Teachers in urban schools are doing their students a great disservice by not addressing their students’ race and cultural backgrounds in their classroom curriculum, said H. Richard Milner, IV, Ph.D., renown author and university professor of urban education, who was the keynote speaker at the UMKC Charter School Convocation on August 5. Nearly 500 teachers, administrators, support staff and board members of the nine charter schools sponsored by the University of Missouri-Kansas City attended the 4th annual event that kicks off the new school year.
Milner, from the University of Pittsburgh, addressed critics who say he puts too much emphasis on diversity and culturally responsive teaching at this time in our country’s history. “How dare you say that I’m dwelling too much on this subject!” he said, considering all of the recent shootings and deaths of young African-American men and women in our communities across the country.
In his widely read book, Start Where You Are, But Don’t Stay There, Milner presented vivid scenarios of research and classroom evidence that he shared with his audience on how students of color are excelling academically when their race and culture become part of the classroom learning experience.
Helping to expand the conversation on the five critical areas for urban schools to address in Milner’s book was a team of four educators from the St. Louis, Mo., area, who conducted breakout sessions on the topics of the rejection of color blindness; the ability to work through cultural conflicts; understanding how meritocracy works, along with social economic status and poverty; and the recognition and shift of low expectation and deficit mindsets, as well as the rejection of context-neutral mindsets. The team, led by Terry Harris, Ed.D., of the Rockwood School District, represented many of the teachers in the St. Louis area who have worked with Milner’s concepts for several years and are experiencing significant academic success with their students.
Others addressing the convocation included UMKC School of Education dean Justin Perry; Phyllis Chase, Ed.D., director of the UMKC Charter School Center; Marty Huitt, M.A., educational consultant at Ozanam’s Behavior Intervention Support Team; and Chris Neale, Ed.D., assistant commissioner for the Office of Quality Schools at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).