Top national book award goes to Richard Valencia, national authority on “deficit thinking”

La Voz de Austin

AUSTIN, TX — Educational psychologist Richard Valencia’s newest book, “Dismantling Contemporary Deficit Thinking,” has garnered the 2011 Outstanding Book Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA), with the awards committee describing the book as a “superlative treatment” of the topic of deficit thinking.

The AERA is the world’s largest and most prominent professional organization for scholars of the education process and educational evaluation, and its Outstanding Book Award is deemed by many to be the top honor for authors of education-related publications.

Valencia, a professor in The University of Texas at Austin College of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology, is one of the leading national authorities on “deficit thinking,” an approach to academic failure that is based on racial and class bias.

“Deficit thinking blames the student, who is actually the ‘victim’ in this instance,” said Valencia, “rather than looking at ways in which schools and education policies systematically impede the learning and success of poor students and students of color.”

In his landmark book, he examines three current deficit-based approaches to student academic failure – the genetic pathology model, the culture of poverty model and the “at-risk” model, in which poor and ethnic minority students are pathologized and marginalized.

The book offers critiques and alternative explanations for the academic failure of so many of the nation’s children as well as comprehensive critiques and anti-deficit thinking alternatives to the pseudoscience of deficit thinking.

Valencia also examines several promising, research-based anti-deficit thinking suggestions from the areas of teacher education, educational ethnological and educational leadership.

“Richard Valencia has unquestionably become the expert on critiquing deficit thinking in education and educational research,” said Dr. James Joseph Scheurich, a professor in Texas A&M University’s College of Education and Human Development. “While I highly prized his prior book on this subject, this new one will quickly take the prior one’s favored place on my closest bookshelf and in the minds of my students.”

Valencia’s first book on the subject, “The Evolution of Deficit Thinking: Educational Thought and Practice” (1997), has attracted considerable interest from scholars around the world over the past decade and is considered a “classic” on the topic.

The AERA’s Outstanding Book Award is given annually to acknowledge the year’s best book-length publication in the area of education research and development – this year there were 25 nominations. To be considered for the award, a book must address research-based ways in which the education process can be improved.

Only two University of Texas at Austin faculty members have won the Outstanding Book Award since it was established in 1983 and both are in the College of Education.

In addition to Valencia, Dr. Angela Valenzuela, a professor in the Departments of Curriculum and Instruction as well as Educational Administration, was an award recipient.

“Dismantling Contemporary Deficit Thinking” also was nominated for the American Educational Studies Association Critics Book Award and University Co-operative Society Robert W. Hamilton Book Award.

Valencia’s book “Chicano Students and the Courts: The Mexican American Legal Struggle for Educational Equality” won a 2010 University Co-operative Robert W. Hamilton Book Award and in early 2011, the third edition of his book “Chicano School Failure and Success: Past, Present and Future” was released.

Over the past 20 years since its initial release, “Chicano School Failure and Success” has become a foundation text in the area of Mexican American education.

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