Category Archives: Education Reform

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.

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
00:21
saying we talked about choice we’re
00:23
talking about a long legacy of people in
00:25
communities fighting scraping pushing to
00:30
make sure that their child has the
00:31
education that they deserve the
00:34
education that other people take for
00:35
granted and don’t let them fool you
00:38
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.

Everyone Can’t Be Highly Effective

It’s that time of year when every administrator should be preparing themselves for their first round of formal observations. Hopefully, this isn’t the first time teachers see you in their classrooms. I would love to think that you have been a fixture in classrooms, and teachers/kids know what to expect when you visit.  As you observe these classrooms do so knowing that everyone can’t be highly effective. If every teacher were highly effective, quality education for students and families would not be on the decline in the US, it would be on an upward trajectory.

The Dog and Pony Show.

If you are in classrooms all the time, you know when you see a “Dog and Pony Show.” That’s when a teacher teaches like his/her pants are on fire. They deliver a sound lesson that has all of the bells and whistles that they have grown to expect you to love.

As an administrator, it always angered me to know that as a teacher, you could bring high levels of instruction to students, but you choose not to. You decide to teach one time a year when you feel your job is on the line. That’s not okay!

                                   Principals, Get in These Classrooms.

Moreover, administrators, I implore you to get into classrooms before observations. Check-in with the students and ask questions about how their learning is going. If you ever want unsolicited advice on how to improve a school, talk to the students. They will tell you how they can optimize learning opportunities.

Every Teacher Can’t Be Highly Effective.

Okay, I’m sorry, I’m getting off-topic. Every teacher can’t be highly effective; it’s impossible. If every teacher were highly effective, we wouldn’t have a crisis in education. No schools, no students (especially schools for the poor and disenfranchised) would identify as underperforming. After all, how could they be? How could a school with highly-effective teachers be labeled a failure pit?

So, I say all this to say, make sure the observations match the data. If students aren’t learning, teachers aren’t highly effective period. Let’s use observations as tools to help improve instruction, thus improving student outcomes. And while you are doing your pre-obs, observations, and post-observations, please remember that every teacher can’t be highly effective.

Black Mamma Agency!

The Buzz Around Town.

Lately, I’ve heard arguments that leave me angry and confused. Most of these arguments center around “Cancel Culture, ” “Agency,” and “Ownership.”  “Black Mamma” Agency and Ownership in the era of cancel culture is real.  Alas, we have folks that are trying to discredit these ladies, and I simply will not have any of it.

Agency.

Agency, for this blog post, is defined as action or intervention, especially such as to produce a particular effect.

The Powerful Parent Network is a group of parents and grandparents that are fighting for equity and school choice. During the campaign cycle, these elders in the Black Community have made their presence felt by exercising their right to protest.

I’m not sure how you all show agency, but in my community, we show it by getting results.  The Powerful Parent Network showed their agency by fundraising to attend the most recent Democratic debate held in Atlanta, Ga.  This is an important fact to highlight.  Many of those that were against these parents’ right to protest said these parents were funded and influenced by billionaires looking to privatize education.


Below is the link of parents soliciting funding to attend the debate.

Can we express our views?

Americans pride themselves on the power of the 1st amendment and one’s right to free speech. Free speech can make you feel uncomfortable and force you to see the other side of an argument if you are open to seeing it. Exercising this free speech is how some of us express our Agency. People have the right to express their opinions. That doesn’t in any way, discredit you. We can disagree and still be friends. We can even grab a beer.

Ownership in the Era of Cancel Culture.

Ownership is the act, state, or right of possessing something. The educational system in the United States was never meant to educate Black folks. It isn’t me pulling the race card; it is me reminding you of how painful it has been to be Black in the United States.


Black Mamma Agency is a different kind of Agency. These black mammas are willing to risk their lives and their livelihood to ensure that the next generations have better than they had.

The mere notion that these women, who have put our country on their backs, these women who are the moral fabric of our country are bought and sold is assinine.  It’s the perfect argument for those of you that want to deflect instead of reflecting.

Confront Race.

Moreover, some folks get uncomfortable when the topic of race surfaces. That’s not my problem, nor is it my cross to bear. We should be open and honest and have more conversations about race and what it means to be a member of the underclass. Only then will things change.

But I digress.

The Powerful Parent Network is a phenomenal group of advocators for school choice. They have expressed their Agency, and their voices lifted.

Black Mamma Agency: There’s Nothing Like It.

There have been feeble attempts to discredit their lived experiences. It happens way more often than I’d like to discuss. It’s fine when Black folks are the help, second class citizens, but the moment we express unfairness in a system that we all know is unfair to the underclass, black people are painted out to be bought off by billionaires, heels, incapable of good thoughts. To be able to have these thoughts, and express them, that’s why we fight. That’s why we should continue to fight.  And before you even think about canceling these Black Mammas, here’s a PSA on cancel culture:

Lastly, we shared our thoughts on Black Mamma Agency on the 8 Black Hands Podcast. If you get a chance, give it a listen.

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.

Diane “21 Savage” Ravitch

Diane “21 Savage” Ravitch.

Diane ” 21 Savage” Ravitch in her most recent blog post states, “To understand the charter industry, you must appreciate that it is driven by extremely wealthy people and has no grassroots.”

Ms. Ravitch’s assertion that the charter school industry is not a grassroots movement couldn’t be further from the truth. The textbook definition of grassroots is as follows: Grassroots, type of movement or campaign that attempts to mobilize individuals to take some action to influence an outcome, often of a political nature.  Black and Brown folks have marched, lobbied, and have a pretty extensive ground game when it comes to getting educational choice for their children.

21-21-21.

I feel like every time Mrs. Savage blogs, she needs to write 21-21-21, as a precursor for the savagery she depicts in her writing.  Savagery, in this instance, relates to how she misleads the reader into thinking that the only way to save traditional public schools, is to invest only in conventional public schools.

In my opinion, this is deficit thinking.  It amazes me at how people (like Mrs. Savage) with the most access always feel like they need to think for poor folks.  Often times they negate ones lived experience by inserting their expert views.  These loud sirens exhibited by these so-called experts often drown out the help signals that are blaring.  Black and brown folks are tired of being told what to do with their children, they want options, and no expert will convince them otherwise.

An odd fact that Mrs. Ravitch and those that think like her conveniently forget, is schools were bad way before charter schools.

School Choice Pushes The Envelop.

Moreover, charter schools push the envelope daily. Black and Brown families overwhelmingly want charter schools and school choice options for their children. To try and persuade others of anything different just tells you how much of a disconnect there is between those that are fortunate vs. those that have been historically disenfranchised.

Black and Brown Folks Favor School Choice.

According to a recent study by the American Federation for children, 67% of families support choice in where they send their kids to school. This is up 4% from 2018. You can find more information on the study by clicking on this link https://www.federationforchildren.org/national-school-choice-poll-shows-67-of-voters-support-school-choice-2019/.

Mrs. Ravitch likens support to charter schools as being the whose who in philanthropic support. In her blog, she states, “Being a supporter of charter schools is like belonging to the right clubs, going to the right parties, sharing a cause with other wealthy people.”  I’m not sure what clubs Mrs. Ravitch attends, but I can assure you they have exclusivity.

School Choice Evens The Playing Field.

Mrs. Ravitch fails to mention is what the cause is, and who the cause benefits. Plain and straightforward, school choice evens the playing field that was once dominated by traditional public schools. Charter schools are not the enemy. View charter schools as a way to keep its Traditional Public school sibling honest. Traditional public schools fail families. Nowadays, Mrs. Ravitch conveniently glosses over outcomes and accountability to gaslight issues that don’t matter to the poor.  Black and Brown folks want quality schools for their kids.

Gaslighting Like Trump.

Mrs. Ravitch savagely attempts to link the work we do in the charter sector to Jeffery Epstein. Epstein is a pedophilic sicko. I’m sure anyone school that accepted funding from him would be happy to disavow. I also didn’t read where she addressed the pedophiles that are saturated throughout schools, mainly traditional public schools.

For example, Rhode Island–  Oddly enough, I have not read one-word form Mrs. Ravitch or any public schools supporters disavowing themselves from what’s currently happening in Rhode Island.  To bring you up to speed, the teacher’s union is fighting tooth and nail to continue allowing teachers dating students to be non-criminal.  This ass-backwardness has gotten little to no attention from Savage or the likes.  I wonder why?