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Multicultural Responsive Assessment 1

Multicultural Responsive Assessment

EDLE 5083

Submitted by

Brian L. Schaffer

July 29, 2017

Introduction
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Culture plays an integral part in a students willingness to engage in a lesson and

the ability to learn. Depending on the selected literature a students culture in some cases help

the student relate to a particular story, understand the language, or vernacular used in the story.

Difficulties arise when students are expected to read literature above grade level and read content

that is foreign to them. Our parish at one time used McDougal Littell Literature, Grade 8, a large

literature textbook that was a compilation of stories separated by genre and theme. Along with

each story was background on the author, information on genre, text dependent questions,

activities, vocabulary, followed by an assessment and supplemental reading. The parish made

adjustments to the curriculum with the introduction of Common Core. The curriculum is now

based on four anchor texts and suggested supplemental reading. Two of the four are still in the

McDougal text, but other than the authors background the supplemental exercises in the text are

no longer suited for the strategies used in our revised curriculum. The four anchor texts used

during the year are Flowers for Algernon (FFA), Sugar Changed the World (SCTW), Call of the

Wild (COTW), and Tell-Tale Heart (TTH).

Teaching 8th grade English Language Arts at a Title 1 school is a challenge. In the past

three years my classes were 100% African American. Based on Star Reading scores, 80% of the

students were reading at least two grades below level. The anchor texts lexile numbers ranged

from 910 to 1130. These numbers are high and present potential problems for 80% of the

students. In addition to reading level issues, curricular and bias in the text are possible

hindrances to the learning process. Aside from the Lexile numbers I will examine the 7 forms of

bias in instructional materials to determine the potential effect on student progress. Because the

books are literature I looked at them for curricular bias as well as bias in choices.
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Three of the texts were written by men and the fourth, Sugar Changed the World was co-

authored by a male and female. The non-fiction stories containing murder and brutality from my

observations appeal to male students. Flowers for Algernon is an edited version and one

invisible element in the story is sexual content. Charlie, the main character, in his development

develops feelings for his teacher and an implied sexual encounter takes place. This is an issue

for some parents who follow and pay attention to their childs literature. The cover of Sugar

Changed the World has two sections. The top third is a black and white photo of young poor

barefoot black children carrying sugar cane stalks and the machetes used to cut the stalks. The

lower two thirds has a white background with the title, a sub title; A Story of Magic, Spice,

Slavery, Freedom, and Science. Below that are the authors names and a color picture of a field

of beautiful mature sugar cane. The back cover is a black and white picture of three poor looking

workers in a cane field. The story is about sugar but the cover art leaves the impression of a

beautiful product at the expense of poor people of color. The text references slaves and

indentured servants from different ethnicities. The word freedom is in the subtitle but the only

image or indication of freedom is the free growing sugar cane.

SCTW is referred to as a brutally honest account of the sugar trade and the impact on the

slave trade. The text accounts for the value of sugar and the wealth derived from sugar

production. All this death, all this cruelty, all this abuse was for one purpose: to produce white

gold (Aronson & Budhos, 2010). The story does address the sale of slaves and how some were

more valuable than others. According to the National Museum of African American History &

Culture, slaves were more valuable than gold. The imbalance is not accurately reflecting the

value of the slaves to the extent that slaves were used as collateral for land owners seeking bank

loans. An individuals value and self-worth are problems in the African American community.
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The perception and image of working in the fields is not glamorous. A quote by Booker T.

Washington is appropriate to address that perception. Dignify and glorify common labor. It is at

the bottom of life that we must begin, not at the top (Washington, n.d.). It is quotes like this that

help remove the negative stigma from manual field labor. Some members of the African

American community have prospered and were able to secure land for their offspring helping to

secure their future.

Bias in language and stereotyping is a problem in all of the literature. Other than SCTW

the real problem with bias comes from the time period in which the literature was written. In

COTW a character is referred to as a half-breed. A dog was named Nig. These are character

names in the book but in some cultures they are derogatory depending on who is saying them.

In FFA, Algernon is a white mouse which is a common color for research mice. Charlie the

main character justifies Algernons intelligence to him being a white mouse. This is similar to

research done in the past with children selecting white dolls over black dolls because of

perception and image. Some African American students have the same perception.

The texts selected in our district are fine for some; however, the texts are not interesting

for certain segments of students. In discussions with other ELA teachers in the district, SCTW is

a difficult read for a majority of students. The interest is not there and some do not want to read

about issues they cannot relate to while others struggle with the vocabulary. There is bias in

literature but teachers have their own bias in teaching certain materials. Because of the difficult

text and low interest level imbalance and selectivity are an issue. The teachers are selective

about what they read and emphasize in the lessons. Teachers have expressed their reluctance to l

cover certain sections of SCTW because of interest and personal choice.


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The choice of instructional materials is based on state standards and district

recommendations. Our district attempts to select materials that are interesting yet rigorous. At

the same time in making those selections reading materials must be as free from bias as possible

unless the reader is looking for elements of bias for discussion purposes. FFA is a story that that

serves that purpose. The bias is in the characteristics of the mentally challenged and how they

are treated in society. These discussions can be productive if presented in a constructive fashion.

The texts studied in this paper have what I believe is curricular bias but not to the extent that it

creates a district or school wide problem. The problem with the texts is they are about cultures

and characters that most students have limited prior experience or knowledge. The district

should give teachers options of literature to choose from as long as curricular bias is limited or

non-existent.
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Text Analysis

Text Invisibility Stereotyping Imbalance Unreality Fragmentation Linguistic Cosmetic


Selectivity Isolation Bias Bias
Flowers X X X X
for
Algernon
Sugar X X X X
Changed
the
World
Call of X X
the Wild
Tell-Tale
Heart

Flowers for Sugar Changed the Call of the Wild Tell-Tale Heart
Algernon World
Fiction Yes No Yes Yes
Number of pages 23 166 58 4
Number of N/A 4 7 1
chapters/sections
Glossary No Yes No No
References No Yes No No
Appendicies No Yes No No
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References

Aronson, M., Budhos, M. (2010). Sugar Changed the World. Clarion Books, New York, New
York.

Booker T. Washington. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved July 29, 2017, from


BrainyQuote.com Web site:
https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/bookertwa386525.html

https://www.juniorlibraryguild.com/books/view/9780618574926

https://chpl.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1309970092_sugar_changed_the_world?active_tab=
bib_info