a family-based approach and teachers learning to look at their students’ lives holistically. She offers the following advice to literacy teachers of all grade levels:

  1. Encourage students to spend more time reading at home. Incorporate daily reading logs, encourage parents to make literacy a priority at home, and offer incentives for reading. Reading must be a part of the culture at home; parents must understand this.
  2. Find out from parents and students where they do their reading and homework. Who is helping them?
  3. Don’t forget about older siblings. Encourage students to seek help from older siblings if parents are unable to help. Siblings can be a great resource.

Finally, and most importantly, Dr. Mount-Cors encourages teachers to stop and think about the lens through which they view their struggling readers. The best way to do this is to visit the child’s home. Sit where the child reads after school. Dr. Mount-Cors explains that just sitting in the child’s space is often a transformative experience that offers more understanding than conversations can provide.

maryfaith_0Dr. Mount-Cors has a Ph.D. in Education from UNC, an M.A. in French from New York University, and a B.A. in Religion with a Dean Rusk Concentration in International Studies from Davidson College. She is  is the founder and president of EdIntersect, an international consulting firm developing solutions at the intersections of education and multiple sectors. Dr. Mount-Cors is also part-time faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she teaches qualitative research methods, is a senior fellow at Iris Group where she designs training and curriculum on projects with Futures Group and Save the Children, and is often sought as a cross-border education expert in immigration cases. Look for information about publications of this research and more from Dr.Mount-Cors in the near future.

How did this happen?

Many new educational policies have been implemented throughout the state of North Carolina in the recent months. Teachers are asking, “How did this happen?” Dr. Lora Cohen- Vogel, Dr. Michael McLendon, and doctoral student John Wachen have recently authored a chapter that answers this question by explaining four conceptual frameworks for political change

The four policy frameworks below are much more complicated than we can explore in this brief overview. We hope, however, that this will provide teachers with a general idea of how these policies are being passed. While these are not the only theories of political change, the authors chose these four because they are most commonly seen in education-related policy change. As they gain more familiarity with these processes, teachers can work to find ways to pass and implement policies that they feel would help schools and students and block the policies that they feel will harm schools and students.

Policy Innovation and Diffusion

  • A policy is described as “innovative” because it is new to a particular state, not necessarily because it represents a new idea.
  • “Diffusion” is the process by which a policy (an innovation) spreads among the members of a social system, in this case the governments of the 50 states.
  • Some states tend to be “early adopters” of innovations, whereas others may be “laggards.” Early adopters tend to be (1) larger, wealthier states; (2) states with more electoral competition, higher turnover in political office, and more professionalized legislatures; and, (3) states with more urban and educated citizenries.
  • States also adopt polices previously adopted by  their neighbors.
  • States are influenced by the policy behavior of their neighbors for various reasons. Two of the most common are economic competition and policy learning.
  • If you want to see what policies may be heading your way, then check out what is happening in your neighboring states. If you like what you see, look for ways to advocate for similar policies in your state.
  • Though not a contiguous neighbor to North Carolina, Florida was an early adopter of teacher evaluation, tenure, and compensation reforms and served as a model for Senator Berger as he argued for similar changes in NC earlier this year.

Multiple Streams Theory

This theory describes three “streams” that must come together at the right time in order for a policy to be passed. These are:

  • The Problem Stream – Conditions that policy makers see as problems
  • The Policy Stream – Ideas that policy makers see as solutions to those problems
  • The Politics Stream – Forces that “soften up” the political landscape for change (e.g., elections)

When the three streams come together, an opportunity is created during which a policy can be enacted and implemented. Often politicians and lobbyists prepare their ideas (i.e., policies) in advance, waiting for the “right” problems and political changes to crop up.

  • The change in leadership last fall in North Carolina, with a Republican sweep of both legislative chambers and the executive branch, opened the policy window for change this past spring.

Punctuated Equilibrium

  • Punctuated equilibrium originates from evolutionary biology.
  • There are long periods of time, known as stasis, when there is little or no change due to political gridlock.
  • Stasis is followed by an episode of dramatic change caused by moments when political monopolies are challenged and overthrown. These episodes usually come after a huge shock to a political system. An example might be a school shooting leading to a change in security policies.

Advocacy Coalition Framework

This framework has three core elements:

  • Policy Subsystems
  • Belief Systems
  • Advocacy Coalitions consisting of not just one organization, but multiple groups with similar goals and beliefs

This theory explains how beliefs drive policy change over long periods of time due to competing advocacy coalitions. The Policy Subsystems are the umbrella, for example education, under which groups with similar belief systems come together to push for change. For example, many groups in North Carolina came together for Moral Mondays in Raleigh. While these groups were different, they had common goals.


McLendon, M, Cohen-Vogel, L, & J. Wachen (In press). Understanding education policymaking and policy change in the American States: Learning from                contemporary policy theory. In Cooper, B. S., J.G. Cibulka, & L.D. Fusarelli (Eds.). Handbook of Education Politics and Policy (2nd ed.). New York:Routledge.


McLendonDr. Michael K. McLendon is the Annette and Harold Simmons Centennial Professor of Education Policy and Leadership in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University, where he also serves as associate dean. In the Simmons Dean’s Office, Dr. McLendon oversees academic affairs and faculty development, and works closely with the dean on strategic initiatives. His scholarship and teaching focus on governance, finance, and public policy for higher education.


Lora_CohenVogel_001Lora Cohen-Vogel is the Robena and Walter E. Hussman, Jr. Professor of Policy and Education Reform at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She studies teacher quality and the politics of school improvement.  As a co-principal investigator and Associate Director of the National Center for Research and Development on Scaling Up Effective Schools, Cohen-Vogel is particularly interested in identifying the programs, policies and practices of schools that are successfully raising schooling outcomes for traditionally underperforming student populations.  Among other foci, this work looks at how schools use data to help raise learning outcomes for low-income, minority and ELL students.


John Wachen is a doctoral student in the Policy, Leadership and School Improvement program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from Penn State University and a master’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Maryland. Prior to joining NCSU, John worked as a Research Associate for the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.




Dr. Noah Pickus on Immigrant Students and Families in Schools


Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt

On Wednesday October 23, 2013, Noah Pickus, Director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, spoke to more than 400 teachers at the World View Fall Symposium. His talk was entitled Immigration and Citizenship in the 21st Century and his message was clear and inspiring to teachers who work with immigrant populations in any capacity.

Pickus began his lecture by discussing two major trends he feels are shaping all of our lives. The first trend is what Pickus referred to as “bowling alone,” which is the idea that people once were involved in community groups and communal enterprises voluntarily and as a part of their culture, e.g. bowling leagues. Now people are more independent and finding less and less of a draw to these communal activities. We tend to stick with our close friends and family. The second trend is that more and more of us feel that we are losing control of the forces that govern our lives. Immigrants are the faces of these trends; they are dislocated by entering a community that is disconnected, causing mass confusion.

Next, Pickus turned to the political debates currently surrounding immigration. There are three significant debates: enforcement, rights, and economics. The enforcement discussion indicates that the laws we have must either be enforced or changed. A democratic society cannot function when laws are not upheld. The rights discussion is both practical and moral: all people should have rights, not just citizens, but all humans. The economic discussion requires there to be a standardized way that people can enter and leave the country. An economic system relies on free flow.

His talk then took a different direction as he asked now that we aware of all of this, what does it mean for teachers? Teachers need to understand the difference between integration and assimilation. Integration maintains the immigrant culture and identity where assimilation is leaving everything behind in order to become one within a new culture. Teachers should be concerned with both but not a proponent of either, teaching “both” and “and,” not “either” and “or”. Teachers need to set high expectations expressing to immigrant students that they do belong, they can succeed, and it is acceptable to discuss their identity.

Below are three exercises that Pickus shared as examples of how to include immigrant students in the classroom, as well as cause all students to stop and think:

1. Ask students to research and answer the question around dual citizenship. Is plural citizenship a great stepping stone to global citizenship or is it a way that undermines fundamental citizenship? Should people be allowed to vote in more than one country?

2. Have students look at the Naturalization Exam. Could they pass it? What should be asked? What do you need to know to become a citizen of the United States? What should the government demand and expect?

3. Have students research voting rights. What about local voting rights for non-citizens? Does this discourage citizenship?

Unknown Noah Pickus is the Nannerl O. Keohane Director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and Associate Research Professor of Public Policy Studies at Duke University. He co-directs the Brookings-Duke Immigration Policy Roundtable and is the author of True Faith and Allegiance: Immigration and American Civic Nationalism, Becoming American/America Becoming, and Immigration and Citizenship in the 21st Century. He earned a bachelor’s degree in the College of Social Studies at Wesleyan University and a doctorate in politics from Princeton University.

Poverty in America Curriculum

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

Mahatma Gandhi


Brian McDonald, a teacher at Jordan High School in Durham, NC has worked with the UNC Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity to design curriculum materials focusing on poverty in America both past and present. The curriculum is divided into six units: the American Dream, the Great Depression, the War on Poverty, measuring poverty, financial literacy, and special populations. Each unit includes a PowerPoint, a list of terms and concepts, readings, and other suggested resources such as websites, video clips, books, and films. The curriculum is available for all teachers on the Center’s website

I reached out to McDonald to learn more about the process and implementation of his curriculum. Below he describes why he created this curriculum and how students and teachers have responded.

1. How/ why did you decided to develop curriculum around poverty?

I have always been interested in race, class and inequality since I was a student in college. Since arriving at Jordan High School in 2001, I’ve taught AP US History, AP Government and Minority Studies, always emphasizing social history and the power of the individual. I’ve also worked on various community service initiatives at our school since that time.  Four years ago, after reading a number of books that had been on my bookshelf for years (Nickel and Dimed, Deer Hunting with Jesus, The Other America, There Are No Children Here, and The Working Poor), I wondered if there could be a single class discussing these topics.  After finding none in our county, only a couple in the state and few in the South, I decided to write a course from the district with the full support of enthusiasm of my department chair, our administrative team and the Superintendent.

2. How have students/ teachers responded? 

The teachers in my department have been extremely supportive and I have been able to fill one to two sections ever since the course was created. Many students appreciate the opportunity to study economic inequality, the myths that exist regarding the working poor, and the perspective of others when it comes to wealth and poverty.

3. Why do you feel that this curriculum is important for teachers to teach and students to learn?

Unfortunately, poverty and economic inequality continues to be a theme in our society. 1 out of 6 Americans live in poverty and the same number suffer from food insecurity.  Yet, our knowledge of these “invisible poor” creates myths and a lack of understanding about our peers, some of whom sit in the desks in our classroom.  Before we can find solutions, legitimate solutions, we must have a dialogue and create an understanding regarding the issues that affect class, social groups, and inequality at every level. My sincere hope is that this course does a little of that (see the attachment for the units and information on the course)

About Brian McDonald

image.ashxBrian McDonald was born in Meriden, Connecticut. He earned his B.A. from Elon University and M.A. from North Carolina Central University. He was named the first fellow at the Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity (UNC) and has been teaching government, history, race relations, and poverty in Durham, North Carolina for more than a decade. In 2009 McDonald was named Teacher of the Year at Jordan High School and was a finalist for District Teacher of the Year. He was named “Most Inspirational Teacher” in 2007, 2011, and 2012. He also serves as an Adjunct Lecturing Fellow in the Program in Education at Duke University. Most recently, he published his first book Not the end, But the Beginning: The Impact of Race and Class on the History of Jordan High School, 1963-1988(Patterson & Quinn Press, 2013). He lives with his wife and son in Hillsborough, North Carolina.