The Second Line Blog

UNCF Releases New Resources for Students, Parents and Community Members

Brochure outlines resources and tips for getting into college and advocacy toolkit provides effective strategies for community-led advocacy in the current K-12 education landscape

With only seven percent of black students performing at or above proficient on the 12thgrade math NAEP exam in 2015, compared with 32 percent of white students, UNCF—the preeminent voice in African American education—continues to expand its efforts by providing tools and resources to support a college-going culture.

UNCF unveils Getting into College: A Readiness Guide, a tool to support students as they explore the college-going journey and The Lift Every Voice and Lead Toolkit: A Community Leader’s Advocacy Resource for K-12 Education, for community leaders seeking to engage in the local K-12 education landscape.

Getting into College, UNCF’s college readiness brochure, provides a comprehensive college readiness checklist, outlines the pivotal steps in preparing for college, and shares additional websites and resources that are useful to students as they prepare for their post-secondary journey. The resource will be highlighted during the high school-focused stops on UNCF’s upcoming Empower Me Tour and available online for students, parents and community members to review, download and share.

The Lift Every Voice and Lead Toolkit: A Community Leader’s Advocacy Resource for K-12 Education is a step-by-step guide to local education engagement and advocacy, developed as a supplement to Lift Every Voice and Lead: African American Leaders’ Perceptions on K-12 Education Reform, the second report in UNCF’s three-part series1on African American communities’ perspectives on K-12 education. The 2017 study found that leaders wanted tools such as talking points, statistics on racial disparities, and other resources to support their efforts in improving the quality of education for students.

The report also found that nearly 90 percent of African American community or “grasstop” leaders believe they have a strong responsibility to help improve the education that African American students receive, and ranked education as the second-highest social policy issue, behind the economy and jobs. One grasstop leader interviewed for the report suggested “the African American community has to stand up and say that we value education and the schools that provide the education, and we are not going to let these assets not provide the kind of high-quality education we think our children need.”

“While leaders expressed a significant interest in K-12 advocacy, only one in three were very confident they possessed the knowledge and skills to advocate for students effectively. These leaders play an integral role in initiating transformational change in communities; it is important that they have action-oriented resources to assist in their advocacy endeavors,” said Dr. Meredith B.L. Anderson, author of the new toolkit.

The toolkit offers tangible examples and strategies, and highlights organizations that have effectively engaged in education efforts at a local level, including Black Girls Code and Life Pieces to Masterpieces.

“Building better futures for black students is a community-wide effort. With these new resources, UNCF is working to not only guide education reform work that embraces collaboration among grasstop and grassroots leaders in the community, but to fully support students and parents from cradle to college,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF President and CEO.

Developed by UNCF’s K-12 Advocacy division, the brochure and toolkit seeks to amplify a college-going culture, where African American parents are knowledgeable about the college-going process and more African American students are academically prepared for a post-secondary education.

[1] Done to Us, Not With Us: African American Parent Perceptions on K-12 Education is the first report in this three-part series. The third report, focusing on the voices of African American youth, will be released later this year.

Download Getting into College: A Readiness Checklist here.

Download The Lift Every Voice and Lead Toolkit: A Community Leader’s Advocacy Resource for K-12 Education here.

Contact your local UNCF office for more information.

About UNCF

UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF annually awards $100 million in scholarships and administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”®Learn more at, or for continuous news and updates, follow UNCF on Twitter, @UNCF and #UNCFk12.


Reorganizing for New Orleans College Prep

New Orleans College Prep may lose Sylvanie Williams Elementary, due to a potential low letter grade from the state.  The network is working to reorganize leadership during this time as well.
“Sylvanie Williams was due for its charter to be renewed this year, but a recent slide in its School Performance Score based on test results has called into question whether New Orleans College Prep will be allowed to continue operating it.”
Read more here

Preparing a Safe Space for Children

After devastating storms like Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey and most recently, Irma; schools have had to create safe spaces for students to share feelings.  Five steps are provided for effective preparation for children.
“I know the feeling of the weight of the world in your hands and the magnitude of the responsibility educators hold to create a safe, nurturing environment for students to grow and thrive, no matter the circumstances.”
Read more here

Pro-Charter is Not Anti-Public

By Andrew Pillow

If you live in are large city like New York or Chicago you have options about what type of transportation you use. Many find it easier to use the subway and don’t like the hassle of parking so they take the train every day. People who live further out or prefer solitude in their morning commute often find that they prefer to drive. Both of these options have their own pros and cons that vary based on the person and their situation. But driving isn’t considered “Anti-Train” and people who take the train aren’t “Anti-Car”.

We would probably consider it pretty silly if the people who preferred public transportation decided to team up to try and stop people from driving… but we don’t think it’s silly when the people who prefer public schools team up to try and stop people from going to charters.

And make no mistake: It is the exact same thing.

At no point in the charter school debate has someone argued that every child should attend a charter school as that would undermine the central tenant of charter schools which is “choice”. The only people attempting to force all children to attend their schools are the public schools districts. What makes this fact even more distressing is the fact that some public-school advocates do that while maintaining that they are in fact the victims in this situation even while they challenge rather or not charter schools should even exist.

Ironically, many public school advocates are anti-charter, based on the false narrative that charters are anti-public.

Here are the two scenarios that would make charter schools anti-public:

  1. If students were mandated to go to a charter school instead of their traditional public school
  2. If charter schools actively decreased the ability of public schools to educate the students they have.

Since neither of the above are true one must admit that charter schools are not anti-public.

Traditional public-school advocates will take issue with number 2 in the above list. They say that because money is distributed via head count, students leaving the public-school arena and taking their money elsewhere decreases their capacity to serve the students who are left behind. The problem with this idea is that students already take their money elsewhere. Inner city public schools were hemorrhaging students to suburbs via public-to-public transitions ling before the advent of charters and in most places that makes up a much larger percentage of the loss of public school students.

Additionally, charter schools manage to educate students with the head count money they receive from the government just fine. If charter schools can balance their funding enough to educate students while still meeting the bottom line then public schools should be able to as well. Especially considering the fact that they typically receive more money than charter schools due to property taxes.

In keeping with the above metaphor, the purpose of transportation is to get people from point a to point b. So too is the case with education. They may not be physical destinations in education… but destinations none the less. It’s cool if you want to use public transportation to get to your final destination but if students and families decide they want to drive… let them drive.

9/11 Through the Eyes of Educators

By David McGuire

Tragedy teaches us that in unity there is strength. Tragedy has a way of making people forget about their differences in the pursuit of a common goal. It was Martin Luther King that said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” Through tragedy we often see the very best in people.

There are events, especially tragedies, that have a way of leaving a lasting impact on the people’s lives. It is something about tragedies that sticks in your mind and you never forget where you were or what you were doing that day. There is a generation of people who can explain where they were when they heard the news that President Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. There is another generation who can tell you where they were when they heard the Challenger spacecraft exploded. Then, there is my generation and for us September 11, 2001 is our Kennedy assassination, our King assassination, our Challenger explosion. The events of September 11, 2001 is something we will never forget.

On the 16th anniversary of September 11, 2001, this blog will share this day through the eyes of the educators who remember where they were and what they were doing.

What I remember… 

I remember that day pretty well. I was in 8th grade at New Augusta North. We were still in our homeroom class and we had a TV in the room. The TV this time was turned to the news and we could see smoke on the screen and a building was on fire. At this time, I had no idea what the Twin Towers were and I had never been to New York City. I just remember my teacher in tears; he turned it off and he explained to us what had happened. I remember in my own 8th grade brain I couldn’t wrap my mind around this tragedy. This was one of the tragedies that didn’t fully impact me until I understood what happened. I then remember going home that day because all after school activities were cancelled and every single channel had coverage of the attacks. It was on the local news channels and sports channels; it was even on the cartoon channels.  Even though then I did not realize it’s historical significance at the time, it was still a day that stuck with me.

Claudia White, 7th grade teacher in MSD of Wayne Township, Indianapolis, IN

Hearing a teacher screaming and crying in the hallway near the end of the school day was my first experience learning about 9/11. I was in the fourth grade and it was almost time for dismissal. When we were dismissed, I remember a couple teachers being on their phones pacing back and forth in the hallway. I believe they were checking on their loved ones. I still did not know for sure exactly what was going on. I don’t believe my teacher told us that an attack had taken place, and being an educator now, I think I understand why. It was not until I walked into the house and saw the planes flying into the buildings on the television that I realized something terrible took place. My mom explained to me what was going on and I honestly don’t think I realized the severity until a few years later.

Marcus Bates, high school teacher Detroit, MI

I was in 11th grade the day of the September 11th attacks. The strange thing about that day is I did not go to school because I was home sick. What I can remember is waking up and turning on the TV and the only thing I saw was smoke, fire, and people crying. Every channel I turned to that day was filled with the news. I then remember watching the footage of the plane crashing into the building. I was in my kitchen making breakfast when I saw on TV the first tower just collapse. It was almost 10 a.m. and at that moment I knew this was something serious. I remember going to school the next day and it was all everyone was talking about. Teachers were sharing stories about visiting New York and seeing the towers. I remember learning this was not the first tower attack. Now, as a high school teacher, when Sept. 11 comes back around I always try to share with my students where I was and what I was doing. It amazes me because now I am beginning to get classes that were not even born yet.

Ronnie Beathea, high school teacher Indianapolis Public Schools, Indianapolis, IN

On the Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001, I was taking a test in language arts when the Principal announced over the PA, “I need all classes to calmly evacuate the building.” At that time, my classmates, our teachers and I didn’t understand why, but we began to move to our parent building across the street. When we stepped outside airplanes and helicopters were flying like crazy in the air. Sirens were going off. I was scared. My classmates and I ran to our parent building as our teachers yelled, “Keep your heads low!” My school was located ten minutes from downtown Chicago, which was threatened to be the next hit. The country was in a panic to provide enough protection for the largest building The Sears Tower or Willis Tower. Once all students were centrally located, parent phone calls were made and we watched the news literally in tears until our parents came to pick us up.

Shawnta Barnes, high school English/Language Arts coach and teacher, Indianapolis Public Schools, Indianapolis, IN

When 9/11 took place, I had recently turned 18 and was a freshman majoring in Elementary education at Purdue University in West, Lafayette, IN.  Although, I had only been in college for a little over a month, I had earned the nickname, “Mom” because as my dorm mates put it, I had parent-like concern about their choices.  In hopes of shaking this name, I reluctantly attended an event the night of Monday, September 10, 2010 and we didn’t get back until early the next day. This led to me sleeping through my first class. When I finally woke up, I remember how my all-female dorm was quiet absent of the country music that was typically blaring. I raced to campus to arrive to my next class, minority leadership, on time.  In class, everyone was somber.  I finally asked a classmate what was going on and he told me about the attacks.  Our professor let us speak freely and discuss the events. Classes were canceled for the rest of the day. When I decided to walk back to my dorm, I remember what I was told during Boiler Gold Rush, a Purdue orientation program, “You are adults now. Welcome to the real world!” At the time, this event made me think I’m not ready for the real world if events like this would be taking place.

Brian Dickens, elementary teacher Dayton Public Schools, Dayton, OH

I was in my 1st period advanced world literature class and we were discussing The Canterbury Tales. The teacher had just asked that we think of a theme. While we were in heavy discussions, the Principal had gotten on the intercom and asked for everyone’s attention because something serious had shaken our nation. She announced there had been a hijacking and as a result two planes nosedived into the twin towers and a third plane was headed toward the Pentagon. She concluded the announcement by asking for a moment of silence and to return to teaching and learning. The teacher then dropped everything and she asked that we shift into a discussion of terrorism.

Chioma Oruh, Education Blogger, Washington DC

I spent the night at my best friend’s apartment on the campus of George Washington University, which isn’t far from the Pentagon. The night before was a going away party for me because I was scheduled to leave for my service with the Peace Corps on September 12, 2001. We woke up to frantic calls by our parents checking to see if we were safe, so we turned on the TV to watch the horrific scenes of the planes crashing. As soon as we also learned of the attack on the Pentagon, we quickly got in my car and headed to my family’s home in Maryland. My tour in Peace Corps was postponed to October and I served for two years and three months.

Andrew Pillow, Middle School Teacher, KIPP Indy, Indianapolis, IN

I was still in middle school.  I remember that I came up from chorus class.  I had walked up the steps and people were noticeably quieter than usual.  I went to language arts and there was no work being passed out like usual.  My teacher was just standing at the front and talking to people.  She said, “Okay, let’s talk about it.”  It took a couple of people sharing before I realized what happened, but apparently everyone except the people who were in chorus already knew what happened.  I learned about the attack mid-way through a 30 minute discussion about the attack.

Now What?

It was in an elementary school where President Bush learned about the terror attack of Sept. 11. As the years pass and this day comes and goes, we often forget how that Tuesday morning, 16 years ago, changed everything in our country. As the educators above recalled that day, it is important educators talk about 9/11 in their schools with their students. There are many students who were not born when this event occurred, but there are just as many of us who weren’t born during WWI and WWII and we still know about it. Sept. 11, 2001, as tragic as it was, saw the very best of this country unite as Americans.  Now more than ever, with the political landscape in our country, we must teach this history and these lessons must be taught and shared in our schools. 9/11 gives the opportunity for teachers to teach their students about citizenship. It teaches critical thinking skills and allows for discussion that engages students in subjects and allows them to create their own connections to this historic event.  I hope as we remember the lives lost during this tragedy, we also discuss the events of 9/11 in the classroom.

We would love to hear your story about where you were that day.  Please comment below with your story.


Beyond DACA: Their parents are dreamers too


I sometimes feel a little uncomfortable telling people I have family members who have come here illegally to the United States. I wonder if they will judge my loved ones because they did not “wait in line” or do things the “right way.” Some of them do not speak English and they are working in jobs that might have gone to Americans, so I hesitate to reveal this information. Whether or not they came here illegally doesn’t matter to me; I still love them. They are my cousins. They are my uncles. They are the family of my El Salvadoran mother. They have come here because they want better for themselves and for their children.

I think this is what gets lost when we talk about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We characterize the DACA beneficiaries, or the dreamers, as a particular subset of illegal immigrants who did nothing wrong because they were children when their parents brought them here to the United States.  By carving them out as special, often times there is an unspoken implication that their parents did do something wrong.

Although we are a nation of laws, we have not always been, nor are we always a nation of humane laws. Our laws have sanctioned slavery, segregation, and discrimination.  Our immigration laws too, have a long and complex history of propounding racist ideologies and constructing systems of privilege. We cannot always rely on laws when the rules of the game are made for the benefit of those making the rules. We must consider what we do when the laws themselves are the problem. 

If immigrants felt they could come legally, they would, but our immigration process is broken and it is does not meet the needs of immigrants. As of this month, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service is only now processing visas from 1994 and 1995 from places such as Mexico and the Philippines. These are for family members who wish to come here legally to be reunited with their American families: mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, and spouses, etc.  

DACA helps us move in the direction of more compassionate and humane laws.  Many people are able to support DACA and open their hearts to children and young adults who clearly did not have a choice, but I also would like them to open their hearts to those who did have a choice. Their “choice” was to take the risk of coming here illegally or watching their children go hungry, join gangs, or become victims of violence. These parents chose to do the best they could for their children.  They are dreamers too. Of course, I want to see DACA continued because I care about our youth; I will be calling and writing my legislator. I also hope that one day we can move beyond our focus on DACA to include others who did not have a real choice. So I’ll also tell my legislator to fix our broken immigration system.

Three Questions Every Teacher Should Answer for Their Students


Now that Labor Day has passed, many Indiana students have been in school for about a month and the honeymoon stage of the new school year is over. Students are settling into their schools and teachers know their students pretty well. The excitement of the new school year is over and now the work has truly begun. As teachers begin to hit their stride, they must remember three questions they should be ready to answer for their students at moment’s notice.

Question 1: Can I trust you?

Most of what teaching is about is trust. Can students trust the teacher? Can students trust the teacher will have their best interests in mind? The teacher must be able to demonstrate to their students they are trustworthy. Teachers, if you want to earn your students’ trust remember these three things: be real, be available, be there. Being real is essential because they will see right through the phony and the fake. If you cannot be real then honestly I do not know if education is for you. Being available is about being there if your students need to talk to you. Even if it is during class or immediately after school, you must create time for them. Finally, be there. As a teacher your students want to know that you will be at their debate match, or their basketball game, or if someone in their family passes away, you need to be there at the funeral. Your students notice the times when you are there for them.

Question 2: Do you care about me?

A good teacher is a teacher who cares. Students value trust and they also value a teacher who cares. Plenty of research that suggests a relationship between student and teacher that is caring will foster higher academic achievement. If you want to prove you care about your students follow these three steps: know their lives, listen to them, and get their feedback. If you know your students come from a different background than you, then it is imperative you understand that background. A student’s home life and upbringing can shed plenty of light on unanswered questions in regards to their learning. Visit their neighborhood to see where your students spend their time to gain a deeper appreciation for them. It is important to actively listen to your students. Actively listening allows you to better understand the meaning behind exactly what your students are asking. Also, be sure to check that you fully understand what they are saying. Finally, ask for their feedback. When a teacher asks for a student’s feedback this signals to the student the teacher cares about what they have to say. When you consider their feedback, the teacher is showing their students they are a part of the process and they feel comfortable to ask questions and give feedback throughout the year.

Question 3: Do you believe?

Trust and care are vital to the relationship between teacher and student; however, there is nothing more valuable than the teacher’s belief. As a teacher, you must be able to honestly and truly believe your students can succeed regardless of home life or background. This is one of the most important attributes of any teacher. A simple way to show your students you believe in them is to say, “I believe in you.” It goes a long way.



Is it DREAM deferred or a DREAM deterred?


You may say that I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will live as one

“Imagine” John Lennon

When I wrote “Defend DACA; don’t rip away the dream” I hoped President Trump would prove us wrong and choose not to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented during the Obama Administration, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.  On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced DACA protections for undocumented youth who were brought to America as children by their parents would end and congress had six months to resolve the issue and pass legislation.

Following the announcement the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Department updated their website with the following:

  • We are no longer accepting initial requests for DACA, but we will adjudicate initial requests for DACA accepted by Sept. 5, 2017.
  • We will no longer approve advance parole requests associated with DACA.
  • We are only adjudicating DACA renewal requests received by Oct. 5, 2017, from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018.

Although people from the President Trump’s own party spoke out against rescinding DACA, it’s too little too late.  The Dream Act would have offered a pathway to citizenship for ‘Dreamers’ but the legislation failed in the Senate after passing through the House.  Some representatives said DACA was unconstitutional and an overreach of the executive branch of government, but what have they done since 2010, when The Dream Act failed to pass, to remedy this situation?

Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me”; Matthew 25:35.  Is that supposed to make the ‘Dreamers’ feel better?  Is this supposed to bring them a sense of security?  As I recall from history, the Ku Klux Klan and slave owners also quoted scripture.  Those quoted scriptures did not make the oppressed feel as if their plight in life was okay or justified.  We need representatives who are doing more than hiding behind scriptures and empathetic tweets; we need representatives who will get to work and pass legislation to protect the ‘Dreamers’ who are on the brink of deportation.

Now is the time to observe our elected officials to see if they are acting on our behalf, to see if they are getting work done.  Save me the excuses about all the work you have to accomplish:  passing a Harvey relief bill, raising the debt ceiling, etc.  At the end of the day, we elected you to carry this load and get business done.  Many of us want to “live as one” with the ‘Dreamers’ and if you are unable to protect them, we will remember this at the polls when you are up for re-election.