MORE THAN SCORES
Public education in the United States started as a common endeavor, sustained over the century by communal vision and practice. For Black communities since Reconstruction, the communal vision and practice for education emphasized 1) technical and academic excellence, 2) community and individual value and pride, 3) educators, curriculum and school models that addressed their children’s needs.
Their specific request of local, state and federal government was always that Black children and educators are given the same financial, legal and social supports reserved for segregated white schools.
For over a century this country has avoided fulfilling that request, instead offering fads, schemes, faulty policy and distractions from true equity and educational justice.
We look past vouchers, high stakes tests, corporate school models and conformist school cultures towards the original vision of educational equity and justice.
In pursuit of this vision, we demand:
- Academic rigor through culturally relevant and critical pedagogy- where students understand their history accurately and develop deep social awareness and analysis of their world today
- A school performance evaluation system that takes into account the school’s progress in addressing inequities
- Access to technical training and professional mentoring in middle and high school for high wage, high demand jobs and independent business development
- Affirming, anti-racist, and joyful school cultures that in no way, shape or form are similar to prison or work plantation cultures or practices
- Restorative practices that hold both students and schools accountable for positive learning environments instead of punitive practices that exclude and criminalize youth but do not push schools to be responsive or change
- School-district level health and wellness services for students and families including access to college and life counselors, mental and physical health professionals and community health education
- System wide standards for a high quality, culturally conscious, empathic educator and school leadership community
- Per-pupil school funding that adequately provides for students’ unique abilities, needs and gifts
- Prioritization of neighborhood student enrollment to strengthen school and community relationships and support family and school stability
It takes more than academics to educate a child. To develop healthily, persist through school and thrive as adults, children require a positive identity, a strong sense of self and safety, supportive adults and resources. It is the collective responsibility of schools, communities and families to create a foundation that prepares children to be their best selves for a better future while navigating a current world that is not always kind, just or fair.
What we witness in schools, though, suggests a rocky foundation for children:
- According to its own metrics the system of schools in New Orleans is failing with over 40% of its schools rated “D” or “F”
- Children are often subjected to conformist, highly regimented and punitive school cultures that do not prepare them for 21st century higher education, professional or social settings
- Children screen positive for PTSD at three times the national rate- affecting their ability to learn and remember information — but less than a 1/3 of schools provide mental health services on campus
- 40% of schools have a teaching staff where the majority — over 50% — of teachers have less than 2 years of classroom experience
- Students in lower performing schools- majority of them Black and low income- are forced to do more with less as current school funding levels do not ensure academic success in high needs, high-poverty learning environments
- Black students are twice as likely to be suspended or expelled for the same infractions as white students, while low-income students are nearly twice as likely to receive longer punishments than their more affluent peers
- 63% of New Orleans public schools don’t provide document translation for non-English speaking families leaving them in the dark about their civil, student and parent rights
- Parental rights strengthened and rejuvenated: HB 387 (Edmonds) revises the Parents’ Bill of Rights for Public Schools, giving parents legally-defined access to free copies of their child’s records, school calendars, and any attendance or uniform fees. SB89 (Bishop) requires parent representation on each charter school governing or management board.
- Education accountability: HB509 (G. Carter) requires school boards to make presentations at public meetings relative to plans for schools in need of academic improvement. (Want to see more about accountability? Check out the materials from the 2018 Policy Breakfast, particularly OPSB’s Charter School Accountability Framework presentation.)
- Letter grade contexts: SB152 (Morrish) requires that any school performance scores received after a change to the evaluation methods also include the score or grade the school would have received had the change not been implemented.
- A half-victory on restorative justice: Despite valiant efforts from advocates and supporters on behalf of Friends and Families of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), Senate Bill 465 (Bishop), which would have added restorative justice and positive behavior interventions as alternative methods to be used in lieu of suspension, did not pass. However, FFLIC successfully lobbied to become a part of the Advisory Council on Student Behavior and Discipline, and is moving the work along with an added focus on racial equity and student rights.