Archive for the ‘charter schools’ Category

A school for the kids: It’s still calling me….   Leave a comment

You know how you have this one thing you really, really wanna do? But no matter how well planned your plan is, road-blocks and obstacles always seem to find their way in your way. Sometimes the plan is so grand and the vision so intense that you can’t sleep or you find yourself drawn to it at weird hours of the day.  There may have even been a time (or five) where you thought: “To hell with this; it’s a waste of my time. I could be doing XYZ with those 16 hours I spend researching, writing, making phone calls, etc.” Surely, I can’t be the only person who has felt that way at some point or another, right?

When I get to feeling that way, I start thinking about Langston Hughes‘A Dream Deferred’ poem:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

It may sound simple, but that poem provides me with some motivation. Why? Because I don’t want to ever get to the point where I sit around thinking, ‘I wonder what would have happened if….’ Life is too short and precious to be filled with ifs. (Can I get an ‘Amen?’) Well, my dream was to open a Visual and Performing Arts charter school. I know there are many people out there who are against charter schools, but for some of us, they are our only option. I will add that I am against these faux, non-profit predators organizations opening-up schools in low-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods, promising parents that their kids will succeed and go to college. Hell, depending on your definition of ‘succeed’ anyone can promise that. Furthermore, I can take a bus load of kids to a college campus, let them step foot on the campus and then proclaim that they went to college. Just when we thought the last thing our communities needed was a liquor store on every corner, but I digress.

Our organization is truly a grassroots group, made-up of parents (Black, White, Latino, etc.), teachers, and community members. We had the passion, purpose, vision, and research bases covered. We had no idea we’d be expected to turn water to wine raise a ridiculously large sum of money in such a short time. We were all discouraged, and rightly so I do believe. No such demands were placed on other groups. That is when I decided to walk away (after I raised more than my fair share of hell, of course). So when I learned of the Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling on the Charter Commission, here is what I thought initially: ‘Like I always say, God don’t like ugly.’ And by ‘ugly’ I mean the way our group was treated as well as how other grassroots groups were dismissed because they did not have the name recognition of EMO/CMO groups, or because their boards actually reflected the communities they planned to serve. Yep, that’s how it went down. Even uglier, then-State School Superintendent Kathy Cox chose not to address the issues. Charter Commission members ignored emails, as did the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Yep, those organizations created to help charter school developers turned their backs on us. They turned their backs on our kids. I guess because our school model was not controversial enough to garner national attention, we were not worthy of their support or even an offering of mediation. Ok. I see you. But now the entire (education) community sees you and your obvious lack of research and knowledge of the law, even though the individual responsible for drafting the language has a law degree and graduated from TFA. Laughable, but I digress.

So, this whole experience/desire to open a school with a well-developed arts program is coming full-circle now. As I was speaking with a student, who is also a single parent, I learned about the Arete Scholars Fund. As it turns out, people and businesses that owe taxes to the state of Georgia can donate those funds to a scholarship fund to pay tuition at a private school. Hmmmm. This is obviously a well-kept secret, or at least it was until I found out about it. I shied away from opening a private school because I knew that the students I wanted to serve would not be able to afford private school tuition. Now there is a way to open this school, without the bureaucracy and politics of public education. Most importantly, I don’t have to deal with short men with Napoleon complexes who expect me to kiss their arses….as if.

My, how the tides have turned. Assembling a dream team of educators. Time to change the game. Dream not deferred, just re-imagined. Stay tuned.

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Momma first, everything else second: Why I Do What I Do   Leave a comment

I was just reading through my Gmail inbox (trying not to let things pile-up again) and I opened this message from Rosetta Thurman (who I also follow on Twitter) about Blogging for Branding. Honestly, I am in one of those moods where I don’t want to do anything because I don’t know what to do. It’s quiet in the office because the quarter just started at the college, so there is very little traffic the first 2 weeks of the term. Sometimes I get restless during quiet times…I don’t have enough to keep me (and my mind) busy so I start thinking about what I should be doing and where I am supposed to be. Much like I did in this previous post. Well, I recently started an online certificate program, where I will learn how to develop and teach online classes. I thought that would be enough to keep me going for a while, but you know how it goes when life happens, right? I admit that my writing (frequency) has been lackluster recently and I really don’t know what to write about on most days because I feel like I am saying the same things over and over again….kinda like deja vu a la Groundhog Day. Once I read Rosetta’s suggestions on blog topics about PASSION (no, not that kind of passion), the lightbulb started flickering…

As you all may/may not know, I homeschooled Boy Wonder for a couple of years because of bullying and threats; the folks who oversee run Gwinnett County Schools failed to abide by their own code of conduct. It all became too much for both of us so I decided to try the homeschool option. It worked well for us: No stress of elbowing finding his way to class, trying to concentrate while other kids disrupt class, or dealing with the threats/taunting/bullying. And it worked for 3 years. But then I decided it was time for him to go back to school and be around other kids and I wanted to start looking for work again. So off to school he goes….

Things were moving along pretty well initially, then someone (not me) dropped the ball. The first snafu happened when they forgot to include my son on the list of students taking the PSAT, even after I initiated the conversation (in writing). I was assured that as long as he was present that day, he would take the test. He didn’t. Well we are in the second semester and he is still struggling with Georgia’s prized ‘new’ Math curriculum. As a 10th grader he is taking Integrated Geometry. He has stayed after school a few times for additional help, but the help didn’t really help. O.k., it helped temporarily, but he still failed the first semester and is in danger of failing the second semester. Oh yeah, almost forgot: He is taking a CRedit Recovery class in hopes of ‘recovering’ that credit from the first semester. BONUS: I had to pay $100 for it. And I really didn’t have it to spend. And no, I cannot afford a private tutor. And yes, I can help him with (some of) the Geometry, but I will proudly admit: Some of that crap is foreign to me! I took Geometry in high school, you know, the old school kind with Pythagoras, Euclid, planes, angles, degrees, and such. I still do not UNDERSTAND why they are calling it Integrated Geometry so my confusion regarding the content is justified (in my eyes). Oh yeah, the school does not offer any regularly scheduled tutoring services even though 57% of the students are Black and 57% of the students qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch (FARL), including my own. Hmmmm. I am not too adept at the ‘new’ Math but I know that something does not add up here. If those numbers are not compelling enough, how about these: For the 2009-2010 school year, 79% of students FAILED the Algebra End-of-Course Test (EOCT); 70% of students FAILED the Geometry EOCT; 41% and 40% of students FAILED the Mathematics I and II EOCTs, respectively. I won’t bore you all with a breakdown of the failure rates by AYP subgroup, but I am sure you can guess which group (s) performed the worst, right?

To avoid the risk of having this post turn into a rant, I will end by saying that I was very proactive and vocal regarding my concerns over this ‘new’ Math. I emailed the State Superintendent (even though I knew someone else would read and respond to me) and I forwarded the response to the school. The principal admitted that he had not heard of any decision by the local board to implement to alternative Math curriculum, which the State Board of Education approved. I informed him that I would contact the district office because, despite what they think/don’t think about my son, he is going to college. Of course now with the ‘F’ on his transcript, his options will be greatly limited. Limited as in he may be stuck here for college. At least there is still the HOPE scholarship. Oh wait, he has to have a 3.0 GPA in core subjects to be eligible for that. Nevermind….I will continue to do what I do because I am a momma first and everything else second.

To hell with ‘waiting’ on Superman, we have Karen Lewis!   Leave a comment

‘I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.’ ~ Maya Angelou

This post is not going to be about hyping some movie that promotes parents as desperate for immediate solutions to the public education crisis. I don’t like to think of minority and low-income families as ‘desperate’ for anything, unless of course they are amongst the millions of un- or underemployed Americans in this country. I think ‘victims’ would be a more accurate characterization because, well, they and their children have been robbed of 40 acres, a mule, and a separate but equal education. Sure, No Child Left Behind was enacted to address the latter, but by now we all know that all it really did was expose the decades-long disparities in the caliber of education between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ Of course, the ‘have nots’ are the kids relegated to dilapidated schools in neighborhoods where the jobs have long gone, hundreds of babies die by the hands of their peers, and people with NO practical experience in education have been bestowed the power to close neighborhood schools (leading to more violence) and create a working environment rife with fear and mistrust. (Examples: Chicago, Detroit, and D.C. Feel free to substitute any of these cities above.) Anyone wonder or even ask why we should ‘wait’ on Superman, much less anyone else to fix problems that our government has known about forever? Probably not.

Yes, those things are disappointing, disheartening, and enough to make anyone with common sense reconsider (several times) entering the teaching profession. But there is hope for parents, students, and teachers….and it ain’t Superman. It’s not Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, or any of the other self-righteous, self-proclaimed education experts with their Ivy League degrees and colonialist complexes. Nope, it’s an educated Black woman, from the South Side of Chicago, with dreads, and a pair big enough to call a spade a spade and expose the truth about the mess Duncan and Daley created with the Renaissance 2010 debacle. Ok, maybe ‘pair’ is an overused cliché, but I couldn’t think of anything else.Well, I could but I don’t know Karen well enough to call her a ‘Bad B*&%$!’

Some people may not understand my excitement about the ‘arrival’ of Lewis onto the education scene as the newly-elected President of the Chicago Teachers Union. My excitement is comprised of equal parts enthusiasm for the fact that:  (1) Lewis is Black; and (2) she holds no punches. Ok, ok..maybe I am more excited about the second one..we have way too many people in education chasing the carrot, shuckin’ & jivin, skinnin & grinnin, and holding their peace for a small piece, of whatever. There are too many people who are cheerleaders for scientific experiments (masked as entrepreneurship) in education for the sake of securing additional blood money, er… funding for continued support. (I guess everyone forgot about the Tuskegee Experiment and it’s lasting effects, but I digress.) There are also people who work/worked under administrations that implement/implemented policies that failed, from the start, yet kept quiet until they made their exit (and nice salaries and built name recognition). I cannot respect such individuals or give weight to anything they have to say because they sold out millions of kids and never said a word. Not.One.Word. Until now, because it’s profitable to bash these doomed-from-the-start policies on the ‘Pimpin’ Education’ circuit. But I guess everyone has their price, I just haven’t found mine yet. God willing, I never will.

I am neither in Chicago or have any direct connection/affiliation with the city, but I am sure the thousands of teachers who work there can perform their jobs without worrying about being fired by some CEO who’s eager to jump through hoops for monetary offers to fire veteran, trained educators in order to make room for other Ivy grads and oops..wrong person. Where was I? Oh yeah, I am confident in the abilities of Lewis as she has not minced words on her stance on Race to the Top, Duncan, or anyone else making ill-informed decisions about education. Karen Lewis is a breath of fresh air, in a tight-knit circle long controlled by clueless windbags only interested in attracting businesses and government grants. Yes, it’s been a long time comin’ but a change has finally come for the teachers of Chicago.

Karen, may the force be with you. Dr. Angelou’s quote provides some good advice for us girls, but in a pinch do what my Granny and Mamma always said: ‘Kick ass and take names later!’

To hell with 'waiting' on Superman, we have Karen Lewis!   Leave a comment

‘I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.’ ~ Maya Angelou

This post is not going to be about hyping some movie that promotes parents as desperate for immediate solutions to the public education crisis. I don’t like to think of minority and low-income families as ‘desperate’ for anything, unless of course they are amongst the millions of un- or underemployed Americans in this country. I think ‘victims’ would be a more accurate characterization because, well, they and their children have been robbed of 40 acres, a mule, and a separate but equal education. Sure, No Child Left Behind was enacted to address the latter, but by now we all know that all it really did was expose the decades-long disparities in the caliber of education between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ Of course, the ‘have nots’ are the kids relegated to dilapidated schools in neighborhoods where the jobs have long gone, hundreds of babies die by the hands of their peers, and people with NO practical experience in education have been bestowed the power to close neighborhood schools (leading to more violence) and create a working environment rife with fear and mistrust. (Examples: Chicago, Detroit, and D.C. Feel free to substitute any of these cities above.) Anyone wonder or even ask why we should ‘wait’ on Superman, much less anyone else to fix problems that our government has known about forever? Probably not.

Yes, those things are disappointing, disheartening, and enough to make anyone with common sense reconsider (several times) entering the teaching profession. But there is hope for parents, students, and teachers….and it ain’t Superman. It’s not Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, or any of the other self-righteous, self-proclaimed education experts with their Ivy League degrees and colonialist complexes. Nope, it’s an educated Black woman, from the South Side of Chicago, with dreads, and a pair big enough to call a spade a spade and expose the truth about the mess Duncan and Daley created with the Renaissance 2010 debacle. Ok, maybe ‘pair’ is an overused cliché, but I couldn’t think of anything else.Well, I could but I don’t know Karen well enough to call her a ‘Bad B*&%$!’

Some people may not understand my excitement about the ‘arrival’ of Lewis onto the education scene as the newly-elected President of the Chicago Teachers Union. My excitement is comprised of equal parts enthusiasm for the fact that:  (1) Lewis is Black; and (2) she holds no punches. Ok, ok..maybe I am more excited about the second one..we have way too many people in education chasing the carrot, shuckin’ & jivin, skinnin & grinnin, and holding their peace for a small piece, of whatever. There are too many people who are cheerleaders for scientific experiments (masked as entrepreneurship) in education for the sake of securing additional blood money, er… funding for continued support. (I guess everyone forgot about the Tuskegee Experiment and it’s lasting effects, but I digress.) There are also people who work/worked under administrations that implement/implemented policies that failed, from the start, yet kept quiet until they made their exit (and nice salaries and built name recognition). I cannot respect such individuals or give weight to anything they have to say because they sold out millions of kids and never said a word. Not.One.Word. Until now, because it’s profitable to bash these doomed-from-the-start policies on the ‘Pimpin’ Education’ circuit. But I guess everyone has their price, I just haven’t found mine yet. God willing, I never will.

I am neither in Chicago or have any direct connection/affiliation with the city, but I am sure the thousands of teachers who work there can perform their jobs without worrying about being fired by some CEO who’s eager to jump through hoops for monetary offers to fire veteran, trained educators in order to make room for other Ivy grads and oops..wrong person. Where was I? Oh yeah, I am confident in the abilities of Lewis as she has not minced words on her stance on Race to the Top, Duncan, or anyone else making ill-informed decisions about education. Karen Lewis is a breath of fresh air, in a tight-knit circle long controlled by clueless windbags only interested in attracting businesses and government grants. Yes, it’s been a long time comin’ but a change has finally come for the teachers of Chicago.

Karen, may the force be with you. Dr. Angelou’s quote provides some good advice for us girls, but in a pinch do what my Granny and Mamma always said: ‘Kick ass and take names later!’

Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere….   1 comment

A few months ago I made a commitment to do better at writing blogs. After all, if I am trying to engage people on education topics and flex my writing skills in preparation for the forthcoming books (yes, that’s plural), then I sure as heck should have something to say! Not only that, I need to make sure that I am not merely ‘saying’ something, but saying something of importance. I want people to think about what I share, both while they are reading and after they’ve finished. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Another reason why I have not written a blog post in over a week is because I have a lot of projects on my plate right now. Every once in a while, I get these creativity rushes and I get bombarded with several ideas at one time. Naturally, I get a little overwhelmed and have to force myself to unplug for a day or two. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing. Last night I finished a post that I pray will get published on the ‘Race-talk‘ blog, sponsored by the Kirwan Institute. As if that weren’t enough to keep me busy, I have also started my own summer reading which includes re-reading The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson, father of Black History Month; I am also making a commitment to finish reading Frederick Hess’ Education Unbound: The Promise and Practice of Greenfield Schooling. After reading only a few pages I honestly lost interest because this book, much like other media, only examines the ‘surface’ success of programs like Teach for America (TFA), Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), and the unique leadership style of Michelle Rhee. Anyone who has followed my blog or Twitter conversations with @IraSocol already knows how I feel about these programs. If my submission does not get picked-up by ‘Race-talk’ I will definitely post it here!

Oh,  I almost forgot! I am also working on a book/movement titled ‘Wake the Artist, Change the World!’ and I have already lined-up some very special people to interview. Wow! Now I see why I get overwhelmed! It’s all good though because I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even though I had to turn myself around and start over a few times.

So, until later, later!

Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere….   1 comment

A few months ago I made a commitment to do better at writing blogs. After all, if I am trying to engage people on education topics and flex my writing skills in preparation for the forthcoming books (yes, that’s plural), then I sure as heck should have something to say! Not only that, I need to make sure that I am not merely ‘saying’ something, but saying something of importance. I want people to think about what I share, both while they are reading and after they’ve finished. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Another reason why I have not written a blog post in over a week is because I have a lot of projects on my plate right now. Every once in a while, I get these creativity rushes and I get bombarded with several ideas at one time. Naturally, I get a little overwhelmed and have to force myself to unplug for a day or two. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing. Last night I finished a post that I pray will get published on the ‘Race-talk‘ blog, sponsored by the Kirwan Institute. As if that weren’t enough to keep me busy, I have also started my own summer reading which includes re-reading The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson, father of Black History Month; I am also making a commitment to finish reading Frederick Hess’ Education Unbound: The Promise and Practice of Greenfield Schooling. After reading only a few pages I honestly lost interest because this book, much like other media, only examines the ‘surface’ success of programs like Teach for America (TFA), Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), and the unique leadership style of Michelle Rhee. Anyone who has followed my blog or Twitter conversations with @IraSocol already knows how I feel about these programs. If my submission does not get picked-up by ‘Race-talk’ I will definitely post it here!

Oh,  I almost forgot! I am also working on a book/movement titled ‘Wake the Artist, Change the World!’ and I have already lined-up some very special people to interview. Wow! Now I see why I get overwhelmed! It’s all good though because I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even though I had to turn myself around and start over a few times.

So, until later, later!

Another example of mass firings gone wrong   1 comment

In a previous post, I offered my opinion (as I always do) on the latest education-craze: Firing entire school staffs and requiring interested teachers to re-apply. Despite praise from the Obama administration, I still believe this is the wrong way to fix what ails public education. Sure, some teachers (and administrators) may experience burn-out and may be in need of culturally relevant and research-based professional development, but replacing staff members with new staff members will require more time and money for training.

A few weeks before the school year ended, the Cobb County School System delivered grim news to 700 teachers: You do not have a job for the upcoming school year. These layoffs were due to projected budget shortfalls for the district, not low-performing schools. Cobb students showed their support by staging walk-outs and rallies outside of their schools, as did the students in Newark, New Jersey a few months ago. I commend students in Cobb as I did those in Newark. Their actions displayed their courage to voice their concerns over the potential impact board decisions would have on education. Well, due to some oversight miracle the district is ready to hire/rehire 500 teachers-just a few weeks later. According to the AJC, the district has rehired 130 Special Education teachers and plans to rehire an additional 370 full-time teachers.

Now, I consider myself to be fairly proficient at Math, but this makes absolutely no sense to me. At. All. Maureen Downey of the AJC agrees, stating that this debacle (my word) has caused “…unnecessary angst, pain, and paperwork.” What’s even more strange is that (1) the district’s financial ‘expert’ played a role in projecting said shortfall; and (2) the board members agreed to the cuts. Just so I am clear: Are we still calling teachers ineffective and under qualified? Perhaps this is the wake-up call that parents and teachers need to motivate them to become more invested in school board elections. While I am not claiming that people can’t and don’t make mistakes, we should be able to expect better decision-making from 6-figure employees and school board members. If the layoffs had affected, say, 100 people and the district recalled 50 or 60, I could live with that. But mistakes of ginormous proportion have no room in our struggling school systems.