Category Archives: Equity and Justice

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.

High-Quality Teachers of Color.

We need More High-Quality Teachers of Color.

We need more high-quality Teachers of Color. I want to make that clear, as we continuously hear the argument that the teaching field overall is lacking in diverse candidate selection.  However, I’m using my statement as a clarifier. I believe that a “Bad” Teacher of Color can cause irreparable damage to student achievement.  The damage is magnified compared to a lousy teacher from any other race.  Especially as it relates to students of color.

Episode 40- 8BH

Episode 40 was a banger. We talked extensively with Dr. Lindsay about her research on Black teachers. We also probed deeper into Sharif’s work at the Center for Black Educator Development. It lifted my spirits and gave me hope while giving me anxiety and pause, “At the same damn time.”

 

8 Black Hands Podcast.

Thats the fantastic thing about the (8) eight black hands podcast. We all have our conventional ways of thinking, and it’s uncompromised. It is a podcast made by the people, to be enjoyed by the people.  But enough of plugging those guys.

Students Emulate What They See.

The importance associated with having at least one black teacher in K-12 is staggering. The research is promising, but it’s not anything that we don’t already know. People emulate what they see. Of course, if kids see an influx of careers that are lifting the race, the children will begin selecting jobs that mimic that success.

Moreover, it is unspoken that we need more Black and Latinx teachers. I can’t and won’t argue that point. I will say that compromising the integrity of becoming a teacher is where I draw the line. There have been some talks of creating ways to ease teacher qualification tests to attract more teachers.

Finland As a Case in Point.

Let’s use Finland as a case in point. Everyone rants and raves about the Finnish education system and for a good reason. The Fins rebuilt their educational infrastructure, and students have benefited immensely.

I have two takeaways from the Finland ed rebuild. 1) The fins select teachers that identify as the most gifted. It is harder to become a teacher in Finland than it is to receive an acceptance letter from Harvard. 2) Compensate teachers based on results. If teachers get results, there should be a compensation model based on that.

The Benefits of Quality Teaching.

Growing up, I benefited from having Black teachers. They were pillars in my community — all revered teachers. I saw life could be different from education. Later in life, the impact of my teachers magnified as I was able to refer to the lessons taught. As impactful as that learning was, I also learned a great deal from my white teachers. Some were equally amazing.

 

In conclusion, if you love kids, you can be successful in teaching. However, teaching black kids takes more. It takes having a keen understanding of the historical disadvantages faced by Blacks in the United States. Knowledge of this doesn’t mean you’re supposed to feel sorry for Black kids and let them get away with things. It means you hold them accountable.

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.

6ix9ine Tells Judge: These Teachers Don’t Give a Crap About Black and Brown Kids Learning!

6ix9ine.

For those of you who have not heard, indicted Rapper 6ix9ine testified on behalf of the federal government recently. 6ix9ine was a far better witness than Cory Lewandowski, Bob Mueller, or all other witnesses who have testified for any democratic committee of Congress.

 Dropping Dimes.

True to form, the rapper dropped a dime on everyone in his entire organization. He did so to lighten his sentence. Not only did he tell on folks in his gang, but he also testified on individuals that did not belong to his crew. To be clear, he testified against every living thing and told everything he knew twice.

 

Let’s segue 6ix9ine’s willingness to testify against his crew to analyze the Red wall of silence in teaching. If you think this wall doesn’t exist, you are kidding yourself.

Ask Yourself This.

Ask yourself the following questions: 1). Have you ever taught next door to someone that you know wasn’t good enough to be in front of your kids? 2). What did you do about it? 3). Did you stay silent, or did you engage the person in conversation? 4). How do you politely tell a colleague that they aren’t good enough to teach your kids? 5). How are the children?

The questions that I asked in the previous paragraph are all questions that we ask ourselves regarding our underperforming colleagues.

Teachers say, “It’s not my place to tell someone they aren’t cut out for teaching; that’s the principal’s job.”

It’s Everyone’s Job to Keep Kids Safe!

It’s not just the principal’s job. We have to keep our kids safe. If you see that kids are in an unsafe environment, I implore you to speak up.  If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your colleague, you can talk to the administrator. 6ix9ine did it, so can you.

What Would 6ix9ine Do?

I think we have gotten to caught up in worrying about what our colleagues think. We don’t spend enough time thinking about what kids need, and how we (as the adults can keep them safe). I say all this to say, if one of the most popular rappers on the planet can turn federal informant, it should be nothing for you to have an awkward conversation with colleagues about doing what’s in the best interest of kids. If all else fails, ask yourself what would 6ix9ine do?

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.

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.