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25 Mini-Films for Exploring Race, Bias and Identity With Students

How do we get students to consider perspectives different from their own? How do we get them to challenge their own biases and prejudices? If, as Atticus Finch famously said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” how do we get our students to do that?

Teachers traditionally turn to literature, history and current events to open up these conversations, but it’s always helpful to have a bigger toolbox to tackle such important and difficult issues. That’s why we pulled together these 25 short New York Times documentaries that range in time from 1 to 7 minutes and tackle issues of race, bias and identity.

To help teachers make the most of these films, we also provide several teaching ideas, related readings and student activities.

In the comments, we hope you’ll share how you use these films in your own classroom.


The 25 Films

Department of Education Seeks Comments on New IDEA Website

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has expressed her commitment to ensuring that infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families receive support and services they are entitled to under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Recently, the Department of Education’s IDEA website, IDEA.ed.gov, which provides information and resources related to the IDEA 2004 reauthorization, was unavailable due to a technical malfunction from an external hosting service provider. Once the IDEA website became functional again, the Secretary directed the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) to create a new and improved IDEA site and include stakeholder input as part of the development process. The current IDEA.ed.gov site will remain available to users during and after the development of the new IDEA website.

OSERS is seeking input from users of the IDEA.ed.gov website as part of our effort to provide updated, easy-to-navigate IDEA resources to children with disabilities and their families, teachers, administrators, advocates, and other stakeholders.

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Latino kindergartners start school 3 months behind in math, on average

A new report from Child Trends' Hispanic Institute highlights the problem and possible solutions

Latino children currently make up 1 in 4 kindergartners nationwide. By 2050, they are expected to be 1 in 3. Latinos are the fastest-growing school-aged population among all races and ethnicities.

That’s one reason why the Child Trends’ Hispanic Institute’s latest report on early math skills is particularly troubling. On average, Latino students show up to kindergarten three months behind their white peers, in terms of their math skills. While they make as much progress throughout the year as the average white student, the achievement gap remains because they started behind.

“One of the best ways to not be behind the starting gate at the beginning of kindergarten is ensuring that we expand and continue to fund high-quality early childhood programs,” said Lina Guzmán, director of the Child Trends’ Hispanic Institute and a co-author of the paper, “Make Math Count More for Young Latino Children.”

Report: Growing number of under-prepared teachers

The teacher shortage has become an issue in many areas around the country. States are passing new laws to weaken the demands required of prospective teachers before they can lead a classroom. Utah now allows teachers to be hired with no prior training or experience in the field.

The substitute teacher shortage has also become severe in many regions. A report on conditions in Illinois found almost 20% of teacher absences go unfilled each week among 400 districts participating in a survey. In Boston, a startup solution called Parachute Teachers recruits professionals to cover classrooms and offer lessons on topics they’re passionate about. Students aren’t following their teacher’s prescribed curriculum, but they do get authentic learning opportunities in his or her absence.

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Computer Science

ED’s Support for Computer Science

The U.S. Department of Education provides tools and resources to states and districts to create high-quality CS learning opportunities for students in grades P-8 and provide greater access to CS courses in high school including:

·   Funding Opportunities at ED: Building on the STEM Act of 2015, ED released a Dear Colleague Letter that includes guidance on opportunities to support STEM education. This letter discusses opportunities to expand access to STEM and CS learning experiences for all students. The Department of Education’s Office of Innovation & Improvement’s (OII) invests in innovative and evidence-based projects that reach high need schools and communities; such programs could include launching or scaling CS projects.

·   CS Teacher Institute: The Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) and National Science Foundation (NSF) are participating in a joint effort to expand the field of computer science educators in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. This effort is creating a cohort of educators who will provide additional computer science professional development to other educators across the country.

·   Creating 21st Century Learners and Coders: The U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, funded at more than $1 billion and the federal government’s largest investment in afterschool and extended day programs, will increase awareness of high quality CS resources for out-of-school programs.  

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