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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
African American History Black Culture Civil Rights Equity and Justice Juneteenth

Black Americans from Segregationists to Integrationists

As an emerging scholar-practitioner, I sometimes need to be reflective of my own biases and practice. When I speak of myself as a “segregationalist,” it’s through the construct of reminding myself that education for Black Americans was once better than what it is currently. It is straightforward. There are not many twists and turns.

Prior to Brown v. Board

Before Brown v. Board, many historically relevant documents state that Black Americans had a robust and successful approach to educating black children. Teachers built impactful relationships with families, and education was through a community infused lens.

Segregation Was Once Our Reality

Now, when some folks hear or read the term “segregationist,” it becomes a tough pill to swallow. To effectively move forward in today’s society, it will take acknowledgment that most are unwilling to give. That does not mean these people are evil. It just means we have to meet people where they are to get them where they need to be.

Black Lives Matter

I recently wrote an official statement to my school community regarding my stance on Black Lives. Given the community outside of my school, I understood in great detail how such a message could become misconstrued.

No Really, They Matter

Statements and actions that support Black Americans and their lives mattering should not make any other race feel uncomfortable. No one is saying that different races’ lives do not matter. All Black folks are saying is that our lives matter just as much as everyone else’s lives.

Using Social Media & National Platforms Responsibly

Being a school leader with a national platform is sometimes tricky. Knowing that people play on your every word makes you have to be intentional about every word you speak, tweet, or write. No one wants to dialogue about their differences anymore. It is easier to send anonymous emails or tweets from avatars calling for the demise of those that may or may not have the same set of beliefs that you may have.

Eight Black Hands Podcast Episode: 66

I’m writing this for those that may feel alone. You are not. In Episode 66 of the 8 Black Hands Podcast, we talked specifically about being black in predominately white spaces. People always want to interpolate each other’s experiences. In other words, if a white person in a position of power says, “White lives matter,” folks view it as racist. Some people believe the same standard should occur when Black leaders say, “Black Lives Matter.”

Knees on Neck

It is unfortunate that in 2020 conversations about race and inequity are still so painful. Yet we are given daily reminders of what it means to be Black in America. From knees on knecks to being hunted in the streets. From anonymous emails, from folks combing through your tweets. No one ever said living would be comfortable, but no one ever said life would be this hard.

Using Critical Race Theory Appropriately

Looking at school integration from the perspective of a Critical Race theorist is interesting. CRT forces you to look at the power dynamics that exist in society as well as education, and admit that these dynamics are alive and well. Documented through stories and lived experiences, we should all be so lucky to see the world through this lens. Unfortunately, most do not understand their power. The lack of understanding of power makes conversations about privilege difficult.

Transitioning from a Segregationist to an Integrationist w/ Care

My transition to becoming an integrationist from a segregationist has not always been smooth. I take offense when people ask us to forget our history. When I hear terms like, “Slavery happened, get over it,” or stereotypes like “Blacks are lazy.” The same people that make stereotypical comments about blacks being lazy were not working hand in hand with Black Americans during slavery. They were overseeing the work from a position of power. A place that is alive and well to this very day.

White “Allyship”

So, when I call for “white allyship,” It is not said to say white people are bad people. It is just a nuanced way to say that for us to address racism in the United States adequately, we have to take a collective effort.

With this, I cordially invite you to our first annual Juneteenth March for Justice.

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?