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