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Black Culture Charter Schools Education Education Reform Equity and Justice Parenting School Choice Teaching and Learning

Dark Horse List 2020

Education Secretary for Biden Administration

Recently, I released a graphic that showed viable candidates for Joe Biden’s Education Secretary. My rationale for creating the list was simple. I wanted there to be more conversation on the topic. The next Education secretary will be the most critical cabinet decision, in my opinion. Betsy DeVos has done a lot to overturn Obama era educational legislation that benefited Black and Brown students, as well as the policy that has further alienated LGBTQ students. You have seen my initial list, this is my dark horse list.

Big Mad

The initial list was successful in creating conversation. Some folks were “Big Mad” at the candidates that landed on the initial list. In contrast, others appreciated the diversity of thinking that went into making a list to start meaningful conversations.

Dark Horse List

For those of you that don’t know me, I run a charter school on Long Island. So immediately, you might presume that a list constructed by a charter leader would be a pro-choice list. It’s not. It’s a very balanced list highlighting some of the best minds in education on both the pro-charter and anti-charter sides. The “darkhorse list” is more of the same. Folks that claim ed reform, while others claim the system will repair itself. I don’t see how this system can repair itself. Education (at current) does not have good outcomes for Black kids.

Parents are the Experts

I’ll reiterate, I think parents are the experts of children. I also think parents should ultimately determine where their children attend schools. No one but that parent should be able to decide on the best educational options for their child. If you’re here to argue that charter schools siphon money away from traditional public schools, you must also be counter-intuitive in your acceptance of why parents want out of those same traditional public schools. As a parent with children in both traditional public schools and a public charter school, I choose what was best for my children based on my options.

My Dark Horse List

I’ll highlight a couple of my favorite people that made my “darkhorse list”:

Andre Perry, Brookings Institute. Andre has written some solid pieces for the Washington Post and is currently anti-charter school, anti-school choice. The irony of this is that no one ever asks Andre what type of K-12 school he attended, or where his kids attended school. Also, people have short memories about the network of charter schools he ran into the ground in New Orleans, but I’ve still reveled in his ability to reinvent himself. It’s nothing short of amazing.

Keri Rodriguez formed a whole Parents Union (NPU) to help parents organize and better advocate for their children. When you start a whole union, there is definitely talent in that.

Sarah Carpenter, CEO of Memphis Lift. Fantastic energy, straight forward and to the point advocate for children. It does not matter what type of school it is, Sarah only wants good schools for kids.

Diane Ravitch is a hard nose proponent for traditional public schools. She’s a historian who can rally the troops and shape their thinking. My concern is her anti-choice rhetoric, will parents coalesce behind a message that does not support school choice?

Thoughts?

What are your thoughts on the dark horse list? Was it better than the first list? Who should have made it, who shouldn’t have?

Categories
African American History Black Culture Civil Rights Equity and Justice Juneteenth

Black Americans from Segregationists to Integrationists

As an emerging scholar-practitioner, I sometimes need to be reflective of my own biases and practice. When I speak of myself as a “segregationalist,” it’s through the construct of reminding myself that education for Black Americans was once better than what it is currently. It is straightforward. There are not many twists and turns.

Prior to Brown v. Board

Before Brown v. Board, many historically relevant documents state that Black Americans had a robust and successful approach to educating black children. Teachers built impactful relationships with families, and education was through a community infused lens.

Segregation Was Once Our Reality

Now, when some folks hear or read the term “segregationist,” it becomes a tough pill to swallow. To effectively move forward in today’s society, it will take acknowledgment that most are unwilling to give. That does not mean these people are evil. It just means we have to meet people where they are to get them where they need to be.

Black Lives Matter

I recently wrote an official statement to my school community regarding my stance on Black Lives. Given the community outside of my school, I understood in great detail how such a message could become misconstrued.

No Really, They Matter

Statements and actions that support Black Americans and their lives mattering should not make any other race feel uncomfortable. No one is saying that different races’ lives do not matter. All Black folks are saying is that our lives matter just as much as everyone else’s lives.

Using Social Media & National Platforms Responsibly

Being a school leader with a national platform is sometimes tricky. Knowing that people play on your every word makes you have to be intentional about every word you speak, tweet, or write. No one wants to dialogue about their differences anymore. It is easier to send anonymous emails or tweets from avatars calling for the demise of those that may or may not have the same set of beliefs that you may have.

Eight Black Hands Podcast Episode: 66

I’m writing this for those that may feel alone. You are not. In Episode 66 of the 8 Black Hands Podcast, we talked specifically about being black in predominately white spaces. People always want to interpolate each other’s experiences. In other words, if a white person in a position of power says, “White lives matter,” folks view it as racist. Some people believe the same standard should occur when Black leaders say, “Black Lives Matter.”

Knees on Neck

It is unfortunate that in 2020 conversations about race and inequity are still so painful. Yet we are given daily reminders of what it means to be Black in America. From knees on knecks to being hunted in the streets. From anonymous emails, from folks combing through your tweets. No one ever said living would be comfortable, but no one ever said life would be this hard.

Using Critical Race Theory Appropriately

Looking at school integration from the perspective of a Critical Race theorist is interesting. CRT forces you to look at the power dynamics that exist in society as well as education, and admit that these dynamics are alive and well. Documented through stories and lived experiences, we should all be so lucky to see the world through this lens. Unfortunately, most do not understand their power. The lack of understanding of power makes conversations about privilege difficult.

Transitioning from a Segregationist to an Integrationist w/ Care

My transition to becoming an integrationist from a segregationist has not always been smooth. I take offense when people ask us to forget our history. When I hear terms like, “Slavery happened, get over it,” or stereotypes like “Blacks are lazy.” The same people that make stereotypical comments about blacks being lazy were not working hand in hand with Black Americans during slavery. They were overseeing the work from a position of power. A place that is alive and well to this very day.

White “Allyship”

So, when I call for “white allyship,” It is not said to say white people are bad people. It is just a nuanced way to say that for us to address racism in the United States adequately, we have to take a collective effort.

With this, I cordially invite you to our first annual Juneteenth March for Justice.

Categories
Education Education Reform School Choice Special Education

Biden’s Ed Secretary 2020

Shortlist for Ed Secretary Under Joe Biden

I recently released a graphic that showed viable candidates for Joe Biden’s Ed Secretary. My rationale for creating the list was simple. I wanted there to be more conversation on the topic. The next Education secretary will be the most critical cabinet decision, in my opinion. Betsy DeVos has done a lot to overturn Obama era educational legislation that benefited Black and Brown students, as well as the policy that has further alienated LGBTQ students.

For those of you that don’t know me, I run a charter school on Long Island. So immediately, you might presume that a list constructed by a charter leader would be a pro-choice list. It’s not. It’s a very balanced list that highlights some of the best minds in education on both the pro-charter side and the anti-charter side.

Parents Are The Experts of their children

Quickly before I get into the list, let me be clear, I think parents are the experts of their children. I also think parents should ultimately determine where their children attend schools. No one but that parent should be able to decide on the best educational options for their child. If you’re here to argue that charter schools siphon money away from traditional public schools, you must also be counter-intuitive in your acceptance of why parents want out of those same traditional public schools. As a parent with children in both traditional public schools and a public charter school, I choose what was best for my children based on my options.

I’ll highlight some of the people from the list.  

  • Kaya Henderson, former CEO of DC public schools. Coming in after Michelle Rhee was no easy task. Academics in DC public schools increased under Kaya. I look at academic evolution as one of my mainstays in selecting a new Ed Secretary. Is the person battle-tested? I believe the next Education secretary will have to be ready for educational wars.
  • Julian Helig-Vasquez, College of Education Dean at the University of Kentucky. If you’re familiar with the 8 Black Hands Podcast (if you aren’t you should be), you’d know some podcast members have choice words for Julian. I see Julian as a brilliant educational scholar who has the skillset to navigate political nuances to make a change for students. Do I agree with Julian’s stance on charter schools? No, I do not, but I think once he visits my school, we may be able to get him to come off of his hardline.
  • Sonya Santelis, Current CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, what is there not to like about Sonya? She’s down to earth and makes common-sense decisions that are based on students and families. The systems that she has in place will soon show academic gains.
  • GLB- A critical race theorist, and an absolute scholar on how power dynamics impact the learning of the poor and disenfranchised. A GLB appointment may lead to better teacher training that yields an anti-racist lens.
  • LDH, was an all but sealed deal to be Ed Sec under president Obama. She’s Julian’s mentor and people in California rant and raves about her work. Both GLB and LDH are cited in Ch.2 of my dissertation, which I will gleefully defend this fall.

I’ve given you insight into my first list. In the coming days, I will be constructing a dark horse list. In the meantime, please continue the conversation about the next Education Secretary of the United States. I assure you this appointment will be one for the ages.

Categories
African American History Black Culture Verzus

Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott

Tonight, Erykah Badu is my favorite to win her versus matchup against Jill Scott, aka “Jilly from Philly.” Both are incredibly talented artists that have a neo-soul sound. The two are well versed in their ability to use the pen to motivate their fans to groove. Given the current state of our country, as we navigate through a historical pandemic, we all need this tonight.

Acknowledgment of Bodies of Work.

Erykah Badu is my favorite in this matchup because of her body of work. This is not to say that “Jilly from Philly” isn’t a fantastic talent, but hit to hit, I don’t see Jill being able to match up with Badu. My guess is that it would depend on the total amount of songs played. I feel like in a versus matchup of five songs, it would be a closer matchup.
However, the closer you get to ten songs, Erykah Badu becomes the favorite to take this home.

Why Erykah Badu is my favorite to win!

Erykah Badu spits bars.
It’s sort of like your favorite rapper that uses metaphors to make you think. Badu is kind of like the “Andre 3000” or “Black Thought” of R&B. If you ever break down her songs and search through the meaning and symbolism, you’ll understand my argument.

Decoding the Bars.

I have four examples of what I mentioned. They are as follows:

  • “Three dollars and six dimes.” Representing the 360 degrees of life, coming full circle in your personal evolution.
  • “Looks like I sampled true love, but the shit didn’t clear.” This bar represents one’s commitment towards friendships and relationships and speaks to co-dependence.
  • “I can make you make you put your phone down.” Given our current dependency on electronics, the mere mention of folks putting their focus on things that are more than just momentarily necessary is a bar.
  • And lastly, “To catch me is to catch a leprechaun.” I could have said, “Hold on to your rabbit’s foot.” But this is important as it symbolizes those that add value to your life.

Final Thoughts on Why I favor Erykah Badu.

  • Bar for bar, she’s doper.
  • Sound and movement that helped to transcend neo-soul.
  • Longevity in the game.
  • Stage show.

Categories
Covid-19 Education Education Reform Equity and Justice

Grading During Covid-19

Grading Policies During Covid-19 are Cheating Kids!

I’ve seen several grading during covid-19 policies.  I think you should see them too, so you know exactly where I’m coming from in analyzing these policies.  According to an amny.com article Success Academy has opted to keep their A-F grading system in place, while NYC DOE has plans to adopt a new grading system that moves away from the A-F system. Success Academy has its flaws, but their schools perennially outperform 98% of all schools in NY State.

I am perfectly fine with them taking the lead on this, while the rest of us use their ways of being as our best practice in this work.

NYC Adapted grading scale.

Outside of NY, I’ve seen the following:

  • Texas, state officials, while providing guidance, are giving jurisdiction to the local school districts to make the decisions. 
  • Detroit Public schools, teachers will be giving feedback, but not assigning letter grades, according to the Detroit Public Schools website.
  • Washington state, in a 5-2 vote, teachers will be allowed to give an A or an incomplete. No wonder the murder hornets showed up and showed out. A policy like this is murdering kids.
  • San Francisco, all A’s were approved, and the rescinded days later.
  • What are you doing in your district? Is a fair and equitable way to assess the district’s most vulnerable students?

The Subjectivity of Grades and Grading Policies.

I have heard this argument before, heck I’ve probably lived through it. Teachers have always used grades as a way to exhibit their control over students. Teachers that have inadequate behavioral systems use marks as a way to manage their classroom. These were all things that happened pre-covid 19. One could make the argument that the grading criteria for those teachers that I mentioned will now improve. You can objectively assess a student and not weaponize the usage of grades. Nonetheless, we have a system that’s built on A-F from K-16.

A pandemic like covid-19 can get you to rethink the subjectivity of grading, but to move away from it in its totality is an admonishment to learning.

Picture of grading guidelines during covid-19.

Survey the Students.

When in doubt, ask the students. They will give you any feedback that you need to improve. Be careful what you wish for, though. Students and their brutal honesty aren’t for the faint at heart. Moreover, ask students how they would like to be assessed. You’d be surprised by the responses. Students want to improve.  If we set the bar lower for them, then we are essentially cheating them from maximizing their potential.

Some will Dismiss This.

There will be some educators that will question the merits of this blog. They’ll say, I know what’s best for my students. That’ll be those teachers that are not amenable to feedback. I know exactly who they are, how? Because I was once one of them. I thought I knew my kids better than the research, and sometimes better than their parents. I was wrong. 

Rather than have you make the same mistakes I made as a teacher, I blog so you don’t have to go down that road.

Some will say, “Kids are Brainwashed by Grading Systems. “

I’ll reiterate my previous point, students respond to what they know. If we are talking apathy in the age of covid, why change things? All of a sudden, and F student, is now an A student with the same effort that they put in to be a failing student. Sounds absurd when you say out loud right? Yet there are some camps that are trying to indoctrinate this practice as best practice. I think you do more harm than good by incorporating a method such as this into your pedagogical toolbox.

Again, kids deserve your very best, and not to be too critical of your practice, but handing out A’s like school lunches just isn’t going to cut the mustard.

Standard A-F Grading scale.

Assessment as a Love Language.

Students should know where they stand at all times. If you can gainfully assess students, provide them with rigorous feedback, by all means, go for it. But please do use this time to hand out participation trophies. Having students all A’s during this pandemic is essentially telling everyone they’ve won for the participation alone.

Be Fair to Students.

That’s unfair to those students, and they deserve better. So, if your answer to the dilemmas that exist from grading during covid-19 is to assign A’s shame on you arbitrarily, giving meaningful feedback while monitoring growth gets you the “side-eye,” but given the situation, I’ll take what I can get. Assessments, when used correctly, enrich the lives of students. There is no better instruction than instruction that is informed by data. Data-informed instruction is smart work. All other approaches may seem helpful, but none are more important than allowing the data to guide how you instruct students.

In closing, if your school district isn't making decisions that consider the most vulnerable students in your school district, I don't know how to say this, but they got it wrong. Like 100% wrong, and they deserve an F in red marker because they have failed those kids.

Categories
Civil Rights Education Education Reform Equity and Justice Politics

MLK Day Energy

MLK Day Reflection 

Today is MLK day. You are going to see tons of messages and post-humanist depictions of MLK, his words, and his speeches. But tomorrow, Tuesday the day after his birthday is celebrated, 99% of this MLK Day Energy will be lost.

My question is, and it’s an important one, how can we sustain and maintain this MLK Day Energy 365/24/7?

My Anxiety.

Usually, I am anxious when reading pieces about white self-reflection and introspection. Call me a skeptic, but sometimes I feel some white people have an inability to accept their guilt and acknowledge their privilege. So when I first contemplated reading this piece, Going Beyond MLK’s ‘Dream’ and Getting Uncomfortable in the Classroom, by Zachery Wright in ed post, I was very apprehensive. But after reading his article, I had a takeaway that I wanted to share.

Moving beyond "Allyship".
MLK on Education.


Hell, I still have anxiety typing the words white people because of traumatic experiences I have either witnessed or encountered.


8 Black Hands Podcast.

Yesterday the crew and I @8BlackHands1 did a live podcast in New Orleans with the National Parents Union. The crew and I talked candidly during the show about people stepping up to the plate to aid and assist us in the education reform movement. It is no longer acceptable for folks to like a tweet here, send an encouraging DM there, etc. 

Moreover, the fellas and I talked about Allies, co-conspirators, and white people making calculated efforts to lead this movement. Consequently, we posed a question on twitter that got some interesting responses. Lastly, the question that was asked was what is the next step in advocacy beyond being an ally and a co-conspirator?

The tweet turned into an engaging conversation in which people shared their thoughts about the next phase of support.  

Moving Past Being Allies, & Co-Conspirators.

Based on the responses, we narrowed it down to the following:

1) Lead Dismantler 

2) Defector

3) Unappologeticist 

4) Preservationist 

5) Disruptor 

Survey.

We will put a survey up on the @8Blackhands1 twitter account and run it for 1-Day. Thank you for all that suggested this new way of activating agency. Because together we are unstoppable and living the Dream set forth by Dr. King. The importance of living in this reality is our ability to match this MLK Day Energy every day and not just that one Monday in January.