Kids-First in LA Unified

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A new organization, entitled Kids Coalition, has been started in LA.  The intent is for students and parents to be empowered in schools.

“A kids-first agenda, if you were to actually implement it, is one of the most radical political agendas in the country.  What’s exciting to me about this moment is the potential opportunity to translate kids first from a catchy political slogan into an operational reality and a legal right for all students in the LAUSD.”

Read more here

Equity Issues

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Title I funds were slated to go to schools in impoverished communities, however;  the plan was withdrawn.  The plan could have caused issues for magnet and charter schools.

“It is not all about money. But we need to discuss how to repurpose this imbalance. The board does not want to shut down excellence, but we need to do things differently if we want different outcomes.”

Read more here

Former FBI Director James Comey is set to join Howard University as an esteemed faculty member this fall

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"I am pleased to welcome Mr. Comey to Howard," said Howard University President Wayne AI Frederick.  His expertise and understanding of the challenges we continue to face today will go a long way in sparking rich discussion and advancing meaningful debates across campus."

Comey was appointed as the Fall 2017 Opening Convocation keynote speaker and will also serve as the 2017-2018 Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy.

Opening Convocation is set for September 22, 2017, where Comey will welcome the incoming class of 2021. Comey's responsibilities as the holder of the King Chair includes delivering a series of five lectures throughout the school year on a variety of topics.

“Colby and I are delighted that a highly distinguished public official such as Jim Comey will become the holder of the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy for the coming academic year,” said Gwen King. “Since the chair was established in 2008, five prominent public leaders have come on Howard’s campus to engage students on issues related to public interest, including an examination of the intricacies of policy making.  Few in public life are better suited for this role than the experienced and esteemed Jim Comey.”

Established in 2008 with a $1 million donation to Howard University, the Gwendolyn and Colbert I. King Chair was set up to "provide student access to experienced, senior public service executives who developed and advance public policy initiatives." The role of the King Chair comes with a $100,000 compensation, which Comey plans to donate to a Howard University scholarship fund to benefit foster youth attending the university.

"I am honored to hold the King Chair this school year. Howard has a longstanding history of being a vibrant academic community and the perfect place to have a rich dialogue on many of the most pressing issues we face today," said Comey. "I look forward to contributing to this remarkable institution and engaging students and faculty alike."

 

9/11 Through the Eyes of Educators

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By David McGuire

Tragedy teaches us that in unity there is strength. Tragedy has a way of making people forget about their differences in the pursuit of a common goal. It was Martin Luther King that said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” Through tragedy we often see the very best in people. 

There are events, especially tragedies, that have a way of leaving a lasting impact on the people’s lives. It is something about tragedies that sticks in your mind and you never forget where you were or what you were doing that day. There is a generation of people who can explain where they were when they heard the news that President Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. There is another generation who can tell you where they were when they heard the Challenger spacecraft exploded. Then, there is my generation and for us September 11, 2001 is our Kennedy assassination, our King assassination, our Challenger explosion. The events of September 11, 2001 is something we will never forget. 

On the 16th anniversary of September 11, 2001, this blog will share this day through the eyes of the educators who remember where they were and what they were doing.

What I remember... 

I remember that day pretty well. I was in 8th grade at New Augusta North. We were still in our homeroom class and we had a TV in the room. The TV this time was turned to the news and we could see smoke on the screen and a building was on fire. At this time, I had no idea what the Twin Towers were and I had never been to New York City. I just remember my teacher in tears; he turned it off and he explained to us what had happened. I remember in my own 8th grade brain I couldn’t wrap my mind around this tragedy. This was one of the tragedies that didn’t fully impact me until I understood what happened. I then remember going home that day because all after school activities were cancelled and every single channel had coverage of the attacks. It was on the local news channels and sports channels; it was even on the cartoon channels.  Even though then I did not realize it’s historical significance at the time, it was still a day that stuck with me. 

Claudia White, 7th grade teacher in MSD of Wayne Township, Indianapolis, IN

Hearing a teacher screaming and crying in the hallway near the end of the school day was my first experience learning about 9/11. I was in the fourth grade and it was almost time for dismissal. When we were dismissed, I remember a couple teachers being on their phones pacing back and forth in the hallway. I believe they were checking on their loved ones. I still did not know for sure exactly what was going on. I don't believe my teacher told us that an attack had taken place, and being an educator now, I think I understand why. It was not until I walked into the house and saw the planes flying into the buildings on the television that I realized something terrible took place. My mom explained to me what was going on and I honestly don't think I realized the severity until a few years later.

Marcus Bates, high school teacher Detroit, MI

I was in 11th grade the day of the September 11th attacks. The strange thing about that day is I did not go to school because I was home sick. What I can remember is waking up and turning on the TV and the only thing I saw was smoke, fire, and people crying. Every channel I turned to that day was filled with the news. I then remember watching the footage of the plane crashing into the building. I was in my kitchen making breakfast when I saw on TV the first tower just collapse. It was almost 10 a.m. and at that moment I knew this was something serious. I remember going to school the next day and it was all everyone was talking about. Teachers were sharing stories about visiting New York and seeing the towers. I remember learning this was not the first tower attack. Now, as a high school teacher, when Sept. 11 comes back around I always try to share with my students where I was and what I was doing. It amazes me because now I am beginning to get classes that were not even born yet. 

Ronnie Beathea, high school teacher Indianapolis Public Schools, Indianapolis, IN

On the Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001, I was taking a test in language arts when the Principal announced over the PA, "I need all classes to calmly evacuate the building." At that time, my classmates, our teachers and I didn't understand why, but we began to move to our parent building across the street. When we stepped outside airplanes and helicopters were flying like crazy in the air. Sirens were going off. I was scared. My classmates and I ran to our parent building as our teachers yelled, "Keep your heads low!" My school was located ten minutes from downtown Chicago, which was threatened to be the next hit. The country was in a panic to provide enough protection for the largest building The Sears Tower or Willis Tower. Once all students were centrally located, parent phone calls were made and we watched the news literally in tears until our parents came to pick us up.

Shawnta Barnes, high school English/Language Arts coach and teacher, Indianapolis Public Schools, Indianapolis, IN

When 9/11 took place, I had recently turned 18 and was a freshman majoring in Elementary education at Purdue University in West, Lafayette, IN.  Although, I had only been in college for a little over a month, I had earned the nickname, “Mom” because as my dorm mates put it, I had parent-like concern about their choices.  In hopes of shaking this name, I reluctantly attended an event the night of Monday, September 10, 2010 and we didn't get back until early the next day. This led to me sleeping through my first class. When I finally woke up, I remember how my all-female dorm was quiet absent of the country music that was typically blaring. I raced to campus to arrive to my next class, minority leadership, on time.  In class, everyone was somber.  I finally asked a classmate what was going on and he told me about the attacks.  Our professor let us speak freely and discuss the events. Classes were canceled for the rest of the day. When I decided to walk back to my dorm, I remember what I was told during Boiler Gold Rush, a Purdue orientation program, “You are adults now. Welcome to the real world!” At the time, this event made me think I'm not ready for the real world if events like this would be taking place.

Brian Dickens, elementary teacher Dayton Public Schools, Dayton, OH

I was in my 1st period advanced world literature class and we were discussing The Canterbury Tales. The teacher had just asked that we think of a theme. While we were in heavy discussions, the Principal had gotten on the intercom and asked for everyone's attention because something serious had shaken our nation. She announced there had been a hijacking and as a result two planes nosedived into the twin towers and a third plane was headed toward the Pentagon. She concluded the announcement by asking for a moment of silence and to return to teaching and learning. The teacher then dropped everything and she asked that we shift into a discussion of terrorism.

Chioma Oruh, Education Blogger, Washington DC

I spent the night at my best friend's apartment on the campus of George Washington University, which isn't far from the Pentagon. The night before was a going away party for me because I was scheduled to leave for my service with the Peace Corps on September 12, 2001. We woke up to frantic calls by our parents checking to see if we were safe, so we turned on the TV to watch the horrific scenes of the planes crashing. As soon as we also learned of the attack on the Pentagon, we quickly got in my car and headed to my family's home in Maryland. My tour in Peace Corps was postponed to October and I served for two years and three months.

Andrew Pillow, Middle School Teacher, KIPP Indy, Indianapolis, IN

I was still in middle school.  I remember that I came up from chorus class.  I had walked up the steps and people were noticeably quieter than usual.  I went to language arts and there was no work being passed out like usual.  My teacher was just standing at the front and talking to people.  She said, “Okay, let’s talk about it.”  It took a couple of people sharing before I realized what happened, but apparently everyone except the people who were in chorus already knew what happened.  I learned about the attack mid-way through a 30 minute discussion about the attack.

Now What?

It was in an elementary school where President Bush learned about the terror attack of Sept. 11. As the years pass and this day comes and goes, we often forget how that Tuesday morning, 16 years ago, changed everything in our country. As the educators above recalled that day, it is important educators talk about 9/11 in their schools with their students. There are many students who were not born when this event occurred, but there are just as many of us who weren't born during WWI and WWII and we still know about it. Sept. 11, 2001, as tragic as it was, saw the very best of this country unite as Americans.  Now more than ever, with the political landscape in our country, we must teach this history and these lessons must be taught and shared in our schools. 9/11 gives the opportunity for teachers to teach their students about citizenship. It teaches critical thinking skills and allows for discussion that engages students in subjects and allows them to create their own connections to this historic event.  I hope as we remember the lives lost during this tragedy, we also discuss the events of 9/11 in the classroom. 

We would love to hear your story about where you were that day.  Please comment below with your story.


 

Three Questions Every Teacher Should Answer for Their Students

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By David McGuire

Now that Labor Day has passed, many Indiana students have been in school for about a month and the honeymoon stage of the new school year is over. Students are settling into their schools and teachers know their students pretty well. The excitement of the new school year is over and now the work has truly begun. As teachers begin to hit their stride, they must remember three questions they should be ready to answer for their students at moment’s notice.

Question 1: Can I trust you?

Most of what teaching is about is trust. Can students trust the teacher? Can students trust the teacher will have their best interests in mind? The teacher must be able to demonstrate to their students they are trustworthy. Teachers, if you want to earn your students' trust remember these three things: be real, be available, be there. Being real is essential because they will see right through the phony and the fake. If you cannot be real then honestly I do not know if education is for you. Being available is about being there if your students need to talk to you. Even if it is during class or immediately after school, you must create time for them. Finally, be there. As a teacher your students want to know that you will be at their debate match, or their basketball game, or if someone in their family passes away, you need to be there at the funeral. Your students notice the times when you are there for them. 

Question 2: Do you care about me?

A good teacher is a teacher who cares. Students value trust and they also value a teacher who cares. Plenty of research that suggests a relationship between student and teacher that is caring will foster higher academic achievement. If you want to prove you care about your students follow these three steps: know their lives, listen to them, and get their feedback. If you know your students come from a different background than you, then it is imperative you understand that background. A student’s home life and upbringing can shed plenty of light on unanswered questions in regards to their learning. Visit their neighborhood to see where your students spend their time to gain a deeper appreciation for them. It is important to actively listen to your students. Actively listening allows you to better understand the meaning behind exactly what your students are asking. Also, be sure to check that you fully understand what they are saying. Finally, ask for their feedback. When a teacher asks for a student’s feedback this signals to the student the teacher cares about what they have to say. When you consider their feedback, the teacher is showing their students they are a part of the process and they feel comfortable to ask questions and give feedback throughout the year. 

Question 3: Do you believe?

Trust and care are vital to the relationship between teacher and student; however, there is nothing more valuable than the teacher’s belief. As a teacher, you must be able to honestly and truly believe your students can succeed regardless of home life or background. This is one of the most important attributes of any teacher. A simple way to show your students you believe in them is to say, “I believe in you.” It goes a long way.

Witnessing the rescinding of DACA through the eyes of 17-year-old immigrant

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By Charles Cole

I supported my Energy Convertors Fellow with this entry. He is a 17-year-old high school student from Oakland, named Edrees. This is what the rescinding of DACA looks like from his perspective. Help us stand for students like Edrees. 

On Tuesday, September 5, 2017, the Trump administration, abrogated the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Consequently, our economy and communities will suffer. Our economy could lose $460 billion in the next decade, and 800,000 young undocumented immigrants could be deported. These are people who may develop the next life-changing idea for our society. We are human beings yet labeled as “illegal,” and who were allowed by the DACA to work legally, however, will now be forced back to a country they may not even remember or know. Trump will send many to a society flooded with poverty and death. Not only do they work hard and pay taxes like everyone else, but they also provide for their families and strengthen our communities. Although the United States is confronting over-population, this tactic majorly functions as a dehumanizing mechanism and the rending of innocent families. Therefore, the United States must deploy a more humane method that maintains natural law along with the promise of equity and liberty.

As a foreign-born citizen, I am devastated with this decision. I was born in Yemen, Sanaa, so I realize how scary it is to return to a country that has nothing but chaos and instability waiting for you. Not only are there little to no legitimate schools like the United States, but their technology and infrastructure are also years behind. My life would be significantly changed for the worst if I were forced to return there because it has an environment where dreams are thrown out the window by constant war and an unstable economy. 

Here, I have passionate goals and inspirations in my life. I will also bring pride to my family by being the first to attend and complete college. However, the abrogation of the DACA stands as a huge obstacle to my family and me as it has the power to break us up potentially. Aside from the fact that I can not live up to my real potential there, all the individuals that Trump wants to deport and I must brave the risk of actually being killed even if my family lives in a considerably safe area. War and chaos are prevalent in many foreign countries, particularly in the middle east at the moment. 

And although this may not be the case for everyone, corruption and violence are what I face in the wake of rescinding DACA, and this is the reality for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers.

Many Dreamers come from countries that have had their governments overthrown by terrorist and corrupt organizations. And although this may not be the case for everyone, corruption and violence are what I face in the wake of rescinding DACA, and this is the reality for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers.

     

 

 

 

Threat to DACA

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"I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Immigrants, parents of DACA recipients, came here yearning for the promises America was founded upon: the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They responded to the call and beacon of hope found in the American dream. They sought to remove whatever barriers lay in the path to the future of their children and families.

Our immigration laws are unjustly unfair to immigrants who should benefit from a clear, realistic, and affordable pathway to citizenship. The current process is too expensive, complicated and out of reach for most immigrants.

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a program created with humanity in mind, knowing the children of undocumented parents had no say in why or how they were brought to this country. Their parents risked their lives to bring them here, often fleeing war, violence and extreme levels of poverty to give them a chance at a better life and future. Since being brought to America, Dreamers have honored the sacrifices of their parents by being model citizens, leaders in their communities and in their fields. They are what makes America great.

We call them Dreamers, not just because it's a clever phrase. They’re Dreamers because they work and study, humbly and with no sense of entitlement, to EARN their stake in the American dream. Some have fought and died defending the freedoms this country should afford them. They don't draw attention to themselves; they go about their days doing the best they can to defeat whatever odds are stacked against them and their families. With dreams and goals in mind, feeling the full weight of being the first generation to complete high school, attend college, buy a home, hold a job with salary and benefits, they strive to embody the dreams their parents had for them.

DACA is intentionally cruel to these Americans who make our country great, many of which I have worked with or have attended school with; we owe it to them to #defendDACA on their behalf. America is their home; America is their country. To those cruel masses of people chanting, "Send them home!" They are home! To say otherwise is inhumane and un-American as they know no other place than America as home.

If Trump feels the need to end something today, it should be his presidency, not DACA.

 

New Year - New Programs & New Initiatives

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Around 14,500 students flocked to Lynwood Unified School District campuses to begin their 2017-18 year on Aug. 23 and the District greeted its students with new programs and initiatives aimed at boosting scholastic success and college readiness.

Lynwood Unified in 2016-17 was one of three districts in the nation to be named a College Board Advanced Placement District of the Year for expanding access to AP courses while simultaneously improving AP exam performance. The District built on that this year by streamlining career technical education (CTE) classes at Lynwood and Firebaugh high schools and by offering increased student intervention.

“It’s important for our schools to continually strive for improvement, and we feel we’ve advanced our curriculum and provided fresh opportunities for our young learners this year,” Lynwood Unified Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “From new assessment software to anti-bullying initiatives, we’re excited about the what 2017-18 will offer.”

Wilson Elementary launched its after-school computer coding club to encourage student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field careers. Two classes, comprised of students in 4th-6th grade, will learn about coding using a variety of programs – one of which is similar to the popular video game, Minecraft. The club will meet once a week and include entry level and advanced classes.

Hosler Middle School opened with two new classes this year – modern band and a college preparation class.  Modern band teaches seventh-graders to sing as well as play the electric guitar, drums and keyboards. The college preparation class will provide 7th and 8th grade students with the chance to explore higher education options, including information about enrolling in a university, community college, technical college or culinary arts school.

Firebaugh High is rolling out a Hero Program, which tracks and rewards students who display positive behavior and show excellent attendance. Teachers and staff award points to students who follow rules, demonstrate positive conflict resolution and showcase positive attitudes to gain prizes such as lunch line fast passes and VIP seating for their parents during graduation.

I am excited to see all of the additional programs and services offered to our students as we continue to work to achieve educational excellence through equity, access and justice. I am certain we will see more students defeating the odds, reaching goals, realizing dreams and excelling in whatever avenues they have access to.

 

New Inglewood Trustee, Melendez, Inducted as “Champion for all Children”

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The Inglewood Unified School Board recognized two high-profile guests at its monthly meeting, new State Administrator, Dr. Thelma Melendez and her boss, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

Both guests addressed the School Board members, district staff, parents and community residents about their hopes for the district’s future.

During his introduction, he auded Melendez for her talent, passion for students, and “big heart” calling her a “champion for all children.”

Torlakson also expressed an expectation that his newest appointee will pull considerable weight among her professional network to lift the district out of its current state of distress.

Namely, Torlakson praised Melendez’s connection with the California State University, where she sits on its Board of Trustees, and hinted at the promise of her connection translating into new pathways to college for Inglewood students.

Melendez’s speech aimed to rally support, mainly, among the school board members who will become her closest advisors. She downplayed her role as a one-woman decision maker for the entire school district and described herself modestly as a team player who cannot accomplish goals for the district alone.  

Appearing both gracious and humble, Melendez’s presence and her message were received by the school board and audience with applause.

But not everyone was happy about Melendez’s new appointment. When public comments were allowed, various community members voiced their concern over the short stays of former school appointees and the fact that each time a new trustee position opens, local talent including teachers, staff, and assistant principals, who have been long invested in the Inglewood’s welfare, are passed over for outsiders who receive lucrative salaries that the district can ill-afford.

But if nothing else, the school board meeting served as a good induction process for Melendez in that it gave her a realistic glimpse of the political leanings of district stakeholders and the major challenges she will face as school chief.

Melendez will serve as head of Inglewood schools under a two-year contract until 2019. Over the next two years, advocates and opponents will watch closely to see if she will fare better than her predecessors in her effort to lift Inglewood out of the grips of state receivership and help it realize its motto of “IUSD Rising”.

Learn more about Melendez’s school priorities by reading her acceptance speech as State Administrator at Inglewood’s August 15th school board meeting:

Thank you very much. Thank you, Superintendent, for the selection. And I also want to thank the board for the opportunity to come and serve with you and serve the community.

My life’s work has been around urban schools, improving urban schools.

We must work together, because I think we are all in agreement that we all want to see local control to return to Inglewood.  And that is the goal, that we will get there as soon as we can. That we will not slow down. Dr. Vincent did quite a bit of work and that we’re building on that.

But I think it’s important because if we do not work together, we will not be able to get out of receivership. So I want to be a part of the team that does that. I want to be a part of the historical moment when the district returns back.

You were bold enough to say that you needed the assistance and help several years ago.

And we are here to work with you. To be able to bring back to Inglewood your ability to run the schools.

So, thank you, Superintendent, my life’s work, my passion is working with students as I said. And so I am excited and look forward to working with the community, with parents, with our labor partners, in ensuring that the goal of 2020, if not sooner, we are out of receivership.

So thank you.

 

How can we solve the problems the system presents our students of color?

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I am in San Diego this week attending the California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA) Professional Development Summit, where I served as a panelist at a town hall meeting about the status of efforts to support young boys and men of color as well as young girls and women of color.

The standing room only Town Hall meeting was once again one of the most popular breakout sessions in recent years. It seems as if there are always more questions than answers when it comes to what students of color need. The educators in the room were sitting  on the edges of their seats hoping to gain  some insight into a policy, non-profit or initiative they had not already heard of that might offer some support or resources. The dialogue was lively and the panelists I had the pleasure of sitting next to were extremely passionate in their delivery of updates from their respective fields.

However, one question from the moderator that stumped all of us and came at the end of the panel discussion was "What challenges does the system that educates our young people of color present and what can we do to solve them?" Here’s what I said:  

Trauma

Trauma stunts developmental growth. One of the frequently overlooked forms of trauma is poverty. Poverty often presents students with a set of circumstances that no amount of instruction can cure. Some of our students leave hellish conditions and come to school each day eager for something better than what they will have to go home to in a few hours. They could not care less about the content; they just know that school e is better than where they live. As such, many of them have had to grow up too fast having skipped or failed key developmental milestones. With this in mind, instruction and discipline have to take into account what our students are facing. Educators have to be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma our youth often exhibit that go ignored or punished instead of treated.

Relationship

No significant learning takes place absent significant relationship. Of the many aspects school’s focus on, relationship-building has to an integral part of instruction. Whether it is the essential relationship between peers or the relationship between teacher and pupil, relationships are critical to learning.

Mandate vs. Mindset

We have to make the shift from teaching the mandate to teaching the mindset. As educators, we have to understand that learning is not taking place if it does not leave the room. We have to focus on pedagogy that frames instruction with this question in mind, “What do I want my students to leave my classroom thinking, knowing, believing about themselves and their abilities?” If we want our young people to be thoughtful, critical thinking, problem solvers that can demonstrate mastery of concepts in their own way, we must first make sure they believe they can be just that. Teaching to the mandate will never get them there - only a mindset pedagogy can.

Identity

Kids just want people to know and accept who they are. We have to remember that our children want the same things we do. They want to be seen, heard, valued and validated. Too often educators participate in well-meaning data review sessions and discuss better ways to move students to and beyond various benchmarks. The highest form of learning takes places when learning leaves the classroom and is embedded into the identity of our students and supports their sense of being: their cultural, religious, and chosen gender identities. In every way, school climates must demonstrate to students they are accepted and valid. They must be allowed to explore, experiment, be celebrated when they win and be supported in finding learning in failure.

We have to be honest about the fact our children are subjected to a system of education that was not built for them. It is not created to equip our children with the knowledge, skills, and competencies they need to thrive while taking into account their needs and the realities they face once they venture out of the boundaries of school grounds. Our current system seeks to teach kids under the best of circumstances; this presupposition is neither healthy or realistic. We can do better, and it is imperative we give our students what they deserve, a systematic shift in education that seeks to educate the whole child and addresses the causes of the barriers to their growth.

I closed my remarks with this reminding the educators in the room with this quote, “A student who feels loved at home comes to school to learn. A student who does not feel loved at home comes to school to be loved.”

I reminded them we need to be able to recognize the difference and be ready and willing to take a systematic approach to supporting the needs of all types of students.

 

NAACP’s Attempt at Nuance Leaves Much to be Desired

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By Jacqueline Cooper, President, Black Alliance for Educational Options

The NAACP released its much-hyped, and dare I say, now much maligned, report on “Education Quality” last month to mixed reviews. What’s not so “mixed” is that the organization is once again taking aim at charter schools across the country. The report claims to be “speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves” and calling for “stronger charter school accountability measures.”

I thought this story was over and done with last year when the NAACP heard from parental choice groups like the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and others when we made our way to their national board meeting to pushed back against the civil rights group’s call for an ill-advised moratorium on new charter schools and charter school expansion. Supporters even spoke out in favor of greater transparency and accountability for all public schools—charter and traditional district—that serve our children.

And while the report acknowledges many of the shared concerns we have with the effectiveness of the public education system, the report still calls for, what is now, a 10-year ban on charter schools and placing existing charter schools under the control of traditional school districts. This shows an inherited bias among some in the organization that they are more interested in pursuing bad education policies instead of scaling up what’s working well for our children. It’s hard to see how our children will win with such a subjective view of education choice.  

The NAACP says it “has always advocated for quality education of African American children as the gateway to economic prosperity and to become fully contributing citizens of society.” If this were true then why aren’t they fighting for Black families to have more high-quality education options, not less? Why aren’t they fighting for Black families to have greater access to excellent teachers, curriculum, administrators, and school staff, not fewer? And why aren’t they fighting for Black families to receive the same quality education as their peers across town, and not second-rate instruction?

The NAACP didn’t even acknowledge in its report new data on college completion that showed low-income students of color from cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Newark who graduate from top charter networks, earn four-year degrees at rates up to five times higher than their counterparts in traditional public schools. Yet they want you to think charter schools are the real problem.

Well, one thing is clear: those of us on the front lines fighting for low-income and working-class Black families won’t be fooled by a one-sided report that offers limited solutions for our children.  That’s why we are urging all charter advocates to be more vigilant now than ever as the NAACP pushes model legislation to change state laws to stop new charter schools. Up until now they’ve been all talk and no action. Now is the time to fight back and double down on our own “model legislation” to bring more education options to families across the country. BAEO is ready for this fight.

So, NAACP: Black families deserve better from your organization if we’re ever going to, as you put it, “become fully contributing citizens of society.”

Jacqueline Cooper is the President of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, one of America’s preeminent nonprofit education advocacy organizations dedicated to increasing access to high-quality education options for low-income and working-class Black families. As BAEO’s president, Cooper leads a national executive leadership team in implementing the organization’s mission, strategic goals, and vision.

Cooper previously served as BAEO’s Interim President and as Chief of Staff. She was responsible for the central coordination of staff activities and ensuring organizational alignment with the strategic priorities of the board. As a key member of BAEO's executive leadership team, she supported the organization in achieving its goals and objectives through improving performance management and talent development; eliminating barriers to coordination, cooperation, and collaboration; and stewarding the organization's resources to promote efficiency and cost management.

Cooper arrived at BAEO in 2009 as Director of Strategic Initiatives. In this position, she designed and implemented a management system that clarified strategy, optimized data, achieved vertical and horizontal alignment and linked strategy to operations. Most notably, Cooper directed BAEO's Annual Symposium, the largest gathering of Black education reform supporters in the nation.

Prior to BAEO, Cooper worked for 11 years at JP Morgan Chase. In her last position as Vice President and Business Manager in Global Syndicated Finance, she managed staffing, logistical needs and the performance review process for the investment bank's largest department. Cooper also owned and operated four elite "Shining Star" Curves franchises in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Cooper earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Bryn Mawr College and a M.B.A. in finance and accounting from New York University's Stern School of Business. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Cooper resides in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.

 

Teachers be encouraged; You make a difference

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A familiar, but powerful story…

"While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.

He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up, and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach, and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”

adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

Summer has come and gone faster than many of us wanted. Nevertheless, we are at the start of a new school year. As we return to school, some of us in tears (teachers and students), it is important we remember why we started in the first place.

This morning, I had the honor of being invited to share my story with our teachers at Firebaugh High School in Lynwood. Some of the teachers in the room taught me when I came up through Lynwood Schools, but it was the first time they had ever heard what I shared with them. I talked about the profound impact my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Beaver, had on my life and shared with them how my running for the school board was a result of her and the other outstanding educators I had in Lynwood.

I sought to use my story to preface the new school year in hopes they'd think about the impact teachers had on their lives as well as the stories of the children they had helped realize their full potential. I hoped they would, in moments when they are wondering whether or not anything they are doing is worth it, be reminded of the tremendous and never ending impact of their work.

I hope they left the room with a reminder of what happens when they refuse to give up on kids, even those who are the cause of headaches and frustration. We know the kids that need the most love ask for love in the most unloving ways. But we, as educators, have to be committed to loving them anyway. In doing so, we hold them accountable for doing their best. We set boundaries and consequences for them. We ensure they have all the support they need to succeed and when they fall short, we help them in building resilience as we urge them on and give them opportunities to try again.

As educators, we are seldom afforded the opportunity not to be "on." Our world can be falling apart, but our students show up daily and expect us to teach them anyway. They expect the same of us when theirs is falling apart too. Often, we are the glue that holds them together.

Those of us who chose education as our profession or heeded the call to teach did not do so thinking we'd make lots of money or gain fame. We wanted to educate young people because we hoped we would make a difference in someone's life, just like our educators had one for us. In doing so, we have run into hardships, headaches in discouragement more often than we thought we would. In fact, some of us went home at the end of the roughest days with the intention of quitting more times than we can count, only to return to try again the next morning or next year.

So to educators across the country, returning to classrooms after years of teaching and those of you who cross over that threshold for the first time, you will have good days and bad days. Those students who ask for your love in the most unloving ways will rarely be absent, and it will seem as though you never get a break, but I urge and encourage you to lean in.

You will question yourself and find it hard to ignore the fact that you are underpaid and overworked, but know you are doing God's work. You are changing the world one student at a time by changing their world just be being an ever-ready beacon of hope, facilitator of knowledge and standard of success. Make no mistake about it; your students show up for you more often than they show up for their friends, activities or because they have to. I dare you to show up to class every day, exuding your passions for life and teaching and watch the incredible impact it has on your students.

We know we can't, individually, reach every kid everywhere. But we can, in some way, reach all of the kids we have under our care; that should always be our intention and goal. Each one we reach makes a difference and shapes the world. Each starfish you throw back into the ocean is a student we cast in the direction of their hopes and dreams.

 

A Resource for Safety

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LAUSD has created a guide to help immigrant families deal with issues surrounding detainment by immigration authorities.  The resource guide includes a bilingual "Red Card" that can be used when dealing with ICE officials.

"Don’t open the door: If a Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer knocks on your door, you have the right to not open the door. Talking to the officer through a window is safer."

Read more here

Dear White Male Supremacists

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In the words of Kendrick Lamar, "Sit down! Be humble!"

Over the last few years, we've seen the debate around removing Confederate statues heat up. In Charlottesville, that debate took an ugly turn as, you, white supremacist groups, ascended on Virginia to voice your opposition to what you deem as oppression. In light of some apparent fear that you would soon be replaced by people of color and have your history erased, you chanted, "We will not be replaced!" with tiki torches in hand. As you clashed with counter-protesters and their chants of "Black Lives Matter!" you replied, "White Lives Matter, Black Lives Don't!"

As I watched the news, I heard you, white supremacists, complain about the oppression white people have been experiencing since Obama; you expressed the need to take your country back. And yes, I tried to sit and understand, but what the hell are you talking about? The truth is you sounded like spoiled kids who were forced to share toys with the new kids on the block. Apparently, having to share a space and power in this country with us feels like oppression to you all, the same people who have a history of enjoying keeping other people out.

To be very clear, you have not been oppressed in this country - ever. Your faux oppression is rooted in hypocrisy. You now face criticism after being free from it for years. In the past, critics of whites were met with fierce and often violent consequences. Why? Because you used to be the only voice. Now, you are angry because you have to share the microphone. You are angry because that “freedom of speech” thing you’ve taken advantage of for so many years just happens to apply to people of color too.

You were chanting, “We will not be replaced!” But replaced as what? Replaced as the only voice? Replaced as the only representatives? Replaced as the only lives of value? Now, people of color and their allies demand you live up to the creed this country was founded upon. If all men are created equal, then that means it’s about time you make room for all of us too.

You have no idea what it is to be oppressed.

  • Your mothers and fathers are not being torn away by ICE agents while dropping you off at school.
  • You won't be forced to leave the only country you've known since childhood.
  • You won't be forced to pay higher tuition costs and have people argue you were given an unfair advantage because affirmative action leveled the playing field.
  • Your churches were never burned or bombed while young girls attended Sunday school.
  • Your lawns were never decorated with burning crosses.
  • Your ancestors never hung like strange fruit from poplar trees having committed no crime other than living in their skin.
  • There is no travel ban on you because your religion is misunderstood and defined by the worst and least popular example, one that goes against its core beliefs and principles.
  • There is no mortal danger for you when exercising your right to bear arms.
  • You don’t have to bare the reality there is a history of unethical science dedicated to proving your intellectual inferiority.
  • You don’t deal with systematic efforts at the federal, state, and local level that are working to disenfranchise you of your vote. You didn't have to march on bloody Sunday to demand that right.
  • Nobody is trying to push through legislation that impedes your right to marry.
  • No one is trying to make you buy insurance at a higher cost because of your gender.

The fact of the matter is YOU should be made to feel what everyone else feels in this country and maybe then you will understand how much privilege you have. Think about it: white males are the measuring stick by which we determine how well other groups of people are doing.

So no,  you aren't being replaced. Unfortunately, your privilege is very much still present and alive and as long as you consider yourself better than anyone else, get used to hearing us call you out.

 

New STEM School in LA?

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Despite the need for more underrepresented students to be educated in STEM, LAUSD is poised to vote against a new STEM middle and high school.  The school is proposed to be in Los Angeles and is geared toward students of color and female students to better prepare them for top universities.

"While Latino and black students represent 56 percent of total secondary enrollment in California, they only represent 28 percent of those enrolled in a calculus course, which is considered the gateway to university-level STEM degrees."

Read more here

Lynwood High School Basketball Players Test their skills against Pros in Summer League

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Lynwood High School junior Carl Lewis recently got to experience something that many sports fans often dream of – the chance to go one-on-one with professional basketball stars and college standouts.

Since July, Lewis and several of Lynwood’s High’s most skilled basketball players have gone toe-to-toe against Real Run Basketball’s top talent, where they practiced ball handling, endurance and passing drills. The Lynwood students then had a chance to put these new skills into practice with weekly matches against various college and professional players.

“It was really fun and helpful,” Lewis said. “The college and professional players came out here to help us become better athletes with better attitudes and it ended up being a great experience.”

Real Run Basketball, founded by former professional basketball player and Lynwood High assistant coach DeAnthony Langston in 1998, teaches high school players about building personal character and good sportsmanlike conduct by providing them with positive support. This is the first year Lynwood High has participated in the Real Run Basketball summer league, thanks to Langston’s new coaching position.

“Real Run Basketball brings some great energy here to Lynwood since we have amazing top 50 college-level players, elite level high school players and even professional overseas players.” Langston said.

The program holds two games per day on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays – which gives Lewis and two other Lynwood High juniors, Tyler Parks and Benjamin Simeran, plenty of time to work with the program’s other participants.

“Hosting this summer league at Lynwood High brings a great deal of positive energy to our campus,” Lynwood Unified Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “It’s especially important for our students to meet with the college players since they can encourage them to pursue higher education options.”

Lynwood High basketball coach Jason Crowe called the summer league games a major blessing for the Lynwood High students, giving them the chance to receive academic career advice from college players who attend such institutions as Washington State University, Pepperdine University, USC and Yale University.

“It’s a great opportunity for our students to be able to develop their skills with older, more experienced players,” Crow said. “It gives our student athletes something to aspire to and lets them know what aspects of the game and their lives that they can work on.”

In the past, the program has played host to a range of professional basketball players including Lamond Murray, Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan. Langston said he hopes to have Paul George, an Oklahoma City Thunder small forward, meet with the program’s participants before the current season ends.

As the summer ends, the participants are competing in an elimination tournament to see which of the program’s eight teams will be crowned as this year’s champion.

 

A Knight’s Homecoming: What teachers carry with them when moving sites

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By Brenda Citlalicue

About a month ago I received a call that I had been waiting for almost 13 years.  It was an opportunity to interview at my alma mater.  As a teacher who has based her life’s work on ensuring education is equitable, just, and engaging, this call brought my work to the 270 degrees point of the cycle. I’m in that zone where I can come back and make a difference in my hometown and continue to grow my craft as a teacher, leader, and activist; it was an honor to do so.  When I read the email from HR that I landed the position a couple of days later, I was beyond excited, until I realized I had to say goodbye to another group of people. I’ve always said that I would come back and serve in my community; now, it is becoming a reality.

I’ve always seen myself in Lynwood.  I’ve envisioned a classroom, after school groups, running into students and school families at city events and so forth.  I began my teaching career 14 years ago, in a small dual immersion charter school in Long Beach.  I learned and unlearned so much about what it means to build community, construct learning and grow both academically and emotionally.  After eight years, I took some time to reevaluate what the educational system had morphed into.  The charter world was quickly changing, and the traditional school system wasn’t far behind.  As an educator, it was hard to stay away from the classroom.  I looked to come work in my hometown then, but due to the budget crisis, there weren’t any openings, so I ventured out of my comfort zone and sought out another charter, one that aligned with my beliefs out in North East Los Angeles.

Four years ago, I began once again as a new teacher at a new site.  Asking questions, building relationships, growing my craft and pushing myself in my career.  These four years were full of light, laughter, and love.  It is these memories that make my move so much more challenging.  I had great coaches not to mention the team! Our team was set.  The gears were grinding well to ensure the growth of our students was reached.  Realizing the space, I had helped create and the comfort I felt up in North East LA, I was beginning to doubt my decision.  When I broke the news, everyone was sad to see me leave but happy that I would be fulfilling a life/career goal.  What fueled me, even more, was after I was sent out a message letting some friends know about the news, one reply that nudged at my heart the most read, “Welcome home.”  

He was right, HOME. Home is exactly what this place is to me.  The anecdotes, the lessons, the hard times and the growth that I’ve experienced will all work towards aiding in re-establishing myself as that Knight I’ve longed to be, the star that adolescents gaze to for guidance and support.  The warm demander to those that need reminding of what an education can deem for them.  Most importantly proof that even if our path isn’t straight and narrow, perseverance and curiosity can elevate it and build bridges that connect us to our purpose in life.  

I’m not going to lie; it is nerve wracking to come into an unfamiliar establishment. However, my curiosity has been the guiding force in allowing me to persevere and I don’t expect it to change this time around either.  One thing I’ve always done is lead with my heart and wear it on my sleeve.  It reminds me of the impact, struggles and accomplishments, my students and families have faced.  It leaves an imprint that shapes my perspective and fuels my passion for continuing with this work.  Thank you to those Wolves for fueling my passion for this next endeavor!  I can’t wait to see what comes out of this 10-15 years from now.

 

Early Language Learning

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The Los Angeles Unified School District is offering a dual-language immersion program.  Two languages that will be available for immersion are Korean and Spanish.

“For Spanish-speaking parents, whose child is already required to learn English, keeping their home language is important. And English-speaking parents send their children to learn a second language because they know it is going to help them develop cognitive and decision-making skills. I think we have both in the district, depending on what part of the city.”

Read more here

An Open Letter to the Educators of Charlottesville

By David McGuire

To my fellow educators in Charlottesville, VA, my heart is with you. We do not know why your city was chosen for this tragedy, but let's not harp on the negative.  Let's instead say your city was chosen to be a beacon of hope. The same way that Watts, Ferguson, and Detroit was chosen before you. The events in those cities, tragic as they were, opened our eyes. Now, it is your city’s turn. It is your city that has shone a light on the bigotry and the hatred we are trying to eliminate from our country. 

All weekend, we watched the horror of the events that claimed the life of a woman and two officers. Our hearts ache for their families, who will not have their loved ones anymore. My heart also aches for you, my fellow educators, and how you must now move forward in your schools and classrooms.  

I cannot imagine what it must feel like to experience such a tragedy in my city. I cannot imagine having individuals whose hearts are filled with hate use my city as a rally for their racist agenda. I cannot imagine having individuals chanting racist words marching with tiki torches on a college campus we as educators hope our students will attend one day. I cannot imagine what you are dealing with in your classrooms today in response to the horrific events of this past weekend, but I hope you are dealing with these events in your classrooms. I am sure your students are going to want to discuss what happened. You owe it to them to have the open dialogue. 

To my educators of Charlottesville, it is imperative you address these conversations head on. I say this because it was some school or some educator that failed to educate these white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Now, they have fallen off the path towards peace and hope and are sprinting down a cliff of hatred and violence. I’m not asking you to do something I’m not willing to do; I plan to address this with my students as well.

Our students must understand there is absolutely no place in our country for this type of hatred. Unfortunately, the individual in the White House would not acknowledge these individuals by name, but you must inform your students the cause of this pain and inform them the voices behind this hatred are white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists. Label these individuals and do not allow your students to be confused. This was nothing more than a terror attack on our country. This was not violence by many sides, but violence from one side. Also, let them know the city they call home does not condemn this type of rhetoric or violence. 

We have these conversations with our students to ensure their minds do not become corrupted with this type of hatred. Schools can help eliminate this bigotry and hatred in the minds of many people. This can only happen when we have conversations about it. 

Remember, you can’t be who you don’t see. Our students do not see enough heroes. We need to show them more heroes. Show them the countless individuals who fight and fought for equal rights. Make sure your students do not forget the names of Heather D. Heyer, Lt. H Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates. Their names should be immortalized like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. These heroes lost their life due to the horrific events of the weekend. 

To my educators in Charlottesville, we all stand with you. We will do our part to educate our scholars that this is not America. I know your job is already hard and it just became a little harder. Luckily being a teacher makes you a superhero and teaching is your superpower. Use that superpower, like you do everyday, to educate your students and spread the message of peace and love. 

Sincerely a fellow educator, 

David