Today, many parents of Black children in particular are paying close attention to how and where their children are learning. They are demanding changes beyond changing school names—changes such as higher expectations, culturally affirming curriculum, teacher diversity, high-quality school choice options, alternative disciplinary practices, and more social emotional education.
Schools nationwide receive, on average, $15,000 per student per year. The claim that money will fix our broken K-12 public education system is no longer accepted as the only solution to the problem. We must do more.
Today, only 15 out of 100 Black students nationwide are reading proficiently, and only 13 out of 100 are doing math on grade level. Black students are over identified as having special needs, but under identified as gifted and talented. In Baltimore, 41% of students graduated with below a 1.0 GPA. Parents should hold their children’s schools accountable, but don’t always know where to start.
It starts with parental awareness. The more parents know about their child’s learning environment, the more powerful they become. Finding the right school for your child can be hard, especially when your child is Black. Black students deserve to learn in safe, high-quality school environments. It is time we equip parents with the tools they need to demand for a more just school system.
As a prominent advocate for high-quality school choice options for parents, I want to help parents with Black children navigate the school system so that they can find a school or learning environment that meets their child’s needs, interests, and abilities. I hope this list of suggested timely questions will spark much needed conversations and empower parents to be the best advocates for their children.
1. What are your school’s Covid safety protocols?
2. Do you offer a hybrid/ virtual option?
3. What is your average class size?
4. What culturally affirming activities/lessons happen outside of Black History Month?
5. What are your hair policies?
6. Do you require uniforms? If so, do you regulate the brands students can wear (i.e. no name brand symbols on clothing)?
7. What are your disciplinary policies?
8. What are your suspension/expulsion rates? How many Black students were suspended or expelled from your school last year? And, what are common offenses?
9. How many students were identified as special needs last year?
10. How many Black students were identified as gifted and talented?
11. How many Black students in my child’s grade passed the reading and math assessment?
12. When do teachers typically start preparing students for the state assessment?
13. What kind of tutoring/ support do you have for students who need extra help in their subjects?
14. How many Black students graduated from high school? How many drop out of school?
15. Do you have any teachers with past disciplinary problems? Have any of your teachers had to go before the school board to defend their jobs? Has the teachers’ union helped any of your teachers keep their job?
16. How often do students go on field trips?
17. What extracurricular activities do you offer?
18. Do you have a school social worker on staff? What mental health support services are available for students?
19. What support groups and services are available for parents?
20. Are students given free time and space to be creative?
21. If I am having a problem with how my child is being educated or treated, who should I submit my grievance to?
These questions should serve as an empowerment tool for parents, regardless of what type of school their child attends. Of course, one of the most empowering realities is to give parents school choices so that they can be both empowered and informed.
All children should have the opportunity to attend schools that are filled with hope and high academic outcomes. Nourishing Black minds with a rich education is the first step to breaking generational poverty and societal inequities. True equity in education and education freedom can no longer linger behind a facade of morality.