Bicultural, Bilingual, and Bias-Free: Judith Touré Advocates for Equity in Education
Over the course of three years as a Peace Corps
volunteer and another nine years teaching English in West Africa’s Côte d’Ivoire, Judith Touré became bicultural and bilingual, married another teacher from Guinea, and had two sons.
In 1988, when Touré and her sons relocated to Ithaca, New York, she expected to find an accepting, bias-free atmosphere for her children. Touré was dismayed to find racism ingrained into teachers’ expectations of students. Her anger inspired her to advocate for equitable education for children in Ithaca and to promote the use of culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP)—meaning that teachers would value culturally and linguistically diverse students, adjust teaching methods to incorporate culture, and better relate course content to students’ cultural contexts.
Today, as an associate professor in Carlow’s School of Education, Touré continues to study CRP and relationships among race, culture, teaching, and learning. She says Carlow is the perfect atmosphere for her research.
“Carlow University has a history of welcoming and graduating a diverse group of students,” says Touré. “Working with them enriches my life, personally and professionally, as I learn from their experiences and perspectives. In addition, I have several colleagues with similar scholarly interests.”
Currently, Touré’s research into CRP has immersed her—and Carlow—in a hot educational topic: revamping teacher evaluation systems.
New legislation in Pennsylvania mandates that, beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, half of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on classroom observation and half on “multiple measures of student achievement.” Touré has been closely involved with cutting-edge efforts of Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS)
in revising its system of teacher evaluation. The first district in the state to implement a new evaluation system, PPS piloted RISE (Research-based Inclusive System of Education)
in 2009-2010 and implemented it district-wide in 2010-2011.
Touré was invited by Rhonda Taliaferro, EdD, former, executive director of Strategic Initiatives and School District University Collaborative for PPS, to collaborate in a 13-week professional development effort during the first year of implementation, focusing on component 3G of RISE: Implementing lessons equitably, through a wide array of culturally responsive instructional strategies, to address racial and cultural achievement disparities among students.
In October 2012, Touré and Taliaferro, along with Carlow Education faculty members René Picó, PhD, director of Carlow’s Heinz Children's Math and Science Initiative and Carol Johnson, former program director of Carlow’s Center for Teaching and Professional Growth, presented their work on shifting teacher evaluation policies and culturally relevant pedagogy at the Annual Conference of PAC-TE (Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators)
in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Over the summer of 2013, Touré is interviewing PPS principals about the implementation of RISE, examining school leadership’s involvement in promoting teacher learning of CRP. By delving deep into PPS’s implementation of RISE, Touré is examining the promotion of CRP within teacher professional development and evaluation. She hopes to shed light on policies which support or hinder school improvement within an urban district.
In 2015, Touré plans to continue her study of CRP in a diverse French elementary school in Paris, where she will engage in an ethnographic study of the construction of race and the presence of culturally relevant pedagogy.