Brian Stone

About Me: I am currently a lecturer in the College of Education at Northern Arizona University. I teach methods courses including science, social studies, and math. I also am working on a doctorate in curriculum and instruction with a content emphasis in science and math. I taught 4/5/6 multiage before moving to the university.

I am a progressive educator that questions the status quo, is critical of the authority structures that dominate education, and I am a firm believer in liberty for children and teachers.

Critical Analysis 1

Standardization of College and Career Readiness
It is quite fascinating to watch trends in education nowadays, from reform movements like the No Child Left Behind legislation of 2002 to our current representation of homogenized industrial mania, or in other words, the Common Core. We have seen in the last decade the greatest standardization movement in the history of our country’s educational system. With Common Core standards now coming to dominate the nation’s schools, one might wonder about the end or outcome of this mass conformity. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which includes a consortium of states and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top competition, is now implementing an assessment starting in kindergarten. The goal of this assessment, just like the name implies, is to obtain measurable data on children from third through twelfth grade in order to keep students on track for university entrance and their ensuing careers. This PARCC implementation promises “building a K-12 assessment system that: builds a pathway to college and career readiness for all students, creates high-quality assessments that measure the full range of the Common Core State Standards, and advances accountability at all levels” (PARCC, 2012).
To examine what this might mean for educators, parents, and our children, let us take a closer look at the Common Core standards. We can tell a great deal about our culture and our goals from the information that is valued enough to be standardized and tested. From the Common Core Standards website, it is said, “We need standards to ensure that all students, no matter where they live, are prepared for success in postsecondary education and the workforce” (Common Core, 2012). One might inquire further, “what information do children need to know?” Apparently, mathematics and language arts are the only two subjects children need to know to be successful in postsecondary education. The Common Core standards do not include areas for science, social studies, or the arts. According to the website, the rationale for only developing standards in math and language arts is because “they are… the subjects most frequently assessed for accountability purposes” (Common Core, 2012). The PARCC, which will be the major form of measuring students’ acquisition of core standards, only measures mathematics and language arts. This is the information that is valued, so is it the only content necessary for students to make it to college and be successful in life? What happens to other forms of knowledge and other subject areas of study?
As the focus of education continues down the path of accountability, and a new vigor of college and career readiness sweeps the nation’s schools, we may see a cheapening of college degrees (more people getting them = less value), heavy and unfruitful job market competition (more people with similar skills), and a decrease in innovation and creativity. Instead of an officious homogenization of our children, we need to back off from standardization as we have come to know it, and focus instead on social justice and child-centered approaches to education.

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2012). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from
Partnership for Assessing Readiness of College and Careers. (2012). About PARCC. Retrieved from

Critical Analysis 2

Multiculturalism and Social Justice in Teacher Education
The case that race matters in education has been made repeatedly in educational research, just like social class. The evidence seems to strongly suggest that African-American, Hispanic, and Native American children are significantly lower achieving than their white and Asian counterparts. Irvine et al. (2000) posits, “by the year 2020 about 40 percent of the nation's school-age population will be students of color, and students of color already represent 70 percent of the student population in the 20 largest school districts” (p. 3). With such a substantial portion of our population being so “diverse,” and our teachers being predominantly white and female, some aspects of our teacher education programs do need to change. Ladson-Billings (1995) recommends “better teacher candidates,” but also suggest exposing our teacher candidates to more expansive and diverse pedagogy.
To meet the needs of education in the future, we need more African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, and male teachers to enter the profession. Not only do we need a greater balance in our teaching force, but better prepared teachers as well. Fernandez (2011) suggests multicultural education be a part of teacher preparation programs. Also, teachers need to be ready for the issues they will face, and advocate for their students vehemently. Activism is a necessary action for teachers unwilling to perpetuate the overpowering dominion of the status quo. They need to be well versed in issues of power and privilege. Irvine et al. (2000) recommends teachers develop personal relationships with students, and implement culturally responsive pedagogy every day rather than just doing so on holidays. Ladson-Billings (1995) also addresses this issue, and is concerned with teacher/student relationships rather than separately dealing with the “other,” meaning the differences represented in children. If we can put more eggs in our teacher education basket, I believe we can promote reflective, caring teachers that are better prepared to teach all students.
Irvine et al. (2000) also suggests, “New teachers often struggle with addressing the needs of most of their students, but these issues become even more challenging when faced with students from diverse cultures.” If teachers had practicum experiences in diverse settings, where guidance and mentorship were provided, successful encounters could lead to beneficial experiences that boost first-year teachers’ confidence and abilities.
Ultimately, the teaching force needs to be, at least somewhat, representative of student populations. For example, despite even the best intentions, a privileged, white, middle-class female may have a difficult time relating to and teaching underprivileged, highly diverse students in low-SES areas. However, understanding and awareness of multicultural issues as well as power/control issues can go a long way towards helping teachers modify and adapt their practices to best fit the needs of the students.

Fernandez, A. (2011). Whitening Arizona. Rethinking Schools, 49-52.

Irvine, J., Armento, B., Causey, V., Jones, J., Frasher, R., & Weinburgh, M. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching: Lesson planning for elementary and middle grades. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32, 465-491.

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