School district teams with Sandy Hook mom to teach empathy

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Nelba Marquez-Greene believes the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which killed her 6-year-old daughter, could have been avoided if more had been done years earlier to address the social isolation and mental health problems of the shooter, Adam Lanza.

To help other vulnerable youths, Marquez-Greene, a family therapist, is working with a Connecticut school system on a program to help students connect with one another.

“I want people to remember that Adam, the person who did this, was also once 6 and in a first-grade classroom, and that if we had reached out earlier then maybe this could have changed,” Marquez-Greene said.

Marquez-Greene’s Ana Grace Project foundation, named for her slain daughter, is working with four elementary schools in New Britain, a city just west of Hartford, to teach empathy, combat bullying and help socially isolated children.

Her Love Wins campaign, created with a local teacher, builds on the existing curriculum and also brings therapists and interns into the schools to help identify children who need extra help with social skills.

She is one of several people touched by the December 2012 shooting inside Sandy Hook who have become involved in the broader movement to incorporate social and emotional learning in American schools.

Read the entire article at the Houston Chronicle.

Here’s How Poisonous Politics And Bad Timing Killed An Effort To Streamline School Enrollment In Detroit

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A sophisticated new enrollment tool that was supposed to make signing up for school easier in Detroit won’t be of much use to the thousands of families whose children could be displaced by upcoming school closures.

Despite the more than $700,000 and countless hours of planning that went into creating a single application for Detroit’s competing district and charter schools, the effort has been put on hold indefinitely — a victim of bad timing, poor planning, and a toxic political environment.

“It’s a shame,” said Karey Reed-Henderson, a former charter school leader who served on the planning committee for what came to be called Enroll Detroit.

“We came together. We hashed things out,” Reed-Henderson said of a process that brought together charter school leaders with officials from the Detroit Public Schools, the state-run Education Achievement Authority and representatives of community groups.

“It wasn’t always roses and butterflies but the conversation was always around what’s best for the kids and best for families,” she said.

“Unfortunately it just got muddied.”

Now, as 25 Detroit schools face possible shut-down by the state, the handful of staffers still working at Enroll Detroit hope they can use their knowledge and technology to help at least some of the roughly 12,000 children who could be affected.

Read the whole story at Daily Detroit

NAACP Hearing Reveals Unsurprising Rift Over Charter Schools

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The battle of wills between charter school advocates and opponents continued last Thursday, February 9th, at the NAACP’s special hearing on charter schools in Los Angeles.

The hearing, held at the Deaton Civic Auditorium at LAPD Headquarters, convened some of the city’s most seasoned veterans and dedicated professionals in the education field.

The first part of the hearing was structured to allow ten guest speakers from different sides of the charter school debate to address NAACP’s Task Force on Quality Education. After each oral presentation, the Task Force was given the chance to ask speakers more probing questions.

The 11-member Task Force included Alice Huffman (Chair), Michael Curry, Hazel Dukes, Scot Esdaile, James Gallman, John Jackson, Daquan Love, Dora Nweze, Peter Rose, Gloria Sweet-Love, Derrick Johnson, and Robin Williams.

With few exceptions, the speakers fell into two opposing camps: those who focused on the promise of charter schools and those who, instead, fixated on its problems.

Among those who spoke favorably of charter schools were: Margaret Fortune, CEO of Fortune Schools; Chris Ungar, Ex-President, California Charter School Association (CCSA); Christina De Jesus, CEO of Green Dot Public Schools California

Jonathan Williams, CEO of Accelerated Schools; and Gene Fisher Founder of Watts Learning Center.

One of the most compelling stories of charter school success came from NAACP member, Margarete Fortune, who leads a chain of charter schools in Sacramento and San Bernardino that are top-ranked in California on measures of academic performance.

“There is a reason why black parents are choosing to send their kids to Fortune schools. The traditional school districts in our community woefully under-serve black students,” she said.

Presenters on the opposing side, who dwelled largely on the flaws of charter schools, were fewer in number, but just as opinionated. They included Jose Acala of California Teachers Association; Cecily Myart-Cruz, VP of United Teachers Los Angeles; and Dr. Julian Heilig-Vasquez, Professor at Sacramento State.

The most passionate speech from the opposition came from Cecily Myart-Cruz, a head of United Teachers Los Angeles. With a booming voice and deep conviction, she held no bars in exposing the faults she saw with charter schools. “CCSA and charter operators want to gloss over the issues that the NAACP moratorium highlights: transparency, accountability, and the impacts on the public school system from unregulated charter growth.”

Moderate voices such as George McKenna were hard to find. In his speech, he neither praised nor vilified charter schools. A self-proclaimed pragmatist with over 50 years of experience in education, his chief concern was bridging the rift between the two sides. He insisted that “the charter and public schools today, have to work together, whether we like it or not.” For him, it seemed non-negotiable. He added, “these children are too precious to be ignored.”

The NAACP Task Force did little to unify the polarized groups. The national leaders opted, instead, to maintain a neutral stance during the session. Rosyln Brock, NAACP Board Chair, placed the NAACP in a position to volley between sides. “If your charter school is working well, it’s accountable, has transparency… continue to do what you’re doing,” Brock said. But then added, “However, if your charter school is throwing out Jamal and Jimmy and Jereeka. And you’re letting Alice and Susan stay in school … we’re here for those who are left in our community.”

To be fair, fostering collaboration between the brain trust that had gathered in Deaton Auditorium last week was not the NAACP’s stated purpose.

Brock made it clear that “We [the Board] are here to listen and to learn.” She continued, “we would like a moratorium, a pause, for us to have a conversation and a dialogue about the opportunity to educate our children.”

Despite hours of discussion, the fact that few solutions were explored at this meeting calls into question whether these type of dialogue-heavy hearings are a worthwhile use of NAACP’s time and resources.

Dialogue is fine. But action is better. And the verdict is still out on whether the National Task Force can translate the knowledge gained from these hearings into meaningful policy action.


Erica Copeland lives in Los Angeles where she counsels high school youth through the college admission process. She wrote this for the blog One Public Education.

NAACP: Who Exactly Are You Working to Advance When You Ignore Black Parents?

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By Khulia Pringle

It is my prayer that the NAACP hearing on their charter school moratorium happening today in Los Angeles goes far better than the ones I recently attended in Orlando, Florida and Memphis Tennessee.  It would be an understatement to say that both were appalling experiences for me as a black woman and an educator.

NAACP members revealed themselves in both cities to be woefully uninformed, consistently asking questions about charter schools that they should have known the answers to long before their organization voted to put a moratorium in place. It’s as if they decided to put the brakes on something without knowing a damn thing about what it is and how it works.

That takes some nerve when you think of how many parents and children are impacted by their ignorance.

My disappointments and frustrations are many when it comes to these hearings. In Memphis, the most appalling thing I saw was that parents were almost completely shut out of the discussion. The hearing lasted four hours and yet, somehow, they only allowed for twelve minutes of public comment.

Twelve minutes for the people most impacted by their decision. Twelve minutes for people who sat and listened to their uninformed questions and comments for four hours.

The first thing I noticed in Orlando was that the agenda was almost identical to the one I’d seen in Memphis. Some pro-charter people and some anti-charter people. But something really disturbing jumped from the page in Orlando: Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, was on the agenda.

Do Your Homework

One thing was crystal clear very quickly. NAACP members had not done their research, their homework, before voting on the charter moratorium resolution. Most of them didn’t know anything.

Here’s a taste of what they asked:

Do Charter Schools accept students with IEPs?

Do Charters schools cherry pick kids?

Do Charter Schools kick kids out leading to a school to prison pipeline?

Do Charter schools keep the money if a child leaves the school?

Do Charter school teachers have to be trained?

Not only did this line of questioning, directed exclusively to those seen as “pro-charter,” expose a remarkable level of ignorance but it also revealed to me that not enough folks were asking the right questions.  

I would have liked to have heard some questions like this:

Are traditional public schools held accountable for failing poor students and students of color?

What are  the suspension rates for traditional public schools?

When kids are kicked or pushed out of the traditional system, where do they go?

If charters are not accepting students with IEP’s, then why?

What is the level of racial diversity  of teachers in traditional public schools? Are kids currently seeing themselves in their teachers and school administrators?

Are teachers required to take cultural competency and implicit bias training? What are the repercussions for a teacher being blatantly racist and/or a bullying children?

What does  the curriculum like in a  traditional public schools? Are all kids learning about themselves in history class?

What are traditional public schools doing to retain families and encourage parents to choose them instead of a  charter school?

But the worst part of the whole thing, for me, was the arrival of Randi Weingarten who was quite literally treated like some rock star by the NAACP panel.

“We have a very special guest, that has just arrived, Can we all stand up give Randi Weingarten, a standing ovation.”

Are you kidding me? I am now being told to stand for someone who is singlehandedly trying to prevent black and brown kids from having better and more quality school options?  I looked around and everyone, except for me and education advocate Rashad Turner, did as they were told and stood up. I literally said out loud, why are y’all standing?

Randi started out talking about all of her concerns about charter schools and all the reasons why they aren’t the solution. And then she mentions that she owns a charter school in Brooklyn. Say What? Well ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black.

I couldn’t stomach any more, so I left.

It is my hope, my prayer, that the Los Angeles hearing is different today.  But I ain’t gonna lie; the fact that it’s being held at the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters is not a very good start.

Khulia Pringle is a mother, teacher, and parent organizer in St. Paul, Minnesota

 

What will Trump’s new Education Secretary do about out-of-school time?

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After-school programs aimed at helping children from low-income families have survived changes at the White House, in Congress and even some attempts to pull funding when the Every Student Succeeds Act was adopted in 2015.

With the first confirmation vote for a new secretary of education scheduled for Wednesday, advocates and providers of out-of-school time activities are hopeful that the programs will continue without interruption, even if some tweaks are inevitable.

“It’s certainly something we’ve been following and we’re talking to folks on the Hill, but I don’t think anyone really knows for sure what to expect,” said Erik Peterson, vice president of policy for the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit that advocates for programs that support children during OST. “ESSA is the law of the land, and I don’t see that changing. But the new secretary has a lot of levers at her disposal in terms of setting priorities and spending decisions.”

The Every Student Succeed Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind program, included a definition of expanded school time, something that hadn’t been done in any previous legislation. The new law also continued funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which were established in 2002. The program, which had a $1.1 billion budget in 2016, is designed to improve literacy, provide training in arts, music and other activities and provide a safe environment for students.

Read the entire article at Youth Today.