Social Justice has many definitions and uses in education and has abroad meaning depending on context. In education, social justice is a term used on how to create equality, fairness and respect for all students. Social justice means educational equality for all despite social economic status or race. According to Marzano (2000a) a school principal controls many aspects in a school such as hiring teachers, insuring quality of instruction, and insuring time for the opportunity for student to learn.
The principal can also affect students attitude and motivation about ttending school by setting the appropriate school climate. Providing motivated students with a guaranteed and viable curriculum (Marzano, 2003) is one step towards social justice by providing an equitable and fair curriculum. One of the important responsibilities of a a school principal is to close the achievement gap. A significant aspect to closing the achievement gap according to E. D. Hirsch (2006) is to narrow the reading gap between groups.
Closing the reading gap will improve the scores of all students, especially across demographic groups. The three aspects a principal could put in lace to help close the achievement gap and provide social justice to all students are: make sure there is a guaranteed and viable curriculum, incorporate restorative justice practice in the discipline process, and ensuring challenging goals and providing effective feedback for all students. Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum Marzano (2000a) reports to increase student achievement the strongest relationship of all the school factors is the opportunity to learn (OTL).
The opportunity to learn is the curriculum that is actually delivered by the teacher. A district provides the ntended curriculum which is curriculum directed by the school, district or state. The opportunity to learn and providing a guaranteed viable curriculum has tremendous impact on improving student achievement. How much curriculum delivered in each class varies. Teachers with inadequate behavior management strategies will spend more time correcting behavior and less time teaching the intended curriculum. A viable curriculum can not be attained with out the benefit of time.
The students in a class with poor behavior management by the teacher will receive less curriculum over the course of a year. The amount of time spent on classroom instruction is very important as the more curriculum a teacher can get through increase a students opportunity to learn. An example would be a third grade teacher who struggles with behavior management in her classroom. She slowly falls behind her teammates in their language arts units as she spends to much time off task, correcting behavior. By the end of the school year the teacher is three units behind her team and will not complete all ten units.
That is thirty percent of the curriculum the students will not see. The number of low socioeconomic tudents in this teachers class is much higher than her colleagues class of highly capable third graders. This exacerbates the achievement gap between the rich and the poor. It is important to recognize these types of issues and correct them to provide social justice for all students. Incorporate Restorative Justice Practices Providing discipline is the school setting is one of the many jobs of a school principal.
The idea of discipline is to look at what rules were broke, distribute the appropriate punishment and send the students back to class as soon as possible to limit the amount of time out class. But is this age old formal for discipline effective? According to the Kirwan Institute (2014) school discipline is heavily biased towards racial disproportionality. African American students are disciplined more often, received out of school suspensions more often and are expelled at a higher rate than white students. Implicit bias is implicated as the main reason for the racial disparity.
Rather than allowing implicit bias to disproportionately affect students, restorative justice offers the victims an opportunity to address the offender’s. The idea of restorative justice is to ensure the ffender talks responsibility for their actions, the victim receives any needed services or compensation and the community (police, social workers, judges) do things with the offender rather than to the offender. There are three levels of restorative justice: partly restorative, mostly restorative and fully restorative.
Partial restorative justice may be dialogue between the offender and the victim or the offender and the community. Mostly restorative provides victims with restitution. In the school setting restorative justice takes on a different look from an informal practice such as including affective statements that ommunicate people’s feelings. The idea is to get the offender to reflect on what they have done and to think about all the people their actions have affected. More formal restorative justice practices include small impromptu conferences.
In school this might look like the offender, rather than just receiving long discipline, the offender has to meet with the teacher and try to figure out the underlying root of the misbehavior. In the school setting, restorative practice takes time and some individuals may think that restorative practices is just a way to go “soft” on tudents. It is important for students to take responsibility for their actions, understand that there are consequences and realize that mistakes can be corrected.
Students need to understand that when they break the rules, especially when there is a victim involved they need to “Make it right” by practicing restorative justice. Ensuring Challenging Goals and Providing Effective Feedback Schmoker (2006) would argue, “Reading , writing and discussion- these three- are the foundation for a well equipped mind. ” These three are the most important at promoting achievement gains. All students need to be challenged academically with a rich and engaging curriculum.
This means that the students in general 9th grade classes should have the same challenging curriculum as the students in honors 9th grade classes. This is not always the case as younger, newer teachers tend to teach the lower classes and the more seasoned veterans tend to teach the honors classes. In many schools the lower socioeconomic students end up on the general education track rather than the honors track. It is up to the principal to make sure that the best teachers are providing all students the most hallenging curriculum no matter what classes they take.
Providing all students with a challenging curriculum is a form of social justice as all. Marzano (2000a) claims that all students should be challenged with “high expectations”. Teachers need to provide all students with challenging goals and provide pressure for students to reach the high expectations. Providing high expectations for all students ensures the closure of the achievement gap between the low and high socioeconomic students. A principal would see these high expectations during teacher evaluations.
Teacher evaluations are an important piece to ensure all students are provided challenging goals. As student strive to achieve their goals, it is important for students to receive high quality feedback in a timely manner. Hattie (2009) reports, teacher feedback as one of the top ten most effective strategies to improve education. Students need to know if they are on the path to achieving their academic goals in class or do they still have misconceptions inhibiting their progress. Only frequently feedback can steer the student back on course. Frequent feedback is necessary for all students, all the time.
A principal ensure social justice for all students during the evaluation process. This is were teacher deficiencies are discovered and can be corrected. Conclusion The principal needs to put systems in place to ensure the best teachers are hired and placed in front of the students that need them the most . Providing all students a challenging curriculum. It is important to insure that a guaranteed and viable curriculum is in place. Principals need to be aware of their own hidden bias and facilitate staff professional development around hidden biases and discipline practices.