Podcast: Hadiyah Miller, Black Child Development PDX

Podcast: Hadiyah Miller, Black Child Development PDX

Early Link Podcast Episode 21

In this week’s episode, host Rafael Otto speaks with Hadiyah Miller, president of the Oregon Association for the Education of Young Children (ORAEYC) and chairperson of Black Child Development PDX, about combating the expulsion and suspension of Black children in early learning.

Guest

Hadiyah Miller is the current president of the ORAEYC and works as the African American Family Childcare Network Coordinator at Childcare Resource and Referral of Multnomah County. She also serves as the early childhood chair of Black Child Development PDX.  

Summary Miller shares how Black Child Development PDX connects community members, Black leaders, and allies to change outcomes for young Black children in Portland. She explains that its present focus is on preventing the expulsion and suspension of Black children in early learning. This work is being done by elevating the Black experience and Black voices in the Legislature, and by helping teachers to identify and fight implicit bias so they can begin to shift how they respond to Black children. 

Background

Research has shown that Black children make up 18 percent of preschoolers, but make up nearly half of all out-of-school suspensions. Different standards exist in schools for white children, and implicit bias plays a role in teachers responses to the actions of Black children.

Kids who are suspended or expelled from school are more likely to drop out, and those dropouts are more likely to end up with criminal records. This is known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Get Involved

ORAEYC will be hosting two different communities of practices starting in December 2020. These events will be open to anyone who is interested in this relationship-based learning experience focused on equity and social justice. To learn more, visit their page here.

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Q&A with Karen Twain: Why I Believe in Early School Success

Q&A with Karen Twain: Why I Believe in Early School Success

Karen Twain is the director of programs at Children’s Institute, overseeing our Early Works initiative in Yoncalla, Oregon and Southeast Portland, and CI’s newly launched Early School Success program.

A career educator, Twain was most recently the assistant superintendent at Tigard-Tualatin School District. Here, Twain shares more about her passion for early learning, and her perspective on what it means to connect the early years and early grades.

Karen Twain reading with child


Tell us a little about your background as an educator and why you joined Children’s Institute as director of programs.

I was a peer tutor for kids with disabilities when I was in elementary school and absolutely loved it. I was a babysitter, camp counselor, and youth coach and always knew that I wanted to work with kids. I began my teaching career in first grade, then special education, and I was a school counselor.

After teaching and counseling, I went into administration and held several roles at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. All but my first year of teaching was in the Tigard-Tualatin School District.

After 33 years in public education, I felt in my heart that it was time for a change. I knew that if we wanted to work on really closing opportunity gaps, we needed to focus on what happens from birth to age 5. I am passionate about several things in education—inclusion, equity, and early learning. As director of programs, I have a unique opportunity to improve things at the district or system level, so that families and students are truly set up for academic and lifelong success.

Early Works began in 2010 as a learning laboratory for innovative practices in early education and a lot of that work informed the development of Early School Success, which is described as an initiative to better connect or align the early years and early grades. Can you describe, in simple terms, what that means for students and families?

When I talk about alignment or instructional alignment, what I’m trying to convey most simply is the idea that instead of two separate systems—preschool and elementary school—we need to think and act more holistically, so that children and families have a more seamless early education experience.

So first, consistency for children and families is important. Transitions from grade to grade can be the most challenging aspect of moving through the educational system. Classroom or instructional expectations can be different and students can find it unsettling and intimidating.

For example, a preschool teacher might allow students to finish their work and then move on to another activity. The next year’s kindergarten teacher may ask them to wait quietly at their desk until everyone is done before transitioning to the next activity.

These misaligned expectations may cause behavioral problems for some students. And because we know that student engagement is a strong predictor of later school success, it’s critical that we not underestimate children’s abilities to think, reason, and grapple with complex materials.

So, the more instruction is aligned, the less repetition there is in content, the higher level of engagement we will see for children. It’s also important to understand the role that social emotional and family engagement play in helping students reach their full potential.

Let’s talk about family engagement for a bit. I know that the Early School Success pilot districts [Forest Grove and Beaverton] have both chosen to focus on family engagement this year. Why?

Yes, right now, all the schools we are working with in both districts have identified family engagement as an area of focus. Family engagement is part of the DNA of early learning because it is a widely held belief among early educators that a huge part of student success comes when schools and educators have strong partnerships with families. We need to find a way to engage families in a more authentic way that builds on their existing assets, skills and knowledge, so they have a true voice in their children’s education.

Can you share more about what that looks like in the classrooms and at the school level?

At one school, they are using dialogue circles to get more input, help families feel more welcome in the school setting, and work through differences. This approach can serve as an example of aligning practices from preschool to fifth grade. We are looking for more opportunities like this to share these best practices with our school partners and bring more parents to the table to help shape what they think family engagement and their own children’s learning at school should look like.

At another school, they have been working to align developmentally appropriate practices with play and inquiry across their school. They have seen third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers asking for materials to promote these practices as they teach math, science, etc.

Another thing we are seeing is more vertical teacher collaboration, or collaboration across grade levels. We have heard some teachers say that this is the first time they have been invited to engage in these types of conversations. Just to be invited to the table to help co-design and create teaching and learning experiences is novel for many educators.

What should school leaders know about the way ESS operates that is different from other educational initiatives or professional development that their staff or communities may have been involved in in the past?

Children’s Institute serves as a facilitator and supports schools and districts in many ways. We are integrating human-centered design, improvement science, and equity to identify problems of practice. By using this in our professional development with districts, we have identified a process by which educators can become more aligned in their every day practices.

A less technical way to describe it is to say that this is a ground-up, rather than a top-down strategy. We want to work in partnership with learning communities, and really be driven by collaboration—to honor the existing strengths and expertise of local communities—rather than to come in and say, “I have a solution!”

We believe that’s going to offer a more enduring and effective path forward.

What do you hope to achieve with ESS? What is the ultimate vision?

Well, I think it’s important to be honest and say upfront that transforming the early learning experience for children, families, and communities will take time.

It’s a really tall order and we have many equity-related, engagement-related, instructional, and structural barriers that we need to overcome in order to be successful. But I believe that if we stay diligent and collaborate, we will have students, families, and educators feeling good and successful about their work in the schools. Ultimately, the dream is to make serious progress in closing opportunity and achievement gaps.

The COVID-19 pandemic has really turned the education world upside down. What are some of the challenges that have come up for P-5 work as a result? Do you see any opportunities?

This is a time to work closely with families. There is an opportunity to build on relationships as we work together to educate children while they’re home. How can we support our schools to support their families to support their children? If we can do this, then children will continue to learn in some way.

Clearly, online learning is a challenge, so we are making suggestions of appropriate ways to help families in their current situation. Not everyone can get on a computer or do packets so by understanding the context for each child and family, we can help them during this difficult time.

 

Related Content

Soobin Oh Discusses Anti-Bias Education in Early Childhood

Soobin Oh Discusses Anti-Bias Education in Early Childhood

In this week’s episode, we speak with Soobin Oh about the importance of anti-bias education in early childhood. Soobin Oh is the senior education advisor at Children’s Institute. He is a committed social justice educator and is well-versed in anti-bias education, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and critical pedagogy. Soobin holds a master’s in early childhood inclusive curriculum and instruction from Portland State University (PSU) and is working towards his Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction at PSU with a research focus on social justice in early childhood education.

Definitions:

Institutional Bias is the tendency of institutions to advantage and favor certain groups of people while other groups are disadvantaged or devalued.

Explicit Bias is attitudes and beliefs of individuals about other people or groups of people on a conscious level.

Implicit Bias is attitudes and beliefs of individuals about other people or groups of people on an unconscious level. Implicit bias is a problem for educators because it can come into play in a classroom without intent.

A Tourist Curriculum is a superficial educational approach that does not make diversity a routine part of the ongoing, daily learning environment. Instead, it is curriculum that “drops in” on strange, exotic people to see their holidays and taste their foods, and then returns to the “real” world of “regular” life. Essentially it treats non-western cultures as “other.”

Recommended Reading

What is Anti-Bias Education? – NAEYC

Leading Anti-Bias Early Childhood Programs – Louise Derman-Sparks, Debbie LeeKeenan & John Nimmo 

Anti-Bias Education in the Early Childhood Classroom – Katie Kissinger

Tools of the Mind with Deborah Leong

Tools of the Mind with Deborah Leong

Deborah Leong is professor emerita of psychology at Metropolitan State University of Denver where she taught for 37 years. She is co-founder and executive director of Tools of the Mind, a curriculum and professional development program that was developed more that 25 years ago for early childhood classrooms to improve how children learn and how teachers teach. Dr. Leong also has extensive experience working on and publishing about early childhood assessment and standards. In this episode, we discuss the history and development of Tools of the Mind, brain development and the importance of play, and the role of assessment in early childhood settings.

Listening and Learning at the Malheur Summer Institute

Listening and Learning at the Malheur Summer Institute

Photo of the Snake River near Ontario, Oregon, in Malheur County. Photo credit: Ken Lund

For the last three years, educators from Malheur County and the surrounding communities have attended the Malheur Summer Institute for professional development. The Institute provides educators in far eastern Oregon the opportunity to meet with colleagues and explore ideas and best practices to better serve children in their communities. Designed for educators serving young people birth to 20, the Institute is an invaluable resource in a county that’s larger than the state of Rhode Island but has a population of 30,000 people.

The Institute was created by Malheur Education Service District (ESD) Superintendent Mark Redmond, who has worked for seven years at the ESD (three as superintendent) and 14 years as a teacher in Vale, Oregon. Superintendent Redmond knows the importance of supporting teachers and creating systems that allow students to thrive.

Children’s Institute staff visited Ontario, the Malheur County seat this week, to attend the Malheur Summer Institute and a book giveaway for children who are refugees or born in the United States to refugee parents. We talked with the superintendent and special education director about the passage of the Student Success Act and the unprecedented opportunity in Oregon to focus new significant public investment on education from early learning to high school. According to Redmond, “The money and resources in the Student Success Act for Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education (EI/ECSE) and early education generally will be a game changer for us. Time and time again we see, and research shows the more time and money is invested in early learning, the more impact we have on kids in the long run.” The Student Success Act’s comprehensive, global approach to education will affect kids throughout their academic life.

Mark Redmond, Superintendent, Malheur ESD (above). Teresa Jones, SPED Director, Malheur ESD (below).

Throughout Oregon, where resources for essential services are slim, the annual $1 billion in public funding for education will help close gaps. Oregon teachers and school districts have been doing the work of educating and nurturing children’s natural love of learning, but the funding hasn’t been enough. “This will give us the chance to fully fund Measure 98, which is huge for us. We’ll also be able to address some of the big expenditures we have in mental health and trauma informed care, and the need for counselors.” For Teresa Jones who has worked in education for 21 years and is the Special Education Director for the Malheur ESD, the Student Success Act allows Oregon to follow through on proven practices that provide lifelong positive outcomes for young children. “So many kids enter kindergarten without having high-quality early learning experiences.  Some have never even held a pencil before coming to school. It will be great to get this funding to kids.”

While Malheur County borders Idaho and a small stretch of Nevada, the region’s early childhood needs are like those across the state, from the North Coast to the Willamette Valley down to Southern Oregon. Every family in Oregon wants their child to have the best start in life. And local context matters. What may work for a large urban area may not get the best results in a small rural community. A key opportunity at the heart of the Student Success Act is focusing resources in communities to improve outcomes for kids and train and support the workforce responsible for growing young minds. Education has the power to be a transformative experience that prepares young people to enter the world with the confidence and knowledge to be engaged, productive members of their communities. What’s good for kids is good for Oregon.

Southern Oregon University Responds to Momentum in the Field of Early Childhood Education

Southern Oregon University Responds to Momentum in the Field of Early Childhood Education

Soobin Oh is the senior early education advisor at Children’s Institute and adjunct faculty in the Master of Early Education Program at Portland State University. Here he shares his perspective on the importance of the new Master of Science in Education with a Concentration in Leadership in Early Childhood Education program offered by Southern Oregon University.

SOU responds to the increasing recognition that early childhood education is an important field by offering an online Master’s program that supports new early learning leaders. The recent passage of the Student Success Act, with its investments in early childhood programs, will create new jobs for both educators and leaders. SOU’s courses seem designed with these leaders in mind. They foreground equity and ethics, and encourage leaders to be thoughtful and intellectual in their approach to curriculum and instruction.

Scanning across the landscape of higher education and preservice preparation for early learning leaders, there are limited options. Public education administrators have formal structures, certifications, and pathways, and there are stark disparities in the number of available programs and projected salaries for early childhood leaders compared to public school administrators. We have much work to do to create better bridges between early learning and elementary education, and supporting new leaders is of the utmost importance.

The launch of this program also demonstrates that early childhood education is maturing as a field. Historically, early childhood educators have been disrespected or treated as babysitters. This program represents a step in the ongoing process to “professionalize the field.” This is something the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is also working toward through its Power to the Profession initiative.

We need a new generation of early childhood leaders. I’m glad to see Southern Oregon University forging a path by which these leaders can emerge here in Oregon in an online format that can support working professionals who are already in the field.

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