Do You Have a Right to an Education?

We focus on three areas in which governments deal with the legal and ethical obligations to provide education of good quality, without discrimination or exclusion: the rights of girls, children with physical disabilities, and undocumented students. We explore the issue through Washington Post articles, a guest commentary and an editorial; case studies, an e-Replica search and Think Like a Reporter activity.

“Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights,” as stated in the UNESCO Rights to Education document. “It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. Yet millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities.”


In this month’s curriculum guide, we focus on three areas in which governments deal with the legal and ethical obligations to provide education of good quality, without discrimination or exclusion: The rights of girls, children with physical disabilities, and undocumented students.


Students are asked to read articles from KidsPost and Washington Post articles, guest commentary and an editorial. They use maps, organize an e-replica search, conduct case studies, evaluate documentaries and think like a reporter. They may experience empathy when they travel in a wheelchair or role play being a stakeholder. 



March 2014

Undocumented Students
Resource Graphic 

… If You Are a Girl?

UNICEF, the United Nations and the Global Campaign for Education are among the groups addressing the failure to educate girls. "When countries empower girls to pursue their dreams, they not only fulfill a basic moral obligation, they also realize more fully their social and economic potential," according to the U.S. Department of State Office of Global Women's Issues. 

Map It
Character Education, Geography, Social Studies
Locate the following countries on a map: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Malawi, Liberia. What do students know about these countries? 

What are the policies and the practices of each of these countries in providing education for girls? Among the places to find this information is the U.S. Department of State Human Rights Reports.

Students, ages 10-12, in a survey conducted by ChildFund indicated that "what was most important for them was that everyone be well educated." Teachers might ask students to share how important education is to them. Do they plan to graduate from high school? Why and why not? What are their goals after high school? 


Read KidsPost
Character Education, Government, Social Studies
Have students locate Pakistan on a map. Tell them that this is where Malala Jousafzai was born. What do students know about Pakistan and Malala? Read the KidsPost article "D.C. area teens hear girls' rights champion Malala."
Among questions that may be discussed are:
• Why did some Taliban seek Malala? Why did they shoot her?
• What message did she present at the World Bank? What day was being celebrated?
• If students could speak to Malala, what would they want to ask her?
• What issues do Girl Up clubs address? What could be done about each of the five issues in your school?


Learn About an Issue Former First Lady Laura Bush Embraces
English, Government, Journalism, Social Studies 
In October 2010, The Washington Post op-ed section published a guest commentary from former first lady Laura W. Bush. Before reading, review vocabulary words found in her essay: "entrepreneurs," "intimidation," "mortality," "muted," "oppression," "repression," and "unabated." A former teacher, Mrs. Bush has remained involved in initiatives involving girls and women.


Read "Afghanistan must embrace women's rights." Teachers might ask students to summarize the main idea that Laura Bush presents and three persuasive examples that she provides. Discuss these ideas. Students might write a journal of why they agree, disagree or partially agree with her.

Education For Girls

… If You Are a Student with a Physical Disability?

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation and telecommunications. In addition, through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, children with disabilities are guaranteed a free, appropriate public education. The following suggested activities explore the laws and their implementation.

Develop Vocabulary
English, Government, Health, Social Studies

To communicate with more accuracy and clarity, one needs to know the definitions of words related to specialized areas. In the Know provides many terms related to education for children with physical disabilities. Review these terms. Teachers might ask students to find the words in the articles that they read. Use the words in sentences.


Celebrate Gallaudet University’s 150th Anniversary
Education, Government, Health, Journalism

Gallaudet University, the nation’s only university for the deaf, celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2014. In 1856 Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Blind opened. After President Abraham Lincoln signed a Congressional bill into law the school was authorized to confer college degrees in 1864. To this day, Gallaudet graduates have their diplomas signed by the current U.S. president.

The school was renamed Gallaudet in 1954. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, founder of the first school for the deaf in the United States, is credited with introducing American Sign Language to his deaf students.


A significant event took place on the campus in March 1988. Read “Gallaudet marks 25th anniversary of Deaf President Now movement.” In this February 2013 article, Post reporter Nick Anderson reports on the anniversary of DPN when students at Gallaudet protested the selection of a hearing president over two deaf candidates. The protest, which dominated news media outlets and earned the support of prominent individuals such as Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson, resulted in the naming of I. King Jordan, the first deaf president of Gallaudet. Questions for discussion include:
• What was the Deaf President Now movement?
• Who were the major players in the movement in 1988?
• Why was this movement transformational to life at Gallaudet University?
• How does this movement compare to other historical moments in American history? 

Focus on Stakeholders
Government, Health, Journalism, Social Studies, Technology
Define “stakeholder.” Give students “Stakeholders in the Deaf Community.” After students have completed the first section, teachers could add the responses to a graphic organizer such as a web map. Discussion might evolve to include issues regarding advocacy, independence, acceptance or rejection of technological advancements, and cultural standing.

This activity could be used as a pre-writing activity to Think Like a Reporter.


Think Like a Reporter
English, Health, Journalism

Think Like a Reporter focuses this month on the human interest story. The particular assignment is to profile a stakeholder in the deaf community in order to better understand and gain insight into living with deafness or a loss of hearing. The sidebar provides sources of current information and individuals who could be interviewed.

The guidelines that are included apply to writing the human interest story. For example, students could be assigned to write a human interest story about an undocumented student, a teacher of undocumented students or a community advocate for undocumented students. Likewise, a human interest story might focus on one to three adult females who grew up in other countries and the story of their paths to education.

Conduct a Case Study
Government, Health, Journalism

In this case study, we focus on two DCPS special education schools: Sharpe Health School in Petworth and Mamie D. Lee in Ft. Totten. After discussing with students why students with physical disabilities are provided a public education, introduce the idea of conducting a case study. On a D.C. map locate the two schools and River Terrace Elementary School (34th and Sixth streets NE).

Read and discuss three suggested articles:
• September 20, 2012: “DCPS proposes turning River Terrace into special-needs school

• January 2013: DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced the closing of 15 schools, four of which were special education and alternative education schools. Review “D.C. Public Schools closure list — January 2013.” How many of the schools are designated as special education schools? These schools are isolated in the reproducible, "D.C. Public Schools closure list — January 2013" in the resource PDF. Read "Chancellor Kaya Henderson names 15 D.C. schools on closure list."

• April 22, 2013: “Council questions push for special-ed students in D.C. public schools


Discuss with students the concept of being a stakeholder. Who are the stakeholders in the proposed closing of Sharpe Health School and Mamie D. Lee School?

What questions do the articles and chart answer? What else would students like to know about the schools, the DCPS special education program, and the local school vs. designated centers argument? List topics to research. Assign pairs of students to learn what other communities are doing to address the topics. Report information to the class.


Ask each student to write a guest commentary. What would students suggest to stakeholders in this issue?

In a twist that a fiction writer would find difficult to conjure, in February 2014 the DCPS deputy chancellor for operations announced that renovation of River Terrace Elementary School would be delayed a year. Native American artifacts had been uncovered on the grounds during a required archeological study.


View a Short Doc
Career Education, Debate, English, Media Arts, Social Studies

When a school closes, a neighborhood is affected. When D.C. Public Schools announced in January 2013 the closure of 15 schools in an attempt to cut costs and reduce under-enrollment, a community took notice.


Students at George Washington University — Laurisha Cotton, Elizabeth Flock, Christine Kadama, Megha Kohli, Melissa Nyman, Justin Reifert, Nicole Ricci and Gene Russo — focused on one of the 15. Sharpe Health, a school for students with special needs, would be closed and its program moved into a vacant school in another part of town. Their short documentary was shown at a number of events including the Annapolis Film Festival and the D.C. Independent Film Festival. Through a special arrangement with the student producers, teachers can view Leaving Sharpe with their students.  


Before viewing Leaving Sharpe, teachers might locate the Petworth neighborhood in D.C., explain the purpose of documentaries, and discuss the legal requirements and benefits of providing a school for students with diverse special needs.

After viewing, discussion might include:
• Why was C. Melvin Sharpe Health School selected for closure by DCPS?
• In order to tell the story of Sharpe Health, who is featured in the documentary? Are they stakeholders in the school?
• Through the eyes of the camera, eyewitness trips and statements made, viewers are introduced to Sharpe Health and River Terrace schools. Compare and contrast the facilities.
• Discuss the use of film-making techniques to tell the story. Examples of close-up, medium and wide-angle shots by the videographers. The use of time, pacing and location. 
• In what ways do the documentarians introduce the students and faculty of Sharpe?
• If students were to select one person to represent the voice of Sharpe Health School who would it be and why?


Ask students to debate the issue of closing Sharpe Health School and relocating to a “fully modernized” River Terrace Elementary School site.


Follow updates on the story on the DCPS website and through e-Replica web searches.


Travel in a Wheelchair
Character Education, Health, Journalism

Read “Traveling with a disability in Europe.” This TRAVEL section article is special to The Washington Post by Reid Davenport, a GWU 2012 graduate. Davenport, who has cerebral palsy, produced a short documentary on the same topic. Discussion of his article might include:

• Reid’s desire to study in Italy during his junior year of college inspired this article. What happened? Summarize and discuss each point of view.
• In Dublin, Paris and Brussels, Reid meets residents and students who have physical disabilities. What challenges with accessibility does each face?

• What tips does Reid provide based upon his experience traveling with a wheelchair?

• Observe your school and neighborhood. If someone who used a wheelchair visited, how easily would they access your classes, auditorium, dining facilities, rest rooms and other areas?

For an additional personal perspective and resources for travel with a physical disability, read “A traveler with disabilities takes on China,” by Carole Zoom, July 25, 2013, and “Disability travel: resources and tips” compiled by Becky Krystal.


Read About People with Physical Disabilities

… If You Are an Undocumented Student?

Laws, upheld in the 1982 Supreme Court decision in Plyler vs. Doe, require states to provide all students, including undocumented students, a K-12 public education. The following suggested activities explore the implications of laws and policies governing the education of undocumented students in their communities.

Conduct a Case Study
Government, Mathematics, Social Studies

Review the map of Virginia’s 6th Congressional District in southwest Virginia. What colleges and universities are located in this area?


Read the data in "Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin." Why are 2000 and 2010 the years used for data? Ask students to write five statements in which they use the information to compare and contrast the six cities. Discuss students' statements and check the math.

The 6th District is representative of the demographic changes in the U.S. Confined within its borders we can conduct a case study of immigration, documented and undocumented residents, and educational opportunities and challenges. Our basic questions: What opportunities for inclusion are provided for immigrants in Virginia's 6th Congressional District? What educational opportunities are available in Va.’s 6th District for the children of documented and undocumented residents? 


Read and discuss the Metro section article “As Hispanic population booms, immigration debate comes to key Republican’s Va. District” by Pamela Constable. Discussion could include:
• What types of employment are available for immigrants?
• What forms of educational opportunities are provided?
• In what ways have immigrants from different countries been woven into the fabric of communities?
• Who are the advocates for higher education for undocumented children? 
• What questions do you have about providing education for an expanding immigrant population?
• How representative is the 6th District of other jurisdictions in the United States?
• What organizational structure does Pamela Constable use to organize her article? 

Annotate an Editorial
English, Government, Journalism, Social Studies
On February 3, 2014, "Virginia's counterproductive approach to undocumented students" presented the point of view of The Washington Post's editorial board. Wider margins give students room to annotate the information and arguments presented. Discussion might include:
• How effective is the comparison presented in the first two paragraphs?
• Effective editorials should clearly state the stand on the issue. What is the issue? What is The Post's point of view? 
• In the fourth paragraph, the writer presents another comparison. What is it?
• Editorials also provide a concession to the other point of view. Does The Washington Post editorial do this? What is it?
• What concession would students have presented if they had written the editorial?
• What persuasive arguments are presented at the end of the editorial? Are they effective?


What did the Virginia legislators do? What is being done in the jurisdiction in which you live on the issue of tuition and financial aid for undocumented students? 

Conduct an e-Replica Search
Debate, English, Government, Journalism, Social Studies
For an estimated 65,000 high school graduates higher education presents a financial and legal hurdle. They are undocumented students. "Search | Locate the Undocumented" utilizes the search feature of the e-Replica format to locate current information.

Read and discuss three Washington Post articles that provide different perspectives on tuition and financial aid for undocumented students. After understanding some of the different points of view, ask students to conduct an e-Replica search uses different key terms. All of the suggested terms will get results. Students may have other terms that they want to try. 

After students have read and summarized three to five articles, teachers may have students share their findings in pairs, within small groups or with the entire class. Students may be asked to do further reading or conduct interviews before writing a commentary on education for undocumented students. A debate may also be held after reading, discussion and further research.


Watch and Analyze a Documentary
English, Film Studies, Government, Journalism, Media Arts
The documentary presents issues, actions and people in an accessible format. The camera takes viewers to living rooms and work places,  along for the ride or alongside an individual. "Watch and Analyze" lists several documentaries about undocumented students, including an Academy Award winning short documentary, and provides a guide to evaluating the film. A key is not provided so teachers may determine what the 4- to 1-scale represents.

In The Know 

Accessibility A barrier-free environment that allows maximum participation by individuals with disabilities


A change in how a student accesses and demonstrates learning, but does not substantially change the instructional content


A physical, sensory, cognitive or affective impairment that causes the student to need special education. A functional impairment that interferes with a person’s ability to walk, hear, talk, learn. NOTE: There are significant differences in the definitions of disability in IDEA and Section 504.

Due process

The elements of notice, opportunity to be heard and to defend one’s self


Family Education Rights Privacy Act


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal law addressing most special education issues


Individualized Education Program; an annual written statement for each child, ages 3 to 22, with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with federal law. It describes the amount of time that the child will spend receiving special education services, any related services the child will receive, and academic/behavioral expectations.

All children, including those with significant disabilities, are provided with an equal opportunity to learn. A feeling of belonging. Children of all abilities learning, playing and working together.

Intimidate Frighten, overawe or cow, especially in order to make another do what one wants
Marginalized Treat a person, group or concept as insignificant or peripheral; to put someone on a powerless or unimportant position within a society or group
Section 504 Act that protects individuals with a disability who have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity. This reasonable accommodation includes but is not limited to ADD, ADHD, PDD, major illnesses and physical handicaps.

Sources: DCPS Common Terms in Special Education; Glossary of Special Education Terms; Special Education Terminology Glossary; Merriam-Webster Dictionary

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

Health. Describe how to demonstrate care and concern toward ill and disabled persons in one’s family, school, and community. (Effective & Respectful Communication, Grade 7)


Health. Contrast how positive communication (e.g., active listening, praise, and humor) and negative communications (e.g., teasing, name calling, and bullying) impact relationships. (Effective & Respectful Communications, Grades 9-12)


English. Construct arguments that

• present a cogent thesis;

• structure ideas in a sustained and logical fashion;

• use a range of strategies to elaborate and persuade, such as descriptions, anecdotes, case studies, analogies, and illustrations;

• clarify and defend positions with precise and relevant evidence, including facts, expert opinions, quotations, and/or expressions of commonly accepted beliefs and logical reasoning;

• anticipate and address readers' concerns and counterclaims with evidence;

• demonstrate understanding of purpose and audience; and

• provide effective introductory and concluding paragraphs that guide and inform the reader's understanding of key ideas and evidence. (Expository Writing, 12.W-E.3)


Academic Content Standards may be found at

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Health. Investigate resources that provide valid health information concerning consumer health issues and services.

b. Locate and utilize resources from home, school, community and technological sources that provide valid information concerning health issues, services and careers. (Standard 3, Personal and Consumer Health, Topic B)


English. Analyze important ideas and messages in informational texts (Comprehension of Informational Text, Indicator 4)

a. Analyze the author’s/text’s purpose and intended audience

b. Analyze the author’s argument, viewpoint, or perspective

c. State and support main ideas and messages

g. Synthesize ideas from texts

h. Explain the implications of the text or how someone might use the text

i. Connect the text to prior knowledge or experience


Academic content standards may be found at

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Health. The student will synthesize and evaluate available health information, products, and services for the value and potential impact on his/her health and wellness throughout life. Key concepts/skills include

b) the use of current technological tools to analyze health products and services;

c) involvement of local, state, and federal agencies in health-related issues;

d) the impact of technology on the health status of individuals, families, communities and the world.


English. The student will develop a variety of writing to persuade, interpret, analyze, and evaluate with an emphasis on exposition and analysis.

a)  Generate, gather, plan, and organize ideas for writing to address a specific audience and purpose.

b)  Synthesize information to support the thesis.

c)  Elaborate ideas clearly through word choice and vivid description.

d)  Write clear and varied sentences, clarifying ideas with precise and relevant evidence.

e)  Organize ideas into a logical sequence using transitions.

f)  Revise writing for clarity of content, accuracy, and depth of information. (Writing, 10.6)



Academic content standards my be found at

Common Core Standards 

English Language Arts, Writing. Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence (Grade 8, Text Types and Purposes, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.1)

• Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.1b)


English Language Arts, Writing. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content. (Grade 8, Text Types and Purposes, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.2)

• Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.2f)


English Language Arts, Writing. Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration (Research to Build and Present Knowledge, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.7)