Aired: May 26, 2017

Degrees of Separation: Secondary

In the third part of our special series on education, Degrees of Separation, we examine how inequality is at work in the high-stakes world of high school, from who we discipline, to the way we sort students.

This is part three of a six-part series. To view all episodes in the series, click here.

  • Resisting Integration (3 min.)

    With: Brian Daugherity (Virginia Commonwealth University)

    Brian Daugherity describes how white resistance to integration produced new forms of segregation.

  • "Better to be white & poor..." (10 min.)

    With: Derek Black (University of South Carolina)

    Derek Black has brought legal action against school districts who use ability grouping to segregate students.

  • Math Trauma (15 min.)

    With: Jo Boaler (Stanford University)

    Jo Boaler says if there’s one place we shouldn’t group students, it’s in the math classroom. Her techniques show massive benefits when students of different strengths share a common classroom.

  • Discipline Disparities (16 min.)

    With: Jason Okonofua (University of California-Berkeley)

    Black students are disciplined more often and with greater consequences than their white peers. Jason Okonofua is working to improve teacher empathy and dramatically cut suspension rates.

  • Mindful Moments (8 min.)

    With: Sarah Melton (With Good Reason)

    The Holistic Life Foundation in Baltimore uses mindfulness training for students and teachers to reduce conflict in classrooms.



2 Comments on “Degrees of Separation: Secondary”

  1. Jeanmarie Badar

    These commentaries, in particular, by Derek Black and Joe Bohler, are evident of a lack of deep understanding of teaching and learning. Quite possibly, these “experts” are making statements that imply they are referring to ALL students, from the gifted to the severely impaired. However, if one considers the reality of this continuum of abilities, their statements are nonsensical, if not laughable. Furthermore, Professor Bohlers’s assertion that other countries do not track students is positively false. Almost ALL European and Asian systems of education place children in different schools and, therefore, different tracks from an early age, based on demonstrated achievement. It is common sense that teaching a range of abilities is made easier (and more effective) by limiting, as much as possible, the breadth of that range. It makes perfect sense to group students according to what they know and what they need to know. Teaching is, by nature, extremely difficult. Why on Earth would we want to make it even MORE difficult by widening the range of students’ abilities in the classroom?

    1. allisonquantz Post author

      Hi Jeanmarie,

      Of course, on an individual level these things vary quite a bit, but current research shows that mixed-ability classrooms are better learning environments for all kinds of students. It sounds like you’ve got some personal experience with ability-grouping–we’d love to hear about how it’s worked, or hasn’t worked, for you in the past. Thanks for your comment and thanks for listening!

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