On Religion, The Media and Life as a 20-something in Chicago

ELGIN — Ushma Shah invoked universal design in her debut before the School District U46 Board of Education at Monday’s regular school board meeting. That’s the architectural idea that designing a building to be accessible for people with disabilities — “with the widest and most inclusive vision” — really makes it better for everyone who uses it, Shah said. Curb cuts aren’t just used by people in wheelchairs, she pointed out, but also by people pushing strollers or carts. It’s also the idea behind Shah’s controversial position, created this summer, as the Elgin school district’s chief of equity and social justice. “These ideas are beginning to be translated into the field of teaching and learning. Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, universal design for learning asks, ‘How can we design curriculum and classroom experiences that are as effective and inclusive as possible?’ ” she said. “When we do this in the design of our curriculum and how we design our classroom instruction, then we will serve the needs of more students and we’ll see better results for everyone.” Monday night, Shah called her role a “facilitator,” a part of the national conversation about how to close the achievement gaps between white and mostly Hispanic and black students. That’s not a position unique to U46, she told The Courier-News in an interview Tuesday. Similar positions are “beginning to pop up” in school districts in Highland Park and Boston, she said. But it is one that has brought some controversy to Illinois’ second-largest school district, which created the position with a six-figure annual salary even as it has made some tough budget cuts. Those come as the state has reduced or fallen behind in its payments to the district in the past few years. For the rest of the story, visit The Courier-News. Photo credit: Kevin D. Sherman for Sun-Times Media.

In Uncategorized on January 25, 2012 at 10:00 am

Designing equity (Sun-Times Media)

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