The Second Line Blog

The Start of Something Beautiful

 

By: The Parent Advocators

“The Parent Advocators was started when we as parents took a stand for our children’s education. We are parents working to empower other parents to assure their child receives the best education possible. Taking what we’ve done and seen as a real success to the next level of educating parents and showing them how to demand a high-quality education for all scholars. Taking it one state at a time starting with Louisiana. Enforcing the parent voice. Which is the most important piece”.

Who are The Parent Advocators? We are parents who work to empower and educate parents in using their voice for in bettering their child’s education. The future of quality, quantity and high functioning education in the Unites States is at an all-time low.  We have taken a vow to start with our state of Louisiana to ensure all scholars have selection of high quality

What is The Parent Advocators mission?  To help with bridging the gap between home and school. To be the voice for those who would sometimes be unheard.

When and why was The Parent Advocators formed? The Parent Advocators was created after we as parents fought for the best  CMO for our kid’s school. We were not about to let RSD, councilmen or women and other state officials dictate who would run our school and teach our children. As parents, we know what’s  best for our kids. So after the transition with our scholar’s school in 2014, we knew then that the fight had just begun. We had to do more for the students of New  Orleans.  

What success has The Parent  Advocators had? Our first success was, of course, our kid’s school Andrew H. Wilson. In the summer of 2016, the Recovery School District reached out to us to be a part of their process for McDonogh#42. Those parents (even though it was just a handful) voices were heard. McDonogh#42 was awarded the CMO their parents felt strongly would lead their scholars to have a successful education with high academic gains over time. We hope to be able to point the parents of OPSB schools in the right direction for their scholars as well.

Many times we’ve been asked, “what makes you think this would be successful?” “What makes you think parents want to have their voices heard?”

My question is why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t we be successful? One thing that needs to be understood is parents care more about their scholars and their education than what many think. We make a choice to send our scholars to a particular school which means we are actually invested.

Parents at times feel unwanted from school. It’s time to take a stand and ensure the parent voice is the first voice heard. Bridging the gap between home and school. Parents it’s time to stand up and be your scholars first advocate.

Stay tuned for details on how we truly got this movement started and where we plan to take it.

Signed,

The Parent Advocators

Black Male Educators of New Orleans: Brothers Empowered to Teach (BE2T)

 

At “Brothers Empowered to Teach”, we recruit men of color—particularly black men to explore careers in education. We utilize a formula that tackles the two key factors keeping black men from such a path. As much as a 1/3rd of college-bound black men will drop out by their sophomore year. Of those who go on to graduate, the majority are not considering the teacher programs that are available because they either don’t resonate with them, or they are too short and insufficient in preparing teachers that are culturally competent and content strong.

Brothers Empowered to Teach

Make no mistake about it, black men are nurturers and please don’t doubt that they aren’t caregivers as well. They possess the disposition and patience to beautifully pour into the lives of our children, our most precious possessions. In my humble opinion, there is something powerful to be said about an organization and its founders who intentionally seek to change the dynamics of a profession while simultaneously influencing the image of black men on a worldly scale. Brothers Empowered to Teach is utilizing its voice and talents to change the narrative and increase the number of Black male educators.

I had the liberty to have a conversation with the founders of Brothers Empowered to Teach and some of the ‘Bruhs’ (a title given to the fellows of the program) and I was also able to spend a Saturday at one of their monthly ciphers, a gathering of minds that offers a place for one to present their thoughts and discuss ideology.

Because Brothers Empowered to Teach (BE2T) intentionally makes it a point to spark conversation with young men who may not particularly see themselves in the classroom teaching or think that they would excel at a career pouring into the lives of our kids. It usually starts with a casual conversation or an invitation from a current Bruh to one of his peers to come check out what they are involved in. The Brothers Empowered to Teach fellowship program then matches these young men with a school that fits their personality and they begin working with kids honing their talent and developing their skills while still receiving in-depth support and training from the program, made up of seasoned veteran teachers and community leaders who all have a personal stake in making sure that the students of New Orleans and Baton Rouge see educators, adults, and leaders that look like them.

On the particular Saturday that I spent with the Bruhs, they were engaged with Dr. Lisa Green-Berry. The BE2T cypher is also designed to offer a safe space that gives them freedom to speak their minds about any situation that they are dealing with at school, in their career or just in general. It’s a comfort zone to release and decompress from life’s sometimes sticky situations with a group of your peers when you need someone to lean on with no judgment and in return receive love and support.  

Of course, the cypher also offers a quasi-regimented monthly topic and this month Dr. Green-Berry addressed the young men about the concept of trauma, specifically the type of trauma experienced in black and brown communities around mental and emotional sustenance. In our communities, we find so many times that we casually look over problems and instances of mental or emotional trauma as nothing major or just something to pray about. While I’m not opposed to praying, I think it’s the works that go along with it that move us forward in productive and progressive ways.

While what happens in the cypher stays in the cypher, the amazing level of support and authentic embrace was truly warm and moving. The release bestowed on each one of us as the Bruhs and other staff members shared their thoughts and experience was so therapeutic that it brought many of us to tears as we resonated with the situations being spoken of. My son was also with me during the visit and after experiencing the BE2T cypher we were able to open up important dialogue between ourselves that was great for our relationship. Support, communication, and a healthy dialogue were a noticeable running theme.

BE2T has partnerships with over 10 schools in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas. There are 35 students in the program with 15 of them in the New Orleans area. Four graduates of the program teach in New Orleans area schools. One Bruh was attending Mississippi State as a graduate assistant and has now graduated from that Masters program.

Brothers Empowered to Teach is truly making positive strides in putting male educators in our classrooms who offer a significant impact in our children’s lives. The black male educator is a rare gift that most children do not have the opportunity to experience in their life. It matters for our children to see black men in comforting, giving and uplifting situations.

The fellows of Brothers Empowered to Teach offer a dedication so important to the success of our community and our schools. This organization is a true jewel of our city and the work they do is impactful on so many levels. Giving young college students a guided and supported path in life that spills over into the classroom, while simultaneously pairing lives in our community that truly need to cross paths. We appreciate these inspiring educators and those who support their dreams to impact the lives of our most precious jewels.

I Understand and Support the Students at Bethune-Cookman University who Booed Betsy DeVos

So let me first start by saying that I am in full support of the reaction from the 2017 graduating class of Bethune-Cookman University for using their voices in the only way that received an immediate reaction, no matter how unfavorable it may have been.

School President Edison Jackson felt differently and actually interrupted DeVos’ speech to admonish his students by saying, “

If this…behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you.  Choose which way you wanna go.”

According to reports, when it was announced that Betsy Devos would be delivering the keynote address during the commencement ceremony, petitions and protests immediately began to uninvite the U.S. Education Secretary from making the appearance.

Edison released the following statement on the university’s website:

Perhaps Secretary DeVos, much like those early initial skeptics that Dr. Bethune invited to visit and speak on this campus, will be inspired by the profound work that occurs here with our students.  At the end of the day, it really is all about the success of our students, and if there are opportunities to possibly influence their success, then we must seize upon them.

Despite his attempts to justify and compare his efforts to those of the school’s founder by engaging with individuals who demonstrate they aren’t vested in the same concerns and needs as those who have been affected by social injustice, his words did not satisfy or pacify any feelings of outrage or disappointment.

Ops-ed writer Alice B. Lloyd wrote,

Critics contended the secretary of education’s support for school choice and student loan deregulation puts her at odds with the school’s beloved namesake: educator and civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune. Bethune famously founded a girls’ school—that would become a women’s college, and then a co-ed school—from humble beginnings with just five students, piddling funds, and a brave vision.

If you’re uncertain as to why there would be such an immense opposition to the Education  Secretary’s appearance at the graduation ceremony, writers with U.S. News and World Report capture the lackluster employment resume that precedes Devos’ nabbing of the prestigious position within the presidential administration by expressing,

Thanks to Republican efforts to rush the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Secretary of Education, far too little is known about her understanding of education law and policy, financial interests or agenda for the nation’s public schools. Unlike most previous education secretaries, DeVos has no record of commitment to public education as an educator, administrator or elected official.

Devos poses popular discontent not only with students, parents and those of us who are educators doing our best each day to lay the groundwork within schools all across the country; but based on the sheer frustration expressed by the Democratic state Senators who presented her with question after question (in which she either did not or poorly answered) during her humiliating Senate confirmation hearing, it was evident that she lacks reverence even from her political colleagues.  

Admittedly, I’d missed viewing the hearing in real time, therefore missing all of the live tweets and internet memes, however, during my commute to work, I was astonished to hear Devos’ seemingly confused response to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) when asked whether or not school performance should be assessed with more focus on proficiency or growth.  

Devos’ response Thank you Senator for that question. I think if I’m understanding your question correctly around proficiency I would also correlate it to competency and mastery so that each student is measured according to the advancement they’re making in each subject area…

With disappointment, Franken interrupted and clarified, Well that’s growth, that’s not proficiency… this is a subject that’s been debated in the education community for years… it surprises me that you don’t know this issue.

And sadly, this is just one of many concerning responses regarding education in America.  Opposing political parties or not, I’m certain that the Democrats would simply just appreciate a Republican candidate who at best, is able to demonstrate competence on education practices and policies.

But much like Devos’ decision to move forward and accept a role she clearly was not qualified for as Education Secretary, it should have been no surprise that she would comply with being the commencement speaker during not just any college graduation ceremony, but the ceremony of a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).

The history of HBCUs is rich and representative of black empowerment through unity and education as documented through a piece on the history of HBCUs in America:

They started in church basements, they started in old schoolhouses, they started in people’s homes,” says Marybeth Gasman, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania who studies HBCUs. “[Former slaves] were hungry for learning … because of course, education had been kept from them.

Anyone who has attended an HBCU is conscious that black pride is an infectious and reigning presence on campus. And if you didn’t attend one, but were lucky enough to have been born early enough to watch episodes of A Different World and see the representation of black college life at the show’s fictitious Hillman College each week on your television, then you know how important it is to preserve this culture and ensure its legacy is maintained.

During a review of the 25 best fictional colleges and universities, Complex magazine lists Hillman as #1 and details,

At Hillman, the student body and faculty were like a family.  They pushed and pulled each other through the experience.

Although a fictitious institution, the art of Hillman College imitates life because despite HBCUs being affected by unequal government funding to support its students who are predominantly from low-income families, during a recent study, The Education Trust concluded that the graduation rates for Black students at HBCUs are 37.8 percent, while black students attending four-year for-profit institutions have a completion rate of dismal 18.8 percent in comparison.

So much like our city’s own K-12 schools which face many struggles and challenges, all though there is still a great deal of demand for equity and equality, HBCUs continue to foster black and intellectual pride, thus making a way for students who otherwise would not have one.

But where is that traditional black pride left to go when the president of the university decides to host a commencement speaker who recently referred to HBCUs asreal pioneers when it comes to school choice”.

I must admit, Devos does a fantastic job at sticking with what she knows; as that statement served as yet another failed attempt to advocate for a group with less privilege while maintaining the spotlight on her devotion to school choice.

The decision to invite a commencement speaker who does not embody that same spirit nor even demonstrates a basic understanding of the history of HBCUs was tone deaf and insensitive. We are living through highly charged times, and this decision pushed the envelope too far. It seems that politics drove this decision which is sad but also nothing new.  The privileged and powerful love to show up as super advocates to keep the oppressed quiet and happy and I’m sure college president Edison benefited from the exchange as well, but sadly, for the sake of his students and their families’ sacrifice and hard work.

Outside of the circus act that is the Trump administration and Betsy Devos’ public speaking blunders, knowing through both experience and research, that black students who attend HBCUs feel more supported and prideful than black students attending non-HBCUs, why make Betsy DeVos their final memory at school?

What should their takeaway be after voicing their opposition, yet still being subjected to seeing and hearing a speech by someone who has shown she doesn’t get it?

How should they feel after being scolded by their University president during their graduation ceremony?

For graduating students at any grade level, their commencement should be that final snapshot of their journey of hard work, sacrifice and discipline. It should be the final serving of a rich dialogue. Any guest speaker who contradicts this idea should expect a reaction of displeasure —even booing— during their speech. Perhaps these kinds of reactions by students will inspire those in leadership positions to take a deeper look at how and why they choose the person who is supposed to inspire and send the students off into the world on their graduation day.
Looks like this year that final snapshot wasn’t what anyone had hoped.

Unionized in NOLA

Teachers at Mary Coghill Charter School chose union representation during a vote on May 19th.  United Teachers of New Orleans will be instrumental in contract negotiations for the teachers.
 
“We formed the union to ensure that we are able to facilitate learning in an environment where the policies implemented are impartial and are beneficial to student progress.”
Read more here

If Your Child Needs Learning or Behavior Supports From School, You May Want to Think Twice About the Voucher System

 

 

School Choice Means No Choice

Depending on which side of the coin you stand on, the growing debate over school choice in America is either causing you a lot of celebration or a lot of concern.  

And with 92% of students enrolled in charter schools in New Orleans, the debate over School Choice, which Education Secretary Betsy Devos is a strong proponent of, is worth taking a deeper dive into.

The idea of “school choice” has farther reach than most people are aware of and includes public schools, charter schools, and homeschooling. However, school vouchers are often at the forefront of the conversation, and while they potentially offer greater educational opportunities to students, parents need to know that private schooling opportunities may not be the best alternative for all children. Especially if your children require significant academic and/or behavioral supports.

Given the high out-of-pocket costs and the idea that which appears to be exclusively attainable is “better,”  it is the general assumption that private schools provide the best of everything relating to academics and athletics. However, because their funding source is composed of families and not state/federal dollars, private institutions are not required by law (IDEA) to provide supportive services (learning/mental health disability) that are 100% comparable to those administered within public schools.  

IDEA of 1997

Established in 1997, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 requires every state to have in effect policies and procedures to ensure a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for all students with disabilities. However, this law does not apply to private schools. And while IDEA Part B can provide benefits to students with disabilities who are placed in private schools by their parents, it does not impose the requirement, leaving private schools to make determinations on their own about admission and administration of learning supports.  

So, while the IDEA ensures that public school settings are required to provide Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to students in need of supports, private schools aren’t held to the same expectations.  

What Supportive Services Do Private Schools Provide? IEP vs. Service Plans

Most are familiar with IEPs and what they offer to students within public schools, but they may have limited familiarity with service plans, which are relative to private education. Two years following the introduction of IDEA in 1997, the addition of service plans to students of private schools was added. It is important to know that while comparable in some respects, they are not the same regarding the availability and quality of services offered to students who require significant supports.  

Unfortunately, with our current presidential administration, frightening talks of amendments to education policies are forcing parents and advocates to scramble to keep up with crafty legislation in order to remain educated and empowered. And it is critical that we do so to ensure our future leaders have the best chances of success through education.

So, while an opportunity to enroll your child(ren) into a private school at little to no cost thanks to a voucher system may seem like the chance of a lifetime, parents must be informed of services made available within the institution before making the jump from public to private learning institutions.
Click here to read additional information on IDEA

New Budget Plan Good for School Choice

Though funds will be cut for several areas in Trump’s education budget plan, charter schools and school vouchers will receive a substantial gain.  In the plan, $400 million will be dedicated to the expansion of school choice options.
“The goal is to do away with neighborhood attendance zones that the administration says trap needy kids in struggling schools.”
Read more here 

What’s up my _ _ _ _ _ _? Missing Teachable Moments in Education

A few weeks ago, a permanent substitute teacher, “Coach Ryan” at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, La. found himself in a very heated debate with a student about the use of the n-word. The student was adamant that the white teacher stopped saying it altogether and stated that it was ok for black people to use the word because when they do, it has a different meaning.

The teacher called the word “commoditized“ and said that because it is used so often, the severity of the word is not the same as it was years ago.

I see it differently. There is never a good reason to use the “N-word.” It is not a term of endearment, it cannot be reused or repurposed, it cannot be lessened in its derogatory weight by assigning an acronym to its letters. The word cannot be made whole by subtracting an “er” and adding an “a” to the end. It also cannot be used by blacks as some sort of term of bonding that shows love and affection. Let’s face it, if you are saying the n-word in that respect, then maybe you are not in slavery anymore, but your vocabulary, mindset, thought pattern and way of living are still in bondage.

I understand where the teacher is coming from, yet I disagree with his philosophy. In claiming that whites can safely use the n-word, the teacher is showing his limited ability to show restraint, and he is displaying his blatant lack of humanity. I’m not surprised. White men have historically shown us their disregard for others humanity, civil rights, and even basic human rights. They have caused horrific atrocities throughout the world including murder, rape, and kidnapping, to name a few.

The young man involved in the incident who clearly showed disgust at this white man’s (I refuse to call him his teacher) use of this word was being antagonized by someone who should be pouring valuable tools into his life.

Still, I have to challenge this student’s adamant declaration that it was ok for black people to use the word and not white people.

It’s  interesting that our young people articulate the use of this word by replacing the “er” with an “a,” and deem it acceptable.  It seems counterproductive to associate multiple meanings to a word and to offer the use of the word to anyone black and to anyone else who you feel you are cool with or has earned that “pass.”

This is a destructive action and one loaded on the back end with heavy consequences. Consequences that may depend on how you feel that day. On the other hand, if you do not allow anyone to call you the n-word, you eliminate the need to have to make a judgment call. I see the embrace of the word as the black community’s lack of basic knowledge of our past and the detriment that was associated with the daily use of such a derogatory term.

We have missed out on the conversations we had to have with the next generation about symbolism and identity. We are still failing to see that our young people are calling out for our guidance and nurturing.

The incident at Benjamin Franklin High School is yet another moment endured by our youth that we must see as a teachable moment. A moment that should galvanize positive and forward moving educators and invested people of our communities. With a smirk and look of accomplishment on his face, I don’t expect that incompetent white antagonist to pour into the lives of our children.

 
I do fully expect to see vested adults in our communities rally around this unfortunate circumstance, and to me just calling for that teacher’s job is the least of my worries. We must see the plea from our youth and engage them in truly meaningful and liberating dialogue.

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