#BlackMindsMatter

#BlackMindsMatter

 

I am saddened and frustrated every time I hear about the academic achievement gulf that exists between Black students and their White classmates in our nation’s public schools. Saddened because I know that, without a quality education, the future for these children is bleak; frustrated because, if we don’t do something now, we will continue to fail these children in a way that will cause irreparable harm to them, their families (both current and future), our communities and the world.

 

That’s why 100 Black Men of America, Inc. (“The 100”) is issuing a clarion call to all Americans who share our concern about the fate of our children and communities and asking them to raise their voices with ours to bring attention to one of the most critical civil rights issues of our time: education equity. The reason is as clear-cut as it is troubling: Far too many low-income and Black youth are languishing in failing schools. This places them at a severe disadvantage in achieving their full potential, becoming leaders in their communities and competing in a global economy. No child’s future should be determined by their color, economic status or zip code. To The 100’s network of more than 100 chapters around the world, this is appalling and unacceptable! We need organizations and caring adults to join us in a collective effort for systemic and sustainable education reform.

 

The 100’s 50-year history of mentoring African American youth has given us a unique perspective on what is and isn’t working in many of the nation’s public schools through the experiences of the young people we serve. Although the high school dropout rate is improving, it still is not where it should be. It is also disturbing that, of those African American youth who do successfully graduate high school, far too many are woefully unprepared for freshman-level college coursework. As a result, they are required to complete remedial classes as a prerequisite for acceptance into post-secondary institutions. Some find themselves so far behind that it seems impossible to catch up. Not only does this situation shatter their self-esteem, but it also suffocates their desire to even try. Rather than face the humiliation of trying to catch up to their peers, some simply give up and drop out.

 

While there is no silver bullet or quick fix to these problems, we believe the journey toward solutions begins with creating high-performing schools. Schools, for example, that promote high student expectations and achievement, insist on teacher accountability through regular evaluations and encourage innovation among principals and other school leaders.

 

The 100 has been a longtime supporter of traditional public schools, where most of the youth we serve attend. While each of our chapters is deeply rooted and involved in their communities, true education reform requires a collective effort from like-minded organizations and individuals. To that end, in October during The 100’s Education Summit in Washington, D.C., our members from across the country met with leaders from several nonprofit, education and civil rights organizations to explore ways to collaborate, mobilize and advocate for action that leads to positive, tangible and lasting change. During our discussions, areas of agreement included advocating for public school education options for parents and their children. Our youth should not be doomed to 12 years – between kindergarten and senior year – of academic failure. We will remain committed to supporting those public schools that are high-performers and able to demonstrate exceptional and measurable academic outcomes for our children – or those that are executing a plan to successfully reach that goal.

 

When traditional public schools fail to perform at high levels, our organization supports educational alternatives, including successful nonprofit charter schools. We also need to encourage nonprofit public

 

charters and traditional public schools to collaborate and share best practices that have proven to be successful in educating low-income and Black children.

 

No matter which type of schools parents and guardians ultimately decide are best for their children, all public schools – particularly those in African American and economically disadvantaged communities – must be high-performing, evidence-based institutions of learning where children are prepared to advance successfully to the next grade level, graduate from high school and progress seamlessly into college and career. The time is now – before another child’s future is lost – to raise our collective voices in advocacy and take action so that high-performing public schools in our communities become the norm rather than the exception. While this task may seem daunting, our children’s futures, quality of life and, in some cases, their very lives are at stake. As we continue to mobilize and boldly declare that “Black Lives Matter,” I submit that we must also affirm through immediate community engagement that Black Minds Matter, too. Collectively, we can help ensure that our children get the education – and the future – they rightfully deserve.

High-Performing Schools are the Best Gateway to Success

High-Performing Schools are the Best Gateway to Success

 

As the school year winds down, one can’t help but think of graduations and where and how students will embark upon the next phase of their lives. Unfortunately, the opportunities for far too many will be limited because of disparities in graduation rates and in opportunities for students at high-performing schools compared with their counterparts at low-performing schools.

Although U.S. high school graduation rates have significantly improved, U.S. Department of Education statistics show that African-American and Hispanic/Latino students are still graduating 5 to 10 points behind the national average. Further, students from low-income families are graduating at a rate that’s 14.4 percentage points below that of their peers from wealthier backgrounds.

For students to be competitive in post-secondary education and career, they have to be properly prepared. Whether competing for admission to college or entering a career, the student graduating from the high-performing school invariably has the advantage over the one from the low-performing school. And although each may have a diploma in hand, the student from a low-performing school will more times than not require remedial courses and start behind the curve when trying to achieve long-term success.

100 Black Men of America, Inc. strongly believes the remedy to this situation is advocating for and demanding high-performing schools for all students – and particularly African-American and poor students. We feel that high-performing public schools, whether traditional or charter, are the best gateway to higher education. Coupled with strong parental involvement, quality education options – ones that ensure every child has access to the high-performing school best suited for him or her – will help them achieve long-term career success.

Sadly, many of the nation’s low-performing schools are in minority and low-income neighborhoods. Far too many of these public schools have inadequate resources and their classrooms are overcrowded. They often lack the things higher-performing schools take for granted – experienced teachers, counselors, special education services, current-edition textbooks, and access to technology, to name a few – and their students suffer. When those conditions are allowed to continue, students’ paths can deviate from higher education and career to paths of overwhelming struggle, economic challenge and potentially prison.

This is why we must implore our school administrators on the neighborhood, district, city, state and national levels to do their level best to make public education more equitable in every school. In a Washington Post article, former Education Secretary Arne Duncan called on cities and states to rethink their current incarceration practices and proposed funneling an estimated $15 billion in savings from incarcerations to substantially raise teacher pay in high-poverty schools. He reasoned that higher salaries could attract better teachers to low-performing schools where the help is most needed.

“With a move like this, we’d not just make a bet on education over incarceration, we’d signal the beginning of a long-range effort to pay our nation’s teachers what they are worth,” Duncan said. “That sort of investment wouldn’t just make teachers and struggling communities feel more valued. It would have ripple effects on our economy and on our civic life.

He gets it. We want to make sure everybody else gets it as well. High-performing schools are the best gateway to success. When our children have access to high-performing schools, it exponentially increases their chances to achieve their full potential.

Statement on Education Transformation

Statement on Education Transformation

100 Black Men of America, Inc. (The 100) considers the transformation of education – access to quality education for all youth regardless of race and socio-economic status – as one of the critical civil rights issues of our time. As an organization of over 100 chapters within communities across the country, which has been mentoring African American youth – primarily males – for more than 50 years, we know how important education is to their life’s trajectory to reach their full potential. We also know the consequences of a lack of a quality education, which are well documented in qualitative and quantitative research.

Studies have also proven that every child can learn – in spite of negative life circumstances – within high performing schools. Tragically, youth of color who are at greatest risk and in the greatest need of high quality are often subjected and mandated to attend low performing schools. These sub-par schools deliver educational experiences that often result in disproportionate misplacement in special education classes, over-crowded classrooms, novice teachers, overall failing school performance, declining test scores, plummeting graduation rates, and soaring drop-out rates. For these and other reasons, the transformation of public education is crucial. Our Black and Brown youth cannot continue to wait. Each year that these students receive a poor education, the farther they lag behind in learning, which only contributes to high school dropout rates and widens the academic achievement gulf. We are in a state of emergency!

The education goal of The 100 is simple: to change the life outcomes of underserved and disconnected African American youth. We are convinced that providing them quality teaching and learning experiences through high performing schools is essential to achieving this goal. Today’s K-12 youth should be educated so that they are academically prepared for each grade-level promotion and ultimately ready for post-secondary education without remediation. Public education should provide our children with a firm academic foundation that includes effective leaders and governance, quality teaching, common standards, and a rigorous curriculum involving critical thinking skills to maximize their talents and abilities and achieve their dreams and career aspirations.

We are in a state of emergency! There must be an urgent, collective focus of African Africans to support the transformation of public education to yield high performing schools in all of our communities. We are leaving behind and/or losing too many youth each year. Therefore, we seek a critical mass of partners and collaborators who share our concern for the plight of our youth in underperforming schools. The effective strategies and thought-leadership needed to change the academic and life outcomes of our youth requires the mobilization of African American organizations.

Parents Rights to Quality Education Options

U.S. Department of Education

Office of Communications & Outreach, Press Office

400 Maryland Ave., S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20202

For Immediate Release:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Contact:

Press Office (202) 401-1576 or [email protected]

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan Announces a Set of Rights to Help Parents Seek High-Quality Education for Their Children

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today released a set of rights that outlines what families should be able to expect for their children’s education.

“I want to describe educational rights that I firmly believe must belong to every family in America – and I hope you’ll demand that your leaders in elected or appointed offices deliver on them,” Duncan said during a speech to the 2015 National Parent Teacher Association Convention and Expo in Charlotte, North Carolina. “They come together as a set of rights that students must have at three pivotal stages of their life, to prepare them for success in college and careers and as engaged, productive citizens.”

To help prepare every student for success in life, families have the right to:

 Free, quality preschool;

 High, challenging standards and engaging teaching and leadership in a safe, supportive, well-resourced school; and

 An affordable, quality college degree.

The announcement complements work by the Education Department to reach out to parents—from the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships, to tools that can help families and students select the best colleges for their needs, to support of Parent Training and Information Centers and Resource Centers.

Parents are critical assets in education. Beginning in 1990, Dr. Tony Bryk and his team conducted a 15-year study across hundreds of elementary schools in Chicago where he discovered five features of a school that determine whether or not learning can thrive: a clear vision for instruction; a staff with the capacity to see that vision through; a student-centered learning environment; skilled leadership; and active and engaged parents. Schools that contained all five features at once were 10 times more likely to improve than schools that didn’t. Dr. Bryk also identified a “special sauce” that emerged whenever you mixed all five features together thoroughly: a deep wellspring of trust between parents and educators.

When it comes to making the set of rights announced today a reality for every child, few voices will be as powerful as those of parents. Often parents want to be involved in their child’s education, but they aren’t sure of the best ways to support their child, or the right questions to ask to ensure their child is getting the education she deserves. The set of rights is meant to help empower parents to demand a world-class education for their children.

Free quality preschool

All children need access to high-quality preschool to prepare them for kindergarten and to close opportunity and achievement gaps. According to the Department’s recent report, A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America, of

the approximately 4 million 4-year olds in the United States, about 60 percent – or nearly 2.5 million – are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, including state preschool programs, Head Start, and programs serving children with disabilities. Even fewer are enrolled in the highest-quality programs. The Obama Administration has made significant investments in early learning through the Early Learning Challenge and the Preschool Development Grants programs. The grants lay the groundwork for states to be prepared for the proposed Preschool for All program. The Administration has asked Congress for an increase of $500 million for Preschool Development Grants as part of the President’s FY16 budget request to expand this program to serve more children.

High standards, engaging teaching and leadership in a safe, supportive, well-resourced school

Every child deserves to attend a school that will prepare them for success in college and careers. That means parents have the right to know whether their child is on track to success, with an accurate measuring stick, and assurance that their child is held to the same, high-expectations regardless of where they live in the state. In elementary and secondary school, our nation’s students also have a right to high standards and engaging teaching and leadership in a safe, supportive, well-resourced school. And, across the country, we’re making important progress. This year, more than 40 states are moving forward with high academic standards and next-generation assessments that can better help teachers and parents understand what students are learning. Graduation rates are at an all-time high. Parents can play a critical role in ensuring that we continue on a path to increase access to an excellent education for every student. Every parent wants to ensure that their child is engaged in learning and supported, and that means teachers and principals need ongoing feedback and support. States have developed unique plans to ensure that their schools improve the quality of instruction, increase equity, and close achievement gaps. Duncan has called on Congress to replace the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind, with a strong, bipartisan law that delivers on the promise of equity and real opportunity for every child.

Affordable, quality college degree

As they prepare to graduate from high school, students need access to affordable, quality post-secondary education or training. Creating a clear path to the middle class and ensuring our nation’s economic prosperity means opening the doors of higher education to more Americans. Today, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require education and training beyond a high school diploma. A generation ago, America led the world in college attainment of young adults; now, we rank twelfth. The Obama administration is committed to restoring our world leadership in college completion and ensuring that every student has access to an affordable and high-quality postsecondary education.

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