Teach them well and let them lead the way
Has education in this country ever properly served black children? Sadly, the answer is no. Never has the education system in the United States provide black children with a equal and adequate opportunity to learn and succeed in this country. But still, we fight.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
This summer I am engaged in two projects of education reform, and I’ve never been more excited to change the world. Not the entire world, but my world. The world that I live in, a world in which very few numbers of black children are suffering in school districts that are failing them. A world into which my two little brown babies will enter, one this year. A world that does not value them. A world that does not believe they can learn. A world that considers them expendable.
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
The first fight is in San Francisco Unified Public School’s special education department. EdTrust West gave them a “D” when it comes to educating low-income children and children of color. The achievement gap between white students and students of color in SF rank them near the bottom (144 out of 146) of California school districts for both low-income students and students of color. One large reason for that is their special education program. Like many large urban school districts, they enroll disproportionate numbers of black and Latino children in special education, and specifically enroll Black boys in a category of special education called “emotional disturbance” at a rate of 7 times that of other children. Special education in SF is generally an educational wasteland once one is placed in it; while children are supposed to be educated with their same-age peers in non-special ed classes as much as possible, in actuality they are segregated amongst themselves receiving a subpar education that does not challenge them and that leaves them unprepared to lead productive lives after graduation. My job this summer is to analyze their data to provide a solid, clear picture of where they are now and provide guidance as to where they need to focus their efforts to get better. I’m working through an awesome organization called Education Pioneers, which brings together grad students with extensive work experience prior to grad school to work on high impact projects in education reform.
Let the children’s laughter remind us how it used to be
My second fight is at home, right here in Palo Alto. While students of color do well compared to other students of color in the state, the achievement gaps are still huge. Part of the problem here has to do with the fact that 50% of black students in Palo Alto aren’t eligible to attend California’s state universities after graduating from high school. To get into a University of California or California State University, one has to have satisfied something called the “A-G” requirements in high school. Many high schools in California align their graduation requirements with these A-G requirements to make sure every graduate can go to one of these colleges. But not Palo Alto.
Why? Because many of the classes they offer are above what is required by A-G; to offer what would be required by A-G would be, according to some teachers, “dumbing down” of the curriculum. Students don’t take what is required to meet A-G because the classes are too hard. Parents put their kids in summer tutoring and afterschool tutoring just to be prepared for, and pass the class. If a parent cannot afford, or isn’t hip to the tutoring game, then a student will have a hard time even getting through the basic-classes-that-arent-really-basic. Instead of seeing alignment as an opportunity for equity, where a regular class can be added, and the steroids class can be made into a honors, so that there are classes are accessible to all students, the teachers are floating the thinly veiled racial rhetoric of lowering standards.
I decided long ago
Never to walk in any one’s shadow
So I am just all over education news, education articles, education blogs. Someone asked me, given my wild and crazy career path to where I am now, how I got to education as a passion. And the truth is, it wasn’t a passion really until I had children. I didn’t even like kids! But the funny thing is, as soon as I had my children, I started to feel like ALL children are my children. Rather than feeling selfish about securing educational benefits for my kids, I feel like I need to secure educational opportunity for all kids. My heart aches for every child. I never imagined I would feel this way.
If I fail, If I succeed
At least I lived as I believed
I started my SF job yesterday. An hour commute both ways. I collapsed in my bed last night. Tonight, after work, there is a Palo Alto school board meeting. I’ll be there. I’ll be there.
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all is happening to me
The greastest love of all is inside of me
~ The Greatest Love of All, Micheal Masser and Linda Creed
6 thoughts on “I Believe The Children Are Our Future”
Do you feel black children aren’t receiving the same education because of what is happening in the school or what is happening at home.? Like you said, lots of people can’t afford the extra tutoring to assist students in their classes, does the school provide tutoring days after school for the students to attend, or is this something like you are trying to work towards?
The problem is the schools are not teaching a regular curriculum, but are teaching with the expectation that kids are getting tutoring in the summer and during the year. The classes are honors classes without calling them honors classes. To say that’s a problem in the home is really unfair. These kids aren’t dumb, or really even ill prepared. They just aren’t hyper-prepared to take honors algebra 2 and that’s the only algebra 2 that’s offered. And no, the school does not offer free tutoring.
I grew up in San Francisco. Even when I attended public school there were issues with the quality of education and funding. For example, one of the things that goes on is Lowell High gets the lion’s share of funding off the top. Everything from computers to corporate funding. Why? Because Lowell is considered the highest ranked school in the city. (They required an entrance exam for kids outside of their district to attend. You needed at the time about a 3.4 or higher average to get in. That is closer to 3.7 now.) The rest of the high schools had to split what was leftover. Something similar to this is still going on today. Children in lower grades often are at the mercy of the each school’s pacing. Most of the schools at the lower levels do not teach algebra, leaving that to the high schools. This of course does not give them enough time to learn what they need to reach calculus by the time they graduate. Which forces them to attend community college. (which is why our community colleges are at capacity now) When you add this on top of the distractions that most other families of color have it can be quite a burden. Often their parents cannot help them with their homework.
I have to agree with you as far as education and children. I didn’t like children until I had my two boys now I spend my days and nights worrying about their education. I am in Atlanta. My older son who is entering fourth grade was in a small private christian black school for Kindergarten and first grade. The education was great but I was concerned with giving a five or six year old an hour plus of homework. Also the school started to grow with no increase in staffing. So I put my son in public school. I found a diverse school in Atlanta with small class sizes and a strong PTA. My thought being that I could take the tuition money and get tutoring and whatever else he needs. Well after two years in public school, I can say they really have no clue on how to educate or relate to young black males. It really saddens me to say that my son had a black teacher who “favored” the white male students. The white male principal had no clue or could understand and I am not saying he was a racist. He just had a different reality of what was really going on in the classroom. So after talking to other moms in and out of the school, I was told that black males did better in all black schools. I really don’t know but what I observed in my son was that I gave a public school an A student who tested off the charts. What I have gotten in return was a B student who test middle of the road.
For me growing up in very diverse cities, has benefited me greatly, because i see and interact with all different types of people, which ultimately is how the real world is.
Do you ever worry about the lack of diversity in a all black school?
W.E.B. DuBois said something really insightful about this question: “”Theoretically the Negro needs neither segregated nor mixed schools. What he needs is education. But he must remember that there is no magic either in mixed schools or in segregated schools. A mixed school with poor and unsympathetic teachers with hostile public opinion and no teaching concerning Black folk is bad.””
He believed, like I think most of us do, that integration is preferred IF all other things are equal. Of course we want our children to be educated in diverse environments. But so often, they are not. Black schools are generally not better because they are black, but because they are committed to the education of black children. It’s not the race of the school per se, but the underlying values of the school. San Francisco is a large diverse urban city, and nevertheless, they have one of the largest achievement gaps in the state of California.
Also, I think that children learn about other folks, even when they aren’t educated with them. The most segregated school children are white kids, but they seem to do well in the “real world.”