The Second Line Blog

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. Why some teachers don’t exactly appreciate it.

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According to Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post, this Teacher Appreciation Week has left some teachers still feeling unappreciated.

Teachers are usually given gifts of pencils, apples, and flowers. However, teachers are asking for more than gestures this year.

What they want, according to Strauss is for their profession to be respected in a way that accepts educators as experts in their field. They want adequate funding for schools, decent pay, valid assessment, job protections and a true voice in policy making.

As John Ewing, an educator and president of the nonprofit Math for America wrote this in a piece for Huffington Post:

But while all this gratitude is great, it’s only part of what’s missing in American education policy. Real appreciation is more than flattery — it is reflected by actions, not merely words. … When it comes to talking or writing about education, we do not view teachers as experts. We do not trust them as professionals. Can you imagine an engineering conference without engineers as speakers? Can you imagine a science article with no input from scientists? Or a report on some breakthrough in medicine without a quote from a doctor? We treat the profession of teaching differently from all others.

Read more here.

It’s Your Choice

The Orleans Parish School Board is offering opportunities for residents to share opinions on potential opening and closing of schools in the area.  Two sessions are scheduled: May 8th and May 13th.

Consultants recommended granting Audubon Charter a contract to expand.

Read more here 

National Charter Week Champion: Keshanta Jackson

 

 

 

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As we celebrate National Charter School Week, I wanted to focus on some of the supportive roles made available through charter school networks that aren’t readily accessible in most private school settings.

For the past eight years, Keshanta Jackson has dedicated her blood, sweat, and tears to shaping the lives of the students at Abramson Sci Academy in New Orleans East.  As a Behavior Interventionist, Keshanta spends her days with students who present with a significant history of behavioral issues, often compounded by socioeconomic barriers. Yet, despite the immense challenges, she never gives up on “her kids.”

 

As a role that may be overlooked by some, what does being a Behavior Interventionist mean to you?

Being a Behavior Interventionist means that I am a fighter.  I fight for my students’ education.  I fight for their exposure to equal opportunities.  I fight for them to experience some sense of normalcy.  Also, it is my passion to teach them the skills that so many of us take for granted(i.e. being a decent human being.  As a Behavior Interventionist, I laugh, I cry, I am firm, I listen.  It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, but even after eight years, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Although this is not typically a high-paying role and does not require an extensive educational background, there absolutely have to be people who are able and willing to be a part of the solution to make the changes necessary for our kids and their families to get the supports they need to do better and be better.

How do you manage the rollercoaster of emotions associated with being a Behavior Interventionist?

This has taken a lot of time for me to manage and the learning curve has been steep. It isn’t something you get right away.  Initially, I was very attached, maybe too attached.  And the first time I lost a child to violence, I had to take a step back and really reevaluate my role.  It’s not that you become numb, but you do accept the fact that loss is part of the work because of the high-risk lifestyles in which many of our kids find themselves. But rather than give up, I take each loss as a learning opportunity for me to better address another child/situation differently in the future.

How do you measure change when there are so many barriers present?

Well, we all know that the traditional tracking method is with paperwork.  But for me, the real way of measuring change is being observant of my students’ actions and noticing change. Noticing growth. Noticing a different response.  Noticing more vulnerability. Sometimes just hearing a student say “Thank you” is a sign of major progress that should not be ignored.  So while changes aren’t always monumental, they are milestones for sure. I don’t always see it within the same month, or even same school year, but the feeling I get when a former student returns to see me and I find out about where they are in life, and it’s better off than where they were, I can’t stop smiling.  This is the most rewarding part of my job.

What would you say to a critic who does not agree that this is a role that needs to be in schools?

First off, you would have to be seriously out of tune with today’s society.  I think it is a need for sure because although academic achievement is always a priority, there are so many soft skills that our kid’s lack and this deficit only hurts their academic performance, further causing them to become lost in a system that is often not forgiving.  For example, if a child comes to school hungry, he or she may not be able to focus on the academics, so attention needs to be paid to this detail. As a Behavior Interventionist, I am not bound by some of the same ethics/boundaries that professional counselors/social workers may present with, so I am able to use my experiences as teaching opportunities, and I am the bridge between the students and their teachers and social workers.  If our schools had more behavior interventionist, I believe that more teachers and mental health staff could work more efficiently because more insight would be made available.

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Thinking about a student you saw the most growth from, use one word to describe what it took from you to see the change that most benefited him/her?

HEART

Explain more about what having “Heart” meant for you when dealing with this student?

I had to take A LOT of S*** from this kid! A lot. But what allowed me to make it through the tough times and not give up on him was having a heart.  My heart is so deeply involved in this work that giving up has never been an option.  And to now see this young man enrolled in college while studying nursing is just the cherry on top.  I can honestly say that he taught me that my work matters; he has helped me to fulfill my purpose. And this is just one of many happy endings for me. Yes, the work is hard, but it HAS to be done.

Years from now, what do you want your legacy to be? How will students remember Ms. Jackson?

This is not a job for someone just looking for a paycheck or weekends and summers off. The passion, the vulnerability, and the sacrifice that I make and have made for all these years are what I hope my kids remember about me.  And it doesn’t stop at the kids. It is my hope that parents and the school staff that I have worked with were also left with a lasting impression on how to work with kids that most others don’t want to work with or may simply look over because of the challenges they present. I have become a better human being in the process of this all.  And for that, I am thankful to all who have trusted me.

The Carver Five

At the transformation of traditional public school districts to non-traditional charter school districts in New Orleans, birthed a group of fearless student activists called the Carver Five known throughout the city as the C5!

These teen leaders challenged the Charter Management Organization that was taken over a local public high school  George Washington Carver – on their policies and programs for the school. The C5  leaders began their journey by identifying issues by organizing students at Carver through a school-wide listening tour. After carefully processing the information, they decided to challenge the school administration with a list of demands. Those demands were, unfortunately, not accepted by the administration and considered not to be important enough to them for consideration.

The C5 decided to reach out to the GWC alumni and present them with their concerns and requested that they help them to organize a movement. They needed help with making Carver a place where every student would be treated as a scholar, and at the same time the legacy of this great institution of learning would be preserved and respected. After meeting with the GWC alumni, the C5 demanded a meeting with the CMO leadership team.  During the meeting, they requested that the leadership team along with community leaders, Carver alumni, and school’s leadership team meet together and create a proposal so collectively they could move forward. Working together to make the changes that will create a place where students feel like students and not like prisoners in the building.

The C5’s activism resulted in the historical removal of school policies and programs such as the school hallways filled with lines that students were forced to stand on in order to “stay in a straight line” and two rooms called the restorative center which detained students who challenged these policies that were not effective but were viewed as a holding cell. Their activism also led to the creation of a student advisory team that worked in collaboration with GWC alumni, CMO network and the school principal in making sure that the transition to moving into the newly built school building included a redesigned restorative center, making it into a place where students would have a space to reflect. Also, school policies and programs were implemented that created an atmosphere where the students were engaged, and GWC is a place of learning and developing into productive leaders.  

Today, the C5 and student body believe that the school administration is making progress. However, all parties agree that there is so much more to do! On a positive note, the C5 founders are all on their way to college! One is attending Morehouse, another Tuskegee University, and Howard University and the school’s overall student’s GPA is ranging between a 2.5 to 3.8 and 85% to 90% their seniors are accepted into college! So who says that our greatest treasure “our kids” voices do not matter! This is an example that each day as adult learners we will continue to see that it is a proven fact that “we are who we teach, and they become who we are” Leaders making a difference!

This story was written by Dr. Eric Jones, founder/CEO of EDNET, Inc., Program Director of External Affairs for Teach For America, Educational Consultant on School Culture.

 

The Power of School Choice

 

 

This piece was written by Shawnta Barnes

May 1-5 is National Charter School Week.  This week highlights the power and benefits of choice. Marie A. Wright believes enacting this choice is not only a parent’s right but the reason her children have been academically successful and able to have access to great opportunities.

Choice is not about sending all your children to a charter school over your boundary school. Choice is about picking the right school for each child.  All of our children went to different schools.  For one child, the best fit was private, and for the other two, the best fit was charter. Those children did not attend the same charter school.

 

Our oldest child, Timothy V. Wright Jr., attended school in both Pike and Franklin Township, but he graduated from Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, a charter school, where he was his class valedictorian.  He attended IUPUI on a full academic scholarship.

Our middle child, Taylor Byers, attended The Oaks Academy, a private school that offers a classical Christian education, from 1st to 6th grade.  She completed 7th-12th grade at Cardinal Ritter, a Catholic high school.  She just completed her freshman year at Tennessee State University, and she was on the dean’s list the entire year.

Our youngest, Morgan Wright, is a 7th grader attending Tindley Collegiate Academy, an all-girls school.  It’s a charter school where the motto is, “College or Die.”  Prior to attending Collegiate, she was a student at Avondale Meadows Academy, also a charter school.

Choice isn’t without sacrifice.  My children did not know the kids in our neighborhood as well because they didn’t have a shared school experience.  We have a 40-minute commute to get Morgan to school each day.  We also have to sacrifice time and be involved in our children’s education.  Tindley and other charters have been given a bad wrap, but I don’t understand it. They are holding your child accountable and not settling for mediocrity.  They expect you to be involved.  When you enroll your child, you are entering into an agreement with the school that you are going to be an active participant to help your child excel.

What I have loved about the charter schools my youngest has attended is the consistent communication from 1st grade on.  They have worked with her on her strengths and weaknesses. They are there to make sure she is thriving.  The education is rigorous and challenging to her.  She excels on her tests including the standardized tests.  Most importantly the school holds both my child and our family accountable for her educational outcomes.

My advice to parents considering choosing a school is, do real research, not he said she said research.  Don’t listen to your friends at the beauty shop.  You have to go see the school for yourself.  Visit the school.  Observe what is going on and consider your child, each individual child.  It’s worth the sacrifice.  We know that choosing the right school for each of our children was the right decision and we know they are going to be prepared for the future.

My daughter’s voice mattered. Happy National Charter Schools Week!

When my daughter came home and told me that she didn’t like the food served at her school the first time, my initial thought was she was just being picky. After hearing her complain a few more times,  I suggested she write a letter to the founder of her charter school. Someone who has always encouraged the students to be independent thinkers. But I honestly didn’t think he would respond to my daughter’s letter about the undesirable food being served in her school.

My daughter is 7 years old. To be able to express your displeasure about something that you know is supposed to bring you something good or positive (like a full stomach and satisfied palette) at such a young age was impressive. I’m glad she wrote the letter because not only did he respond but he did so quickly and with the invitation to stay in touch with him should ever have another issue or need his assistance.

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He listened. And he cared.

As a busy parent, especially a single mom, we need things to work as they are supposed to. The bus needs to come on time and be safe. The babysitter needs to show up. And yes, the food at school needs to be good enough to fuel my daughter’s nourishment needs.

When the founder responded to my daughter he didn’t do so in a way that simply thanked her for her feedback and nothing else. He said that he would do something about it. He would, in fact, look into changing the food the school offered. He wanted to be sure the students, our children, were given all the necessary tools they needed to be successful in school, including not being hungry.

While this may be a small, maybe even insignificant victory for some or most, it was an experience that spoke volumes to me. My daughter is the center of my universe, but she is only one child in this school. The act of support and inclusiveness that the originator of this charter school deposited something more than a listening ear in my daughter. He showed her that she mattered and her opinion matters.

I believe that’s what a “well-rounded” education should do. It should encompass leaders and educators who care about investing in every part of the child, not just their intelligence. It requires that we understand and act upon the belief that social services are just as much part of the schoolhouse as the curriculum and assessments. It’s hard to learn when you’re hungry.
I’m proud of my daughter for speaking up. And I salute the founder of Bricolage Academy for caring about our children in celebration of National Charter Schools Week.

This post was written by Alana Harris. Alana is the proud mother of three children. She is the Community Outreach Director of the Dryades Public Market. Alana is also the founder of the New Orleans Creole Bella Baby Dolls, a socially conscious group of black women dedicated to preserving the culture of New Orleans. 

TOPS Priority, But What Gets Cut?

TOPS is likely to be fully funded for the next fiscal year, which would be a delight to student recipients.  However,  this leaves many wondering where the overall budget will be cut to make room for a fully-funded program.

“You can’t do this without having deep cuts elsewhere. They’ve got to tell us where the cuts are going to come.”

Read more here 

Are we listening to student voices when it comes to success in education?

Over the past few weeks, education circles have received more volume of information with a greater complexity than they probably were prepared for. The question yet to be answered is are people in the circles listening? For example, are school board members engaging the families they were elected to represent in education issues? More importantly, are any of us listening to the children of this education movement? We’re 12 years post-Hurricane Katrina and our students are still crying out for help in New Orleans. How do we help them? Is the Superintendent of the Orleans Parish Public Schools listening? Has he read the responses to the surveys that the school system has used to elicit feedback from parents and community members?

If he hasn’t, he should. Time is running out for our children.

Last year the NAACP passed a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools. Because of that moratorium, a committee was formed to travel the country hosting town hall meetings to hear from community members – those for and against charters – about charter schools in their city or state.


They came to New Orleans on April 5th.

And what started out as a basic business meeting with presenters from both sides offering testimony for and against charter schools, quickly turned into a display of raw emotion from community members, specifically students, about the harsh realities of their current education situations.

Students from McDonough 35 High School, a current OPSB traditional public school, emotionally gave their accounts of being drastically unprepared for the EOC (End Of Course) test. Having had teachers changed several times throughout the year in the same class left many of the students feeling unsupported and misguided. The students told stories about how they were working from worksheets instead of textbooks; watching movies instead of engaging in dialogue, and wondering who would be their teacher from one day to the next.

They were scared. It was clear by the determined yet shaky voices and the emotional tears that they shed while at the podium.

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And while the students from McDonough 35 used their opportunity at the hearing to talk about a traditional public school in New Orleans, a group of young men called Black Men Rising, spoke as former students of a charter school also in New Orleans. They talked about how they felt like they were in prison because they were forced to walk in straight lines in the hallways and how although they had a regimented school day, they found themselves not prepared for college life. One young man talked about not knowing what to do when he arrived at college and that he expected the professor and school personnel to guide him along and that he has a rude awakening shortly after getting to college. His charter school simply did not prepare him for college.

And speaking of college, did you see the open letter high school senior Karriem Bennet penned to Governor Jon Bel Edwards after receiving a state scholarship award totaling $2? Astounding! And while Ms. Bennett and many of her fellow students have worked hard to prepare for a higher education, what’s currently at stake is lawmakers proposing to raise the minimum academic requirements to receive financial assistance through the state’s Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) program, which provides state scholarships to Louisiana residents who attend one of the Louisiana public colleges and universities.

I believe TOPS funding is essential and a priority for our students to go to and finish college. And while we all want our children to do well in school and be college-ready, my fear is not all of them will be. And raising the standards will deter even more of our students from even attempting to go to college.

After contemplating these significant events involving our children in our city, I have concluded that we don’t seem to be listening and hearing what our children are saying and expressing to us. In a state where mental health appears to have been abandoned. In a city where more than 90% of black children are more likely to be arrested than receive a proper education and a significant percentage of our children live in poverty, I ask the questions are we engaging these students about what is ailing them and more importantly are we looking at them as an intricate part of the solution to our educational woes? Real reform can only come when we allow the children of the movement to become a part of their own liberation.

We need to seriously consider changing our tune and rethinking our stance on supporting the valuable voice of our amazing young people. There is a youth-shift that is blazing trails in our fine city. Responsible, accountable and dedicated young people are lending their voice, sweat equity and time and I believe they will be the key to our success as we move forward in this state.