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.

Black families choosing culturally affirming schools isn’t ‘segregation’

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Though some critics say charter schools that serve predominantly African-Americans, Latinos or Native Americans are “segregated,” such schools can be “culturally affirming” and should not be lumped with schools that are segregated in the traditional sense of the word.

That was the key point that Chris Stewart, director of outreach and external affairs at Education Post, a school reform group, made at a recent charter school forum at the University of Southern California.

“When governments assign you by race to inferior schools, that is traditionally segregation,” Stewart said. “When parents pick culturally affirming programs for their child, that is so far from the traditional understanding of segregation that it’s almost insulting to call it that. It’s cultural survival.”

Stewart made his remarks in response to a charge by University of California, Los Angeles education and law professor Gary Orfield that charter schools are perpetuating segregation because there is no plan to ensure that they enroll students from diverse backgrounds.

“The problem is these are new schools, so we are creating new segregated schools,” said Orfield, who is co-director of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA. “No one is doing anything to make them diverse.”

Orfield said charter schools should pursue diversity for the same reasons that colleges and universities pursue affirmative action — because diversity has been shown to be a “positive intellectual force.”

“Integration is much better than segregation,” Orfield said. “It changes lives in important ways, offers important opportunities not just for students of color but all students, as we see in our universities. We should pursue it in charter schools.”

Read full article

Transportation is key if families are to access better school options

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Imagine you’re a student taking the city bus to school every day. You wake up at 5:30 a.m. to catch three buses and you still end up being late to school. The buses are often late, the weather and traffic get in the way, and you often don’t feel safe this early in the morning or when you’re coming back from school late at night. Your family doesn’t have enough money to purchase a car, so you’re left to rely on the IndyGo as your primary means of transportation. As a high school student, how would you effectively navigate this system?

This is the reality for some of our students in the Tindley Schools network, a chain of high-performing charter schools on the eastside of Indianapolis. We do not have a school busing system, so our families have two options for transportation: dropping their children off every morning or putting them on the city bus to school, regardless of weather, reliability, or safety.

Having good, reliable transportation is paramount to ensuring that our students can take full advantage of their academic opportunities. Hence, it is critical that the city council votes yes on the Mass Transit plan. If approved, the plan’s key components would allow our bus riders to both get to school on time and engage in the after-school activities, all while ensuring their safety.

First, allowing certain busses to ride in 10-minute intervals would result in more pick-up times. This would allow our students, some of whom now travel for more than two hours on several buses, to get to school on time. Being consistently late to school puts students at a disadvantage and eventually leads to them falling behind academically. A more efficient transportation system would ensure that our students are at the school before the bell and are fully prepared for their academic day.

An improved transportation system would also allow our students to take advantage of more after-school activities which, as studies have shown, result in many benefits such as improved academic performance, better school attendance, and higher academic aspirations. At Tindley, school activities don’t start until after 4:15 pm, by which time many of our city bus riders have to leave to catch their first bus of many in order to simply make it home. Having more buses run more frequently will allow these students to participate in extracurricular activities while still being able to catch a bus home at a decent time.

Passing the new Mass Transit plan would also go a long way towards keeping our students safe and healthy. With increased pick up times, students will have the opportunity to ride the buses later in the day, both during daylight and knowing that they won’t have extended wait times in the dark. Moreover, with buses coming more frequently, our students will have less waiting time at the bus stop during the colder months. This will not only keep our students healthier but alleviate the need for parents to stay home with their children during times of sickness.

Lastly, the approval of the Mass Transit plan will make it easier for families to choose better-performing schools for their children to attend. Families often send their children to schools where there is a bus available. A more effective transportation system will allow families to explore schools outside of their neighborhood.

The new Mass Transit plan is bound to have countless positive ramifications on our students’ academic, social, and emotional trajectory. The Tindley scholars and all other students who take public transit to school need the Indianapolis City-County Council to approve it. Teachers, school administrators, students, families, and businesses will all greatly benefit from a transit system that is more efficient, reliable, and safe.

ShaDe’ Watson is a special education teacher at Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School. David McGuire is the school principal at Tindley Preparatory Academy. Both are Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows. This article was previously published at the Huffington Post.

Our gifted students need school choice too

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In sports vernacular, one could argue that Maurice Duerson is a potential first round draft pick in the making. His stats are off the charts. The burgeoning star is a sixth grader at Frances W. Parker, Indianapolis Public Schools #56, a Montessori School. In the early 1940s, Francis W. Parker was considered the “Colored School” for African-American students in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood.

From the very first glance, it’s clear that this young man bears the potential to be a foundational piece for any team looking to rise in the standings.

But we’re not really talking sports, though he’s got some football skills. No, we’re talking something better. You see, if Maurice maintains his current trajectory he may not be on the field, but he will be calling the shots.

The oldest of three brothers, Maurice, 12, has been enrolled in year-round Edna Martin Christian Center Out of School Learning Activities since 2013. In that time, Maurice has flourished academically, showing real growth in his grades, Montessori evaluations and standardized testing results. In terms of attendance, Maurice seldom misses school–mom ain’t having it anyway!

Maurice poses no risk for suspension or expulsion. His worst offense is sometimes knowing he’s the smartest guy in the room. You will find him face-planted in a book or graphic novel every day–today’s book was The Hunger Games. In fact, if you overlook the occasional smart aleck antics that come with a 12-year-old that is seldom challenged, he’s the model of a young man bound for leadership.

Maurice’s mom has been looking a school that would challenge him more. It compelled her to choose a non-traditional model within the traditional public schools system, and it’s the reason she is choosing a different option now.

Despite his consistent honor roll status and exceptional scholastic performance at his previous school, mom chose to transfer Maurice to the Sidener Academy for High Ability Students. Sidener Academy, also in the Indianapolis Public Schools District, is one of the state’s highest performing schools.

In 2015, despite a state standardized test fraught with irregularities, 99.5 percent of the school’s students passed, down from 100 percent in 2014.

The national Blue Ribbon School is the envy of many traditional public, charter and private schools in the city, and draws from all corners of Marion County. Entry is not assured simply by application. Among other requirements, Sidener students are required to take aptitude assessments to ensure they are prepared to meet the rigors of a fast paced, diverse environment.

What is awaiting Maurice is different. In keeping with the sports analogies, what comes now is the fiercest competition he’s faced. It may humble him, may also confirm the genius he fully already believes himself to be.

In either event, it’s game on.

 wrote this for Indy Ed.