Categories
Black Culture Equity and Justice trauma

I Dream of a Time

I dream of a time when my kids or I can wake up without a care in the world. Imagine being able to learn or do everyday things without being judged by the color of your skin. The air these people breathe must be amazing. Unfortunately, I’ll never know.

Being a Public Figure.

It’s tough being a public figure. You have to mitigate what battles you want to take on and which ones are less advantageous. I’ve gone through times in which I’ve said nothing to “protect the bag,” as the kids would say. The older you get, the more your priorities shift. Sadly, I dream of a time when I don’t have a care in the world.

My Great Awakening.

You ever felt like your life meant nothing to others? Most wouldn’t know that feeling. African Americans make up only 13.4% of the total US population, but we know that feeling all too well. Moreover, the fact that my life is in constant danger because of the color of my skin is and will always be unsettling for me. I dream of a time when I don’t have a care in the world.

It Starts with Us.

Serious question to my white friends. Do you talk to your kids about racism? I mean, how not to be racists. Do you speak to them about the level of privilege that they are born with? You know that privilege that no matter how successful a person of color becomes, (they) will never know. I dream of a time when I don’t have a care in the world.

Real Conversations that lead to action.

We have a real problem with race in the US. Sweeping it under the rug isn’t a solution. The only way we begin to heal these wounds is by having tough conversations about race.

But beyond just conversations, liked tweets, and retweets, we need a National Call to Action.

Last night on the 8 Blackhands Podcast.

We had a fantastic show on which some awful yet honest things came to light.

1. People may be desensitized yo the deaths that occur to innocent black people.

2. White folks (some) still remain quiet and view this as not being their problem.

3. Black people need to mobilize financially and create banking systems and financial opportunities that benefit PoC.

4. PoC need to #Getthestrap.

Ep. 64: The Fire This Time 8 Black Hands

This episode was different. The fellas discuss the ongoing protests and offer their reactions and thoughts. This was our longest episode yet as the fellas let their thoughts breathe.  — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/8-black-hands-podcast/message
  1. Ep. 64: The Fire This Time
  2. Ep. 63: The School-to-Activism Pipeline
  3. Ep. 62: Typos and All… feat. Dr. Brian Stanley
  4. Ep. 61: R.I.P. Ahmaud Arbery
  5. Ep. 60: Student Homelessness during COVID-19
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
Equity and Justice

Long Island, Mississippi

Deep South, Progressive North?

For those of you that don’t know, I’m originally from Covington, La. Louisiana is a short distance from Mississippi. Like many parts of the Deep South, racism runs rampant. It’s the type of racism that no one should ever have to experience. My thoughts have always been that Southern racism doesn’t exist in the progressive North. Insert Long Island, Mississippi.

What if I told you Long Island was Racist?

What if I told you Long Island was one of the most segregated areas in the United States. Would you believe me? Newsday released a project in late 2019 that depicted the racial divide that exists on Long Island. Also, in my opinion, it likened progressive Long Island to the racial divides that lived in rural areas of Mississippi before and during the Civil Rights Movement.

Longwood High School.

Circa 2020 and incident recently occurred at a prominent Long Island High School known for its diversity and Sports Programs, Longwood High School. The population of Longwood High School is about 2800 students from grades 9-12. The annual budget for the high school is at or around 40+ million dollars a year.

Longwood High School is currently in the news for a misstep committed by one of the teachers. First, the Zoology teacher took students to the Bronx Zoo for a field trip. Next, It always makes me smile when students are allowed to go on field trips that can expand their background knowledge on a subject. But no one could have expected what was to follow from this field trip.

Zoology?

The Zoology teacher convinced a group of Black students to pose for a picture. The picture was of students lined up in sequential order. In the video below is a photo that occurred in from of the gorilla cage at the Bronx Zoo on a field trip.

Moreover, the next month, the teacher presented the students with a slide show. In the first slide, the teacher showed a portrait of Monkeys, and the caption read, “Monkey See.” In the following slide, the teacher displayed the picture of the students lined up sequentially at the Bronx Zoo. The caption under that picture read “Monkey Do.”

Monkey See, Monkey Do.

The lives of these students will change forever from this moment forward.  As a result of this misstep, one can’t discount the psychological harm bestowed upon these students.

The Cover-Up.

Administrators got wind of the situation, and a conspiracy to erase evidence ensued. Administrators threatened one of the students. The student was threatened with if he refused to delete the photos of the slideshow from his phone. The mere thought that this could happen to students has me numb. Furthermore, administrators made a conscious choice to put the needs of their staff over the needs of the students that they are supposed to educate.

Why does this mean so much to me? As a charter school leader, 20% of my students come from the Longwood Central School District. Currently, our school ends in 8th grade. It could have very well been one of our students that experienced this horrible event.

Protect Adults at All Costs.

Notwithstanding, the Longwood Central Superintendent is writing the incident off as a lapse in judgment. That’s ridiculous and calculated. The presentation was at least a month after the picture from the Brox Zoo. Because this teacher was able to sit on this information and deliver the content to his students.

The parents of the students have filed a 12 million dollar lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges the students faced racial discrimination and mental anguish.

Tenure = Bulletproof on Long Island, Mississippi.

The teacher, a seasoned veteran with over 20 years of experience in the district, is tenured. Tenured on Long Island, for those unfamiliar means you are “bulletproof.” Certainly, little to nothing will happen to this teacher. My sources tell me that this wasn’t a one-off. Hence, over the years, this teacher has had problems with black and brown students.

My wish is that Long Island, Mississippi, embrace a culture and demographics that are quickly changing and that it has more tolerance for its students of color. Also, I’m growing rather tired of the attacks on Black students. It is as if Black students are under siege. When will it all end?

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.