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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
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
Black Culture Charter Schools Civil Rights Education Reform Equity and Justice

Pittsburgh!

Pittsburgh!  Below is an excerpt from Brother El-Mekki’s speech at a school choice protest in Pittsburgh.  This is one of those once in a lifetime speeches, that can galvanize the school choice movement.  I’m happy that I was there to capture it.  Below: El-Mekki Live from Pittsburgh!

Pittsburgh.

00:05
special interest group you know we have
00:08
especially just group to our children
00:11
[Applause]
00:14
not the affluent not influential our
00:18
special interest group of our children
00:20
and we’re going to fight it up and
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saying we talked about choice we’re
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talking about a long legacy of people in
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communities fighting scraping pushing to
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make sure that their child has the
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education that they deserve the
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education that other people take for
00:35
granted and don’t let them fool you
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there’s not a single person who does
00:40
that believe in my child my choice they
00:43
just believe you only deserve it if you
00:45
can afford it if you can’t afford a
00:50
higher mortgage three times of what
00:52
you’re paying you don’t deserve it if
00:55

Zip Code School Choice.

you can’t afford a $30,000 high school
00:59
some of them started elementary their
01:02
pre-k is right now that people are
01:04
choosing that costs 20 something
01:06
thousand dollars and they’re like if you
01:08
can’t afford it you don’t deserve it
01:11
well we’re here to say we deserve it
01:13
because we are human beings children
01:17
justice is not just for two influential
01:21
and flloyd it is for everyone it is the
01:24
human right and when I can look at my
01:27
community and look at the same same
01:30
schools that my grandparents refused to
01:33
put my mother and father in and they
01:35
will look at me now let’s say don’t you
01:37
put my grandbaby in that school then we
01:39
have a problem and who’s held that held
01:42
accountable for that we’ve always chosen
01:46
so I don’t even want to say like it’s
01:47
just charted it’s a continuum of choice
01:50

Bad Schools Are Bad Schools.

right before charters and when they say
01:53
that Oh charters is the problem
01:54
they sound like the people that say make
01:56
America great again
01:59
they say and make America’s schools
02:00
great again and for us it has never been
02:03
a great experience so when they say
02:06
things like that let’s continue to hold
02:08
them accountable continue to push back
02:10
continue to make your voices heard make
02:14
sure that they are aware that there are
02:16
thousands of students who are on
02:18
weightless
02:20
weightless waiting their mamas in jail
02:23
who are trying to find a better choice
02:25
there are people who had to use
02:27
different addresses people went to
02:29
scraping in and live with people
02:32
that just you know and increase the
02:35

Any Means Necessary.

number of people in the apartment like
02:36
anything by any means necessary to
02:39
improve the educational outcomes for
02:42
their child but we’re not just about our
02:44
children like they are because there’s
02:46
some people they only care about their
02:47
we care about all children and they talk
02:51
about being undemocratic there’s nothing
02:53
more undemocratic than say only the
02:55
elite only the affluent and only the
02:59
influential get to make good options to
03:03
have access to quality options for their
03:05
child nothing’s more oppressive than
03:07
that so I stand with you we stand
03:11

Standing with the people.

together we stand for those who are not
03:13
here but we’re here for the in spirit
03:17
because the idea of not having access to
03:21
quality education for our children for
03:24
our communities is a it’s a non-starter
03:27
we not going to be quiet we’re not gonna
03:30
be silent and we’re gonna make sure that
03:32
we are heard every single moment but Dad
03:35
is what our children deserve I come from
03:37
a long line of freedom fighters my
03:39

Black Panther Parents.

parents were in the Black Panther Party
03:41
and you know
03:42
right they were making options my first
03:44
school as an elementary school student
03:46
within someone’s basement cuz they think
03:48
you know what until we can get a
03:49
building we’re gonna start a school we
03:51
are opting out of that system and we are
03:54
creating something for these babies
03:55
that’s what they started so that’s the
03:58
legacy so I will be with you forever as
04:00
long as we don’t have quality option for
04:03
every single child in this country and
04:05
with today we start right here in the
04:07
Berg thank you Mike
Pittsburgh is amazing.  We had the opportunity to visit Pittsburgh twice in 2019.  I look forward to the opportunity to return to Pittsburgh.
Categories
Black Culture Equity and Justice Teachers

High-Quality Teachers of Color.

We need More High-Quality Teachers of Color.

We need more high-quality Teachers of Color. I want to make that clear, as we continuously hear the argument that the teaching field overall is lacking in diverse candidate selection.  However, I’m using my statement as a clarifier. I believe that a “Bad” Teacher of Color can cause irreparable damage to student achievement.  The damage is magnified compared to a lousy teacher from any other race.  Especially as it relates to students of color.

Episode 40- 8BH

Episode 40 was a banger. We talked extensively with Dr. Lindsay about her research on Black teachers. We also probed deeper into Sharif’s work at the Center for Black Educator Development. It lifted my spirits and gave me hope while giving me anxiety and pause, “At the same damn time.”

 

8 Black Hands Podcast.

Thats the fantastic thing about the (8) eight black hands podcast. We all have our conventional ways of thinking, and it’s uncompromised. It is a podcast made by the people, to be enjoyed by the people.  But enough of plugging those guys.

Students Emulate What They See.

The importance associated with having at least one black teacher in K-12 is staggering. The research is promising, but it’s not anything that we don’t already know. People emulate what they see. Of course, if kids see an influx of careers that are lifting the race, the children will begin selecting jobs that mimic that success.

Moreover, it is unspoken that we need more Black and Latinx teachers. I can’t and won’t argue that point. I will say that compromising the integrity of becoming a teacher is where I draw the line. There have been some talks of creating ways to ease teacher qualification tests to attract more teachers.

Finland As a Case in Point.

Let’s use Finland as a case in point. Everyone rants and raves about the Finnish education system and for a good reason. The Fins rebuilt their educational infrastructure, and students have benefited immensely.

I have two takeaways from the Finland ed rebuild. 1) The fins select teachers that identify as the most gifted. It is harder to become a teacher in Finland than it is to receive an acceptance letter from Harvard. 2) Compensate teachers based on results. If teachers get results, there should be a compensation model based on that.

The Benefits of Quality Teaching.

Growing up, I benefited from having Black teachers. They were pillars in my community — all revered teachers. I saw life could be different from education. Later in life, the impact of my teachers magnified as I was able to refer to the lessons taught. As impactful as that learning was, I also learned a great deal from my white teachers. Some were equally amazing.

 

In conclusion, if you love kids, you can be successful in teaching. However, teaching black kids takes more. It takes having a keen understanding of the historical disadvantages faced by Blacks in the United States. Knowledge of this doesn’t mean you’re supposed to feel sorry for Black kids and let them get away with things. It means you hold them accountable.

Categories
Black Culture Charter Schools

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.