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.
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.
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!
Historically single site charter schools “Mom and Pop” charter schools have been over sequenced by CMO’s (Charter Management Organizations) with multiple sites. Moreover, the support rendered to leaders of color has been non-existent. For those of us familiar with the work of a school-leader, we can agree that it can be a very lonely place as a school leader. For charter school leaders of color, utilizing the resources offered by the NCC is paramount to your success.
Insert the NCC.
The NCC creates a safe space for leaders of color. It allows leaders to decompress while networking with other LOC’s. If you’ve ever been to a convening, the energy in the room is always amazing. There’s a saying, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room.” At the 2019 convening in Oakland, I felt like there were a ton of people that I could learn.
Introducing the 8 Black Hands Podcast at NCC 2019.
The 8 Black hands podcast, composed of four education activists that aren’t afraid to “cape” for the Eight million black students that are currently not receiving an adequate education. We are unapologetic about fighting for Black families. To learn more about our podcast, or our work, you can follow us on twitter @8blackhands1.
Our first live Gig NCC 2019.
This year’s NCC national convening was the first time we recorded a live show. We are all individual fans of the NCC and their work. We are grateful for the mutual admiration, and the invite. Attached is the live show. But it doesn’t capture the energy that was in the room. It was terrific, and it helped us realize how powerful our podcast can be for the Eight million Black kids currently navigating through the nuance of poor performing schools in the United States of America.
If this latest Varsity Blues scandal combined with the abysmal acceptance rates of Black students in New York Specialized High Schools isn’t a wake-up call, what is?
Varsity Blues Scandal.
In light of the Varsity Blues scandal, we’ve had to stare privilege in the face and admit that the mighty dollar can buy school choice. Hollywood heavyweights were caught in a pay to play scheme that gave their children a competitive advantage in college admissions over Black and LatinX students. The Varsity Blues scandal should not come as a shock. Our educational system has always been this way.
New York City Specialized High School is B-S.
The NYC Specialized High School admission process may not be the same as the Varsity Blues scandal, but I will be darn if there are not any similarities. The Have’s are still in positions to benefit immensely from admissions. While the have nots struggle to make decisions about where to send their kids for high school. In Stuyvesant High School, there were 895 spots open to the incoming freshman class, only 7/895 of the admitted are Black. That’s .0078.
It’s insane and deserves political outrage. I believe this deserves a “Public School New Deal.” Hell, we can even make the deal green too, if it’ll make people act on it.
Truly Commit to Diversity.
The system needs fixing. Instead of talking about a system reboot, put in the work. Instead of catering to the affluent, let’s commit to creating an equitable system. Any other talk about building diverse systems is fluff. Black and LatinX folks are tired of the dust. We are tired of the sit back and wait your turn type attitudes that the affluent inflict upon the poor.
If the System Remains Broken.
If the system remains broken, and the Haves continue with their dominance, we should not dare blame parents for expressing a need for choice. Charter schools provide PoC hope. Our current educational system is bleak. The proof is in the results. We are not going to wait around while you all figure this out. We are going to make the best decisions for our children. You can judge all you want, be we won’t be sitting idly by while you fix the problem that you created. New York City specialized high school needs a reset.
My concluding thought is simple, fix the system. But until that system is problem free, please don’t you dare tell us where to send our kids to school.
Pundits that are anti-charter school/ anti-school choice have stated:
“Black and LatinX parents aren’t smart enough to choose schools for their children.” To the individuals that are shaming these parents for choosing for their children, I say, “we’ve been down this road before.” Historically, we have always had folks telling us what’s best for us.
Regardless of where you stand on the school choice argument, the one fact that we can’t debate is parents have the absolute right to choose the education that best fits their children.
Sports, occupations, politics, everyone has competition. The beauty of education is that no one model works for 100% of students. We are continually practicing new strategies to teach students.
Recently, some said, “parents choose charter schools because they don’t do their due diligence.” It’s 100% opposite. Parents are fed up with traditional public schools. They watched these same schools fail generations. Due diligence comes in the form generational poverty experienced by relatives that attended and continue to participate in these failure mills disguised as educational institutions. There is no better spokesperson than someone that has continuously failed at a task. The lived experience of these parents has to account for something.
Agree to Disagree.
So, we can agree to disagree on the intellectual prowess of those that seek choice. As a parent that has chosen to educate my child in a charter school, I find it somewhat non-sensical that folks have the nerve to question me about my child and my decision. I’ve done my “due diligence.” Now what? You want me to put my baby, in a school that has failed generations? But, I’m the crazy one?
For the last three years, we’ve spent close to undergraduate tuition at a state school in NY, to ensure our daughter was ready for pre-K. I know many families are not as blessed to be able to allocate that kind of money towards their child’s education. However, these are the very families that need more than just a status quo education for their children. A quality education should help to break cycles of poverty, and not continue to create them.
Every school choice parent has a story. Every child of a choice parent that has attended a public school, and no longer attends that school also has a story as well. Instead of persecuting these parents, let’s find out their stories. Have you ever asked a school choice parent why they chose the school they selected? This type of dialogue would be far more engaging. It may also help to get to the root of the problem, why certain schools no longer work for certain types of students.
The Nuance of Blame.
Let’s be real here. Charter schools are relatively new. Experts may disagree on the era In which public schools began to deteriorate. You may have some that say public schools were never intentioned for Black and LatinX students. While others may admit to public schools not being since the end of the cold war, wherever these folks preside in the argument, one that is public schools need to improve for minority students.
Moreover, if you’ve never stared poverty in the face, don’t talk to me about the choices I make for my child.
Enough of the Blame Game.
Okay, people. Let’s grow up. We have identified the problem. It isn’t charter schools. It is terrible schools. Now that we’ve identified the problem as bad schools, how do we fix them? Blaming the competition is not the answer. Admitting there is a problem, and committing to addressing the issue is the first step towards resolving it. Stop blaming charter schools.
We need genuine and thoughtful dialogue. Enough with this “Let’s Blame Charters argument because it is getting tired.”
Currently, there is much animus between traditional public-school pundits and advocates of school choice. School choice includes charter schools. In today’s society, I’m not sure how you can be an anti-school choice advocate.
Admittedly, those that oppose and advocate against charter schools have some legitimate concerns. I consider them Anti-School Choice.
This post serves as advice on how to address the major concerns of those that are anti-charter schools.
Concern One: There is a shortage of African-American school leaders that run charter schools in urban areas. The lack of PoC in leadership positions is indefensible. Some folks are doing some great work around supporting leaders of color. One group that comes to mind is the National Charter Collaborative. This group’s very existence is to help charter schools’ leaders of color navigate in this space. I have not taken advantage of the NCC’s offerings.
Extending on Point One: A Charter School Rooney Rule:
The Rooney Rule requires that an NFL team with a head-coaching vacancy must interview one or more minority candidates for the position. Given the NFL’s woeful history of considering and hiring minority candidates to fill head-coaching slots until the implementation of the Rooney Rule, the question asked was whether Pittsburgh would have even considered Mike Tomlin as a candidate for the Steeler head job without the Rooney Rule (Proxmire, 2008).
Moreover, what about a Rooney Rule in public education? Meaning– really, organic, purposeful conversations centered on school leadership in areas that serve high poverty families of color. Urban school districts would benefit greatly from having more minority male candidates as teachers, leaders, superintendents.
Consequently, what if for every principal and school superintendent vacancy, urban school districts had to (in good faith) interview a qualified minority candidate? The action alone would mean the world to minority families that have lost faith in the system.
Concern Two: Two: Some charter schools are ill-equipped to deal with the psychological trauma experienced by its student body. No charter school is perfect, and yes, some schools are tone deaf when it comes down to measuring the needs of students beyond academic requirements.
Mental Health has been making headlines as of recent. It is particularly important for schools to equip themselves to handle all of the needs of the students beyond just their academic requirements. Charter schools should employ multiple Social Workers. If budget cuts are on the horizon, the last cuts are the school counselors. Often they are the first to be cut.
Recruiting Diverse Staffs:
Concern Three: Charter School staffs do not reflect the student body of the students they serve. Charter schools are doing a better job with trying to recruit for diversity, but “trying to do, and doing” are not the same thing. Charter Schools need to commit to diversifying, and then become relentless about doing it. Diversifying is no easy task, but given the importance of the work we do, one can see the importance of hiring a diverse staff.
Concern Four: Charter Schools have high teacher turnover. As a charter school leader, one thinks about teacher turnover a lot. Leaders want teachers to be in good mental space. Having a healthy work-life balance helps this tremendously. For example, when we see teachers working late, we send them home. There has to be some time dedicated to not thinking about work, to re-energize and center oneself on the difficult work that a teacher does.
Beyond teacher exit surveys, “WE,” need to do a better job at taking the pulse of teachers, and ensuring they remain happy in our schools. Students thrive off of consistency. Having a consistent face for students and families is meaningful.
Proxmire, D. (2008). Coaching diversity: The Rooney rule, its application, and ideas for expansion. American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, 1-9.
Firstly, we can do more for the Black Community. What if members of the Divine Nine, Historically Black Fraternities and Sororities all pledged to fund an initiative? The initiative is to run charter schools based on the principles that govern their organizations.
Similarly to the Freedom Summers, potential initiates would dedicate a summer to the organizations’ Freedom school as an Assistant Teacher. These assistant teachers learn under a Master Teacher. Also, candidates learn more about the principles of their possible organization, but what better way to set potential members up for a lifetime of service?
As graduates, members of the Divine Nine are offered paid internships at their organizations’ respective school. If members become teachers, the organizations could build partnerships with the local universities to host classes on site or come up with a business model to help defray the costs of becoming a teacher.
These thoughts are in the infancy stages. Once built out, it could benefit everyone and could be the catalyst to increase the less than 2% Black Male teachers nationwide.
Freedom Schools Presently:
Notwithstanding, imagine schools where scholars do not have to fear to embrace their culturally rich heritage. Schools where Black Americans hear the truth about their impact on society and what PoC have meant to movement throughout history. Institutions where one can feel safe to be oneself, and not have to acclimate to what society has deemed acceptable.
Places where academic excellence is the norm and not the exception. Schools where they talk about college as the derivative for success, with no constant reminders about prisons or criminalization solely based on the color of one’s skin. Given these points, this is the kind of school I want for my child, if you agree, keep reading!
Five Components of Freedom Schools:
In essence, CDF Freedom Schools are doing this. Their website posts, the CDF Freedom Schools program enhances children’s motivation to read and makes them feel good about learning.
Similarly, the program connects families to the right resources in their communities. Freedom School students engage in a research-based. They participate in the multicultural Integrated Reading Curriculum that supports them and their families through five essential components:
High-quality academic enrichment
Parent and family development
Civic engagement and social action
Intergenerational servant leadership development
Nutrition, health and mental health
Students also receive two nutritious meals and a snack daily, as well as a book each week to build their home libraries.
Other key takeaways from Freedom schools are as follows:
• Parent involvement.
• Staff diversity. Many Freedom school employees parents are involved in the movement. That means the passion for these types of schools was passed down.
• Social Action. Stakeholders are not only alarmed by the social strains on, and they are actively engaging in coming up with solutions.
Freedom Schools of the Past:
Consequently, in the summer of 1964 establishes that educational choices in the Mississippi Delta were deplorable for young PoC. Increased hostility existed towards blacks in the post-Jim Crow era. However, through SNCC and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), the Freedom School Movement was born.
Generally speaking, Freedom Schools primary mission was to provide alternative schools that ‘‘Could supplement what Black students were learning in their high schools, give them a broader intellectual and academic experience that they could take back to their regular classes, and form the basis for statewide student action such as a school boycott’’ (Ligon and Chilcoat, 1999, p. 45).
Moreover, to reiterate: Poor schools as identified by (SNCC) and (COFO) is what spurned one of the most historic African-American led school reform initiatives, Freedom Schools.
Approximately 41 Freedom schools operated in the South. Many of the teachers in the schools were well-intentioned white college students. Again, many heard of the conditions and treatment of black folks in the South. After experiencing it first hand knew the racism prescribed to PoC in Mississippi was unlike anything they’d ever seen.
In summation, this Blog post highlights the visionary Charles Cobb. His forward-thinking centered around what is known as Freedom Schools. We’ve spoken a lot in my inner circles. We need innovative ideas that will work to help motivate and sustain a quality education for Blacks.
Ligon, J. A., & Chilcoat, G. W. (1999). Helping To Make Democracy a Living Reality: The Curriculum Conference of the Mississippi Freedom Schools. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 15(1), 43-68.