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Summer 2012 Learning Connections Magazine Now Online

July 17, 2012

cover of learning connections magazineWe are pleased to announce the release of the 2012 Summer edition of Learning Connections, a magazine for alumni and friends of the School of Education. 

This edition includes features on service research on disproportionality in special education, and teaching American Indian history and culture in K-12 classrooms.

CRPBIS - Deconstructing Disproportionality and Building Positive School Cultures

The problem is heartbreaking: Across the nation, students from racial minorities are over identified in discipline cases and special education and underrepresented in gifted programs compared to their white peers.

In Wisconsin, where black and American Indian children make up 9.8% and 1.3% of the public school population, they make up 21.8% and 22.1% of students in special education and 25.1% and 9.4% of expulsion and suspension cases, according to 2010-2012 data from the Department of Public Instruction.

The problem stems from many factors including funding mechanisms, politics and resource allocation. But a lack of cultural understanding among teachers and limited collaboration with minority students’ families consistently remains at the core of the issue. 

A School of Education research team has partnered with state and local educators on a two-year pilot project to end this trend and serve as a model for districts in Wisconsin and beyond.

"This is not a special education issue – it's a general education issue,” said Special Education Assistant Professor Aydin Bal (pictured left), who is leading the project. "Disproportionality is the tip of the iceberg.”


American Indian Curriculum - A Tough Act to Follow

Through the 1980s, residents of Northern Wisconsin experienced increasing social struggles between American Indians and non-Indians over tribal fishing and hunting rights.

This friction – known as the spear fishing conflict – often escalated to violence. The conflict stemmed from a lack of knowledge about American Indian history and sovereignty and the relationship between the tribes, the federal government and Wisconsin.

The state legislature responded to the problem in 1989 with Act 31, which mandates that elementary and secondary students learn about the culture, history and tribal sovereignty of the American Indian tribes and bands of Wisconsin.

Furthermore, the Act stipulates that anyone seeking a license to teach in the state after July 1, 1999 must complete instruction in those topics as part of their teacher education curriculum. 

"To avoid conflict we need to teach people about the root of the conflict," said School of Education minority student advisor Aaron Bird Bear, who lectures on Indian history across campus. "We are trying to remind people of the deep, deep relationship between the state and the tribes. (With Act 31), we hope to educate generations on that history."

The School of Education has had a unique staff resource in addressing Act 31, along with providing other educational resources relating to American Indians in Wisconsin.

Ryan Comfort, a recruitment and retention specialist in the School, is one of a handful of professionals in Wisconsin’s higher education system with specialized duties to implement Act 31. 

“If it's American Indian and education, it gets in my direction,” Comfort said. 


Please visit Learning Connections online for more research news from around the school, student and faculty profiles, alumni class notes and more...

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