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What Glenn Singleton’s “3 Critical Factors” Mean for Your Child

If you’re a parent, you no doubt spend considerable time thinking about your child’s education. Even if you don’t have school-age kids at the moment, you likely face your unborn children’s educational future, or retrospectively reflect on your grown kids’ experiences and outcomes.

The sad truth is that a given child’s educational experience and outcomes turn to a large extent on circumstances beyond the kid’s control: where he’s born, the color of her skin, the competency of the educational administration in the district. According to Portland-based educator and administrator Marti Diaz, historically disadvantaged cities and neighborhoods are beset by poor outcomes due to deeply rooted structural factors, many related to semi-institutionalized, just-under-the-surface racial inequities that persist to the present day.

Glenn Singleton, a noted educator and visionary, has a powerful framework for tackling this issues head-on. Here’s what he proposes educators do.

What Are the “3 Critical Factors”?

Singleton outlined the three critical factors in a book titled Courageous Conversations About Race. Their overarching goal is to address the racial achievement gap “intentionally, explicitly and comprehensively.” The factors are:

  • Passion. Passion equates to the amount of “connectedness” and energy educators bring to their work on a daily basis. To be effective warriors against the racial achievement gap, educators truly need to believe that they can empower students and parents, precipitating a meaningful shift in equity.
  • Practice. This is where the rubber hits the road, as the saying goes. Practice describes the “institutional and individual” actions educators and administrators take to address racial gaps and facilitate Singleton’s “courageous conversations.” Basically, educators have to understand that they’re part of a larger system, and work to change that system from within through individual, group and large-scale actions.
  • Persistence. As it sounds, persistence describes the willingness of an educator, administrator and/or school system (directed by high-level administrators) to maintain the course in the face of inconclusive or slow results. This factor implicitly recognizes that the deeply ingrained nature of structural racism and equity imbalances means that change can’t happen overnight — but it is more likely when educators and administrators truly believe that it’s possible.

Living by the 3 Critical Factors

It’s important to reiterate that there are many different, equally valid pedagogical theories. Numerous factors inform teaching styles and approaches; since no two teachers are exactly the same, no two classrooms are either.

That said, the evidence is clear that some approaches to teaching produce better results than other. And that’s particularly the case when we talk about education in historically disadvantaged communities that deal with powerful, adverse structural forces: institutionalized and overt racism, poverty, administrative apathy, limited classroom resources and more.
In such environments, Glenn Singleton’s three critical factors are quite literally critical to sparking informed conversations about race in education, and to creating the basis for what must ultimately be lasting change. Whether you know it or not, your child could well be the beneficiary.

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