Category Archives: Charter Schools

My Black Teacher Manifesto

Black Male Teachers:

There is much to do about the lack of Black male teachers in school systems throughout the United States. Currently, less than 2% of teachers nationwide are Black males.

There have been some credulous efforts to right this wrong (a lack of Black Male teachers), and I applaud the folks that are on the front lines with the intent of diversifying the teaching profession. TFA has done a remarkable job addressing the issue, so has the Fellowship, and NYC to name a few.

While I applaud the efforts that are being made to populate teaching with more Black Males, I want to use this space to discuss why I almost left education as a Black male.


What I am not:

1) Notwithstanding, I am not your security guard. My job is to fill the minds of my students with knowledge. It’s not to play referee or anything of the sort.

Of course, if kids are in danger or peril, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure they are safe (even though my union contract explicitly states I should not intervene), I will. But that isn’t my primary goal in life, nor is it why I sought education as a career.

2) Consequently, I am not the translator of Black popular culture for you. If you would like to understand best the culture of the students that you educate, get to know them as people. Try to do it without judgment, and with high levels of authenticity. I mean, don’t just get to know them because you have to, get to know them because you want to make a difference in their lives.

3) Contrary to your beliefs, I will not serve as the liaison between you and black parents. Again, relationship building is critical. Call these parents and say something kind and non-judgmental about their students. You can find something nice to say about any kid if you get to know that kid. Treat parents as allies and not as adversaries.

4) Lastly, I am not your bodyguard when you do culturally offensive things that are offensive to the stakeholders that you provide service. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and the day that you overstep your boundaries, be prepared for what comes with that.


Accountability for Self:

Taking the necessary time to tell you what I am not is only half of the process. I must take some time to tell you who I am, so we’re clear, and we can move forward in harmony.

1) I am a professional with the same credentials as you. The same way you treat any other colleague is the same way that I expect you to treat me. If you don’t expect him/her to yield a superman cape because they can identify with students and families, please afford me the same courtesy.

2) I am a team player, but please don’t take advantage of that.

Teaching Is Everything:

Teaching isn’t a bare minimum job, and since I am super invested and rooting for my kids, do not think that you can bring anything less to the table for “our kids.” And if you don’t buy into the discourse of “our kids,” you should be somewhere that resonates better for you.

3) I am a thought-partner. I am always looking for ways to help my colleagues better engage in this work. If you have ideas, I want to hear your thoughts, and I will give you safe space advice. Accepting me as your thought-partner will ignite passion, that will benefit our students.

4) Treat me as your equal. It’s alarming that in 2019 we’re still talking about equality, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this. If the kids are our goal, I can do this work forever.


Inspiration:

This manifesto was inspired partially by

the principal/scholar who is 86 years old, and just signed a 4-year contract renewal to lead into his 90’s. There is much to do about the lack of Black male teachers in school systems throughout the United States.

C’Mon Son!: Ed Reform Edition

Ed Reform:

At some point, yesterday, I looked in my email inbox and saw this hellacious article attacking the philanthropy of the Walton foundation. The article quotes an ‘education policy expert’ Dr. Andre Perry. I don’t even know what that means. But what I do know is that this type of divisive anti-charter rhetoric isn’t helpful to (PoC) that are exhausted with a lack of educational options for their children.


Ed Reform Hypocrisy:

I’ll never understand the perils that one goes through when he/she repositions his/her stance on Ed reform. I could never one day wake up and say, “the system is no longer broken, nor is it in need of reform.” Folks that switch positions like that are dangerous operatives, not ‘experts.’ Also, I’m wondering if the journalist asked Dr. Perry if he ever accepted any Walton money?


Whitewashing in Ed Reform:

The most alarming part for me is how Dr. Perry eludes to the Walton Family’s philanthropy as whitewashing education. How are traditional public schools not whitewashed? With less than two percent African-American male teachers in the United States, inevitably our policy expert could refocus this energy on more poignant issues in our communities.

With an educational record like Dr. Perry’s, you’d think he’d need an escort as well.

Failing Schools:

Moreover, Dr. Perry is a former CEO of a network of charter schools in New Orleans. Under his supervision, the schools performed poorly. Below are the state grades of the schools that Dr. Perry was positioned to govern during his tenure as CEO in the Recovery School District in New Orleans in 2010-11. Based on these results, no experienced journalist should ever quote Dr. Perry on anything charter relating to charter schools.


Dr. Perry's results UNO/RSD 2010-11

To date, my school nor I have never received any Walton foundation funding. I take personal issue with these “Edu celebs” that feel they know what’s best for black families. Both of my kids have attended my charter school. I’m in tune with parent choice as both a parent who exercises that right and a school leader that provides (PoC) with a viable alternative to traditional public schools.

School Choice Matters Most for Poc (People of Color)

School Choice:

One of the main concerns that I hear from school choice pundits is “charter schools and other choice type schools take away valuable resources from school districts.” To those pundits, I ask these simple questions: What should parents do if traditional public schools do not work for their children? Should they allow for their children to be sacrificial lambs in failing schools while educators work toward fixing the problem? How long should they wait? How will they be viewed if they decide not to wait?

Many parents that exercise school choice are products of traditional public schools. They speak rather candidly about the failures of said schools. These schools have left parents with animous based on their own experiences. Even with this expert knowledge, we still have folks questioning the rights of parents to make informed decisions about the education of their children. There’s nothing more offensive than reading parents are choosing to send their students to charter schools because they are uninformed. That couldn’t be more from the truth.


School Choice Matters to PoC:

As educators, we should never question or second guess a parent’s choice. Why? Because parents have the right to make the decisions that they feel are in the best interest of their kids. We can have conversations with parents to ascertain why they made their choice, but we are in no position to make that choice for parents. Parents are experts when it comes to their children. While educators also have a level of expertness, its more broad view expertise, while the parental knowledge allows parents to be laser-focused on the needs of their children. The goal should be to support a parent’s choice, not to question it or undermine it.

School Reform:

I think we are all school reformist in one way or another. Currently, “reform” is such a dirty word that when its heard, it immediately forces some to take offense. For those offended by the word ‘reform,’ I ask if the district schools are failing, what are parents supposed to do? I’m an idealist. I don’t ever want to call someone anti-school reform. I hope that we can all agree that all schools can improve and that its the job of educators to ensure that improvement. If we can agree to look at it from that perspective, then we can all agree that in theory, we want the best for children. I don’t expect for us to agree on what “best” looks like, and that’s the beauty of it all. We don’t have to agree, because it is the parent’s choice to determine the best fit.


Animus towards School Choice:

Moreover, if you have hatred towards those that exhibit their right for choice, I ask why? Affluent parents exercise school choice all of the time. When politicians in Washington, DC decide that they want to send their children to Sidwell Friends, or other elite private schools throughout Maryland and DC, they are exercising their choice. When families on NY’s upper east side decide they’d instead send their kids to private schools with 50k yearly tuition, again it is their choice. No one unfairly persecutes these parents. I’ve never read any literature recommending these parents send their children to district schools. However, when people of color exercise their options, they become bad parents?

I have heard enough about blaming parents. We provide parents with a product. If parents are unhappy with the product, they have every right to go after the best product that will work for them. We are in no place to judge them for that. We should all support their right to choose. In my opinion, those that exercise their right to choose & stand out is because they aren’t afraid to stand up.

School Choice, Here’s Why.

Teach the Babies:

My thoughts on public education are simple, cut out the bureaucratic red tape and “teach the babies,” as my friend and Parent Advocate Gwen Samuels would say. Parents entrust in all educators, albeit public, private, parochial, charter, with their most valued assets, their scholars.  School choice is a parent’s right.

Truthfully, I find honor when a parent makes a choice to send their scholar to our school, under our care. I also take it personally when we aren’t doing right by our students/parents. I will fight tooth and nail to ensure that we correct our wrongs- reflect- and put forth a more concerted effort when we face similar challenges. Our failures aren’t failures, they are opportunities to grow.

The best two years of my professional career (thus far) were when I was able to be both principal and parent for my 12-year-old scholar. I take great pride in being his father.


Positive Imagery in Schools:

Moreover, I took almost the same amount of pride in being an educator that mirrored my son’s image, because all too often Black kids aren’t able to see those positive images enough to make a difference in their lives. It gave me the oy to know that if his professional athletic career fails, he plans to go into education as his fall back plan.

Reluctantly, I recently had a conversation with a friend that is adamantly against charter schools. I always hear my friends out before I respond. My goal is never to listen to respond but to actually listen to a person’s concerns. Sometimes it takes me a while to get back to people because I really care about how I respond, and I don’t want it to seem like my responses are transcribed.


Anti-Charter friends:

My friend, as well as many other friends of mine, dislike charter schools. They feel large charter networks, also known as Charter Management Organizations (CMO’s) prey on the disenfranchised, and disguise themselves in the name of “school choice.”

Those against school choice oppose charter schools.

Another area of contention regarding charter schools are the harsh disciplinary policies, and the ability to part ways with unruly scholars. Their argument is if public schools were able to expel students that weren’t a good fit for their program, charter schools would be obsolete. I explained with great enthusiasm that most charter schools have moved away from harsh disciplinary measures, and have moved to a restorative justice model. Every time there’s an incident of mistreatment of a scholar in any charter school nationwide, I get an email or a text message with the link and the word “see”…


For the Love of School Choice:

Rather than respond to my friends using my “pro-charter school notes,” I respond to them with my heart. My first question to my friend that is an NYC Public school teacher is always, would you let your children attend the school or attend a school in the school system (besides the specialized NYC high schools) in which you teach? There’s always this awkward silence.

So you, as a teacher in the system are okay with parents sending their scholars to you, yet you would not make the same choice to send your scholars to a school within your network? I love it when my friends repeat my questions aloud. I hope that when they hear how detached they’ve become, they would self correct their anti-charter stance. Their response is usually, well your charter school is different, you actually care. I accepted the compliment, but other charter leaders care the same way that I care.


Why we Teach:

Education is one of the most thankless jobs, and I have no desire to take shots at other types of schools if they are doing right by scholars. I dream of an education system where there is no charter vs. public school rhetoric. How awesome would it be for scholars if adults on both sides of the choice argument could put their differences aside, and put the scholars at the forefront? How awesome would it be if there was more collaboration between districts and charter schools that are within that district? Seems like a win-win for parents, scholars, and educators.


Fair Criticism:

Is the criticism on CMO’s Fair? I don’t think it is. Having worked in a couple of CMO’s I’m thankful that each of the networks that I worked in had no problem putting students first. Are some CMO’s better than others? Of course, but with governmental oversight, random state auditing, many things are put in place to ensure that money is spent on educating scholars. Will this response to my friends’ criticism of school choice change their minds, probably not. However, this will give you proper insight on why it’s essential to not infringe on other folks school choice, even if you don’t support it.

Consequently, some folks have gotten to the point in their lives to where they are financially stable enough to dictate the zip code where they live. For those that have reached that pinnacle, you’ve exercised choice and had the purchasing power to ensure their voices were heard. Please don’t take away the views of those that can’t buy houses in your neighborhood. Many of these folks leverage school choice and their ability to select from schools that fit their needs. They may not have earned enough money to be your neighbor, but they’ve definitely made the right to choose where their scholars attend school.


A choice for Some:

Lastly, you’ll have some people that will say, “they (parents that choose choice) aren’t smart enough to make those choices for themselves”. Please know that this response is offensive to all parents, and you are in no place to make this choice for parents. I ask that you stop doing this and disguising it in the name of care… because the fact that you feel it’s okay to reprimand parents for the choices they make is a riddled absurdity, to say the least.

My choice on where I send my scholar to school is exactly that, my choice. It’s okay to debate on which option is better, healthy debate and competition make for more competitive schools. But don’t you dare tell me where to send my child to school, because that is my choice!

SUNY’s Controversial Plan

SUNY’s Controversial Plan to Allows Charters to Certify Teachers:

Firstly, SUNY is a nationally recognized charter school authorizer from NY state. SUNY recently made headlines for approving a new, innovative approach by allowing its high-performing charter schools to certify their teachers. Some Charter schools experience hard times staffing their schools with highly qualified staff. Consequently, teacher turnover rates are higher than in traditional public schools.

According to a study on teacher turnover conducted on charter and public school teachers in Los Angeles, determined that charter school teachers leave at a 33% higher rate than teachers at traditional public schools.

The Nay-Sayers

Generally speaking, as a school leader in public charter schools, I have always operated under the mantra that no teacher education program was created equal. We would have some first-year teachers that were extremely prepared for the classroom.  We have others that are less prepared to take over a class. It comes as no surprise that colleges and universities are not in favor of this new teacher certification initiative.

Not to mention, universities lose a ton of money if potential teachers no longer obtained Master’s degrees in education. I am not sure what the world of education would do if out of touch college and university professors lost their soapboxes, and had to move away from the theory component of teacher training. Imagine if they had to deal with the complexities of the practice component of training teachers. One of the most significant takeaways from my teacher education program was, in theory, everything works.  However, in practice, well that is a different story.


NYSUT:

Moreover, another major player in opposing SUNY charters to certify their teachers is the state’s largest teachers’ union. Those familiar with NYSUT should not be surprised by their stance. Anything anti-establishment in my opinion usually draws ire from NYSUT. I am not sure if NYSUT is upset because they did not have a say in the process. Maybe this is just legal posturing. It could be their usual malcontent for anything charter school related.

It’s Never Really About the Students:

Lastly, and most importantly, what about the Scholars? Success Academy, and other top performing charter schools that will have the honor of certifying their teachers. Success Academies have knocked the ball out of the park with their performance on NY State assessments. If I were a teacher, training under schools that have a proven formula for success (no pun intended) would entice me.  I would choose this over a dreadful undergraduate program that doesn’t prepare you for teaching.

Notwithstanding, how will this benefit the scholars? Having an in-house training program will allow charters to build teacher capacity and stamina for the work. Two of the top five reasons teachers leave charter schools are lack of administrator support and job security. Charter schools would be more invested in keeping staff that they have trained from the ground up. Plus, it is a lot easier to hold charter school’s accountable for staff attrition if they are certifying their teachers. We all want teacher turnover to decrease, and that will undoubtedly benefit scholars.


RCS #PuertoRicoStrong Initiative

My opinion is that I like the idea.  However, I want to love the idea. Having a clear and transparent record keeping of staff attrition is helpful.  There would need to be a way to monitor teachers who leave after they are certified.  Possibly only allowing these teachers to transfer to other SUNY endorsed schools.