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
Charter Schools Education Education Reform Special Education Success Academy

Successes and Failures of Success Academy.

Successes and Failures of Success Academy.

Any great school has its successes and failures.  I’m not saying we need to pick on everything that happens in every school, but when something does happen, we can’t stay quiet.

Full Disclosure.

I root for Success Academy like its no one’s business. As a charter school leader who wouldn’t? They boast some of the highest test scores in the state. For Black and LatinX parents, Success presents a strong argument that kids in the inner city are just as good if not better than affluent neighborhoods throughout the state of New York. I even send my teachers to their campuses every year as a part of their professional development. My thought process behind sending teachers to Success Academies to observe is, please don’t tell me Black and LatinoX students can’t achieve when we see it first hand that they can.

Eva as the Face of the Charter Movement.

Eva Moskowitz’s methods almost take away from everything that Success has accomplished. We can say, when you’re a top school, people are going to “gun” for you. I don’t buy this argument because other high performing charter schools manage to stay under the radar. Those charter schools aren’t as politically connected and don’t have a CEO that calls the mayor out every other week. Like it or not, Eva Moskowitz is the public face of the charter school movement.

The Current Controversy.

At current, Success Academy is embattled in a special education Civil Rights Violation scandal. In a complaint filed with the NY State Education Department, SA allegedly changed IEP’s without parent knowledge. If you know anything about the special education process, you know parents are an essential component and deciding determiner of the outcomes of IEP meetings. The mere thought of a school changing an IEP is implausible. In my mind and heart, I hope that there is a counter-narrative to explain these actions.

The Coverage.

All things being equal, I would not say I like writing bad things about charter schools. Charter schools already face an uphill battle contending with the anti-choice animus. However, if viewed as having an inability to police, and call out our own, that’s nothing short of hypocrisy. If we’re doing something wrong, it should be everyone’s business to call it out and offer suggestions as to how to improve things.

My Suggestion.

The work going on in the charter sector is too important for there to be one face. Eva is a constant target for charter school pundits. SA’s network is enormous and has a ton of talent. It may be time for the schools’ leaders to step into the forefront and be the faces of SA.

Eva’s work is too valuable on the grand scale of things, for her to continue to be the face of the organization. My advice would be to yield to the school leaders.

Moving the Work of Charter Schools Forward.

We have to call a spade a spade. If someone in the sector, no matter who it is, albeit CMO or Single-site charter is doing something wrong, we must all voice concerns. To remain silent is to stay complacent. I understand some of you are walking on eggshells. It’s okay if I lose followers or supporters for speaking about what’s right, those people were not the kind of folks that should be following me.

Categories
Civil Rights Education Equity and Justice Parenting Special Education Teaching and Learning

Black Boys in Sped, Why?

There are too many Black boys in Sped classes.

Sped Used Correctly:

In fact, Special Education, when used to its real intent, is an excellent resource. Teachers identify the challenges exhibited by students and help parents put methods in place that will assist in student learning. The special education process, when used to it’s the real intent can be an invaluable tool for student learning.

Consequently, the problem that I have with Special Education, and I’m sure this rings true in communities with PoC is when race plays a role in determining placement. As it stands young black males, simply started are overrepresented in Special Education classes.


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Black Boys in Sped:

Moreover, in the 2011-12 school year, black students were 14.4% of the student population in schools in the US. In the same time frame, Black students were also 19% of the 6.1 million students served under IDEA. More specifically, Black Males represented 12.8% of the 4.1 million males served under IDEA.

 

The Dirty South:

The South is the most egregious. Some of the statistics are unnerving. In the following states, the percent of their Special Education populations are staggering. They are as follows:

  • Georgia 50%
  • Louisiana 52.4%
  • South Carolina 43%
  • Maryland 45.2%

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Some of you may be surprised by these numbers. Unfortunately, many of us are not. Given the shameful history of white supremacy, these numbers make sense. The figures also become eerily correlatable to the school to prison pipeline, a concept that I will address in the future.

Some of the areas that Black Students have been over-identified in special education services are as follows:

  • Emotional disturbance
  • Intellectually Disabled

Reluctance to Address the Stigma:

The obvious answer and I’m walking on eggshells as I type is that there is a disconnect between the ways Black kids learn and the way teach Black kids. One can’t help but think that whom they are educated by plays a role in students being over-identified as intellectually disabled students.rrr-or-2015-black

Black parents are resistant to Special Education talks. They have personally had bad experiences, or they know of others who have had lousy experiences. So when a Black parent is apprehensive to your suggestions, it’s not because they don’t care about their kid, it’s the opposite.


Ways to combat Sped Stigmas:

  1. Cultural relevant pedagogy: make learning interesting to all students. Don’t be afraid to learn about cultures that may differ from your own.
  2. Relationship building: Understanding that kids don’t work for people they don’t like or trust.
    Building authentic relationships with families and students is a surefire way to start to break down existing barriers.
  3. Sensitivity to past trauma: Although these students may not have directly experienced slavery, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Mass Incarceration, they are descendants of those that have. They carry a sense of lived trauma that has not and sometimes we will never atone.

I chaired a parent meeting recently in which we went through the process of identifying a black male student for Sped Services. As I spoke to this grandfather, I could see the lived pain on his face.

I was cautious and deliberate with the words that I talked to him. I could tell it was more comfortable for him to take in because that message came directly from me, someone he knew cared, and would operate in the best interests of his grandson, a young black boy.