Education Policy & Practice

Apparently, three white male teachers at Wadsworth Avenue Elementary School in South LA think that O.J. Simpson, Dennis Rodman, and RuPaul are appropriate role models and should have been paraded during a Black History Month celebration.  Wadsworth’s students are largely black and Latino. 

This is more than just a case of “poor judgment.” First, the mere fact that these teachers chose O.J., Rodman, and RuPaul is problematic on multiple levels. Forget, for a moment, that these three individuals are incrusted with controversy, and question the exemplification of contemporary entertainment/pop culture/athletic figures as role models.  The Grios 100 would have been a much better source, for example, of black role models today. 

Second, I refuse to believe that the the three white male teachers were that stupid or naive or “unaware” to think that this was OK, which then leads me to ponder the alternative.

Third, it wasn’t just one teacher; three teachers were involved!  

Finally, an immediate 3-day suspension is insufficient. Believe me, this kind of “poor judgment” happens all the time, everywhere. Due process?  I’m over due process.

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I was listening to my local NPR station this morning, as part of my usual routine.  The host, Steve Inskeep, talked about the controversial mass firing of educators a local high school in Central Falls, Rhode Island, effective at the end of the school year.  Apparently, only 7% of juniors scored proficient on the state math assessment.  The high school’s population is majority Hispanic, where more than 30% of students speak English as a second language.

Despite the fact that all teachers were fired, up to 50% can be rehired.  One teacher, who said she’s been at the school for more than 20 years, said that what people don’t seem to realize is that the kids come to school with significant challenges and that poverty is a major culprit – cue the violin.  A senior added that she thought canning the teachers was unfair and that the teachers care and have formed bonds with the students – then she cried.

What is the best remedy?  I don’t think a mass firing is the right thing to do, although I must admit that the impulsive side of me thinks that decision is spot on.  Certainly, whatever the “formula” is at Central Falls High School has unequivocally failed.  I am still trying to comprehend a 7% passing rate on a state math assessment.  I don’t care – really I don’t – about the composition of the student body.  Why? Because whatever the composition, I believe the adults should adjust.

So, you have a significant number of students whose first language isn’t English, then adjust your strategies to address that.  And “oh we have a lot of poor kids.”  So what?  Poor kids are learning in other places.  I am not suggesting that when the rubber meets the road everything will be magical.  But what I am suggesting, is that building level staff, district officials, public administrators, state education officials and state administrators (here and everywhere) need to do what is right for kids.  And what is not right, is allowing (or enabling) a school staff, including the principal, to continue welcoming students to a sinking ship, a burning building, or <insert any other imagery that makes sense to you>.

I think the situation in Central Falls is sad.  I don’t know the intimate details about the context of this situation, so please take my above comments more as general statements about schools in a similar position, and not as an attack or criticism of those precious souls entangled in a situation that not a single one of them created.   Perhaps some students are lazy, disengaged, or otherwise not willing to learn.  Perhaps parents are not parenting.  Maybe teachers have written some of these kids off as failures. Students still deserve a superior education and sincere effort from all those involved.  I hope you see that this is not just an education issue.  The problems we see manifesting themselves in school are only symptomatic of what ails families, communities, and our entire country.

Read more:

Projo.com

Washington Post

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I couldn’t “tweet in” last night, but EducationCEO was there.  Check out her reflection on her blog.  I am fascinated by the power of technology to bring a group of people together and discuss such a critical issue as Black Education.  If you missed it or just want to go back to it, check out the transcript below.

And a big thank you goes out to Twitter’s very own @journalproject for organizing the chat.

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According to the District Dossier, an Education Week blog, the Menifee Union School District in California recently removed all Merriam-Webster dictionaries from its classrooms.

Why?

Let’s see what the news media has to report.

Menifee school officials remove dictionary over term “oral sex.”

Read the article, here.

Dictionaries removed from Menifee classroom: books are being reviewed after parent finds offensive words

Read the article, here.

I hope you noticed the difference in reporting.

So, it is likely that the real issue here is the “seven dirty words” and not the inclusion of the entry “oral sex,” which the first article’s title would lead you to believe.  But I don’t have the dictionary in question at my disposal to check for myself.

Does the difference in reporting make a difference, however, in whether the dictionaries should have been pulled?

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President Barack Obama talks with Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching winners in the State Dining of the White House January 6, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First, let’s note the obvious in this photo and then move on — White women.  Where are the men?  Where are the men of color (Call Me Mister)? Where are the women of color?

Now, I understand why, as a nation, we are looking to strengthen our math and science intellectual capital.  I understand the relevance.  However, literacy has been eclipsed, and my fear is that such an unbalanced focus will actually serve to perpetuate the competency gap, particularly among white students and students of color.

I simply fail to recognize how high school students, for example, who are reading on a sixth-grade level will excel in science and mathematics.

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Dear EducationCEO,

Like you, I am up at 2 in the morning!  I checked my phone and saw that I had an e-mail notification alerting me to a new post on your blog.  The title intrigued me, “Let me set the record straight …”  I couldn’t resisit!  However, please forgive my middle-of-the-night, my laptop-battery-is-low-and-I-don’t-feel-like-fetching-my-powercord-in-the-next-room brief response to one thing in particular that you wrote:   

Perhaps they could ‘color’ their respective boards to reflect the communities in which they serve, and simultaneously make millions each year, per school?

If I read correctly (and please correct me if I am wrong), I understood this comment in context to mean that the boards of KIPP and TFA (among others), are not reflective of the communities they serve.  And though not explicitly stated, I understood you to be talking about the organizations’ national boards.  You’re right, names do pop up in more than one place on the national scene.  But at the local, I feel I can speak to this issue of representation from personal experience, having served a 3-year term on the KIPP Baltimore board of directors.  I believe there is real value in pursuing racial and ethnic diversity at the local level.  What does it really matter if the national board is lily white and estrogen deficient?  At the local level is where I believe board members are going to be most impactful – mobilizing local resources, involving the local community and businesses, and really being champions for our kids.     

So, I’d love to chat with you about this!  Thanks for posting your thoughts – these conversations are necessary. 

– Samantha

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Stevenson University (formerly Villa Julie College), recognized as one of America’s “Top Up-and-Coming Schools” and “Great Schools, Great Prices” in U. S. News & World Report’s newly released 2010 edition of “America’s Best Colleges” is a small liberal arts university located in northern Baltimore County.  [tweetmeme =”wordpress”]

In the “News” section of its website, Stevenson advertises:

Visit Stevenson’s Campus and Earn Credit Toward Tuition

Prospective students can now earn a $250 credit towards their tuition when they register for and complete a qualifying campus visit. This credit will be awarded to them contingent upon their admission and full-time enrollment to the University for the fall 2010 semester.
I’ve never heard of this type of incentive for incoming freshmen.  And in all honesty, I must state that I don’t immediately disagree with this strategy, while I must also disclose that I do not have any knowledge of the rationale behind it.  Is this incentive part of a larger marketing/recruitment campaign?  I wonder what the – process was that led to offering a $250 credit.  Are the enrollment figures low?  How effective will a $250 incentive be in attracting students who might not otherwise consider Stevenson University? How will the University determine the effectiveness of this program? Will prospective students find that Stevenson is more attractive with a $250 inducement? 
 
Has anyone see an incentive like this one in higher education?  Please share if you have – I’m curious.    
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Education Policy & Practice

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