https://educationpost.org Better conversation. Better education. Thu, 04 Mar 2021 00:18:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6.2 https://educationpost.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/edpost2020-favicon-socialmedia-60×60.png https://educationpost.org 32 32 105288132 https://educationpost.org/biden-is-right-we-need-kids-to-go-back-to-school-but-not-like-before/
Wed, 03 Mar 2021 22:25:58 +0000
On March 13, 2020, when Governor Newsom shut down schools in California including in LAUSD where my son is now a senior, I held my breath. The closures, we read, would last at least two weeks. My son dropped his heavy knapsack on the floor with a loud thump and slammed the door to his room. My husband and I stared at each other. Now what?
In the year since, the knapsack has remained by the front door, a daily reminder of the old normal. The door to my son’s room has stayed largely closed and when he cracks it open, my husband and I can glimpse a maelstrom of extreme teenage messiness and a worrisome lack of air and light (the shutters have remained closed too). We examine the breadcrumbs and dirty dishes my son leaves in the kitchen during the night (he’s decided he’d rather sleep during the day) and tiptoe in to clean a little and open the window when he is out, which is not often.
When the door does open, there is a lot of yelling and then I too am awake at night, angry and sometimes in tears, imagining what it would feel like when we can all go somewhere, anywhere. But behind that closed door, unseen to us, something good is happening. Always a high achiever, my son has bent the circumstances to his will. In the dark, his screen glows. We hear snippets of laughter and calm, deliberate debate; his network has grown. He is leading his clubs, including the one he founded that’s focused on teen mental health. From time to time, my son has shared some of his essays and I am reading about his interest in politics and his concern for the world in which he and his generation would soon have a say.
“How do you do it?” I ask. He pauses at the end of the line, to consider. (We live in a two-bedroom apartment but communicate via text, phone and Zoom.)
When I think about all the stuff I can’t do, I just say, f**k the pandemic and do it anyway. When I couldn’t reach the co-president of Our Minds Matter club, we found a workaround on What’s App, merged with another mental health club on campus, and are now back on Zoom, bigger than ever.
I know that we’re very, very lucky. In my work life, as head of communications for Teach Plus, a teacher leadership non-profit, I talk to teachers everywhere, all the time. From California to Texas to Massachusetts, things are so tough. Kids are not there on Zoom, they don’t have food and Wi-Fi, they have to work to support their families, and so many have been subjected to the severe trauma that the pandemic has unleashed and that no child should have to endure.
President Biden is right; schools need to open, safely, and soon is not soon enough. But this is also a moment to re-do, re-think and re-imagine. Kids and teachers know how it’s done. Sometimes you find a workaround and sometimes you break the system apart, with a swear word thrown in for good measure. “What if we made life the curriculum?” wrote one of the teachers I work with. Others are taking inspiration from Tinker Hatfield, a legendary Nike sneaker designer, and turning coffee and Kool-Aid into art and T-shirts into face masks.
A year in, smart ideas from kids and teachers abound and we need to pay attention, to start listening. Yes, we want to go back to school and also, some of us are doing better online. Yes, we want to go back to school but we need to build more inclusive classrooms, where every child is welcome and has a voice. Yes and yes, but have you spoken to that teacher in your neighborhood school? She’s saying that we need to be more flexible, that students need to access instruction in a way that works for them, even if that means relaxing the rules and turning off the cameras.
My son turned 18 in January. Is his high school graduation going to be virtual? We don’t know. With vaccinations on the uptick in California, a lot can change between now and June. What we do know is that he is more than ready for college. My husband and I can’t wait, not least so we can open the shutters and finally deep clean that room.
Tue, 02 Mar 2021 22:40:13 +0000
On Monday, Dr. Miguel Cardona became the twelfth U.S. Secretary of Education. Despite the amiable support afforded him by both sides of the aisle, we still don’t know much about Secretary Cardona. No one is questioning the quality of his credentials, nor is there concern about his commitment and enthusiasm to fix one of America’s most important problems: reopening schools. And, even after his Senate confirmation hearing, we still don’t know what stance he’ll take on school choice.
In response to questions about Washington DC’s Opportunity Scholarship program, Dr. Cardona stated his “passion really is to ensure quality schools,” and not to create “a system of winners and losers.” But that is the exact system created when choice is available to some families but not others. Every student deserves the opportunity to access the education that best suits him or her, regardless of ZIP code.
Dr. Cardona has made his goals very clear: to ensure a quality education to every student, to facilitate a healthy and safe transition back to in-person education, and to correct the “educational inequities” that exist along racial, economic, and social lines. For the following three reasons, in the mission to achieve these goals, Secretary Cardona’s Education Department and President Biden’s Administration should not just tolerate choice but embrace it.
First of all, it’s the right thing to do. Limiting school choice to only some students will suppress high quality options for millions of families who deserve the opportunity to choose the education that best fits their student’s needs, regardless of their income level. This is especially true in the era of COVID-19 induced uncertainty. Students and parents are facing an unprecedented combination of academic, economic, health, and safety concerns associated with sending their kids back to school. Many find their current schools lacking in educational quality and were dissatisfied with distance education. Many students have fallen behind in their course curriculum. Some students are in need of additional help, and many will be unable to get it in their current situations.
Second, it’s what’s best for students in both public schools and choice programs. In 2019, the Urban Institute conducted a study on students who enrolled in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Seventy percent of scholarship recipients were Black or Hispanic, and the average recipient has a family income of only $32,385. The study found that graduating students are up to 99% more likely to go on to four-year college than a Florida public school student. On top of that, eleven different empirical studies found improved test scores for school choice enrollees. Twenty studies found that school choice by effect improved the academic outcomes of public schools. Finally, nine studies found that school choice positively helps fight racial segregation. The data clearly shows that school choice improves performance, graduation rates, and outcomes for kids.
Third, it’s what the people want. If the new administration won’t support school choice despite the evidence, then perhaps they’ll support it for the votes. According to polling data, 80% of public-school parents want school choice for their kids. Seventy-six percent of Republicans and 72% of Democrats want school choice for their kids. Families and students alike want the freedom to choose their education destiny.
School choice is equitable, has proven effective, is in demand by families, and, for me, is personal. For ten years I was blessed to receive an amazing education through the help of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. I’ve spent years in both public and private education, and my experience has shown that learning isn’t one size fits all. I needed the smaller classrooms that my private school provided, and I needed the close relationship with teachers and administrators. My education needs were met, and my success achieved because of a school choice opportunity. How many other kids are still waiting for theirs?
Secretary Cardona and the Biden administration have promised to listen to the evidence when making decisions to bring students back to in-person class. Will they listen to the evidence about school choice? They have promised to do what’s best for students. Will they listen to what they and their families want? Will they listen to those of us whose lives have been changed by the power of choice? For the sake of millions of children across America, I hope they do.
Mon, 01 Mar 2021 22:48:16 +0000
There have been some good reasons to close schools over the past year—in the early days of the pandemic, for example, or during major weather events like the recent winter storm here in Texas.
Last week, though, there was no such reason, but the Houston Independent School District (HISD) was closed again anyway. We have reached a point where if HISD feels like closing schools, the district will just go ahead and do it. As a mom of two girls, one in second grade and one in fifth, I was surprised to read a district update saying there would be no school at all on Monday and Tuesday.
On Wednesday, my daughters were to log on, independently, to an educational website for one hour—and that would be their full school day. The email from “HISD Academics” said students have the option to “[c]omplete at least one lesson in Imagine Learning (30 min) and one in Imagine Math (30 min). Total: 1 hour.”
Since when is 30 minutes on a reading website and 30 minutes on a math website, without a teacher, considered school? Furthermore, why were schools even closed last week in the first place? A district email on Friday, February 19, said that “due to the continued impact that our community has endured” there would be no in-person instruction until today, March 1.
To be sure, the winter storm was very difficult—like so many people, I had no electricity, heat, or water. A pipe burst in my kitchen, causing significant damage. But as is the case for everyone in our community, I’m having to make it work, fitting my personal responsibilities in with my job and the other things in my life. I have some help, and a supportive employer. Not everyone is so fortunate.
How could the district ask families to cope with another week of school closures on top of everything else? Campuses should be closed when there is an imminent threat to people’s health and safety. That is not what was going on last week. There is no damage to my daughters’ school; the boil water order was lifted two weekends ago; power is back on, and the weather is beautiful.
Many other Houston-area districts held classes in person last week. And even those that were only virtual still had staff teach remotely. HISD seems to be the only district that came up with a new definition of a school day—not eight hours, just one, and with no teachers.
Rather than provide in-person instruction or a real virtual learning program, the district seemed to be more concerned about ensuring families understood that logging on for the one hour would be used for attendance—that point was emphasized in multiple emails. I can only assume this is because HISD wants to get “credit” for the day when it reports attendance to the state.
Does the Texas Education Agency—our state’s department of education—think this is acceptable?
We are nearly a year into the pandemic, and it has been hard, especially for kids. HISD should be doubling down to help children, given all they have missed. Instead, the district is closing schools casually, thinking we parents will just accept more missed days without any concern for how they affect our kids.
None of the letters I have received from the district over the past week have acknowledged the toll of these continued disruptions.
We lost last spring. And in the fall, HISD didn’t open classrooms until mid-October. This school year, students have also had to quarantine—rightly so—when there have been suspected COVID exposures. Families understand and accept that protocol because it is part of keeping our community safe. But it is still a hardship.
Now, two more weeks of interruption.
Even worse, I have seen nothing meaningful from HISD about how the district is planning to help children recover—even though The Houston Chronicle reported in November that “42 percent of students failed one or more classes in the first marking period, up from about 11 percent in a typical year.” District holidays and teacher work days have continued as usual, and HISD opted not to adopt a longer school year.
The academic fallout for kids is bad enough—but when school is not in session, many children also struggle with loneliness, hunger and abuse at home. Kids have never needed their schools more. My oldest daughter has an insatiable curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. She took it upon herself to write to our superintendent, Dr. Grenita Lathan, asking her to consider how hard it is for kids to be away from their friends and teachers.
We all understand there have been legitimate reasons for schools to close. But closures should always be a last resort—only when circumstances truly warrant. I hope HISD will start caring more about serving students than the numbers it reports to the state, and will get serious about helping kids make up for lost time. They will never catch up if HISD keeps taking the day off.
Mon, 01 Mar 2021 21:24:13 +0000
Across the entire United States, there aren’t nearly enough Black teachers inside classrooms.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, less than 7% of teachers nationwide are Black; only 1.5% of teachers are Black men. That is a problem because Black teachers are a force for equity for all students, especially the Black students who have been historically marginalized.
Students of all backgrounds who miss out on Black teachers lack exposure to their content knowledge and pedagogical praxis, which is often influenced by their desire to support all students, particularly students they see themselves in. In addition, a 2016 study showed that students perceived Black teachers more favorably than white teachers. When students say that, they are telling us something about the quality of learning and support they are receiving from Black teachers.
Moreover, Black teachers support the academic achievement of all students, and Black students in particular. Black students who have had at least one Black teacher are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college and are less likely to drop out of school. Black students are also less likely to receive exclusionary discipline at the hands of a Black teacher.
According to the same 2016 study, students perceived Black teachers (more than their White peers) to hold students to high academic standards, to support their efforts, to help them organize content and to explain ideas clearly and provide feedback. The study also showed that Asian American students preferred Black teachers even more than did Black students.
Although some continue to question whether Black teachers make a difference for students, research provides a definitive answer: Black teachers matter. Yes, teacher quality is important, however, qualitative researchers have long observed (e.g., Nieto, Ladson-Billings, and Warren) and recent causal relationships found by quantitative researchers (e.g., Ouazad, Egalite, and Gershenson) point to the “added value” for students of color taught by teachers of color.
Knowing this research, what are we going to do about recruiting Black teacher candidates, getting them hired and keeping them inside classrooms?
Today, we take another step toward answering that critical question. Today, the Center for Black Educator Development will launch the Black Teacher Pipeline. We launch with the support of many partners, including the Laura and Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Spring Point Partners, Alice Walton through the Walton Family Foundation and Education Leaders of Color.
The Black Teacher Pipeline will be a national educational justice campaign, and will offer the Black Educators of Excellence Fellowship, a new fellowship program in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), to recruit and financially and professionally inspire and support the next generation of Black educators across the country.
With this initiative, we’re not reinventing the wheel; rather, we’re building on the rich work of scholars and practitioners, with the hope of contributing a model that can be replicated by school districts and advocacy organizations alike.
Why launch a Black teacher pipeline that is both expansive and comprehensive? Because the pipeline as it stands is in need of repair.
A foundational leak in the current pipeline is caused by the over-disciplining of Black students. Why would Black students desire to become teachers if they associate teaching with their experiences of suspension and possible arrests?
Another leak is created by both the high cost of teacher certification and biased performance testing. These “initiation” procedures cost more money, take more time, and require the teacher aspirants to do more work—all of which could deter low-income and minority teacher candidates who were already faring worse, on average, on the less rigorous state-administered certification tests.
There are also many forms of the invisible tax that facilitates the departure of Black teachers from the profession. Rather than being utilized for their content expertise, Black teachers are often relegated to serving as disciplinarians. When evaluated for their teaching, Black teachers receive lower scores than white or Latinx teachers. According to a 2019 study, Black teachers are less likely to get a low evaluation score in schools with more Black colleagues, but the overall shortage of Black teachers guarantees that many work in environments where they have few colleagues like themselves.
This Black Teacher Pipeline looks to address these leaks and more.
The Black Teacher Pipeline will engage Black high school and college students as teacher pre-apprentices, sponsor them through fellowship, apprenticeships, and scholarship, and support them with mentorship and professional learning opportunities through their first four years in the classroom.
In the spirit of Philadelphia 76ers legend Moses Malone’s Fo, Fo Fo, championship prognostication, this pipeline will offer apprentices support during their four years of high school, their four years of college and their first four years in the teaching profession.
With our partner organizations, this national campaign will codify and expand clinical and virtual ‘to and through’ strategies, as well as create affinity spaces for students across the country to interact with one another as they embark on their journey into the teaching profession and through certification. Our goal is to collaborate with our partners to develop scalable methods that allow communities nationwide to create their own Black Teacher Pipeline consortia, showing what works and how others can emulate it.
This initiative is about building an even stronger pipeline, with no leaks.
Those Black students who join the Black Teacher Pipeline will benefit from our partnership with the United Negro College Fund, due to our Black Educators of Excellence Fellowship Program; a program that will establish a scholarship fund to provide tuition for teacher apprentices. This, all to deliver on our mission to dramatically increase the number of Black teachers.
Our goal for this campaign is to bring at least 21,000 Black students into the teaching pipeline and 9,100 teachers into the profession over its initial 12-year program in ten communities across the country. We’re starting this spring with ten Philadelphia-based students, who will be the recipients of the inaugural Black Educators of Excellence Fellowship scholarship awards.
It is also our goal that this campaign will inspire thousands more prospective Black educators as well as school districts indirectly through outreach and dissemination of promising practices.
This work is critical to the education of Black children nationwide. We owe it Black families who entrust schools with the care of the persons of most value, their children. With this initiative, we hope to express to those parents, that we too value their children.
Now, let’s get to work.
Join us. If you are interested in supporting this initiative, signing up your organization to partner with us, or if you’re looking for more information, you can reach out to us at this link.
Sat, 27 Feb 2021 00:05:15 +0000
I swear I wasn’t trying to end Black History Month with white people and skinfolk that ain’t kinfolk foolery but …
Yesterday my homie, Dr. Charles Cole III, tagged me in a tweet with a screenshot of a proposed resolution by the Stockton, California school district to proclaim February 2021 as “Indigenous History Month”.
Now I don’t know about y’all but as long as I’ve been alive, February has always been Black History Month. And for those who don’t know, America didn’t just give us a Black History Month because it loves the hell out of us and thought we should have some time in the year commemorating and teaching our history … oh, absolutely not! It was Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History that kicked it off in 1926 with announcing the second week of the month as “Negro History Week.” And when it became a more widespread and month-long celebration, President Gerald Ford made it official in 1976.
So when I saw this screenshot, I immediately got irritated. Not because I’m against the celebration and representation of all indigenous people but because it’s an example of the continued disrespect, watering down and erasure of Black history in education.
This resolution was not passed, but the fact that this was even considered and proposed for February is still an ashy, heavy-handed slap to the face—hell, as I’ve said before, it’s added pressure from the knee that’s been on the neck of public education.
Stuff like this makes me keep asking myself and others why we—Black people—continue to entrust this raggedy, hateful and oppressive system with our most prized possessions? Because time and time again, we’ve proven that we are capable of doing this education and building strong communities thing ourselves—and, might I add, we do a damn good job at it.
There’s a blueprint for success that exists in our history, y’all. On one of our episodes of Talk Dat Real Shit, we dove into the significance of HBCUs to Black communities as esteemed centers of higher learning, as well as breeding grounds for liberation movements and self-determination. We built these institutions because we had to and they have not only transformed our educational experiences but also our lives.
In this pandemic, many Black families are struggling and have had to figure out how to make a way out of no way. Parents have had to make decisions around quitting their jobs to stay home and support their kids in distance learning or continue to work, leave their kids at home unsupervised but risk being criminalized and penalized by the system that backed them into this corner.
Also, I’m pretty damn sure that the lack of meaningful engagement in remote learning, the absence of socialization that’s a benefit of being in school and overall, the environmental factors that come with living in low-income communities have contributed to trauma and an increase in crime involving school-aged youth.
And through all of this, Black families remain political pawns in this everlasting power struggle between school districts and teachers unions in the decision to reopen schools.
But our community has and continues to pull it together in these dark and desperate times.
Because school districts still aren’t giving our kids what they need, organizations like Serve Your City and The Oakland REACH have stepped up to deliver hot spots, laptops, learning hubs and pods, activities to keep youth engaged and mutual aid for families–all while continuing to advocate and activate for relief and reparations from the government.
This is the work we’ve always done. This is the work we need right now.
So here’s the point I’m trying to make. The gatekeepers to white supremacy are going to continue to stand guard in protecting their racism and privilege while launching attacks on our history and existence. And while we’re fighting that battle, we’re losing the people fighting for.
Going forward, we need not devote all of our time and energy to what this country hasn’t given or what it isn’t doing for us because our communities are suffering and need us in this moment. We have to dedicate more effort to strategizing around how we can better do for ourselves.
We’ve built strong and self-sustaining communities before and we can have those again. It’s in the history this country keeps trying to suppress and erase, it’s in the power derived from our ancestors and it’s in the self-determination born in struggle and brilliance. We gotta tap in now.
Fri, 26 Feb 2021 21:20:04 +0000
We know all too well Black and brown students in marginalized communities are now bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s effect on schools—with inadequate technology, lack of internet access, little to no basic training in typing and computer skills, not to mention canceled music, visual and performing arts, athletics, clubs and other enrichments that aren’t nice-to-haves, but life-saving for so many students.
Exponentially more of our underserved younger students won’t reach critical reading and math benchmarks. Exponentially more of our underserved older students will have been pushed out, their pathways to college further blocked, diminishing their motivations and dreams.
If we need a model of how to combat learning loss at scale, in a way that respects the culture of our students and simultaneously builds up the communities in which they live, look no further than America’s rich Black history.
The answer is in intergenerational education. I experienced it firsthand. My earliest education was at a pan-African elementary school, Nidhamu Sasa, which translates as “Discipline Now.” Nidhamu Sasa was modeled after the Freedom Schools of the 1960s—high expectations and lots of love.
More recently, I worked with fellow educator-activists at the Center for Black Educator Development to create the Freedom Schools Literacy Academy in Philadelphia, which we are now expanding to other cities. Our approach integrates proven best practices of the Children’s Defense Fund and the Philadelphia Freedom Schools with a culturally-responsive, affirming and sustaining early-literacy curriculum.
At our summer academy, expert Black educators coach aspiring Black college teacher apprentices and work with high school pre-apprentices exploring careers in education. The effect for our underserved Black and brown elementary students is the personalized literacy boost they need, coupled with a deepening of their racial identity.
Our Freedom Schools Literacy Academy is based on the idea Black and brown students learn best within a context of cultural understanding, where educators don’t under-expect them to achieve while over-disciplining them, and where educators serve as mirrors, and not just windows, to their world.
Freedom Schools Literacy Academy is no different from any other educational institution in that each assumes a cultural approach. It’s just that, unlike most, we proudly take a Black liberatory pedagogical approach. We believe this approach is critical for Black students’ school success, as studies show students’ higher racial/ethnic pride correlates with higher achievement measured by grades and test scores.
We also know that when Black students have Black teachers, they do better in school. When they have one Black teacher by third grade, they are 13% more likely to enroll in college. With two Black teachers in the mix early on, that stat jumps to 32%. When Black boys from underserved communities have a Black teacher, they’re far more likely to experience on-time high school graduation. In fact, their dropout rates drop by almost 40%.
Consistent with these findings, our Freedom Schools Literacy Academy scholars from this past summer made significant gains in vocabulary and reading comprehension. While their peers elsewhere were experiencing the typical summer slide in learning (a 20% loss on average of school-year gains in reading) worsened by the educational and social fallout of the pandemic, our young scholars beat the odds, making leaps in literacy and shoring up their academic confidence—all of which better positioned them for the tumultuous school year.
Moreover, our college students and high schoolers not only felt mentally stronger, psychologically healthier and emotionally nourished, all of them also reported an increased interest in teaching Black children. Fortifying the student-to-educator-activist pipeline is what we seek, because we know it is critical to teaching Black children superbly as a truly revolutionary act.
Once those stimulus dollars start flowing, I urge school leaders to mine the cultural pedagogies of the Black community as well as those of Latino and Indigenous communities for further models of intergenerational educational enterprises that can be integrated into public schooling. We can’t expect to create a more diverse pipeline of educators if we aren’t cultivating and building a strong corps of diverse educators for children at every grade throughout their schooling.
So let’s start now. We know our next president has made a huge commitment to making up our country’s educational losses due to the pandemic. But nothing will improve significantly for our students and educators without a holistic, intergenerational approach.
Black history month may be ending, but let’s commit to learning from Black history and the community-based solutions used by our ancestors and elders.
Thu, 25 Feb 2021 23:24:26 +0000
Black History Month is quickly coming to a close. This month is a time to highlight Black excellence and remind us all that Black history is part of American history. What happens when Black History Month is over? This is the conversation that many educators and school leaders need to have.
Let’s look at some common actions that take place during Black History Month and use them as a spring board to meaningful change and learning for our students.
Check Your Curriculum
Many educators highlight books written by Black authors or books about Black people. These books should be incorporated into the curriculum throughout the year. This is a good opportunity for a pulse check to see how many Black authors are in the curriculum. If the number is low, identify books that students enjoyed during Black History Month and add them to classroom libraries and to the curriculum. Remember, teachers are teaching standards, not books. Many of the books written by Black authors and/or features Black people can be used to teach the standards.
Another common feature during Black History Month are door decorating contests and bulletin boards featuring Black people. When the decorations come down off of the doors and the bulletin boards are replaced with different information, will students see Black people somewhere on display inside of the school? Even if a school has no Black students, Black people should be displayed. For example, if there is a bulletin board that features scientists, some of those scientists should be Black. This will help Black students feel seen, and it will help portray a positive image of Black people to non-Black students.
Black History Month is typically filled with little-known Black history facts or different Black people, who exude Black excellence, being highlighted. Black History Month should not be the only time Black people are highlighted in a positive light. Our history started before Black people were kidnapped and enslaved. Black people being enslaved should not be the focal point nor the main history students learn about Black people. Black people are more than the tragic events that have happened. We are so much more.
This is only a start. I encourage teachers and school leaders to take some time to think about what took place during Black History Month and find meaningful ways to expand those activities throughout the year.
Thu, 25 Feb 2021 21:07:36 +0000
Exactly 60 years ago, James Baldwin wrote in Esquire magazine that “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” Recent statements from some major internet providers across the country prove just how right he was.
In a time when families must use digital platforms to ensure their children are educated, proposed internet price hikes and data limits are, at best, a thoughtless measure that will inadvertently harm those most in need. At worst, they are a cynical move to extract more money from those who have no choice. In either reality, poor students lose. To ensure the success of all students, our leaders in Washington must address digital segregation as an issue of resource equity.
We have an urgent opportunity to counteract years of inequity and inaction. We can drastically expand access to the internet now. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently considering whether or not to expand the $4 billion E-Rate program to support remote learning during the pandemic. For students and families across the country who’ve struggled to access learning during this tumultuous year, this is exactly the type of action needed to begin leveling our country’s stark digital inequities.
We are almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and another school year into a largely digital school experience for hundreds of thousands of students nationally. The failures of our public education system to deliver basic internet access and support to learn at home—failures that keep poor students shut out of equitable access to a good education— compound with each subsequent day, week, and month of online learning.
Education leaders, teachers, families, and advocates have mulled over the issue for months. We have seen firsthand how digital segregation has affected families in Los Angeles. We know that if this is the reality in the nation’s second largest school district, there are thousands of districts across the country in even more dire circumstances. Study after study reiterates the scores of anecdotal evidence we’ve heard from every part of the United States.
Many low-income families are making unsustainable financial sacrifices to support their students’ education. Others have children learning on cell phones or using public Wi-Fi to complete schoolwork. For example, in Los Angeles, only about 50% of the lowest-income households have a desktop or laptop computer and subscribe to residential broadband. Nationally, just 63% of students from low-income households have a device they can use and internet access. Compare that to about 90% of students in the highest-income households. The contrast is staggering.
Furthermore, K-12 students who are Black and Latino are significantly less likely to live in households equipped with technology resources for distance learning. Thus, the socio-economic inequities are, once again, compounded by race. Moreover, many models of remote instruction rely in part on parents as educators, but many parents — especially low-income parents — work outside the home. These problems are not limited to just large urban cities, but reverberate in rural and suburban areas throughout the country.
With months of this knowledge under our belt, it is not enough to continue addressing the so-called “digital divide.” Many parent and student advocates have begun referring to these ongoing inequities as digital segregation. By acknowledging the segregation, we begin to remove the stigma that has been placed on the shoulders of low-income families and parents.
When we understand this phenomenon as digital segregation, we can acknowledge that the onus to solve the issue rests squarely with those of us in the public and private sectors with the means to transform these unjust systems.
The internet must be treated as a basic life necessity and regulated as such. The FCC’s outgoing chairman, Ajit Pai, has argued that expanding the E-Rate program to benefit homes and families is outside of the FCC’s sphere of influence. While it’s true the Communications Act limits E-Rate to delivering internet to classrooms and schools, in our current reality, the bounds of the American classroom have shifted.
If students must learn at home over the internet, our government must meet their needs there.
But meeting students’ internet needs doesn’t stop with the FCC. The companies that provide internet to families–Internet Service Providers (ISPs)–should also be held accountable to deliver for young learners. They should partner with public schools to automatically enroll families in free and low-cost internet access based on free and reduced-price lunch status. For those families of K-12 students seeking free or low-cost internet, ISPs should also be required to waive eligibility requirements based on past financial history or lack of a social security number. We call on the FCC to join us in pressuring business leaders and our elected officials to work together to meet these important obligations to students.
Even as the COVID vaccine rollout continues and classrooms reopen, remote learning is not going away in the foreseeable future. Many school districts will continue to use some form of hybrid instruction. Internet connectivity will remain a necessity for families across our country. If we don’t act now, to counteract digital segregation, we will lose a generation of students.
Wed, 24 Feb 2021 17:21:25 +0000
A month ago, as Amanda Gorman shared her beautiful prose during President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ inauguration, students at KIPP Rise Academy in Newark had recently finished their latest history unit on the enslavement of Africans in America. Students at Rise, a public charter school that serves students in fifth through eighth grades, were asked to think carefully about the unit and create a project that explained the connection between modern days and the era of slavery.
Makayla Brown, a KIPP Rise seventh grader, wrote this poem, entitled “The Root of Racism.” A future poet laureate, perhaps?
The Root of Racism
My joy went away
Learning about that one day in 1619
The first slave ship arriving with 20-30 enslaved people
The first time my ancestors were declared
Worth 1,000 dollars.
Of reading books and articles
Seeing my people lynched, burned, and
Working in a white man’s field
For 396 years with no pay
Seeing our hair pulled from our heads
Cut, shaved, burned and stuffed in chairs
My memories of learning
That my great great great grandmother
Could’ve been leather
My rights, non-existent
And culture stripped
“Speak proper English” but you didn’t teach me
And even after this we still struggled
We still had to fight for a right to be a alive,
Mothers and fathers kneeling to the white man
Yet 396 years later we still aren’t free
Seeing our people killed
On a mobile device and even in person
All because of skin
All lives matter?
Yet my Indigenous brothers and sisters,
Kidnapped, and bigoted
As if it’s something normal?
All lives matter
Until a person decides to speak in their native language
Because they can
All lives matter
But a 12 year old child was gunned down
Over a toy
The deaths of our people
But my culture is now “trendy”
Blackface is “just a costume”
“I want to be a Native American for Halloween”
My culture isn’t your costume
A white woman goes viral for wearing traditional
Japanese kimono and
Wearing other things like African print
And loves hanging “dream catchers” on her wall
But to her I’m nothing but a Monkey
To her and to society
They are nothing but calculators
To her and anyone else
We’re not human
We’re ghetto, nasty and dirty
But our culture and clothing
Our beautiful skirts and dresses with wonderful vibrant colors
Our food oh so yummy
But we still do not exist
The roots of racism was bad enough
But people still do not understand our struggle
Proud Boys, KKK, and other hate groups still cease to exist
All we can remember is making sure not to go outside at night
In the south
We only remember our struggle
From the day my people arrived on that boat
Did much really change?
“Make America great again”
But where exactly was it great Mr. White Man
The traumatic past all people of color have faced
Is no “American Dream”
There is no American Dream
Racism is still here
And it’s not much different from the past
Remember the roots to our oppression
Tue, 23 Feb 2021 22:33:34 +0000
Reyna Morales lives in Oakland, California, and is the parent of two students at a high-performing charter school located in an area with a dearth of quality school options for Black and Latino/a, low-income families. Instead of supporting this school, which is popular with families and has a long waitlist, the Oakland school board has tried to suffocate the school out of existence. Reyna and the other parents at Aspire ERES Academy are not going to lose their school without a fight.
Tomorrow, (February 24) ERES families and supporters are holding a Car Caravan rally to fight for quality schools like ERES to stay open and to keep access to school choice information. You can watch live here starting at 2:30 pm PST.
“I can’t believe that this is happening,” my 10-year-old daughter responded when I told her that her beloved public school, Aspire ERES Academy in Fruitvale, plans to close at the end of the school year. The school isn’t closing due to poor performance or lack of interest. ERES has a waitlist of 200 families and is serving Hispanic students better than every nearby school according to SBAC math and English language scores. ERES plans to close because Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) prioritized its own anti-charter politics over Oakland children’s futures.
ERES, which means ‘you are’ in Spanish and stands for Education, Responsibility, Empowerment and Success, is a campus of Aspire Public Schools, a network of nonprofit public charter schools in California. I have been on the front lines of ERES’ 10-year battle with OUSD to increase its enrollment to meet community demand and become financially sustainable, and to identify a school building that would meet our community’s needs.
Nine times we have asked for a facility. And nine times, OUSD offered facilities they knew wouldn’t work—whether in a too-small building, one that needed millions of dollars of renovation, or one that was in a faraway neighborhood inaccessible to ERES’ working families. OUSD has become so obstinate that in 2018, OUSD’s then-Board President Aimee Eng spoke at an Oakland City Council meeting to demand that the city deny the sale of an unused parcel of city land to build a new facility for ERES with a $30 million grant from the State. ERES was forced to return the grant and begin yet another search for a facility to house its growing school. After 10 years, ERES simply cannot continue operating without action from OUSD to provide an adequate facility that would allow the school to increase its enrollment.
I fight for ERES because this school fought for my family when we needed it most. When my oldest daughter came to the United States from Guatemala at 8 years old, she didn’t speak English. The ERES community helped her learn the language and build an academic foundation. In 2019, when I was recovering in the hospital after being hit by a car, the ERES community rallied around my family by providing meals, arranging transportation for my daughters to get to and from school, and raising more than $10,000 to support us while I was out of work due to rehabilitation. This is more than a school; it’s a family.
The OUSD Board should be ashamed. Rather than listen to the voices of the Black and brown families they are elected to represent, they prioritize anti-charter politics over what is best for Oakland’s families. They’ve ignored our pleas to help us find a solution. A decade of willful inaction has caused our community needless suffering only exacerbated during the pandemic. ERES’ planned closure doesn’t just hurt ERES families. This is a loss for all of Oakland, and I am gravely worried for the future of our district because OUSD has shown us that they will ignore parents’ voices when the politics don’t serve them.
It may be too late to save ERES Academy. After more than 12 years of advocacy, we seem to be out of time to find a solution. But this fight has taught me to believe in the power of our voices. As parents, we know what is right for our children, and we must hold our public officials accountable when they use their power to undermine us. OUSD must listen to parents’ needs and make decisions that put children and communities ahead of political agendas. I will be helping parents demand that accountability from their elected school board officials.
An earlier version of this Opinion Editorial appeared in the East Bay Times.