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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
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
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.

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
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.
Categories
Education Reform Equity and Justice Teachers

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.