We Can all Come to the Same Revelation About High Stakes Testing; We Wish it Happened less.

High Stakes Testing.

We can all come to the same revelation about high stakes testing; we wish it happened less. To the contrary, high stakes testing drives another narrative that folks don’t want to focus on, and that’s teacher accountability. If a teacher has a student all year, there should be the expectation that the child should be able to show what they have learned.

One way, but not the only way to measure student growth is through standardized testing.

Standardized Testing.

Those against standardized testing can give you a myriad of reasons as to why they take that position. Some of the arguments that I have heard are, 1) You can’t measure the impact of a students home life through testing. 2) Teachers should not be held accountable for student learning. 3) The tests are too hard. 4) The tests are culturally biased. 5) There’s not enough recess and playtime in the curriculum. 6) We are creating robots with all of the test prep. 7) These kids are low. And the list goes on.

Those that support standardized testing have their reason as well. Some of the arguments that I have heard in defense of ST’s are, 1) You can use the student data to remediate. 2) Data-informed conversations are more comfortable conversations to have with parents. 3) Teachers and Administrators can be held accountable for student growth. 4) ST’s give a comparative analysis to other students. 5) ST’s promote a growth mindset.


Parents are on Their Own.

Moreover, my colleague Dr. Cole reminds us once a week that parents are on their own. Additionally, when I think about the belief gap that exists between educators and families, I’m starting to believe that he’s right. But I’m not there just yet; I’m still optimistic that we can make progress through smart partnerships with parents.

NY State recently released its 2018-19 test scores in ELA and Math. This time of year, every charter school in NY State is on eggshells. Charter schools in NY State are first compared with the sending school district. The sending school district is the location where the charter school operates.

After examining the results against the area, analysts then compare the results against other charter schools.

Riverhead Charter School.

My school is the Riverhead Charter School, a K-8 charter school located in Suffolk County on Long Island, NY. We were recently granted an extension to our charter, allowing us to go up to Grade 12. Next year will be the first year for our freshmen. They are our current 8th-grade class.

As a scholar-practitioner, I realize that there are many different ways to frame data. For this blog post, and those wondering– My primary concern is how our students perform in 8th grade. The goal is to have every student performing at levels of proficiency by Grade 8.

Our 8th graders are performing on levels comparable to the highest achieving school districts in the state. We have come a long way as a school.

Growth Mindset.

2012-13 our schools were abysmal. I’m talking 11% in 3rd Grade Math, 11% in 3rd grade ELA.

In 2018-19, things looked way different for us.  Our kids are performing at 70+% in Math, and mid 80% in ELA.

These scores didn’t just happen overnight, and they didn’t come without heartache, pain, lawsuits, and people questioning my integrity and my ability to do right by all students.  Still I Rise!

Digging In.

You have to dig in for what you believe. If you think kids can learn, it is not enough to think kids can learn. Folks from the outside looking in don’t care what you think. They want to see that you have the ability to stand and deliver. Deliverance, in this case, is offering an alternative to traditional public schools that have failed families.

We still have a ton of work to do to reach the success levels of Success and Icahn, but right now, we are going to celebrate our students and families and their accomplishments. It is hard work being a stand-alone charter school. CMO’s can pool and share resources. Independent charters genuinely have to do more with less. I’m excited that we are in a position to continue to do this work for children.

Build Capacity!

When we arrived in Pittsburgh for the State of Black Learning 2019, I immediately assumed that the franchise QB of the Eight Black Hands Podcast, Dr. Charles Cole, would host our live podcast.

My role on the podcast is the anarchist. Charles has coined me as “The Dennis Rodman of Education reform.” So, when Charles said,” Bro, you’re hosting, right?” I knew I had huge shoes to fill.

The State of Black Learning was an unapologetically Black space. I commend the organizers of the event for creating a venue that emulated “Black Dopeness.” However, in “Black spaces” where white folks loom, there is always the potential for messages to become convoluted. That said, I believe in building capacity even through confict.  If we can’t have difficult conversations about the state of Black learning, then very little progress will be made.  Given we are entering a new school year, what better way to bring in the year than by advocating for the opportunity to build capacity in teachers.

How Are The Children?

I never once questioned #HowAreTheChildren at the State of Black Learning. I agree with my podmates about the energy of the room. From the beginning to the end, that feeling rang true. I think every major metropolitan city should have this outing to explore the challenges and nuance associated with accommodating the learning of black students and their families.

An essential goal of the Eight Black Hands podcast is to stay on message. Often with four strong-minded black males, keeping folks on task becomes a challenge within itself.


When The Show Doesn’t Go As Planned.

There were several instances when the live show did not go as planned. One example was when the State of Black Learning’s Resident Artist began to speak his truth. While enamored with the Brother’s courage to speak his honesty, his response did not necessarily align with the flow of the show.

In pure form, we used his testimony as a teachable moment and an opportunity to reflect on the message. Sharif was very supportive of the artist and said, “All learning comes from Art.” My only hope is that the artist was left inspired by the Hands.

Moreover, the second instance was near the end of the show. My podmates accused me of purposely glossing over a black woman who had a question, to take a question from a white woman to end the show. For the record, I don’t see color said no Black man ever.  Statements such as “I don’t see color” point to the character of a person.  It’s hard to build capacity in color blind folks.

I wanted to hear her question because white women make up 80% of teachers in the United States. Given the number of teachers that interact with Black and Brown kids on the daily, we need to take all opportunities to engage to ensure learning is happening for all children.

The question asked by the white teachers was, “How do we MAKE” families become more involved? Chris inserted his Minnesota niceness and tried to help the teacher reframe her narrative but to no avail. I give the brother credit for “shooting the teacher bail.”

 

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An excerpt from Chris’s #HowAreTheChildren Weekly Blog on Ed Post.

 

There were several ways that the question could have read. We have also gone back and forth on how folks would have reacted if it were a black person that asked the same question.

No matter the question or the response, on Monday morning that teacher and her colleagues that think like here are going to be in a room full of black kids.

Building Capacity in All Teachers.

The best possible outcome from my perspective was to lift the teacher in a knowledgable and respectful way. A way in which she walked away knowing that she asked the wrong question, but even with the question asked, there was an opportunity for growth. I am not sure that she left the State of Black Learning a better teacher. In that respect, I feel like I failed her as the host of the show.  I should have had a better plan to help this teacher and her colleagues build capacity.

I received a great deal of criticism for walking over to hug the white teacher after the Q&A. We are all human. And even though she insisted that she did not want pity, my nurturing response was not because I pitied her. I responded the way I did because come Monday morning, she’d be in front of Black kids. Folks need to see the same kind of forgiveness and latitude afforded to them with the hopes that they will pay it forward to their students.  I wanted to “Build Capacity.”

Being a member of the eight black hands podcast has influenced me is by allowing me to accept differences of opinions. When you surround yourself with folks that agree with you all of the time, it limits your learning. Whereas, as a group, we continuously push each other to think critically about issues that we would normally dismiss.

My concluding thoughts are pure. The beauty of being a member of the Eight Black Hands Podcast is that I am surrounded by three strong black males that are not afraid to push my thinking. Often we surround ourselves with friendly folks. The best opportunities for growth come when we challenge ourselves beyond the status quo. My takeaways are always positive. Our podcast has become part of my professional development.

Charter School Caps are Discriminatory (Period)

Charter School Caps are Discriminatory (period).

All over the country, we are starting to hear more talk about capping school choice for the families that need it the most. Charter school caps are straight-up racists. Black and Latinx folks have long come to terms that K-12 education at its current state will not allow us to compete locally or globally.  Knowing this, I feel comfortable in asserting that Charter School Caps are discriminatory (Period).

Some of those things are generational poverty, high unemployment, lack of opportunities, and historical disenfranchisement.

Why Are Charter School Relevant?

Moreover, charter schools are relevant because parents weren’t happy with their local neighborhood school monopoly.  We are talking about the failure mills, the schools that have failed families for generation after generation.  It baffles me that people can make an argument for failing schools and/or parent shame families for wanting better outcomes for their children.

 

I’m screaming my kid, my choice loudly.  If there is one thing that is absolute about Black and Brown parents and grandparents, it is they want better for their kids than they had.  


What Parents are Y’all Talking to?

I have never met a parent that did not want better for their kid.  If you have, please point me in that direction, I would love to talk to that person. Study after study shows us, Black and Brown folks overwhelmingly support charter schools as an alternative to public school monopolies, especially those schools that don’t meet the needs of its students.  How can you cap that?

Charter Schools are the Black Choice.

In addition, we are more than just per-pupil funding.  Black and Brown students and families deserve the best educational options for our students.  We reserve the right to choose.  A cap on charter schools limits our choices.  I’m not sure why we have to continuously convince folks over something that appears to be as plain as day.

Bill DeBlasio failed NYC.

Presidential candidate and mayor of NYC, Bill DeBlasio has failed NY significantly.  Tons of waste in his renewal schools, and his inability to engage charter school parents as a part of his constituents.  If you’re looking to make a case against DeBlasio and his presidential bid, look at his education record.

Universal pre-K was a plus, but besides that, what else is there?  His ideas have failed NYC.

Brown didn’t work for us.

Folks get mad when I say Brown v. Board of education didn’t work for us.  Those folks can continue to be angry.  Post Brown, we lost most of our Black teachers.  Can you imagine some Black kids go through 12 years of formal education without ever having a black teacher?  Less than 2% of black males are teachers.  If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, or at least make you think, nothing will.

We have to do better, and putting a cap on charter schools won’t help us in getting better.  We need to remove the cap on educating black kids, but that’s the charter cap’s aim.

Suspended Again!

Good Day Brothers and Sisters of the TWU Local 570 (LGA), I have been suspended again from being a TWU local shop steward.

These last 24 hrs have been a whirlwind filled with different emotions.

On Wednesday, one of our co-workers got terminated before an investigation. This unnamed co-worker alerted the union and followed all of the protocols set in place to have the TWU local 570 protect his job.

Fleet Service Clerk Terminated Without Due Process.

When I found out that our co-worker received discipline without cause, I was upset. How many of our co-workers are we going to lose before our union steps up and does what they’re supposed to do {protect the worker.} I spoke with a TWU local 570 Board Member, and he stated, “Raymond, H.R. is conducting all workplace investigations.” In other words, all decisions to terminate employees are H.R. decisions. That power is being taken away from the management team at LGA.

Question Everything.

I didn’t question the motives of this board member; I took him at his word. After all, he represents the TWU local 570 and has been a board member for years.

Back to the terminated employee, the employee was contacted on Thursday and told that his termination got rescinded. The company had to do an investigation now.

Mind you, when this employee got terminated, the letter clearly stated that an investigation had taken place. And as a result of said investigation, the employee would be terminated.

An Investigation Comes before the Termination.

The reason the employee got interviewed for the investigation was not that the union fought for him to get due process. It happened because the employee reached out to the higher-ups in the company, and they knew procedurally there was a slip-up.

The employee reached out to me and asked that I attend his interview. I cleared my schedule and drove two hours to ensure the employee’s rights were protected. The meeting began with a half-hearted admittance that the employee should not have gotten terminated before an investigation.

Suspended Again.

But let’s go back a couple of hours. I sent an email to the higher-ups letting them know my concerns about how I feel LGA is getting run into the ground. The meeting went as expected, and the investigation will eventually run its course.

Later that night, I received an email from the current union president, Dan Rivera. The email said that I was suspended again because I broke protocol and went to the higher-ups about our current work conditions.

I let Mr. Rivera know that he can keep his shop steward position because I have higher aspirations. This guy does not deserve re-election as president. I am his replacement.

I say all of this to address the many concerns you express about the TWU local 570. Those concerns are not without merit. If we want to change the TWU local 570, we have to be more active in the process, and we have to attend meetings and vote.

A new podcast episode will be available in the next couple of days!

Politricks as Usual

Politricks as Usual.

We live in a partisan political climate, and because of this, our country is in disarray. The majority of votes that come out of Washington are usually down party lines. Party line votes, in my opinion, ruin democracy as we know it. Especially when elected officials claim that they carry out the will of the people, yet vote against the will of the people that put them in office. Our current political system is failing right before our eyes.  This is politricks as usual.

The Black Vote.

The Black Vote is single-handedly the most critical vote in America right now. If you noticed, most candidates vying for the Democratic nomination have a black agenda. This agenda is meant to speak to the very needs of Black folks. It is a huge step forward for several reasons. 1) We can no longer assume that Black Americans will automatically vote Democratic. Black people are finally starting to realize there is more than one way to play the game. 2) The second– if inspired Blacks can fire up any base that they support.

The Current Democratic Class.

The current Democratic class stands as a whose-who in politics. While you have some candidates that stand out in polling, very few have ideas centered around improving schools. Senator Harris has stated her first order of business would be to pay teachers more. I agree teachers should receive fair compensation, but writing a blank check to teachers will not improve the educational outcomes for the nation’s underserved communities.

Senator Sanders has decided to use an NAACP moratorium on charter schools as his campaign platform. It is so out of touch with what Black folks want; it is hard to even talk about it. The bottom line is that there aren’t any transformational ideas that are coming out of the Democratic Party when it comes to education.  More politricks as usual.

Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have almost banked their nominations on busing, and the opportunities integration brings to black folks.  Although these policies may have benefited both, they have proven that they are both out of touch with what black folks want.  Both polling between 1-3% amongst black voters, it’s going to take something outside the box to energize the black vote.

Our President; King Trump.

 

Our president may be the most racist person on the planet. Trump frequently ostracizes women of color. He stated four congresswomen should return to their country of origin. Mind you, 3/4 of the congresswomen were born in the United States. True to form, along party lines, Democrats were outraged. Meanwhile, only a few Republicans Senators spoke against the racist words of the president.

Trump Makes It Hard.

As a Republican of the (John McCain/Colin Powell likeness) Trump makes it hard to defend the party and its actions. If he would just shut the hell up, and do his job, some things are happening that could get him re-elected.

For example, the economy that he inherited was at the right place, but now we are seeing record numbers on the Dow and S&P, unlike growth that we have seen in recent years. China (as far as trade) knows we mean business, and Trump’s targeted attempt to use tariffs have worked to renegotiate some lousy trade deals.

Tax Break Made Me Lose Faith.

On the other hand, the Paul Ryan tax bill was a travesty to the American worker. Shortly after receiving tax breaks, many of these companies took those funds and downsized. Also, Trump and his racist rhetoric are bad for America. Trump’s “Make America White Again,” crusade has got to stop, and the American people have to stand firm and to alleviate president Trump of his duties.  More politics as usual.

No one is against the Democratic Party as much I am. The idea of Socialism makes me cringe. I’ll be carrying a heftier tax bill than I’m comfortable with taking.

It should also be noted, that since Trump started his divisive rhetoric, he has risen five points in the Republican polls.

Moving the Country Forward.

But as much as it pains me to Vote Dem, I can’t with a good conscience vote for President Trump. We need someone to come in and unify our country. Trump has sowed some much discord amongst folks; we genuinely need a candidate that isn’t Trump. I hope more Republicans speak out about Trump and his tyranny.