By Barbara D. Parks-Lee, Ph.D., CF, NBCT (ret.), NNPA ESSA Awareness Campaign
When cultures clash in the classroom, students, teachers, administrators, parents, and the community at large all suffer. Education, or lack, thereof, can have a ripple effect on every facet of society. Not only are communities of color affected but also areas not considered “minority.” PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is an equal possibility.
Children whose culture and realities are devalued are often, as Gloria Ladson Billings so aptly expressed, “considered as deficient white children.” (1999) The children she described may become drop-outs, push-outs, or disaffected trouble makers. These disaffected students often feel disrespected, misunderstood, and devoid of hope. Some of them are test-weary and content lacking.
When they are continually designated at “below basic” on standardized tests and their culture not understood by teachers and test makers, their behaviors are almost self-fulfilling prophesies. Often these students suffer from PTSD as painful and as debilitating as any combat soldier.
They encounter the vagaries of the results of having little affluence and no influence, of physical and/or emotional abuse, and poor educational opportunities offered by a revolving door of new, career-change, or culturally unaware teachers getting their OJT (on the job training), student loans abated, masters degrees, and housing allowances before moving on to the suburbs or to becoming the next national “expert” authors and speakers on educating the urban, rural, or culturally different child.
These are the children whose apparent apathy and less than “perfect” behaviors encourage a revolving door of teachers who have the inability to relate to students of different socio-economic or racial differences. In these cases, no one is the winner, even though neophyte teachers may gain some financial benefits, for these teachers, too suffer the PTSD resulting from not knowing how to teach diverse students and the daily chaos of classroom disorder, disrespect, and disaffectedness.
Lowered expectations may cause challenges for administrators also, for they face scrutiny about how their schools function on many levels, from standardized test results to efficient use of budget to how many expulsions and suspensions their students receive.
They must also contend with trying to find substitutes or replacements for teachers who are absent for whatever reason. Their teachers often are faced with coverage, which saps the enthusiasm and energy of those forced to babysit some other teacher’s class. In addition, many states are trying to meet the dictates of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Common Core Curriculum standards with inadequate funding and training for teachers and administrators in how to implement these mandated legislative programs. In the last few years, there has also been an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) schools.
Parents suffer when their children are disaffected and under-educated. Their children who are suspended or expelled are left to get into difficulties with the law and court systems. Further, drop-outs and push-outs often cannot get jobs and become economic drains on not only their families but also on the community at large.
So, in answer to the question when cultures clash in the classroom, who suffers, we all do! Poorly educated students make for a society that alienates its young, one that is unable to retain skilled and experienced teachers, and a country frustrated with unemployment, under-employment, and an ever-growing culture of violence, fear, and intolerance. Court systems and privatized prisons, along with mortuaries, result when the classrooms act as prep schools for these expensive alternatives.
By Arva Rice, President and CEO of the New York Urban League
New Year’s resolutions are underway across the state of New York, and I’m one of those who are trying hard to keep the promises I made to myself. I’m focused on finding an exercise I like and can maintain, journaling more, and eliminating debt, but I am quickly learning that mapping out a clear plan with how to accomplish these will make my success much more likely. New York state officials are engaging in a similar exercise as they lay out our state’s priorities for 2019. As Governor Cuomo reflects on how our state is succeeding and where there is still room for growth, we must ensure that education and school improvement remain top priorities for New York.
In his recent budget address, the Governor made a commitment to support an education system that distributes funding based on schools’ needs and fairness. Further, he also took the first steps to follow through on that commitment by allocating increased aid for our highest-need schools in his 2019 budget. While this can be considered encouraging progress, these priorities must remain at the forefront of Governor Cuomo and his administration’s to-do list for the upcoming year for the success of our state and our students.
As President and CEO of the New York Urban League and a lifelong advocate for young people, I know that closing achievement gaps between our highest- and lowest-performing schools is one of the most pressing equity issues of our time. If we want to improve education outcomes and strengthen our state, we need to improve our schools and assure that every child has access to a high-quality education, no matter their zip code or the color of their skin. Especially as companies like Amazon bring more tech jobs to New York City, we must ensure that all schools promote skills like math, science, problem-solving, and innovation so that children across our city and state are qualified for such positions.
Under the most recent education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), our state has an opportunity to make the bold and innovative changes necessary to improve the trajectory of all New York students. A recent review of New York’s plan to improve low-performing schools by education experts and civil rights leaders found that New York has laid a strong foundation but can still improve the sustainability of its plan. Overall, New York’s plan focuses on equity in schools and ending segregation inequities. It also builds on proven, successful school improvement strategies and emphasizes school improvement at the local level, so that tools and techniques are tailored to local and diverse communities. However, while New York empowers local communities to lead turnaround efforts for low-performing schools, the state could take additional steps and use its authority to help ensure schools and districts make progress on their improvement goals.
As the Governor works with lawmakers on our state budget and embarks on 2019, I urge them all to put actions behind words and assure that our schools have sufficient support to increase equity and give every child a high-quality education. I also urge educators, parents, and community members to make your voices heard and advocate for the changes you want to see in your local school. We all play an important role in helping our students learn, and their success is our most important resolution for the new year.
Arva Rice is President and CEO of the New York Urban League.
Young Adult (YA) authors, Paula Chase and Varian Johnson had never met in person. One lived in Maryland and the other in Texas. One was a spokesperson for small city government while the other designed bridges. But, they shared two things in common: they wrote YA fiction and were tired of watching quality work go unnoticed.
Chase explained that she was tired of “hearing people say that there was no YA literature for African American teen readers,” when, “At the time, there were at least five YA series featuring Black characters, but parents, teachers, and even librarians didn’t know about them.” Chase and Johnson knew that if they “wanted more books about us to be available, we had to do a better job of supporting Black YA literature authors and illustrators.”
Determined to launch an initiative that would shine a spotlight on the many African American authors writing for young readers, Chase and Johnson collaborated with author Kelly Starling Lyons and award-winning illustrator, Don Tate. The Brown Bookshelf was born.
Today, nearly 12 years later, the Brown Bookshelf is a collaboration of ten authors and illustrators including: Crystal Allen, Tracey Baptiste, Tameka Fryer Brown, Jerry Craft, Gwendolyn Hooks, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich.
Now, their 28 Days Later initiative takes their original goal to highlight Black authors a step further. The initiative is designed to highlight Black authors with recently released books or books that have “gone unnoticed.” During Black History Month, every day, a different book and author will be featured. We hope that “by us showcasing the twenty-eight best voices in African American children’s literature, parents, teachers and librarians will walk away with a full arsenal of recommendations for young readers. To date, we have featured 308 authors and illustrators.”
The Brown Book Shelf believes that every book has a reader and every child can be a reader. The trick is in helping the readers find the books that speak to them. Thanks to the sheer volume of books produced annually, it can be especially difficult for young readers to find books by Black authors and/or that feature Black characters. 28 Days Later is a beacon for those seeking both classic children’s books by Black authors as well as the latest in Black kid literature.
They believe spreading a love of literacy beyond February is essential to nurturing a generation of avid readers. They work to ensure that Black voices in children’s literature are not just heard, but also included across the spectrum for all children. The Brown Bookshelf is made up of authors and illustrators with a body of work spanning picture books to young adult fiction and we’re pleased to introduce parents to our work. Check out a list of culturally relevant books below:
One More Dino on the Floor by: Kelly Starling Lyons (Author)
Parby:Tay: Dance of the Veggies by: Don Tate (Illustrator), Eloise Greenfield (Author)
Historical fiction Picture Books
Hope’s Gift by: Kelly Starling Lyons (Author)
Stalebread Charlie and the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band by: Don Tate (Illustrator), Michael Mahin (Author)
Non-Fiction/Biographical Picture Books
Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by: Gwendolyn Hooks (Author)
If You Were A Kid During the Civil Rights Movement by: Gwendolyn Hooks (Author)
Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma Sit-ins by: Olugbemisola Rhudayby:Perkovich (Author)
No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas by: Don Tate (Illustrator), Tonya Bolden (Author)
Block Party by: Gwendolyn Hooks
Jada Jones: Class Act by: Kelly Starling Lyons
Contemporary Middle Grade
So Done by: Paula Chase
The Parker Inheritance by: Varian Johnson
The Great Green Heist by: Varian Johnson
Two Naomis by: Olugbemisola Rhudayby:Perkovich
Middle Grade Fantasy
The Jumbies by: Tracey Baptiste
Rise of the Jumbies by: Tracey Baptiste
Minecraft: The Crash by: Tracey Baptiste
Humorous Middle Grade
The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by: Spirit Week Showdown by: Crystal Allen
The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by: The Wall of Fame Game by: Crystal Allen
The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by: Mya In The Middle by: Crystal Allen
Middle Grade Graphic Novel
Mama’s Boyz: In Living Color by: Jerry Craft
The Offenders by: Jerry Craft
Middle Grade Nonfiction
Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow by: Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Contemporary Young Adult
So Not The Drama by: Paula Chase
Don’t Get It Twisted by: Paula Chase
Saving Maddie by: Varian Johnson
For a full listing of books recommended during the Brown Bookshelf’s panel at the 2018 National Council of Teachers of English conference, Using Black Children’s Literature to Amplify All Student Voices, visit: thebrownbookshelf.com
For decades, standardized tests have played a key role in the U.S. education system. With the implementation of No Child Left Behind, a George W. Bush-era bill that penalized schools for not meeting certain testing standards, the importance of such tests only increased. While the bill has since been replaced, standardized tests still play a critical role in determining school success. Advocates say it is an invaluable way to judge school effectiveness. Opponents say the tests are biased and harmful to critical thinking. What do you think?
Proponents of standardized tests like Dr. Gail Gross, a Huffington Post contributor, argue standardized tests provide the most straightforward and comprehensive measure of whether students in any particular school are learning.
We must not fear that which can offer us the best possible opportunity to transfer information in the most effective way. One important measure for that transfer is the standardized test. Such testing gives the teacher important diagnostic information about what each child is learning in relation to what he has been taught. Only in this way can the teacher know if the student needs intervention and remediation; if the curriculum matches the course requirements; or if the teaching methods needed are in some way lacking and require adjustment.
Furthermore, the standardized test gives valuable insight into broader issues, such as the standard curriculum important to grade level requirements, and an education reference point for fair and equitable education for all children in all schools — district by district and state by state. This can also lead to better teaching skills, as teachers will be held accountable to help their students meet these standards.
Chad Aldeman, an associate partner at a nonprofit education research and consulting firm, not only agrees that tests are the best way to determine student success, but that testing is needed every year to provide an adequate portrait of students’ learning.
[A]nnual testing has tremendous value. It lets schools follow students’ progress closely, and it allows for measurement of how much students learn and grow over time, not just where they are in a single moment.
It also allows for a much more nuanced look at student performance. For example, rather than simply looking at average overall school performance, where high performers frequently mask what’s happening to low achievers, No Child Left Behind focuses attention on the progress that groups of students are making within schools — a level of analysis that is possible only with annual data. To be confident that the test results aren’t pulled up or down by a few students and to minimize year-to-year variability, states usually consider only groups of at least 30 or 40 students. States are also able to average results over multiple years or across grades.
Twin Cities native Joetta Wright has commitment to excellence in her blood. Her mom, Patricia Wright, is the first African American woman in Minnesota to own a court reporting business, and Gloria Wright, Joetta’s grandmother, was one of the state’s first African Americans to become a registered nurse. Joetta is continuing that trailblazing lineage through arts and education.
Armed with a master’s degree in theatre education and teaching licensure from the University of Minnesota, the working film, television and stage actor uses her craft to culturally and socially educate the community via several avenues.
One such contribution is Wright’s weekly podcast Double Consciousness which explores, in part, the W.E.B. DuBois concept of what it means to have a divided identity while navigating dominant culture politics and social norms as artists of color.
“The primary purpose of Double Consciousness,” said Wright, “is to shine a light on how notions of race affect the psyches of Black and Brown people in the global community. As [co-host] Toussaint Morrison and I dissect our own experiences with race, we open up the discussion to the public in hopes of building a deeper understanding of the trauma we live with as people of color, and what it truly means to be a White ally in America.”
Wright also tackles a troublesome issue too often overlooked: diet and eating habits of Black folk and the impact that has on physical well-being. “My beliefs concerning health are complex. I believe that because of our history of enslavement, we have been raised to believe that Black food is synonymous with foods that puts [us] at high risk for myriad health problems.
“Also, because of the systemic racism that we see within the construction of neighborhood grocery stores, we see the very purposeful placement of liquor stores and corner stores in majority-Black neighborhoods to perpetuate the cycle of unhealthy living habits coupled with cheap and quick options for food.
Black food, or “soul food,” has traditionally included the least nutritional parts of pigs and cows — think chitlins, pig feet —along with kitchen scraps fried in high-fat, high-calorie grease. For Wright, food education is key in breaking this historical cycle.
“I began my health journey at college as I gained more understanding of the importance of eating a healthy mix of greens, fruits, meat, dairy and grains,” said Wright. “We have to be aware. We have to understand that when it comes to food, we, the Black community, are being groomed for extinction.”
In addition, Wright uses her talents to teach not only acting, but also African and African American art, music, and literature. Last year, she led North Minneapolis High School students through programming that introduced them to such fundamentals as movement, voice and diction. It also included looking at social and political change through the lens of theatre.
Her philosophy on classroom instruction is clear. “Our goal as teachers is for the student to be at the center of everything we do,” said Wright. “To create curriculum with each child in mind, we must design personal connections to content and encourage critical thinking.
“When we ask our students to independently identify their educational goals, and participate in developing their educational experience, they take ownership of that experience, and value their understanding in more profound ways.
Through this, she hopes to create a sea change in how students, especially students of color, view themselves in the education process.
“I believe that we can empower our students by giving them opportunities to teach their peers new content, by promoting choice-based projects, and by investing the time it takes to understand the learning needs of all students,” explained Wright.
“So often, our national and state leaders pledge their time and energy toward building our communities and providing the support for our citizens who need it the most. More often than not, those promises are hollow.
“We have to show our students of color that there is a place for them in education, and that we hold the same expectations for all students. Only then can we begin to inspire our students to become the agents of change that they are meant to be.”
Double Consciousness is published weekly on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher. For more information, visit doubleconsciousness.com.
More than half a century ago, my parents and a wonderful teacher named Mr. Hollis Posey followed their hearts and championed my right to learn. As a result, I received the empowering education in our City’s public schools that would transform my life.
Although I am grateful that I received the “thorough and efficient public education” that is guaranteed to every child by Article VIII of Maryland’s constitution, I am deeply troubled that all of Maryland’s children are not receiving this most basic foundation for successful, productive lives.
A widely acknowledged study in 2016 found that Maryland’s public schools are under-funded by $2.9 billion each year.
In response, the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education [typically referred to as the Kirwan Commission] has determined that significantly more funding will be required to give every Maryland child a reasonable chance in life, especially children living in those communities with the deepest concentrations of poor families.
Both our values and our long-term self-interest demand that we speak truth to power about correcting this failure.
Far too many of Maryland’s children are being relegated to a future devoid of competence or hope. This is an unacceptable failing – and it’s up to us, as voters, to assure that those we elect in November are committed to providing our children’s public schools with the funding that they need and deserve.
Although public education is primarily a state and local (rather than a federal) responsibility, the President and Congress have an important role in funding the public education of economically disadvantaged students (Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) and students with disabilities (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).
Currently, annual federal education funding for Title I and IDEA is significant (just under $16 billion and $12 billion, respectively). However, these appropriations have not kept up with the rising cost of educating our students, nor with the legitimate needs of states like Maryland for a more robust and realistic federal partnership.
The President and his Republican congressional allies have failed to adequately address this challenge. Democrats in Congress have had to fight just to avoid significant cuts in federal education funding.
As a result, our nation’s schools are no longer the envy of the world, a reality that threatens our long-term national security.
Maryland’s Democratic delegation to Washington understands that we must significantly expand federal education funding – but only by electing a Democratic majority to the next Congress can we make this commitment a reality.
Despite Governor Hogan’s assertions that Maryland is devoting more support to public education than ever before, the Kirwan Commission has acknowledged that far too many of our school children are being short-changed, especially in jurisdictions like Baltimore City.
On Election Day this year, we will decide whether Republican Larry Hogan or his Democratic challenger, Ben Jealous, will make the education of our children his top priority and fulfill our constitutional duty.
As a Maryland voter, I am a strong supporter of Ben Jealous’ candidacy to become our next Governor. Maryland’s teachers, through their Education Association’s endorsement, are supporting him as well.
As a Past President of our national NAACP, Ben Jealous is painfully aware (as am I) that the percentage of Maryland public school students living in poverty has more than doubled since 1990 (from 22 percent to 45 percent). We understand that properly educating all of our students, as well as meeting the rising cost of special education, will require a substantial and sustained infusion of additional state funding.
Drawing upon the Kirwan Commission’s upcoming final report and recommendations, our next Governor and State Legislature will have the duty to revise Maryland’s school funding formula for the first time in nearly two decades. The Commission is expected to recommend increasing the base, per-pupil state funding from $6,860 to $10,880 for each school child.
These challenges, I believe, are why Mr. Jealous has publicly committed (1) to fully implement the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations during the upcoming 2019 legislative session; (2) to raise our teachers’ salaries by 29 percent; (3) to implement full-day, universal Pre-K; (4) and to more effectively target state education funding to those school districts with the largest concentrations of poverty.
On Election Day, our voters can also approve an amendment to Maryland’s constitution that will guarantee that public education’s share of the state’s casino revenues is fully committed to funding public education (Question 1). This guarantee will provide an additional $500 million in annual state funding for our schools, an important first step toward closing the current $2.9 billion funding gap.
Both Ben Jealous and Larry Hogan have declared that they support Question 1. However, Governor Hogan has yet to adequately explain why he diverted $1.4 billion of our State’s casino money from public education (as voters were originally promised it would be invested) to other purposes.
When I visit our children’s classrooms, I look into our students’ eager faces and know that we must act with a sense of urgency to adequately invest in their future. On Election Day, God willing, Maryland’s voters will commit our State to a better future for us all, one filled with confidence, competence and hope.
Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.
This post originally appeared in the AFRO. The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) announced plans to conduct a groundbreaking survey that will gauge the awareness and impact of President Barack Obama’s education law—the Every Student Succeeds Act—in the Black community.
The NNPA is a trade group that represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies and newspapers in the United States, that reach an estimated 20 million readers in print and online, combined, every week.
In late 2016, the NNPA received a three-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Gates Foundation) to develop a multi-media public awareness campaign focused on ESSA, improving educational outcomes for Black students and increasing parental engagement.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA, thanked the Gates Foundation for collaborating with the Black Press to help raise public awareness about the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Dr. Chavis described the ESSA awareness research as a “proactive move.”
“Rather than let people outside of our community tell us what’s going on inside our community, this is an opportunity for the [Black Press]—the people who work and serve and live and thrive in the community—to do our own research.”
Dr. Chavis said that the data will help the NNPA and other community stakeholders gain insight into how to be more effective in raising public awareness around ESSA.
“This study will also give a stronger voice to parents, educators and caregivers in the Black community,” Dr. Chavis said.
The NNPA has a track record of success for measuring the pulse of the Black community. The trade group partnered with Howard University in Washington, D.C. for a national poll of Black voters ahead of the 2016 midterms and for a 2017 poll on sickle cell disease (SCD) in the Black community; the SCD poll was supported by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
During a press conference about the results of the NNPA/Pfizer SCD poll, Michael Goettler, the global president of Pfizer’s Rare Disease unit, said that the survey analysis provided a basis for Pfizer to seek more detailed assistance for SCD sufferers, who are disproportionately Black.
Dr. Chavis said that the success of the Black voter poll and the SCD poll not only opened doors for other research opportunities, but that it also showed that Black folks trust and rely on the Black Press.
During a 2017 interview with the NNPA Newswire, John King, the former U.S. Secretary of Education and current president and CEO of the Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization focused on closing opportunity and achievement gaps, said that the Black Press has a hugely important role in mobilizing Black parents around education and ESSA.
“It’s partly about telling the story about [exposing academic and opportunity gaps], but it’s also about changing the narrative,” King said. “Sometimes, we focus only on what isn’t going well, but there’s also a powerful story to tell about what is going well.”
Dr. Chavis said that the ESSA survey and the data that is collected should play significant roles in crafting those powerful stories.
The ESSA survey will be conducted online and target pre-selected markets in California including: Los Angeles and the surrounding regions (Orange County, Ventura County, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County); San Francisco; Oakland; San Jose; Sacramento; Stockton; Modesto; San Diego; Fresno; Visalia and Bakersfield.
NNPA member publications in California will help to promote and distribute the survey and the results will be shared broadly across the nation.
Dr. Reggie Weaver, the former president of the National Education Association (NEA), said that, all too often, parents are not engaged in the education of their children.
“Any way that information about ESSA can be coupled with getting parents to act on the things that are in the law is absolutely critical,” Weaver said. “What the NNPA is doing to educate and inform parents of their rights is important.”
Weaver said that parents can’t sit back and be spectators in the education of their children; they have to be active participants. That means getting involved in school board meetings, working with teachers and school administrators, and participating in surveys like the NNPA’s education poll.
Dr. Chavis said that the results from the NNPA’s education poll will not only be used to develop successful models for future public awareness campaigns, but the national exposure would also help to enhance the visibility and value of Black newspapers in California.
“This is a historic moment for the NNPA and we are encouraged that so many of our members will be able to participate,” Dr. Chavis said. “We are eagerly waiting for the study to commence and to get the results.”
Dr. Chavis continued: “This is just the beginning. The NNPA will continue to seek out culturally-relevant research opportunities in our on-going effort to improve the quality of life in the Black community.”
Learn more about the NNPA’s ESSA awareness poll at nnpa.org/essa.
Freddie Allen is the former Editor-in-Chief of the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. You can follow Freddie on Twitter @freddieallenjr.
By Nate Davis (CEO and Board of Directors Chairman, K12 Inc.)
Our nation’s graduation rate is at an all-time high. The national figure shows 84 percent of young people, overall, graduating from high school within four years after first entering the 9th grade, a trend that has been on a consistent upswing since the 2010-2011 school year.
Still, despite much progress with that indicator, major gaps still exist. And there is great concern that the graduation rate hype not only masks those gaps, but distracts us from what must be our ultimate goal: ensuring all students earn a high school diploma and are college and career ready.
Even as overall graduation rates improve, Black and Hispanic students continue to lag behind that curve. Graduation rates for African American students are 76.4 percentage points—8 percentage points behind the national average—and Latino students are at 79.3 percent. Native American students fare even worse at just 72 percent graduation. Meanwhile, White and Asian students are anywhere from four to six points higher than the national average.
None of us can reasonably expect the closure of inequality gaps, if we’re simply satisfied with overall graduation rates while resigned to stubborn achievement gaps. Yet, it seems as if we’re in a phase whereby these disparities are being treated as normal—“the way it is”—as opposed to addressing a larger parity problem.
We have to ask ourselves: are we having a responsible and responsive conversation about high school graduation?
The most recent “Building a Grad Nation” report from America’s Promise Alliance says that, “Twenty-three states have Black-White graduation rate gaps larger than the national average, including five states—Wisconsin, Nevada, Minnesota, New York, and Ohio—where the gap is more than 20 percentage points…Twenty-four states have Hispanic/White graduation rate gaps that exceed the national average, and in two states – Minnesota and New York—the gap is more than 20 percentage points.”
The persistent normalcy of lower achievement among certain disadvantaged student populations is deeply troubling. Closing those gaps should be as important—if not more—than simply raising overall graduation rates.
At the same time, graduation rates can be used to unfairly malign schools that are serving underprivileged youth and, in fact, helping at-risk students earn a high school diploma. Alternative schools are singled out for having four-year cohort graduation rates that are generally lower than the national average, but left out of the conversation is how these schools are intentionally designed to serve credit-deficient transfer students and former dropouts at risk of never earning a diploma at all.
Measuring how well schools are graduating students is important, but it should be done right, and must not create disincentives for schools to serve credit-deficient students or dropouts looking for a second chance. After all, what is more important for these students: graduating or graduating “on-time”? It’s why graduation rate calculations should be reformed altogether so schools are held accountable for students’ annual progress toward graduation every year, not just in the fourth year of high school.
Sadly, the drive to meet on-time graduation has led to recent cases of manipulation and fraud, which, of course, is wrong, but it also misses the primary purposes of high school altogether: preparing students for higher education, careers, and the workforce. The linkage between these goals—graduation and college and career readiness—is crucial for broader national competitiveness. Graduating students is meaningless if they are not prepared.
The number of high school students heading into remedial courses in their first year of college are staggering, and the gaps between varying demographics are even more troubling. Nearly 60 percent of African American students are forced to enroll in non-credit remedial classes in college, according to the Center for American Progress, compared to 45 percent of Latino students and 35 percent of White students. This means that Black, first-year college students, already burdened the most by rising college costs and loan debt, are taking on a greater share of the $1.3 billion wasted on non-credit remedial courses.
There is no one silver bullet that will solve our nation’s graduation problem, but we can start by realigning graduation standards to the expectations of colleges, career training programs, industries and jobs, and developing competency-based, personalized learning paths for students unconstrained by four-year cohorts. And we must finally address funding gaps that exist for too many alternative schools working to eliminate achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students.
Addressing this complex challenge requires a mix of other solutions, too; improved learning models and instruction, greater support for our teachers, innovative technology, and increased services to disenfranchised students groups are just a few that we should be working on. But none of this can happen without educators, policymakers and business leaders willing to engage in honest and constructive conversations, and then pledging to act.
A rising graduation rate is worth celebrating, but let’s not become complacent.
Learn more about improving the educational outcomes for the students in your life at nnpa.org/essa.
Nate Davis is the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors at K12 Inc., an online education provider for students in pre-K through 12th grade.
A Rouses employee in Baton Rouge was surprised with a free car Monday morning (Aug. 6), days after the employee let a teen with autism help him stock shelves in the store, Fox 44 Baton Rouge reports.
Jordan Taylor was stocking shelves of orange juice one day when Jack Ryan Edwards and his father came across Taylor. A video that has gone viral shows Taylor patiently teaching Edwards how to stock those shelves for roughly 30 minutes, Fox 44 reported.
With Taylor’s kindness in mind, Neighbors FCU President and CEO Steve Webb acknowledged Taylor during the Central Community School System Convocation Monday. Fox 44 reported that Neighbors worked with “community partners” to provide Taylor with his own new vehicle.
Taylor’s actions also spurred the Edwards family to create a GoFundMe account to raise $100,000 for Taylor’s college tuition. In five days, more than 3,300 people have donated $115,485 as of Monday afternoon.
States: Got an idea for supporting the transition for high school Career and Technical Education students into postsecondary education and the workforce? The U.S. Department of Education wants to hear from you.
The department has created a new, $3 million grant program aimed at helping states provide apprenticeships in STEM fields (that’s science, technology, engineering, and math) during high school. The deadline to apply is July 17. The department will be holding a webinar on the program on June 5, 2018. You can register for it here.
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