WHY ARE PARENTS OF COLOR AND THE POOR EXPECTED TO KEEP SACRIFICING THEIR KIDS WELLBEING IN UNJUST SCHOOLS – FOR AN EDUCATION? ?>

WHY ARE PARENTS OF COLOR AND THE POOR EXPECTED TO KEEP SACRIFICING THEIR KIDS WELLBEING IN UNJUST SCHOOLS – FOR AN EDUCATION?

game plan ed 8.13.2016

It is Back to School month, and while parents like me should be getting into gear for back to school activities, this black mom finds herself weary, heavy-hearted and angry. If you feel the need to call this the “Diary of an Angry Black Woman” or the “Blog of an Angry Black Mom”, because the only way you know how to describe a black woman is with a label – then do you “-boo-boo” – because this Black parent, will definitely be doing me –fighting for equity and justice in the educational rights of children–especially the marginalized children, like never before!  Why? It’s because MLK states clearly that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” –and ALL children matter!  Also because if parents don’t stand up for their children and all children – then who will? Really, who will?

I am very skeptical and somewhat angered with those who don’t have children or a family member in these unjust failing schools yet they claim to be expert enough to define the narrative of those who do!

It goes without saying, whoever controls the narrative controls the story and the so-called solutions which, for the most part, do not actually ensure equitable educational and life needs of marginalized children. For example, you can extend the school day of traditional schools all you want but buildings don’t educate children it’s the educators in the buildings that educate children. If teachers do not believe children of color can learn during regular school hours what will extending the day do for these children – traumatize them longer?

It is immoral and inhumane to keep forcing parents of color and the poor to subject their children to the many traditional public schools across the United States, that do not treat them as human beings deserving of dignity and respect at a minimum, under the guise of achieving the American dream- an education.

How can we say in the Pledge of Allegiance “One Nation Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All” yet treat children of color and the communities they live in like we are less than human beings? Where is the Justice for All in that!

In addition, I am heavy hearted -why? Before my son Jemel, age 25, died in a fatal car accident five months ago, I interviewed him for a book I am still writing – Game On Parents! Moving from the Sidelines into the Game of Educational Reform! He was a high school dropout and I needed to understand why he dropped out because based on “research” since his mom is educated with a traditional high school diploma and some college; he should have done well – right? Let me say this clearly, data or research will never replace the need for relationship building in our schools and communities. Developing and sustaining relationships builds trust!

For the record, because dropping out wasn’t an acceptable option, my family encouraged my son Jemel to go to JobCorps. He successfully got a diploma through their educational program and completed a culinary arts certification program as well.

Having that experience with my son’s alternative education is why I stand in opposition against any system that denies parents their constitutional right to choose the best educational option for their children! Why are parents of color, mostly black parents, and those in low income communities, forced or strongly manipulated with “fear tactics” to stay in an unjust failing school or choose a school that just can’t meet their child’s educational and emotional needs?

I respect the National NAACP as the oldest civil rights organization that fought to ensure we have the liberties we have today. However, as it relates to their resolution to put a moratorium on Charter schools, I strongly oppose this referendum, because effective charters are viable educational solutions along with effective traditional public schools, vocational, and early child hood Head Start programs. And for those who are using this as a divide and conquer strategy, it does not work with this black mom. With that said, maybe their moratorium should be against ANY unjust failing educational institution that does not ensure equity in education rather than then singling out Charter Schools.

And finally, I am troubled that we as black and Latino folk keep giving people “free passes” when they fail to do right by children. Why– because they are having courageous conversations? I am tired of the over used term “Courageous Conversations” because I see too many people, patting themselves on the back, due to the fact that they are “talking” about how terrible it is to oppress and deny communities of color access to equitable opportunities in economics and educations versus doing something to abolish discriminatory practices that deny thousands and thousands of children, mostly black and/or poor, of all ages, a quality education because of the color of their skin and their zip code.

I say to parents, from personal experience, that our kids will never forget when we fail to keep them safe. I say this because my son Jemel, may he rest in eternal peace, stated he dropped out because “the high school allowed him to be bullied most of the time and you mom wasn’t as active in my school, as you are now”.  With tears in my eyes, I stated to my son “I was much younger and I was taught to just trust the school system, they are the experts and I couldn’t give you what I just didn’t know”.

Yes, our children love us, even with our shortcomings, but how can we say we love them unconditionally when we allow, yes allow, many public schools to deny them equitable access to educational opportunities because of the color of their skin or zip code thus treating them less than human.  We must demand educational options and be willing to boycott and walk out of these failing schools for the sake of our children. For their well-being, it must become paramount that we never negotiate our children’s safety, education, and overall well-being – ever!

And for those who believe they are “Captain Save a Black and/or Poor Child” let me be clear, parents are very capable of speaking for themselves, many just need access to supports that teach them how to navigate the educational landscape. Most parents don’t need you to speak for us, we need you to work with us because every time you take the “savior” approach it feeds into the narrative that parents are less knowledgeable and don’t understand. We definitely know what failing schools that discriminate look and feel like because many children of color are forced to attend them every day – but those days will soon change because parents, students and communities are moving from the sidelines into the game of education reform because it has become a matter of survival!  #GameOn

3 thoughts on “WHY ARE PARENTS OF COLOR AND THE POOR EXPECTED TO KEEP SACRIFICING THEIR KIDS WELLBEING IN UNJUST SCHOOLS – FOR AN EDUCATION?

  1. You have some valid and appropriate comments and insights, but then perpetuate a one-sided approach in the same manner as that which you are upset with. I teach at a school in Memphis, TN. Our school system has some effective schools and some failing to meet the needs of their students. Shelby County Schools (SCS) has embarked on a mission to address the needs of the under-performing schools. So far, it has been markedly more successful than the efforts by the schools that have been appropriated by state management to “turn-around.” My numbers aren’t exact, but I am close. The efforts by SCS resulted in over 10% gains by students on the state administered tests [is that even a valid assessment of student performance?] while the schools taken over by the state and delegated primarily to charter operators showed less than 5% gains and often were flat. I can only really speak with some knowledge about Memphis schools, but from what I read this seems to be, to a certain degree, true in many other places. There are effective public and charter schools – I agree. But more often than not, when under-performing public schools have been disbanded, the charter schools which often replace them are only minimally different in performance than the school administrations/staffs that they replaced and can even under-perform what has been replaced. In Memphis, there have been few charter schools that have made statistically significant improvements with their students vs. those same students’ performance in the under-performing public school.

    Your comment: “However, as it relates to their resolution to put a moratorium on Charter schools, I strongly oppose this referendum, because effective charters are viable educational solutions along with effective traditional public schools, vocational, and early child hood Head Start programs. And for those who are using this as a divide and conquer strategy, it does not work with this black mom. With that said, maybe their moratorium should be against ANY unjust failing educational institution that does not ensure equity in education rather than then singling out Charter Schools.”
    I really agree with some parts of these sentences, with the emphasis being on “effective schools.” Too often, “charter school” is equated with effective school and the actuality is that many charter schools are less than effective also. You have probably read more extensively on the NAACP resolution than I have, but I probably read it through a different lens. For starters, I think part of the issue is that many constituencies are presenting charter schools as the saviors of education, but the track record does not support that designation – at least in Memphis as noted above. I think part of the purpose of the resolution is to get people to start looking at charter schools – maybe even at all schools – on a case by case basis. Put measures in place that can provide information for all people to be able to make informed decisions about individual schools rather than make blanket statements that all schools of a certain type (i.e. public/charter) are better or worse than another simply for the type of school that it is. Another flag being raised is in regards to those schools (numerous charter schools in particular) that use draconian disciplinary measures. One blog I read recently by a former charter school teacher documents the manner in which she was disciplined as a teacher for “not following the script” and doing something not allowed such as letting students “ask questions.” The way I understood the article, asking questions brought attention to individual students and that was not allowed in this charter school chain’s modus operandi. I can’t imagine a school without questioning – that is an integral element of my mode of teaching.

    Public schools can be very effective. What is happening in TN is proof of that. Check out http://tnscore.org/ to see the results of an organization that is trying to identify strategies and characteristics of high performing schools – public, charter, independent, etc. – and many of the award recipients have been “effective”public schools. My biases will come out here. I teach in a NW Memphis school. Typically over 95% African American and the last few years above 90% economically disadvantaged. All the factors that should make us a “failing” and under-performing school are in existence, but the reality is that we were recognized by SCORE last year as the elementary award winner. The award recognized our success in the last three years, but was partly awarded for our long-term track record.

    Your comment: “Let me say this clearly, data or research will never replace the need for relationship building in our schools and communities. Developing and sustaining relationships builds trust!” 100% agreed and accurate in my school. A huge reason for our success is the connections with the community and the relationships that we have with our stake-holders. We have former students bringing their babies to us when they reach school age. This past year, I have encountered a large number of former students, and everyone of them credits our elementary school (primarily the teachers and relationships) with allowing them to reach the point that they have achieved.

    One other item about the NAACP resolution. I believe part of the reason they are calling for a hold on charter schools is that they are desiring a more transparent accounting of school function and success. You can walk into a public school and get all the information you want. Maybe even find a major portion of it on the state website. Again, at least in Memphis (but also routine in other places from what I read), charter schools are often concealed in terms of governance, finances, performance, etc. It can be difficult to get any real, substantive information. A charter school near where I teach, found ways to “get rid of” students who weren’t performing academically or had disruptive behavior. When they ended up en masse at the closest public school over the course of the school year, the charter school was able to say – look how good we are, but look how bad they are. It is easy to make yourself look better when you have eliminated the “issues.”

    I had some other thoughts when I started this, but it is late now and my brain is shutting down. I would be interested in dialoguing with you, if you are so inclined, to continue to enlarge the perspectives from which we both operate.

    David McNair

    1. Thank you for sharing Mr. David McNair. I too agree with many parts of your comments. But most politics are local, so I do not feel a moratorium on Charters will ensure transparency. Accountability for all school models will get you to that place more efficiently. If something is working for kids why not try to duplicate and bring to scale that effort for the sake of children – not the opposite. what strategies may work well in one community may not be as effective in another. My children attend traditional public schools so I know traditional public schools can be effective. In addition, I too would love to continue this conversation 🙂

      1. That is a big part of what SCORE is trying to do in TN. [The organization was started by former Senator Bill Frist.] Identify strategies and processes that can be replicated and then provide forums, conferences, workshops, etc. that can be used to share this high quality and effective work. I was part of a 4-member team that was in Nashville this past weekend presenting at a SCORE summit trying to share what we do that works for us and get other educators and leaders to evaluate their own situations and identify areas that might improve using some of our ideas. The self-reflection has been useful and enlightening. It has reminded us of some of the intentionality that has been integral to creating our synergy and caused us to be cognizant of ensuring that we return to some of the more formal constructs we have used in the past to get new teachers at the school aligned with our philosophical foundation. But yes, accountability is too often forfeited in the name of politics – and students suffer in the experimentation that is posited on them.

        In the past few years, as we have had to justify our efforts and have been recognized for our successes, the one component that I keep coming back too: we do so many of the things that other educational institutions do, so….what makes them different in our hands? I firmly believe, that in large part, it is due to the human resources involved. We [the staff] bring a wide-ranging skill set and have learned to trust each other, support each other, and identify and encourage each person’s strengths. I feel that this collegiality is experienced by our stake-holders and causes them to appreciate, support, and engage at a more significant level with the school. My slightly tongue-in-cheek answer is that our personnel need to be cloned to replicate the success that we have had in other locations. But back to your comment about building relationships – to me, that is some of our greatest accountability. We answer to our parents and students. At the conference this past weekend, my 5th grade colleague commented on how the way we talk about our students has changed/ evolved/reformed over the last decade. The verbiage is much more positive and encouraging and almost always constitutes a desire to find the key that will allow every student to reach and/or maximize their potential.

        With all the changes in education in recent years and some personal challenges, I have experienced frustration to a degree that has made me question my choice of vocation. I didn’t get into teaching until I was about 38 so this was a conscious choice that for many years I said I was never going to do. I have other things I can do, but in spite of all the challenges I feel that I am where I am called to be. This has been the year of encouragement in the form of re-engaging with former students in a way that has never occurred in my years of teaching. In the grocery store, at a restaurant, walking my dog, getting car tag……etc. I would continually (to the tune of one or more students almost every week since last November), I would encounter former students [and parents] with stories to tell of their continuing emotional connection to the elementary school that they attended and they couldn’t believe I was still there. We all need encouragement, especially in light of constant pressures and what feels like the vilifying of the teaching profession. I wish we could diminish the encroachment of politics in education, but the cynic in me says that as long as there is money involved that will never happen. We have to continue to hold ourselves accountable and seek to promote the best scenarios for our students. In the same way that parents need to be among the strongest advocates for their own children.

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