Academic journal article Educational Leadership and Administration

Social Justice Lenses and Authentic Student Voices: Enhancing Leadership for Educational Justice

Academic journal article Educational Leadership and Administration

Social Justice Lenses and Authentic Student Voices: Enhancing Leadership for Educational Justice

Article excerpt

Abstract: In addressing the issue of educational inequality and achievement gap, this research article demonstrates that critical implications could be gleaned from listening to the authentic voices of students by using a social justice lens. A social justice perspective in educational leadership is essential in evaluating the impact of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, poverty, and disability on the educational outcomes of students in urban schools.

**********

Recent studies have documented that students in urban schools face many educational, social, economic, and cultural challenges that are associated with race, ethnicity, and poverty (Haycock, 1998; Haycock, Jerald, and Huang, 2001; Singham, 2003). In addition, it is common knowledge now that achievement gap is a reality between mainstream students and minority students and many efforts are underway to study, understand, and dismantle the existing educational inequality (Lopez, Magdaleno, & Reis, 2006; Barone, 2006; Portes, 2005). There is also no disagreement that we need to learn as much as we can about the growing numbers of students of color and English language learners who attend urban schools so that we can increase their level of academic achievement. Miller and Endo (2004) shared the stories of urban English language learners (ELL) through a research technique called narrative inquiry. They explained the plethora of problems they encounter in the U.S. school system and recommended steps teachers can follow to help ELL students become successful in a new culture and a new language. While Lazar (2004) called for "culturally sensitive literacy teachers" in urban schools, Diller and Moule's (2005) recent primer on cross-cultural teaching accentuates the significance of recognizing culture, understanding cultural differences in the classroom, and defining cultural competency.

Although there have been well-documented and well-argued positions that knowledge about urban students, standard-based instructional perspectives, and other educational reforms are dwarfed by the "power of urban poverty" (Anyon, 2005) and cannot transform the society's fundamental inequities (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1985), school leaders can contribute in many significant and practical ways in unpacking and approaching the challenge of diversity issues and pave the road for social justice to improve the schooling of urban students. While educational agencies and research institutions attempt sophisticated approaches in finding solutions to the "achievement gap," we demonstrate in this research article that critical information could be gleaned from listening to the authentic voices of students by using a social justice lens. A social justice perspective in educational leadership is essential in evaluating the impact of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, poverty, and disability on the educational outcomes of students in urban schools (Marshall & Oliva, 2006; Moule, 2005).

Using Social Justice Lenses

In this article, we employ the lenses of critical pedagogy (Freire, 1974; Shor, 1987; Gadotti, 1994; Wink, 1997), funds of knowledge (Moll & Gonzalez, 2001 ), politics of caring and connectedness (Valenzuela, 1999), resiliency (Trueba, 1999), and social networking (Stanton-Salazar, 2001) to analyze students' experiences and to depict the social conditions prevalent in urban schools that directly impact the achievement of poor students and minority students (Freire & Macedo, 1987; Giroux, 1988; Shor & Pari, 1999; Cushman, Kintgen, Kroll & Rose, 2001; Fehring & Green, 1987; Heffernan, 2004; McLaughlin & DeVoogd, 2004). In addition, we use the critical and political construct of "inquiry as stance" for understanding and analyzing the purposes, practices, and policies of school and its impact on students' life opportunities (Cochran-Smith, 2004). In taking inquiry as stance, we view students' learning as central, gather and analyze data from classroom and school contexts, value students' cultural and linguistic resources, and advocate for students and their families (Cochran-Smith, 2004). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.