Social Justice In K-12 ED Capstone

Instructor Name: 
Zapoura Newton-Calvert
Course Description: 

The “achievement gap” has been at the forefront of discussions about the U.S. education system since the implementation of NCLB in 2001.  The public has been tuned into this so-called “achievement gap” alongside high dropout rates, lack of access to equitable early childhood education, public disinvestment in the education system, disparities in access to higher education, and more.   According to the Children’s Defense Fund’s  State of America’s Children Report, the gaps (more accurately and truthfully described as opportunity, wealth, curriculum, or access gaps deeply rooted in systemic inequities) in income, graduation rates, and well-being of students are not substantially decreasing year to year (Children’s Defense Fund).

But what are the roots of these gaps and disparities?  To dig deeper, we will read and study the history of education on this land, critical race theory, ideas of decolonizing the classroom, and anti-bias and anti-racist curriculum in order to investigate the ways that cultural and institutional racism play a pivotal role in disparities in public school education.  

In this Capstone, we will question and critique this idea of “gaps” and investigate the roots of the social injustice we can so clearly see in our nation’s schools as we work in community with our community partners (institutions, organizations, or teachers committed to anti-bias education work).  Each community partner has a social justice mission in alignment with the objectives of the teaching and learning in this course. The alignment is vital to the work we can do together.

Critical Service Learning Model: Using Dr. Tania Mitchell’s Traditional vs. Critical Service Learning model (2008) with transparency and as a touchstone throughout the term gives rigor to our work and presents an opportunity for deeper social justice learning. Three concepts: (a) building authentic relationships, (b) working in a social justice perspective, and (c) redistributing power, are woven throughout the coursework and used to assess and analyze everything from individual actions in work with the community partner to teamwork.

Students will volunteer 25-30 hours with a community partner in addition to participating in a group Anti-Bias Book Club experience.

Project Description: 

Small groups of students in the Social Justice in K-12 Education Capstone gather together around the theme of (1) the Roots of Educational Inequity, (2) Helping Parents, Helping Schools, or (3) How Schools Work and create and participate in an act of advocacy and action in the community to support kids and families in our community.  See the following videos detailing some of the most successful final projects:

These team projects are developed and carried out in addition to the hands-on volunteer work that students perform each week with our community partners!