Archive for the ‘minority students’ Tag
I have spent the past month recuperating from two round-trip drives home (Indiana, 12 hours each way but I managed to shave off an hour coming home the last time…no snitching!), a minor illness, and a 7 Day Mental Cleanse (upon the advice of my Life (saving) Coach @MyLifeKeys and @StephanieAlva). I will be honest, I thought I would go crazy without my social media vices (mostly Twitter but I missed Facebook a little too). After the first 2 days, I was actually getting used to and making the most of the free time by reading, thinking (without thousands of other people’s thoughts coming at me), and planning to launch my own business(es). I was amazed by the amount of work I accomplished by unplugging from the extra noise.
Being away, however, did not change this drive I have to fulfill what I believe is my purpose in life: Use my knowledge, education, and passion to provide equal education and access to the arts for minority and/or low-income kids. I am human and I will admit that whenever I hit a roadblock, I get frustrated. I question why the path to ‘doing good’ is always fraught with politics, red tape, and
malarky b.s. Why is it that when someone (Read: A black, female, outspoken, liberal, and educated Yankee -that’s what they call me in the South, as if it hurts my feelings) identifies a need within his/her community, the powers-that-be old White boys’ network works so hard to make people believe there is no such need? But then I check myself because any time we (minorities) start shouting about our realities and how we perceive know things operate, we’re labeled as sensitive. Or even worse, we get accused of playing the ‘race card.’ First of all, I don’t view this thing called life as a game. So what in thee hell is a ‘race card?’ And unfortunately, the majority of us with melanin-infused skin and obviously non-European features cannot pick and choose the days that we are something other than what the mirror reflects. My point, and I do have one, is that someone (whom I respect a great deal, even though we don’t agree on everything), validated the feelings I’ve held for the past 4 years: There is no place for (all of) us at the table. And by ‘us’ I mean those who are not willing to placate, secret handshake, shuck-n-jive, skin-n-grin, or throw kids, single moms, or teachers under the bus to make others comfortable enough listen to us, let alone hear and consider us. Or give us our own segment on some Cable News Network.
As I read two of Jose’s (@TheJLV) posts, I thought: I can either spend my time, talents, and energy trying to get on the ‘inside’ so that I can fight them on their turf, or I can fight from the outside by continuing to encourage parents to speak-up and be the advocate their kids need. I can also fight by doing my own thing; providing opportunities for our kids, where the local board of education’s approval is not needed. Yeah, I think that would be a much better use of my time.
Whatever they throw at me, I will always win as long as I remember: They can slow me down, but they can’t stop me.
So I am sitting here, at the computer, with nothing to do (unless I count Tweeting as ‘something’). Yes, I am at work but this is an unusually slow day. As a matter of fact, the past few weeks have been pretty slow. Our ‘peek’ times fall around registration and orientation days. When I am bored, my mind begins to wander….
‘What am I supposed to be doing?’
‘Am I in the right place?’
‘Am I better suited for a K-12 classroom?’
‘Why do I feel like I am not making a contribution?’
*Sigh* I feel a little guilty for having these thoughts, especially since I’m an Academic Advisor at a technical college. After all, students come to me (us) with questions regarding course selection, career choices, etc. How in the heck can I (correctly) advise someone on a career choice when I don’t even know what I want to do???
I guess I just have to take comfort in knowing that sometimes the blind leading the blind just works. Especially when they smile, say ‘Thank you so much!’ and come back to see me.
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.
If the topic makes you uncomfortable, change the channel. For those with thick skin and a healthy dose of reality, I implore you to continue reading. This blog post is not meant to be a finger-pointing, make all White people feel guilty and/or uncomfortable rant. Instead, I thought I would point out some issues challenging states efforts to Race to the Top and close the ever-elusive achievement gap.
A historically significant ‘change’ occurred last November. I have not heard anyone debate whether Obama’s election as the first Black President of the United States has had an impact on the citizens of this country. Notice I wrote a change, as opposed to simply saying change. The difference may not seem important; however, when we juxtapose change against the new-found interest in overhauling public education we cannot ignore the fact that the majority of those making major decisions do not resemble those who are most disadvantaged, e.g., minority students. Essentially, there is no real change taking place in Education. Am I implying that non-minority educators are not qualified or compassionate enough to educate minority children? Absolutely not! What I am implying is that our country continues to have discussions about closing the achievement gap and how to best meet the needs of students in AYP subgroups, e.g., minority, low-income, ELL, and students with disabilities; yet, there are no representatives among the state superintendents, and few among the politicians and district superintendents. The actual number of minority superintendents is too small to make a significant impact.
Whenever I read the small amount of news covering America’s Education woes, I make a conscious effort to ‘check’ my racial blinders, but that is often difficult to do when your race is an obvious part of your identity. As a parent, I would certainly like to believe that race will become obsolete as my kids grow older. As an educator, I know better. I am not basing my thoughts on some conspiracy theory about ‘the man.’ Instead, my conclusions are based on observation, research, and data. Numbers don’t lie: Black and Latino students are not as ‘test’ intelligent as they should be. They do not graduate at the same rate as Whites and the numbers attending 4-year colleges/universities are not where they should be, in my opinion. Yes these facts are disheartening, but we also need to consider that Blacks and Latinos have less access to rigorous academic programs, Advanced Placement classes, arts, technology, etc. There are a few educators, such as Dr. Steve Perry and Baruti Kafele, who have created learning environments where a ‘college is the only option,’ attitude is the norm. These two men are among the minority, both literally and figuratively, as they have worked, persevered, and are now making quality education and college feasible options for large numbers of minority students.
I would venture to say that for every Perry or Kafele, there are probably 100 minority educators who have tried to improve conditions for their students, only to be met with resistance from administrators, school boards, etc., who also happen to be all-White. I have been there and I am still fighting to bring school choice to the heavily minority community in which I live. In the coming months we will be bombarded by stories about states either lifting charter caps or scrambling to create charter legislation where it did not previously exist, all for the sake of Race to the Top funds. This Johnny-come-lately approach has not place in Education. The stakes are too high if these silver-bullet ideals fail. We have already seen the effects of lackluster leadership, ignoring the learning needs of students, and dismissing the potential contributions of our educators. As long as school districts continue to operate in this manner, we will continue to chase our tails in the quest to improve the quality and outcomes of public education.
Race will likely never be obsolete, but we must all ensure there is fair representation at each and every roundtable discussion.