Sharer, Donna Lynn

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  • Publication
    Representing "Underrepresented Students," Including Immigrant Students, in an Urban Advanced Placement U.S. Government Class: A Teacher's Inquiry on Challenges and Opportunities in Students' Academic Discourse
    (2015-01-01) Sharer, Donna Lynn
    Since the passage of Public Law 107-110, the "No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (2002)," public schools have been encouraged to increase the number of students participating in Advanced Placement courses, particularly "underrepresented" or "low-income and other disadvantaged students." This policy was seen as a means of increasing academic rigor and college preparation (Section 1702, 2002) for a broader spectrum of students than those who traditionally had access to these courses. More recently, the U.S. Department of Education's focus on "achievement" and closing the "achievement gaps" has included civic learning (Duncan, 2012). Simultaneously, changing U.S. demographics have increased the number of English Language Learners in schools, many with "multidimensional citizenship," (Parker, Ninomiya & Cogan, 2011). In order for "underrepresented" students to have access to college preparatory courses, these students need contact with and ownership of disciplinary and academic language and content (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2010; Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008; Walqui, & Lier, 2010). Students also benefit from a citizenship education that nurtures a blended cultural, national and global identity and allegiances (Banks, 2004, 2007). This teacher practitioner inquiry examines the opportunities and challenges of preparing "underrepresented students," including immigrant students, for the Advanced Placement U.S. Government exam at an urban, neighborhood high school in an academically stratified school district. The intervention proposed in this study was to support students' disciplinary language and civic competency in an Advanced Placement United States Government course by incorporating civic deliberations and blog posts. Instructional and language strategies were scaffolded to build on the students' prior knowledge, points of view, and to build background knowledge. Interwoven are my observations and questions as a teacher practitioner reflecting on my preparation and response to the challenges and opportunities of working with students to prepare them for a high stakes exam and college / career and life. By using ethnographic methods, I analyzed students' responses in semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. Then, I analyzed my strategies to prepare for civic deliberations; as well, I studied students' participation in the deliberations and their subsequent blog postings. Lastly, I reflected on the changes I made to make the civic deliberations more accessible for students while encouraging students to include disciplinary evidence with their prior knowledge, identities and points of view.