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College of Education students attending the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) annual conference, hosted by the College of Education April 24-27, will be attending a conference of firsts. For the first time, the conference will take place outside of the southern states, and for the first time, the host institution is not a historically black college or university.
For the first time, the conference will have a decidedly Chicago feel, with the locus of educational upheaval, from school closings to labor strife to community violence, centered on the Windy City. Alfred Tatum, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Education and director of the UIC Reading Clinic, lobbied COSEBOC to bring the conference to Chicago to generate national dialogue on how outside-the-classroom factors are impacting the day-to-day learning inside.
“We need a clear understanding about violence and a real focus on social and emotional development,” Tatum said. “Then, a real focus on the intellectual conversation going on around the Common Core State Standards, and what this means for African-American and Latino boys from a sociocultural perspective, which is oftentimes overlooked.”
The 500 educators convening from across the nation will hone in on a theme of literacy at this year’s conference. Workshops include examining early childhood education through a cultural lens, how males of color prepare for careers in STEM fields, culturally-relevant nonfiction studies and strategies promoting emotional literacy in African-American and Latino boys.
The College of Education, one of the only colleges of education in the nation with an explicit focus on educating African-American and Latino children, will lead discussions on urban principals, headlined by professor Steve Tozer, Ph.D., and a keynote panel on math and African-American and Latino boys, headlined by Tatum and professor Danny Martin, Ph.D. College of Education students, many of whom are or will be completing their student-teaching in Chicago Public Schools, will bring on-the-ground knowledge to these national discussions. In particular, College of Education students will gain insight on identifying curricular assaults, where programs are misaligned with the needs of African-American and Latino boys.
“This gives them a chance to move forward unapologetically and empowers them to protect the rights of these young boys,” Tatum said. “It gives them an intellectual upper hand to say, ‘This is what we need to do to protect the rights of our young boys.’”
The conference’s hallmark is the participation of current-day African-American and Latino students who have succeeded in schools. These students share tangible teaching techniques and school policies that made a difference in their educational journey. The goal, Tatum says, is to reduce the level of conjecture and speculation surrounding which techniques are actually effective.
“It’s very different when you have these young boys who are resilient serving as advocates for themselves,” Tatum said. “It gives them an opportunity to help the adults get it right and begin to be clear about how this nation continues to miss the mark for many boys across the nation inside of schools.”
Honing in on the literacy theme, the boys present will be working on writing an e-book over the course of a single day.
The ultimate goal is to produce more than papers and policy reports; the practices and techniques outlined by COSEBOC standards are reforms that can be implemented immediately, Tatum said. The next mission? How to convince urban and national education decision-makers to do so.