Categories
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
Civil Rights Education Equity and Justice Parenting Politics School Choice

Parents Need to Unionize

Parents Need A Union.

First and foremost, when it comes down to schools, I’m a firm believer that parents need to unionize. Unions protect the best interest of their members. Secondly, In many of these schools, teachers and administrators have an association. Additionally, the only stakeholder that left unprotected is the families that send their kids to these schools blindly every day.

Blind Trust.

Hence, I remember my schooling as if it was yesterday. Often I felt bullied by teachers. Grades and grading policies were subjective, and family history could get you the benefit of the doubt. Because, for example, if you had a sibling perceived as a “good kid” of if teachers thought you came from a “good family,” they were more willing to work with you. But what about the students and families that don’t fit neatly in a box, whose looking out for their best interests? You got it, no one. All the more reason parents need to unionize.

How would a parent union look?

For that reason, Kerry Rodriguez of Massachusetts and Alma Vivian Marquez of California are the co-founders of the movement. This particular group builds agency within the parent ranks, in hopes to train parents to better advocate for their children.

Information on NPU.

Moreover, where can you find more information about joining the National Parents Union movement? It’s funny, you should ask. It seems like Google is suppressing searches for this parent group. The teacher’s unions are actively campaigning against this parent group. Even in its infancy stages, the mere thought of parents organizing on behalf of their children is terrible. Advocation for children is “theater of the absurd” material for some people.

The Funny Thing About Funding.

Often times when people encounter a message they don’t like in public advocacy, they start attacking the funders of the word. I don’t know who funds NPU. I don’t care. Here’s why: If these women were smart enough to come up with an idea, and get people to follow it, and corporations to donate to it, they’ve activated their agency. For that reason, to steal a phrase coined by my pod mate Dr. Charles Cole, “They’re Agentic AF.” Based on America’s treatment of Black and Brown students in schools, Parents need to unionize. I said what I said!

Categories
Education Equity and Justice

New Narrative, Same Failures.

New Narrative, Same Failures.

There’s a new narrative being circulated amongst superintendents from failing school districts. Instead of having families focus on the test scores and the glaring failures of their communities, they are attempting to have the public believe that they are educating the whole child.

As a parent, the whole child argument goes out of the door if you aren’t performing at least at the state average.  Anything lower than that, you ae significantly failing these students and families.  Your focus needs to be on student achievement.

More of the Madness.

Currently parading through the circuit of “New obligatory narrations” is this notion that test scores only tell one part of the story. I got my first whiff of this week as a story was released by the Riverhead Times Review that focused on the NY State Math and ELA exams administered in April and May 2019.

I casually ignore the actions of our sending district. A couple of years ago, I went over to introduce myself to the incoming superintendent of Riverhead Central School District. My initial thoughts before the meeting were that it would be a fresh start.

I Had the Best of Intentions.

Rarely do people of color transcend to the level of superintendent on Long Island. It’s not because we aren’t qualified. It’s because Long Island, contrary to any other beliefs, is one of the most racist places in the United States. I say this to say. I went into this meeting with a high level of respect and admiration.

Minutes into the meeting, she turns and says,” You know you’re the competition, right?” To which my response was,” You know districts and charters can collaborate right?”

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the response. I was probably more disappointed than I was surprised. My mindset is a students and families first mindset. I’m not into the business of playing politics when it comes down to the educational lives of minority students. Their education means too much to me to let my ego get in the way of offering the resources and training they deserve.  New Narrative, Same Failures.

Pontificating with the Lives of Students.

Moreover, when I read the article and the Riverhead superintendent pontificated on the test score question, it brought me back to the meeting that I had with her. We get the same kids, our kids are learning, their kids not so much. If the shoe were on the other foot, there would be cries to close our school down.

Casually scrolling through twitter, I see a similar comment made by the superintendent of schools in Buffalo. The irony is that the test scores from Riverhead and Buffalo mirror one another. So again, I’m not surprised that these low achieving districts are finding new easy to defend their low student achievement. It just pisses me off that students and families don’t have the choices to leave these districts in droves.  New narratives, same failures.