Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I'd prefer, 'Changing Demographics.' Thank you.   4 comments

During the past year or so, we have been bombarded with stories about what works in education, whose to blame for the current situation, blah, blah, blah. Honestly, I thought I had seen it all, or at least developed some degree of immunity. Heck, I don’t even read stuff about ‘that woman’ in D.C. anymore because I am possibly the only person who will publicly state that if her name was Tanika Jackson, she would not be able to get away with that shi behavior. Anyway, as I am updating Twitter with what’s going on ed-wise in Atlanta, I came across a blog post from Maureen Downey-who writes the AJCGetSchooled blog.

In one of her weekly posts, Downey discusses the issues going on in DeKalb County, the state’s third largest district, and whether the state should intervene. Earlier this year the superintendent was indicted on racketeering and theft charges (who says the mafia is dead?) and now allegations of nepotism have (finally) surfaced. According to Downey:

‘But the county has changed, and there are far more hard-to-educate children now than when DeKalb was a bedroom community of Atlanta. Those days aren’t going to come back because the easiest-to-educate kids now live in Alpharetta and Peachtree City. Poorer children, immigrant children and children whose own parents didn’t go to college have a longer way to go than the  students whose parents bought them the Tolkien trilogy when the kids were still in diapers and send them to math camp.”

In the next paragraph, she explains her comment by stating that it is not a ‘slur’ on the county. That is an interesting defense of an obviously insensitive generalization. First, who believes that some children, e.g., African-American, Latino, and low-income, are hard-to-educate? Those student groups comprise the majority in DeKalb County’s schools and in most neighborhoods. I do not doubt that she chose DeKalb for it’s diversity, but I would wager that her neighborhood school does not depict a true reflection of the larger community.

While reading her post, I started asking myself some questions:

1. What, or who-the-hell, is a ‘hard-to-educate’ child?

2. What, or who-the-hell, are the ‘easiest-to-educate’ children?

3. How can you tell the difference between the two?

I am not a trained journalist, but I can think of at least two other non-offensive ways in which to describe the changes that have occurred in DeKalb, and other metro-Atlanta districts, over the past 10-20 years. Perhaps my race and ethnicity have a lot to do with that, but I prefer to believe that my sensitive nature stems from my upbringing and common sense. Furthermore, I refuse to allow anyone, especially an outsider, to lay blame for what ails urban schools at the feet of the children. After all, they were not holding signs, spitting on, or attacking kids who dared to integrate them and they did not make the decisions to uphold segregationist practices by covertly dismantling district-wide transfer programs.

The message and potential lesson here: Members of the media have a (sometimes too) significant impact on how different groups of people view each other. We need to continue to hold them accountable when they publish insensitive and borderline racist remarks. This instance is no different. Like my Granny always said: ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it.’ She was right about a lot of things.

When do kids ‘get it?’   Leave a comment

So as you all know, my kids (and the entire Gwinnett County School System) went back-to-school last week. Some of you are still enjoying your summer, but it’s back to business for 160k+ kids in our system, as well as those in Atlanta Public Schools and other metro districts.

One day last week as the oldest is doing homework for his online class, he asked me why he was taking it, when none of his other classmates at South Gwinnett are taking online classes (in addition to the six they take in school). My first reaction was to reach-out and touch him, not á la Diana Ross but more along the lines of Madea. Fortunately for him, I exerted some (temporary) restraint…for now anyway. He doesn’t quite understand that the decisions I make regarding his education are in his best interest, not mine…unless of course you count OPERATION: We need to get you out of my house by 18′ in my best interest…

I recognized a long time ago that my son is not me. By that, I mean he does not possess the same level of motivation to excel in school that I had/have. By 7th grade, I decided where I would go to college-and I actually graduated from that university. My son, eh….not so much. He is still at that stage where he questions why he has to do this, that, and more than everyone else. He doesn’t quite ‘get it’ yet and I am wondering when/if he will. In my last post I ranted about the school’s/district’s low expectations for students; at least from my point-of-view they are low. I don’t see as nearly as many academic challenges that were impressed upon me when I was in high school. So how do I get this child to understand that low expectations are not the norm?  Maybe his drive will kick-in a little later. I certainly hope so because he possesses the aptitude, the attitude just needs to catch-up. Any suggestions?

Ok, gotta go. I have some Geometry homework to do.

When do kids 'get it?'   Leave a comment

So as you all know, my kids (and the entire Gwinnett County School System) went back-to-school last week. Some of you are still enjoying your summer, but it’s back to business for 160k+ kids in our system, as well as those in Atlanta Public Schools and other metro districts.

One day last week as the oldest is doing homework for his online class, he asked me why he was taking it, when none of his other classmates at South Gwinnett are taking online classes (in addition to the six they take in school). My first reaction was to reach-out and touch him, not á la Diana Ross but more along the lines of Madea. Fortunately for him, I exerted some (temporary) restraint…for now anyway. He doesn’t quite understand that the decisions I make regarding his education are in his best interest, not mine…unless of course you count OPERATION: We need to get you out of my house by 18′ in my best interest…

I recognized a long time ago that my son is not me. By that, I mean he does not possess the same level of motivation to excel in school that I had/have. By 7th grade, I decided where I would go to college-and I actually graduated from that university. My son, eh….not so much. He is still at that stage where he questions why he has to do this, that, and more than everyone else. He doesn’t quite ‘get it’ yet and I am wondering when/if he will. In my last post I ranted about the school’s/district’s low expectations for students; at least from my point-of-view they are low. I don’t see as nearly as many academic challenges that were impressed upon me when I was in high school. So how do I get this child to understand that low expectations are not the norm?  Maybe his drive will kick-in a little later. I certainly hope so because he possesses the aptitude, the attitude just needs to catch-up. Any suggestions?

Ok, gotta go. I have some Geometry homework to do.

Georgia’s School Choice plan limited, room for improvement   1 comment

*I originally wrote this as an OpEd piece for the AJC. Not sure if they decided to publish it because I have not heard anything- #KanyeShrug Since @Havalah on Twitter asked me about School Choice (after reading my rant about school registration and Open House being on the same day, same time, etc., I decided to just use the OpEd piece as a blog.)

The Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 251 in 2009, allowing public school students to attend any school within the local board ‘…under certain conditions.’ According to the Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) web site, students cannot transfer for any of the following reasons: (1) Grievances arising from parent-school conflicts; (2) Peer group associations; (3) Discipline and/or attendance problems; or (4) General dissatisfaction with a particular school. Essentially, if a parent and a school cannot agree on decisions in the best interest of the child, or said child has issues with bullies or gangs, then s/he must remain at the assigned school. The only other options are a private school, one of the few charter schools in the largest school district, or home schooling. This school ‘choice’ option is an important issue for consideration, as Georgia students return to school in a few weeks.

For the past 2.5 years, I have home schooled my oldest who is now 15. He is preparing to (reluctantly) enter South Gwinnett High School as a sophomore this year. I will admit that I am very leery, as I am aware of some of the events that have happened at South, as well as other high schools in the metro area. By no means am I naïve, but at the same time I do not subscribe to the ‘Boys will be boys’ mantra because, well, all kids should have the expectation of being safe while on school grounds. After all, we expect our kids to attend school every day and perform well on state-mandated tests. The least we could do is ensure their safety, right? Perhaps I am the only parent who believes that but I am sure that I can find some kids who would agree.

Our decision to home school was not motivated by religious beliefs or my child’s intellectual ability. In fact, he is very bright and articulate, both characteristics that apparently warrant bullying these days. But eventually the bullying and apathetic attitude of the school became too much, for both of us. He hated going to school; I tired of hearing the stories of the same kids taunting him, without consequences. The problems began early on during the 7th grade, but I thought for sure that my visit to the school would change things. When I met with one of the Assistant Principals, he said ‘When I saw the referral come across my desk, I didn’t recognize his name.’ I was literally dumbfounded. What kind of conversation-starter was that? Again, I am not claiming that my son is angel but he does not go around looking for trouble. My son ended up having several run-ins with the same kid; one incident involved the bully cursing at him in front of the teacher. No disciplinary action was taken; that as unacceptable. These two were in some of the same classes for the first semester and the taunts continued.

Just a few weeks away from the new school year and I cannot help but wonder: ‘Where is the choice in School Choice?’ After you wade through the restrictions, consider any personal or professional obstacles that may hinder driving 30 minutes each way, everyday, you have to admit that Georgia’s law looks pretty in theory but is actually worthless in reality. Aside from purchasing homes in exclusive communities or paying tuition at private schools, what other options do parents have to ensure a quality education in a relatively secure learning environment? This district obviously does not believe in creating (accessible) charters and magnet schools, so what’s left for the rest of us?

Posted August 6, 2010 by moniseseward in Uncategorized

Where would I be?   3 comments

As I read through emails, tweets, blogs, and Facebook statuses this morning, I came across one from @HalonaBlack that really made me stop and evaluate some things. Her post, which you better should read, discusses how some first-generation college students arrive on campus with the short-sighted goal of choosing a major that will help them earn money, in the shortest amount of time possible. Well, as soon as I retweeted it my college roommate posted the following comment on my page:

Roomie: “I can relate to this on so many levels. My Dad (even though he didn’t raise me he thought he had a voice in this) basically told me no “BS” majors (e.g. Communications,journalism, etc). I needed a “real” major so right off I felt limited in my choices. And even going to law school, it shocked me how prepared some of the well to do students were. They had outlines, knew the inside tricks, etc. Always vowed my kid would never start that far behind and would have the ability to pursue whatever she wanted.”

Whew! That hit so close to home it stopped me in my tracks. Now when I chose which college I would attend, no one in my family weighed in on majors, etc. Honestly, the only advice/words of wisdom I received came from my grandfather as he was driving me home from work one day (as we passed the University of Notre Dame): “Don’t you let anyone tell you or make you feel like you don’t belong there, because you do. You have as much right to be there as they do.” Anyone who knows anything about Notre Dame, or any predominantly White college/university, can guess to whom he referred; it’s not rocket science. But that was the way we were raised: We were never taught that we were inferior to anyone. We are all as comfortable, if not more so, in a room where we are the only minority versus being in a room where we are in the majority. (Oh lord I get so sidetracked!) BTW: That’s not me in the pic. It’s Katie Odette Washington, Notre Dame’s first Black Valedictorian.

So the conversation via Facebook continued:

Me: I just finished reading The PACT, about the 3 Black guys from Newark who all went on to college and became doctors. One of them said the exact same thing: The other students were well ahead of him when they started because their parents had professional careers too. I am grateful that I ‘made it’ so to speak because no one in my family had even attended college before me.

Roomie: Exactly, I’m grateful too. Had a single mom that got pregnant in high school. Part of the reason I don’t let “the less advantaged” get away with excuses. And on some level, we know that will be our challenge with Gemma – we want her the be on a level playing field, but we don’t want to make it too easy for her either. Both our families just marvel at the fact that she has a passport.

Me: We (including myself) have a lot of work to do. My oldest doesn’t understand why he has to still do work & read during the summer. I keep telling him that I know what I’m doing….Were it not for Charles Martin & Upward Bound I would likely still be stuck in South Bend, doing nothing. Knowing nothing.

My natural reaction was to actually try to imagine where I would be were it not for supportive people and the Upward Bound program. My mind can’t even go there because I prefer to believe that everything, both good and bad, happens for a reason. Even my decision to move to the South, when I was well aware of it’s history (not to say that the North did not have issues too). Despite the fact that some people obviously still believe that we must carry ourselves as inferior individuals, avoid asking ‘The Man’ questions, or demanding respect, I still believe that everything I have experienced and learned here was for a reason. When those voices begin to question decisions I’ve made, something or someone manages to reach me at the right time, encourages me to keep going, continue asking the questions that make people uncomfortable. I think my grandmother would probably say, ‘Keep raisin’ hell, baby. That’s the only way things will change.’

So, where would you be if no one pushed you to excel, dream big, and be your own person?

How many reports does it take to close the opportunity gap?   12 comments

Depending on your age, you may or may not be familiar with the commercial from which I borrowed (paraphrased) the blog title. Remember the Tootsie Pop commercial with the boy and Mr. Owl? The boy always asked, “Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop?” Every time, Mr. Owl would take the boy’s Tootsie Pop and start licking; he eventually just bit into it. The boy could have saved himself the grief and just counted for himself, instead he continued to wait for someone to answer his question. What’s my point? Do we really need another report to tell us that the number of low-income school kids is steadily growing?  Didn’t we read a similar report from the Southern Education Foundation a few months ago? And yes, I weighed-in on that one too. I was surprised that Steve Suitts, the author of the January report and Vice President of the foundation, responded to my comments (and I asked how I could help). Here is an excerpt:

“The reality is that far too many students of color and low income students of all races and ethnicities aren’t getting the education they need. The students who need the most resources and support are now usually getting the least. For large numbers of these students to succeed, this pattern has to change. Our report is a call to arms in fighting for that change. Best wishes.”

So if the first report was a ‘call to arms in fighting’ for change, what does that make the second report? Better yet, what will that make the reports that we know will follow? By no means am I being cynical, but rather practical and realistic. Anyone who has spent time (as a teacher or volunteer) in an urban classroom knows the financial circumstances of the students. We know that the number of students now eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch has increased because the economy is in the crapper, and millions of people, with kids, are now unemployed. Did we really need another report to tell us that? How much money and human resources were spent on this study? Aren’t there better ways to use those resources? How about spending some time with lawmakers and educating them on the unseen effects of double-digit unemployment, e.g., families with fewer financial resources to pay for such novelties as food, school supplies, and after-school enrichment programs? Now I feel as though I sound like a broken record because I talk about the same issues, e.g., school reform, wasteful spending, etc., in almost every post. Stuitts has a valid point about the allocation of resources, but when will we see a detailed study on how these states (15 in the South), spend Title I and Special Education funds? Some districts spend more of those funds on administrative costs (unnecessary training, conferences, etc.) than instructional resources. And they get away with it because the federal government’s accountability system is weak. Unless and until stricter guidelines are developed, implemented, and monitored districts will continue to take advantage and waste free money our tax dollars.

Unfortunately, districts will continue to blame their AYP shortcomings on the fact that there are a large number of low-income students in their classrooms. And the madness will continue. So I am issuing a BOLO for the next study telling us that there are now more poor kids in America than ever before. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

When the status quo just won’t do   2 comments

As I’m sitting here, listening to music and the much-awaited rain crashing against my windows, there is something really important on my mind. Sadly, blogging is the best way to get my thoughts heard, as I encounter few people IRL with whom I can discuss these things face-to-face. Better yet, there are few people I meet who want to discuss these things. This is something that is always on my mind; I use this forum as a way to clear my mind because holding these things in will not do me (or anyone else) any good. So here are the things that inspired my (internal) intellectual dialog for today:

1. I was reading through some of my friends’ FB status updates and my college roommate posted something about her HOA that was both sad and hilarious. In the covenants for the development, there was a statement that read: “None of the lots shall be conveyed, occupied, etc. to anyone other than of the Caucasian Race.” She said they drew a line though it, instead of completely deleting it. Let me clear, I thought it was funny in the sense that, in 2010, a professional agent would actually hand that document to someone, especially a Black someone, without deleting that statement. Even funnier is the fact that no one thought it was important to remove the statement, especially since we live in a ‘post-racial’ America (side eye). BTW, what exactly do they mean by ‘post-racial’ America? As long as we have brown and black skin tones that run the gamut, we will never be able to live in a world where no one ‘sees’ race. Knowing my roomie, she will definitely address that faux pas. But here’s a burning question I have: How many Black homeowners flock to developments with the word ‘plantation’ in the name? I once told a friend that I would never even look at houses in a development with that word in the name. Is this practice exclusive to Southern states? I don’t think I have ever seen the word ‘plantation’ on anything up North. Hmmm…

2. I stumbled onto the Blogging While Brown site today. I hate that I missed their annual conference (not that I would have been able to go any way), but I thought I was finally getting the hang of this whole blogging thing. Ugh! I will definitely add that event to my calendar for next year. Any way, I clicked through a bunch of the blogs listed (and followed a few on Twitter). I will admit that I was kind of disappointed by the lack of Education-related blogs. Of course I started asking myself a bunch of questions, including ‘Are there any people of color besides @FirstTeacher and @TheJLV blogging about Education? Considering the ramifications on NCLB, RttT, and whatever else the Obama administration thinks of, shouldn’t there be more people of color blogging about this issue? I understand the importance of teaching entrepreneurship, money management, etc., but those lessons are in vain if Lil Ray-Ray or Juan can’t read well enough to develop a business plan, let alone effectively execute one. Right? Or is it just me? If all the people of color who are keeping up with the Kardashians or concerned about what their favorite celebrity is wearing would invest half of that time, energy, and attention into demanding quality schools in their communities, the achievement gap would not exist. No, this issue is not exclusive to only those who have kids. If you work, pay taxes, and own a home or business, then you should be concerned by the manner in which your money is spent. You do have a voice.

The only way we can get the attention of those seeking to hold positions of leadership is by exercising our right to vote. We turned-out to vote in record numbers in 2008, but we can’t rest now. That was just the first step in returning some of the power to the people. Obama cannot fix everything; he is certainly too busy to understand what happens in Snellville, GA or Houston, TX. It’s up to us to hold elected officials accountable for their words, actions, and campaign promises. If not us, then who?

Remember: The Georgia Primary Election is July 20, 2010. This will determine the direction of our public education system. Either we stay at the bottom or we fight our way to the top; we don’t have the luxury of running a ‘race’ only to realize we have been running in circles.