Marie Jenkins Jones Incentive Award Announces 2018 Scholarship Winners

Marie Jenkins Jones Incentive Award Announces 2018 Scholarship Winners

Marking 26 years of scholarship support for high school students, the Marie Jenkins Jones Incentive Award (MJJIA) announces five award recipients for 2018. Receiving scholarships of $500 each are Kayla Bennett, Ajani Brooks, Quinara Lawson, Zataya Rivenbark and Jamesia St. Louis, all recent graduates of Baptist Hill Middle High School. These outstanding young ladies have excelled in their high school studies and will be pursuing higher education this fall semester.

“My siblings and I are thrilled about this year’s scholarship recipients,” says Andrea C.J. Casey, MJJIA Board Chairperson and daughter of the late Mrs. Marie Jenkins Jones. “Because of matching gift donations and increased support from local businesses, former students, and the community, we were able to help even more students this year,” explains Casey.

MJJIA is a federally recognized 501(c)3 organization that helps deserving graduating seniors at Baptist Hill Middle High School advance their education at a vocational school, trade school, college or university of their choice.

Over the years, this scholarship has awarded tens of thousands of dollars to students assisting with books, school supplies or any other needs they may have toward their educational goals.

Mrs. Marie Jenkins Jones educated students of Charleston County for over forty years. She had a passion for teaching, love for her students and a devotion to the community. In 1992, she retired from Baptist Hill High School after decades of teaching in District 23. Her children established the scholarship to honor their mother’s legacy and to support students in furthering their education. “MJJIA wants to grant more scholarships in 2019, so we ask churches, organizations and the community to spread the word and encourage students to apply,” said Casey.

For more information about the MJJIA, to make a tax deductible donation, or to apply for the 2019 scholarship, please visit or contact the organization at

Minnesota Awards State’s First Alternative Teacher Preparation Grants

Minnesota Awards State’s First Alternative Teacher Preparation Grants

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education announced the five recipients of the State’s first Alternative Teacher Preparation Grant Program:

  • Southwest West Central Service Cooperative
  • Learning Disabilities Association of Minnesota
  • Lakes Country Service Cooperative
  • The New Teacher Project
  • Teach For America

According to Larry Pogemiller, the Commissioner of the Office of Higher Education, “The five chosen programs all demonstrate innovative and promising teacher preparation methods that can help Minnesota schools meet the challenge of finding the teachers they need.”

The grant program was created during the 2017 legislative session and allocated $750,000 for new alternative preparation programs that intended to do one or more of the following:

  • Fill Minnesota’s teacher shortage in licensure areas that the commissioner has identified.
  • Recruit, select, and train teachers who reflect the racial or ethnic diversity of the students in Minnesota.
  • Establish professional development programs for teachers who have obtained teaching licenses through alternative teacher preparation programs.

Importantly, only a “school district, charter school, or nonprofit” were eligible for the grant monies, meaning that institutions of higher education were not. Additionally, in order to be eligible, programs must also have been in operation for three continuous years in Minnesota or any other state, and are working to fill the state’s teacher shortage areas. Finally, the commissioner of Higher Education must give preference to programs that are based in Minnesota.

This post will provide a description of an alternative teacher preparation program, as well as a description of the programs for each of the grant recipients.

What is an Alternative Teacher Preparation Program?

In 2011, the Minnesota legislature passed a law that created the opportunity for alternative teacher preparation programs to be created. According to a 2016 Office of the Legislative Auditor report, school district, charter schools, and nonprofit organizations are eligible to establish an alternative program by partnering with a college or university that had an alternative teacher preparation program. Additionally, school districts and charter schools are also able to establish an alternative program by forming a partnership with certain nonprofit organizations, but only after they had consulted with a college or university with a teacher preparation program.

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School District Moves Forward With Aggressive Equity Agenda Despite $17M in Budget Cuts

School District Moves Forward With Aggressive Equity Agenda Despite $17M in Budget Cuts

Tyese Hunter, Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education Budget and Finance Committee chair

Tyese Hunter, Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education Budget and Finance Committee chair

NASHVILLE, TN — Many school districts across the nation are feeling the squeeze that smaller budgets and higher expectations for achievement are placing on their already challenged learning environments. While there is a constant push to do more with less, committed board members, administrators and teachers continue to fight through those challenges to remain focused on the goal of elevating student achievement. 

This scenario is a strikingly familiar one for Metro Nashville Public Schools, a chronically underfunded district tasked with the expectations of meeting rigorous state and national achievement standards despite scarcity in resources. Out of thousands of school districts across the nation, MNPS stands as the 41st largest educating 86,000 students from diverse communities. Like other large districts, the directive to meet growing educational demands has become a stark reality, even when the funding does not compliment this top priority. 

Tyese Hunter, who represents District 6 and serves as the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education Budget and Finance Committee chair, said although it was a difficult budget process this year, the misperception of all doom-and-gloom is inaccurate. She said while the decrease in funding is significant, the board was diligent in laser-focusing on priorities to have the greatest impact for all students.

“Despite what some have communicated, a lot of progress was made in this budget, even with all its challenges,” Hunter said. “We engaged in some very tough conversations and worked really hard to determine which priorities would be most impactful to students and families.” 

She added, “Leadership is about meeting the tough challenges and not allowing a few vocal voices to get in the way of progress. There were some very brave conversations this year around equity across our district, and I commend my board colleagues for being courageous enough to address this critical issue by voting for a budget that prioritized students who have been underserved for decades.”

In a tight budget year, the district looked at how it could provide its poorest and neediest schools with a boost through how it allocated its Title I funds.  Title I funds are dollars given to school districts by the Federal government to help poor students perform better in schools.  The Board voted 7-2 for a budget that provided equity and access to some of the district’s most vulnerable students, which led to a total of $7.2 million additional dollars being allocated to schools with $5.2 million being given to special education and $2 million for English Language Learners.  Thanks to the Metro Council, an additional $2 million was provided to increase paraeducator pay and to ensure all students can take and earn credit for advanced coursework at the high school level like Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate courses, and dual credit courses through Nashville State Community College, as well as industry certifications – for free.  Over the past two years, the district has allocated an additional $14 million directly to schools. 

These bold moves coupled with the work the Board of Education approved last year providing resources to ensure each elementary and middle school had Encore, which is offered through Gifted and Talented programs, and teachers and qualified literacy experts in every building. New literacy curriculum in all schools will ensure that Metro Nashville Public Schools is serving the needs of all students without taking anything away from all students. 

“We want to make sure all students, regardless of their academic status and background, are not left behind,” said Dr. Shawn Joseph, director of schools. “Our most accelerated learners are not getting short-changed because we are addressing the needs of special education and ELL learners. We believe we can, and we will, provide equitable services across this district that ensures every single child’s educational needs are met.”

Hunter, who represents one of the city’s most diverse school populations, said Metro Schools has made strides over the past two years. Reading and math scores are up, ACT scores are moving in the right direction with more students taking the test, more are taking and passing AP and IB tests, and additional funds toward special education, gifted and talented services, and English Language services are areas that are being addressed. 

“As budget chair this year, we had a hard conversation about equity in this district. We sent more money to our neediest schools and held 10 community budget meetings to ensure we received input and concern from parents and the community,” Hunter said. “This is unprecedented and resulted in nearly every cluster receiving an increase in funding over the previous year.”

Reports from organizations such as the Nashville Public Education Foundation and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce link Nashville’s future to its success with education. How the city invests in this key economic driver which is tied directly to job creation and global competitiveness will determine its ability to hold on to the “it-city” persona that has caught fire across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Education, increasing educational attainment by a single grade level boosts lifetime income, is a potent weapon against poverty and illiteracy, shapes active citizens, and builds safer, stronger and healthier communities, among other benefits.

“Education is an investment, and while MNPS did not receive the level of funding we wanted from the city, we expect this district’s administration to ensure the funds we have been provided are put to good use,” Hunter said. “Further, as we move ahead, it is important that we continue to exhibit this type of courage and decision making on the board, and to keep at the forefront what is best for children over politics.”

Birmingham City Schools Amends Dress Policy, Gives Students More Freedom

Birmingham City Schools Amends Dress Policy, Gives Students More Freedom

By Erica Wright

Birmingham City Schools students will now have more freedom to wear clothing they want during the upcoming school year, which began Aug. 6.

The Birmingham City Schools board voted to change the uniform policy for the upcoming school year. Under the new policy, effective immediately, K-12 students will have the option to continue wearing uniforms such as the solid blue, white, black and khaki shirts, pants and skirts or clothing that meets the dress code such as jeans and other items.

“Giving students choices in what they wear will free up administrator’s time that has previously been spent on enforcing the dress code policy and will give them more time for instruction . . . as well as student achievement,” said Adrienne Mitchell, Strategy and Communications Officer for BCS.

The board’s decision was influenced in part by students and parents asking to change the policy for the last few years. The BCS has required students to wear uniforms since 1996.

Though students will now have more freedom to choose, some of the policies will remain in place such as having students wear closed-toe shoes, no clothing with obscene writing and no tight fitting clothing, Mitchell said.

“This is a year of transition so families and students that choose to wear uniforms, can still wear uniforms, however families that choose to follow the dress code policy can make some choices in the clothes they wear but there are still guidelines that all students must follow,” Mitchell said.

This decision means that some families, parents, can take advantage of shopping for clothes during the Tax-Free weekend starting Friday, July 20 through Sunday, July 22.

Reaction on social media to the change has been mixed. Many have applauded the change while others expressed concern that the new policy may lead to bullying.

Mitchell said she doesn’t see that happening.

“Our administrators are extremely watchful about behaviors that occur in schools and we fully expect them to continue to enforce the rules and the guidelines in school,” Mitchell said. “We anticipate that students will take this freedom and flexibility and use it responsibly. Making choices are a part of what we’re teaching students because it’s going to be a significant thing that they are going to have to do in life.”

For more updates on the dress code and additional announcements parents can download the Birmingham City Schools app through the App store on any Apple device and on Google Play for any android device.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

OPINION: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?

OPINION: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?

By Ronald W. Holmes, Ph.D., Special to the Outlook

Parents have the choice to send their children to traditional public schools in their communities as a result of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. However, these schools must offer students a quality education. They must also keep them safe from any potential or dangerous crime. When they do not, parents have the right to choose other alternatives to educate their children. One alternative is homeschooling. This type of schooling is where children obtain all or most of their education at home. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a projected enrollment of homeschooled students ages 5 through 17, exceeds 1.5 million. 

With school shootings becoming a frequent occurrence in America’s public schools, the critical question to be asked is: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?  The answer to this question will be found in my next book to be released in February of 2019. The book will explore the success stories of parents who have homeschooled their children, as well as those who are currently homeschooling their children. 

In addition to a quality education and a safe school environment, there are many other reasons parents homeschooled their children. This book will highlight the program structure, curriculum options, partnerships and other resources afforded to homeschoolers for an enriching educational experience. It will also highlight the extent of technology integrated into the instructional process. 

If you would like to participate in this book project as someone who has successfully homeschooled a child or currently having success in homeschooling a child, please contact Dr. Ronald Holmes at 

I am a former teacher, school administrator, test developer and district superintendent. I am the author of 16 books and publisher of The Holmes Education Post, an education-focused Internet newspaper. These books include How to Eradicate Hazing; How to Eradicate Cyber Bullying; How to Eradicate Schoolyard Bullying; and How to Eradicate Workplace Bullying. These books serve as a reference guide to an online anti-bullying program that provides training for all students, parents, employees, and managers. These books are also equipped with a 24-hour Web-Based Reporting, Tracking, Training and Documentation System that allow individuals to report bullying incidents anonymously from the home, school, work, and community.

Twin-boys shine to become valedictorians in their graduating class, headed to MIT

Twin-boys shine to become valedictorians in their graduating class, headed to MIT

By Victor Ochieng

It is no secret that the Black man in American society must work harder than his counter-parts. And at the height of all the racial discrimination, Black males have lived with fear affecting their academic performance directly. However, during all these, there are those who are rising above the current and are proving to society that “yes we can.” One good example is the story of two Black boys- twins who have been named Valedictorians at their high school graduation.

The two brothers who were born 11 minutes apart, Malik and Miles George, went to Woodbridge High. They both scored excellently on their SATs and were both named valedictorians of their graduating class. Because of their good work, they will both be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on scholarship. They had a choice between scholarships from five prestigious schools, and they chose MIT as their preferred school.

And Thursday at their graduation, they shared the stage, crediting their success to their parents. They also shared their love for science and the fact that they dedicated their time and effort to school work. Speaking to ABC7, Malik said of their parents, “Seeing them always doing their best to care for us has definitely made a good imprint on us,” Malik told the news station. “Whether it’s academics, athletics, some form of art, whatever passion someone has, my best advice would be just to explore it and do your best, and the success will come.”

Miles also talked of their efforts and one of the reasons they excelled so well. He said, “We worked hard, every course, studying, paying attention in class, asking questions is one of the most important things, being an active student in our own education, because that’s what the teachers are there for.”

The two boys have excelled not only in class but also beyond academics. The two have for a long time been science research fans and were also named first doubles tennis partners.  This just goes to show that if you really give it your all, then you can achieve your goals.

The Woodbridge High School principal, Glenn Lottmann, spoke to ABC7, bragging of how wonderful the two boys were. She said, “I don’t know how long this segment is before I talk about what they’ve done right. I don’t think I have enough time… But I could tell you what they’ve done wrong, nothing!”

It is very encouraging to see young boys overcome the adversities that face the African American communities, and aim for their goals without fear. Malik also encouraged others not to fear ideas, he said, “Whether its academics, athletics, some form of art, whatever passion someone has, my best advice would be just to explore it and do your best and the success will come.”

This article originally appeared in the Westside Gazette.

OPINION: Our Children Are at Risk

OPINION: Our Children Are at Risk

By Kay Coles James

I’m sure President Obama’s heart was in the right place.

A few years ago, his Department of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, studied school discipline data and came to a troubling conclusion: African American students in the 2011-12 school year had been suspended or expelled at a rate three times higher than White students.

This news sent shock waves throughout the community and government. There were already concerns of a “school-to-prison pipeline” that funneled disadvantaged children to jail. Now, there was renewed agreement that things had to change.

And so, in 2014, the Departments of Education and Justice put public schools on notice. If they suspended or expelled students of any racial group more than any other, they could face a federal investigation. In place of discipline to punish bad behavior, they were urged to use positive reinforcement instead.

As the grandmother of five school-age kids, I watched this closely. And as one of the Black students who integrated an all-White Richmond, Va., school in 1961, I was hopeful.

I hoped this policy would lead to safer schools. I prayed it would help students get a better education. And I felt confident it would open the door to a brighter future for our kids.

But like so many other parents and grandparents, I was wrong.

The federal government’s warning had an immediate impact. Schools across America quickly changed their discipline policies and reduced their suspension and expulsion rates. In doing so, they avoided the investigation threatened by the President. But at the same time, they put our children at risk.

Today, kids who bully and assault their classmates too often do so without fear of punishment. They know teachers have lost control. And they realize they can get away with behavior that never used to be tolerated.

As a result, when this summer is over, many students will once again face the fear of going back to school. That’s a tragedy! Schools should be joyous places where learning takes place. That’s what my classmates and I fought for in 1961. And it’s what should be the reality today.

Instead, danger lurks behind schoolhouse doors.

Joevon Smith is a heartbreaking example. A 17-year-old student with special needs who attended Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., Joeven was beaten up in his classroom and sprayed with a chemical. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but never recovered. A few weeks after his brutal assault, Joevon died.

According to media reports, Joevon’s assailants wanted to steal his cell phone. That may be so. But because they were repeat offenders, loosened school discipline policies are also at fault.

That’s the case up the road in Baltimore, too. There, Jared Haga, age 10, and his 12-year-old sister Tamar have been bullied and threatened with violence. Tamar has even been sexually harassed and assaulted. In school!

As chronicled by “The Daily Signal,” Jared and Tamar’s mother tried to get this to stop. But when she complained to the principal, she was told nothing would–or could–be done.

Joevon, Jared, and Tamar aren’t alone. According to numerous reports, public schools are now less orderly and more dangerous. As Walter E. Williams has observed, the policy President Obama put into place has allowed “miscreants and thugs to sabotage the education process.”

Teachers apparently agree. In anonymous surveys, they describe how badly school safety has deteriorated. As one stated, “We have fights here almost every day. The kids walk around and say, ‘We can’t get suspended–we don’t care what you say.’”

That sentiment was echoed by another teacher: “Students are yelling, cursing, hitting and screaming at teachers and nothing is being done but teachers are being told to teach and ignore the behaviors. These students know there is nothing a teacher can do.”

This is crazy.

Every child deserves to get the tools they need to make their dreams come true. But if they are too scared to focus, they won’t get them. Many will drop out, limiting their chance to get a job, raise a family, and pursue their life goals.

All because directives from Washington have made school districts fear they’ll be investigated for keeping their classrooms safe.

We can’t bring Joevon back, and Jared and Tamar may never forget the trauma they’ve experienced. But we can take action to fix the mistake that has been made.

For starters, the Education and Justice Departments’ school discipline policy should be rescinded. And if any threats remain, every family should be empowered with school choice, so they can choose safer learning options for their children.

I know President Obama meant well, but his administration’s action was wrong. So, it’s now time to make things right.

Our children should be at risk no more.

This article first appeared in The Milwaukee Courier.

COMMENTARY: Kids Count,  But Not Enough

COMMENTARY: Kids Count, But Not Enough

By Barney Blakeney

For years I’ve done an annual story about the Kids Count report. The report is compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national organization that since 1948 monitors and reports on the well-being of children. My former editor, Jim French used to provide me a hard copy of the report each year.

We’re both old school journalists – Jim and I. Before retiring, somewhat reminiscent of Andy Rooney, French used to type his stories on a Smith Corona typewriter. Being a generation behind French, I first used a typewriter, then a word processor and now use a computer to write stories. But I still like hard copy materials for references. This year I got the report in an email. I am not tech savvy. So pulling out the information has been a task in itself. Unfortunately, even with my limited computer skills, I could tell not much has change for Black kids – they still are our state’s worst off.

A funny thing about reports like Kids Count, they usually confirm what most people already know. The numbers change, but the reality doesn’t. Each year I wrote the Kids Count story I almost could use the same wording and just plug in the updated numbers. The Avery Institute’s report on racial disparities in Charleston County confirms that little has changed about such disparities since the 1940s.

That’s why I find it so hard to understand how some folks don’t realize that the lifestyle they enjoy today was created by slavery, that their lifestyle is a direct result of slavery and that the City of Charleston’s attempt at an apology for its role in slavery is but one effort to acknowledge that reality. I just read a July 17 Post and Courier letter to the editor from an individual who just doesn’t get that his parents’ wealth-building only occurred because Black slaves created the economic environment in which their business was able to flourish. The Kids Count report always reaffirms for me how that travesty continues. Reading letters from people like that individual reaffirms why it continues. About 30 percent of the state’s children under age 18 are Black. About 55 percent are white. To start with, the median income for white households in South Carolina is highest at about $73,000 annually. Asian Pacific household median incomes come second at about $69,000 and Black household median incomes come in dead last at about $32,000. Black kids start out in households with much lower household incomes – less than half the median household income of their white counterparts. And it doesn’t get any better.

The report says establishing the conditions that promote successful educational achievement for children begins before birth and continues into the early elementary school years. With a strong and healthy beginning, it is much easier to keep children on track to stay in school and graduate, pursue postsecondary education and training and successfully transition to young adulthood. The infant mortality rate for Black babies doubles that for Hispanic and white babies. About 15 percent of Black babies are born with low birth weight compared to about 10 percent of all babies and about eight percent of white babies. About 12 percent of Black children are not in excellent or good health compared to about five percent of white children. The data doesn’t show results for other races or ethnicities.

When it comes to students who don’t graduate high school on time, the rate for Black kids is comparable to other groups. About 20 percent of Black kids don’t graduate on time while some 16 percent of white kids don’t graduate high school on time. About 20 percent of Hispanic or Latino kids also don’t graduate on time and some 26 percent of Native American kids don’t graduate on time. The experts agree the problems start earlier. According to the report, 85 percent of Black fourth graders are not proficient readers and 78 percent of Hispanic fourth grade students are not proficient readers while 60 percent of white fourth grade students don’t read proficiently. The report also indicates the percentage of Black kids’ fourth grade reading proficiency is increasing while the numbers for white kids is pretty constant. In all cases the numbers are unacceptable. Maybe that’s why we’re seeing more initiatives like the Cradle to Career Collaborative. Our public education system also fails most white students. Many of them also are not prepared for the new industries locating in our community.

When I got the latest Kids Count report its promoters said, “South Carolina achieved its highest placement to date in an annual nationwide survey of child well-being. Improvements in measures of strong families and children with health insurance placed South Carolina at 38th in the nation for child well-being. We are seeing incremental improvements over time, and this shows us that the investments we are making in children, families and communities are adding up.”

Well, forgive me if I seem pessimistic, but I try to be realistic – if I’m in a hole 10 feet deep and you give me a six-foot ladder you’ve helped. But I’m still in a hole. Our children still are in deep doo-doo. We’re not moving fast enough to improve the lives of all our children. And when I see people who so intentionally are oblivious to the reality of modern-day slave dynamics, I’m inclined to think too many of us don’t want to make those improvements.

For the past couple of hours I’ve caught hell trying to unravel the Kids Count stats. The Avery report told me things haven’t changed since the 1940s. I probably could have just used my last Kids Count story and plugged in the new numbers.

This article originally appeared in The Chronicle.

COMMENTARY: Getting Real About High School Graduation For Black And Brown Students

COMMENTARY: Getting Real About High School Graduation For Black And Brown Students

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.

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

Students Excel at Burke with New Tech Network

Students Excel at Burke with New Tech Network

In Spring 2018, students at Burke High School (BHS) came together with two BHS teachers, Amelia Little (Navarrete) and Chopper (Edgar) Johnson, to create a unique project about untold stories of disenfranchised, marginalized societies called Finding a Voice. This past weekend, Burke was honored at the national New Tech Conference in St. Louis, Missouri for their outstanding work.

Through support from the ECMC Foundation, Burke High School was awarded a grant to participate in the New Tech Network (NTN) program for the 2017-18 school year. With over 20 years of impact in improving teaching and learning through project-based learning, the New Tech Network, a non- profit organization, supports schools and districts throughout the country in ensuring college and career success for all students.

Community members, school administrators, and staff were excited about the doors this partnership could open for students at Burke. As it turns out, the administrators, staff, and students were ready to walk through those doors together and did so in a way that earned them NTN’s 2018 Best in Network award. The Best in Network honor is given to an NTN project that exemplifies the goal of successfully combining active exploration, application, authenticity, and academic rigor.

Finding a Voice was a Burke project across the dual content areas of world literature and government. The project involved research and collaboration, and asked students to design graphic novels about disenfranchised and marginalized groups around the world. To assist with the graphic novels, Little and Johnson reached out to the local public library system, which enthusiastically joined the team.

Students reached the project’s final creative product through conducting independent research on living conditions for various marginalized societies across the globe and interviews with student refugees from other countries, including a student of similar age from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

To demonstrate and share their research and findings, students wrote first-person narratives and storyboarded the plot of their graphic novel.

BHS sophomores, Trinity Frost and James Snipes, along with Little and Johnson presented Finding a Voice at the conference on Saturday, July 14, 2018. Snipes and Frost led the presentation in front of hundreds of teachers, administrators, and educational leaders from across the country, expertly and enthusiastically discussing their project, findings, and fielding questions from the audience. At the conclusion of their presentation, the group representing Burke High School received a standing ovation from the audience.