Sunday, March 30, 2014
“Nowhere is the crossroad of race and privilege more striking than in education”
– G.P. Collins, 2014
“The day starts in a middle school. The bell rings. Students scatter from homeroom to get to first period before the tardy bell. Some missed homeroom and are just leaving the office checking in. The hall from a distance looks like a rainbow of all shades of brown, black and white. Students gather into groups as they walk, some going in one direction, others into classrooms in the opposite direction. As they gather into groups you begin to see students of the same ‘shade’ together and all of the ‘white’ students clustering together. Approaching the small cluster of white students are one or two black students kind of ‘bringing up the rear’ of the group. As students settle into classrooms, the shades of black and brown students are seated in large groups as many as 27-30 per class.. this course is General Math 8 /Algebra I. Many in the group are new to the school, others went here last year. Of those in the class, 5 or 6 are already preparing for a boring lesson repeating the same skills they learned two years ago. Some are attentive nonetheless, others go to sleep, some socialize, some daydream and wonder what am I here for?
Down the hall, the cluster of white and two black students settle in. This is the higher level math class. The teacher is assigned to teach Algebra II, Problem Based Learning with Math, and some PreCalc if the time allows (the class is called Gifted Math II). The students are on task, some socializing but they appear to be ready to engage. Did I tell you that it’s a very small group..only 9 students in the class. They come and go each day believing themselves to be the only ones ready for this course so they dig in and start their studies. They feel special, unique, set apart. The two black students wonder why they are the only ones ‘like us’ in this small group and think about some of their friends who they know to be just as bright, some even smarter..but somehow, didn’t make the ‘cut’.
So I ask you - what TIME is it? Could be 1960 or 1970 when the country’s schools were in the throes of responding to the 1954 desegregation ruling of Brown v. Board of Education. White and black students are in school together, large class size is the rule of the day, limited resources are the norm. Few states responded immediately to Brown, and those the few who did, still had some of their school districts struggling with desegregating schools.
But to make a long story short.. because I know some of you know where I’m going to with this. It’s not 1960 or 1970, not even 1990, it could easily be 2012, 2013 or even 2014. This middle school could be anywhere in the country. Not just the Mid Atlantic (Maryland or Virginia) or Deep South (South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississsippi), but could just as well be in a district in the Northeast (New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts), Midwest (Illinois, Wisconsin), or Southwest (Texas, Arizona, California). The school could actually be anywhere in our great ‘fair democracy’. It could be in your community, actually may be the school your child attends.
Each day students of color are relegated to some of the nation’s worst schools. They suffer, we suffer. In particular, each day bright students of color, those from limited economic backgrounds are relegated to classrooms with limited resources, schools that don’t offer high level coursework, teachers who are less qualified, administrators who are watching the clock to retirement. Each day that these students spend in these segregated, poorly funded environments is a day lost that can NEVER be REGAINED. A day of high level instruction, intellectual stimulation, creative engagement, opportunities to work with practicing professionals that these student lose simply because of the color of their skin or the holes in the parent’s pockets. These conditions in the 21st century are UNETHICAL, IMMORAL, AND ABSOLUTELY ABOMINABLE!! Our students deserve better.
Of course, there are some schools that have allowed more students of color to enter, more students of color to be enrolled in gifted and advanced learner programs. There are some who have said ‘WE HAVE A PROBLEM, AND WE NEED TO ADDRESS IT’. In these more progressive environments student still suffer. Entrance into an academically advanced, culturally discriminatory environment is close to ‘cultural death’ for some of these students. They find themselves having to give up who they are internally and become someone else to fit the mold and the expectation of the teachers who rule the classrooms. And in most cases, there are so few within the school or classroom who share similar cultural backgrounds, ethnic legacies, that students feel lost, out of place, as if they don’t belong. Without culturally responsive teachers, support for their affective needs, mentors and role models- some will not survive the ‘high end’ environment.
In the past month, seemingly endless streams of articles, blog posting, videos have emerged speaking to these inequities and to this national embarrassment. I encourage everyone reading this- whether you are a parent, community leader, student, scholar, faith leader, policymaker, or concerned citizen to PLEASE DO SOMETHING WHERE YOU ARE TO CHANGE THESE CONDITIONS!!
All of our students deserve the best TEACHERS, the best ACCESS to opportunities, a fair chance to demonstrate THEIR ABILITY TO BE SUCCESSFUL in Gifted and Advanced learner programs, and a brighter future.
Do your part to put an end to DISCRIMINATORY IDENTIFICATION PRACTICES, BIASED TESTING, SELECTIVE COURSE ENROLLMENTS, INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM, SEGREGATED GIFTED CLASSROOMS WITHIN racially mixed schools in your communities!!
Together, we can do this!!!
MUST READ/SEE resources:
High school student builds ap for black students attending predominately white high schools
From PBS’s Rundown page- overview of recent Federal Report on Education Disparities
2010 article from the Village Voice about a segregated ‘school-within-a-school’ model
Next week for part II: one state’s efforts to bring equity to programming for their student population, and other programming initiated by compassionate educators & parents to change conditions for children in their own communities.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
It’s been a busy winter, weather challenges and traveling have kept me away from this page for a while now. I’ve also taken some time to rest a bit, but still paying close attention to issues and concerns related to educating children of color.
Most recently, a scathing report about the conditions in our schools for Black students in particular has raised the eyebrows of many across the nation. This report, released by the U.S. Department of Education cites numerous inequities that persist in schools that are creating egregious inequities. (An overview of the report was published in the New York Times- http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/us/school-data-finds-pattern-of-inequality-along-racial-lines.html?smid=fb-share )
These inequities are a major reason why so many bright and talented students are unable to succeed and are not reaching their highest potential.
In reference to access and opportunities for high ability students of color, the report cites:
1. Algebra II is not offered in 25% of schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students. 1/3 of these schools did not offer chemistry.
2. Less than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students had access to the full range of math and science courses, which consists of Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry and physics.
3. Black and Latino students accounted for 40 percent of enrollment at schools with gifted programs, but only represented 26 percent of students in gifted programs.
This is the 21st century, and over one half of our nation’s students attend schools each day where resources are limited, teachers are ill-trained, and access to the coursework and programming they need DOES NOT EXIST.
Until we have full access to equitable high end learning opportunities in this nation, our students will continue to suffer discrimination that is unjust, unfair, and simply abominable!!
I know that it seems sometimes that this ‘access and equity song’ is getting old and those of us who argue and advocate feverishly to change conditions should be pleased with the progress we’ve seen and be patient. This report is SCREAMING to us that the progress that has been made is not enough and thus, our being patient with slow change is insufficient.
Patience will not help the mathematically gifted student attending a high school where Algebra II is not available at all, being patient will not help the budding inventor and scientist who has NO access to professional scientists or competitive science programs, or teachers who have an interest or understanding of the full scope of services available that will nurture and develop innovation and ingenuity. Patience will not help the verbally gifted student without a mentor who can expose them to career options for their giftedness or the artist with no opportunities to visit museums, be in contact with professional artists on a daily basis. Patience with these egregious conditions will NOT change conditions!!
As Americans we should all be alarmed and upset with this report!! Upset enough to join forces with others to ADVOCATE AND FIGHT to improve conditions in EVERY SCHOOL ATTENDED BY CULTURALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS IN EVERY COMMUNITY IN AMERICA!!
The data is clear, the numbers don’t lie!! Without access and opportunity, infinite numbers of young people with intellectual genius, talents, dreams, ideas, will power and motivation will never reach their highest potential!!
Each person reading this can do SOMETHING!! If you are a parent, make sure you know the full range of coursework and programming offered in your child’s school; organize meetings with other parents and educators who are concerned and develop a plan of action to address inequities NOW! If you are a community leader, bring these reports to the attention of your churches, community organizations, arrange meetings to discuss and develop a plan of action in collaboration with families and city/county officials. Everyone can do SOMETHING!!
The challenge of change always appears impossible! That is, until we look back in history and are reminded of happened when a few committed people determined that the status quo was no longer good enough!! The data revealed in these reports is NOT GOOD ENOUGH!! We can and MUST do better!! Our children deserve so much more and are counting on us to make a difference!! I encourage you to read the report, share it with others, and search deeply to determine what you can do! When you are called upon to join others, attend meetings, provide feedback, please don’t hesitate to act.
If you have been a part of a ‘change process’ that has effectively created better conditions in your community schools, please share your ideas here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to share positive, effective ideas to encourage others!!
PLEASE JOIN ME AND OTHER ADVOCATES FOR EQUITY & ACCESS IN THIS FIGHT! We won’t quit until conditions improve and access to high end learning opportunities, highly qualified teachers and advanced learning opportunities are available to ALL CHILDREN, REGARDLESS OF THEIR ETHNICITY, CULTURE, INCOME OR THEIR COMMUNITY!!