Table of Contents

    Cover Story
  • Free What's Your Story?

    Student identity on the walls in Philly

    By Joshua Kleiman, Charlie McGeehan

    A high school English teacher and a media arts teacher team up to teach a unit on identity. Students combine personal writing with vivid photography, creating large banners that become public art.

  • Features
  • Free Uchinaaguchi: The Language of My Heart


    By Moe Yonamine

    Returning to her home country of Okinawa at 13, Moé Yonamine was hit by a teacher for speaking her Indigenous language. She reflects on the history of colonial oppression in Okinawa and the importance of keeping culture and language alive.

  • Language Is a Human Right

    An interview with veteran activist Debbie Wei on language education in the Asian American community

    By Grace Cornell Gonzales

    Educator Debbie Wei, co-founder of a folk arts-based school in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, describes her journey—from growing up as the child of Chinese immigrants who never spoke to her in their native language, to advocating for heritage language programs.

  • Sabrina's Story

    Parents and teachers work together on inclusion

    By Kate MacLeod, Julie Causton, Nelia Nunes

    Third-grader Sabrina isn’t thriving in her self-contained special education classroom. Her parents believe that she would do better in an inclusion classroom, and they collaborate with teachers and staff to make it a success.

  • Medical Apartheid: Teaching the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

    By Gretchen Kraig-Turner

    Students in a bioethics class are horrified to learn about the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, during which African American men were denied treatment for syphilis. They draw connections to other medical injustices and write their own codes of ethics for medical research.

  • Push Out: Racial Dynamics at a Turnaround School

    By Christopher B. Knaus

    A teacher educator is hired as a mentor by a turnaround school’s new principal. He soon realizes he is being asked to cover for getting rid of an excellent teacher of color.

  • Free All American Boys

    An interview with Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

    By Renée Watson

    Two authors collaborated to write a nuanced novel from the perspectives of two young men—Rashad, who is Black, and Quinn, who is white. The novel gives teachers a powerful tool to discuss police brutality and racism with students.

  • Departments Free
    Editorials
  • In Our Hands

    By The Editors of Rethinking Schools
  • "Water Is Life" Teaching for Solidarity with Standing Rock

    By the editors of Rethinking Schools
  • Education Action
  • Betsy DeVos: Swamp Denizen Named Secretary of Education

  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.
  • Good Stuff
  • My Night at the Planetarium

    Reviewed by Rachel Cloues

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Sabrina's Story

Parents and teachers work together on inclusion
Sabrina's Story

Talon (left), Sabrina, and Tim read together.

Sabrina is a popular 3rd grader. Her classmates love spending time with her both in and out of school—they line up to read to Sabrina during story time, crowd around to help with her math flashcards or classroom chores, and are eager to have their parents set up weekend play dates.

But two years ago, if you had asked her mom, Nelia, whether Sabrina was a popular kid, you would have gotten an anxious look, a shake of the head, maybe a few tears.

What changed?

When Sabrina entered school, her well-meaning teachers saw a lovely child with an intellectual disability. They saw her communication challenges and her academic and social delays and decided her support needs would best be served in a self-contained special education classroom: She would be part of a small class. She wouldn’t be bullied. She wouldn’t be distracted. She would be able to learn and grow and make friends with students who had similar significant disabilities.

Sabrina entered this separate special education classroom and remained there for several years. Although her teacher was kind and loving, Sabrina didn’t have access to the general education curriculum and neither Sabrina nor her family felt part of the school community. Worst of all, because the other children in Sabrina’s class also had limited verbal and social skills, she did not make much academic progress or meaningful friendships.

After three years of sleepless nights, frustration, and worry, Nelia decided to ask the school to move Sabrina to her neighborhood school and into the general education classroom. Nelia explained she wanted Sabrina to have the same opportunities students without disabilities have: access to the general education curriculum and community.

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