Thursday, January 29, 2015

When I grit on grit

A recent post up at Education Week chronicles a presentation that Albemarle County Public Schools Superintendent Pam Moran (I'm a big fan) and Albemarle Assistant Director for Educational Technology and Innovation Ira Socol gave at the recent EduCon 2.7 conference in Philadelphia. It's is getting a lot of attention and some pushback.
"Grit" has in recent years captivated the imagination of educators and policymakers, leading many to embrace the idea that schools should seek to cultivate in their students a set of personality traits demonstrated by researchers to be closely tied to academic and personal success. 
Increasingly, though, critics are offering a different take, arguing that grit is a racist construct and has harmed low-income students by crowding out a focus on providing children with the supports they deserve and the more-flexible educational approach enjoyed by many of their more affluent counterparts. 

I don't believe that the concept "grit" is inherently racist or that Duckworth's work is racist per se. I won't get into too much of a discussion of this as cognitive psychologist Cedar Riener has a much better informed opinion than I do on this:

Research psychologists such as Duckworth would do well to understand the context (and yes, the narratives) that can drive public acceptance and promotion of their science. But equally, policymakers and interpreters of psychological science should seek to situate the scientific evidence within both its scientific context as well as its social and institutional context. The existence and power of traits does not deny the power of situational and motivational context.
But I do think the way the concept is often applied is racist, meaning that the assumptions that educators seem to make when deciding they must teach "grit" to certain kids (usually children of color who live in poverty) are racist. They imply that there is something lacking in the character of those students and that it is that lack which has determined those students' lack of power in our society. I would argue instead that social, economic, and institutional forces have largely determined these students' lack of power and that we should all work on fixing those.

I also have to admit that some of my disconnect with the concept of "grit" comes from the way the word was used when I was growing up in DC. The word "grit" meant to give someone a dirty look, as in, "Why are you gritting on me?" meaning, "Why are you giving me a dirty look?" So I always think of that.

In any case, these were the bits from the post that resonated with me and that are worth thinking about: 
Moran also argued that children from difficult circumstances often demonstrate considerable grit in their day-to-day lives, but those students' strengths are often not recognized by educators. 
And many at EduCon also contended that inside schools, grit is frequently, and wrongfully, conflated with compliance (e.g., completing homework assignments, paying attention in class, or taking standardized tests seriously.)  
"If you just push the idea of grit, you avoid a conversation about, 'To what end?'" said Larissa Pahomov, an English teacher at Science Leadership Academy, the magnet high school in Philadelphia that hosts the annual conference.In order to avoid the "terribly racist" consequences of "the grit narrative," said Socol, the Albemarle County administrator, schools and districts should focus on creating an environment of "abundance," especially for students of color and children from circumstances of poverty. 
"There's [grit], and then there's the ability to get back up with the help of people around you, which is what the wealthy always do," said Socol in an interview prior to the conference. "The trick is in how you build a community around [students] and help them find the tools that will help them solve their problems."

UPDATE 1/29/2015, 2:45: I want to give Benjamin Herold credit for covering the session and for writing such a great post in the first place. Great work!

Monday, January 5, 2015

If we teach it, they will write it.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am a convert to the concept that literacy development (beyond decoding) is based primarily on knowledge, not skills. I used to think otherwise and even taught that way.

I write about this all of the time, especially in the context of ramped-up emphasis on reading tests, specifically in Virginia on Reading SOL tests (more on the recent ones soon). See this guest post at the Core Knowledge blog,and see this post, this post, this post, this post, this post, this post, and this post chez moi.

So, yes, I am a fan of E.D. Hirsch's work on content-/knowledge-based curriculum as well as of Dan Willingham's cognitive-science-based rationale of such an approach. However, there's one place where I have to disagree: that we cannot change whose ideas we study.

From a recent article in Politico by Peg Tyre about Hirsch's influence (bolded emphasis mine):
Knowing the national language of culture, even haphazardly, has a vast, far-reaching and brutally cumulative impact on learning. For those who begin their education with sufficient stores of background knowledge, it forms a virtuous circle: They have higher levels of reading comprehension, which helps them understand the daily social, intellectual and political discourse, which in turn helps them obtain more background knowledge. Those who do not have it languish. To level the playing field between rich and poor, schools should intentionally build background knowledge in all children in a wide range of subjects, or, says Hirsch, “It will be impossible to break the cycle of illiteracy that persists from parent to child.”  
Which is where his List came in. To make it, Hirsch, along with two professors, scanned newspapers and popular journals for high-frequency concepts and then polled 500 professionals—lawyers and writers—to determine which of those concepts were the most crucial for cultural literacy. “I have a Spock-like mind,” he reflects. “I like to take things to their logical conclusion.”  
Still, critics loved to point out—and they were right—that it is long on the Founding Fathers and the English literary canon. Isn’t championing, say, John Locke over Lao Tzu a choice rife with unspoken values and cultural biases? Hirsch sighs. “I agree with those who say we have to change American culture, but we cannot do it at the expense of people at the bottom,” he says when I ask the inevitable question. “Vocabulary—and cultural literacy—is shaped by history. There is really nothing to be done about that.” OK, I say, that might have made sense in the 1970s, but what about now when the complexion of American public schools is changing? The population of Latinos is growing and this year, the majority of children enrolled in public schools are expected to be non-white. How can any dictionary of cultural literacy keep pace with such a rapidly changing world? Hirsch grows crisp. “Why do you think one’s color or ethnicity would affect one’s vocabulary? Without a doubt, Latino culture is having a big influence on America, and the language of culture will change around the margins. But educated conversation is still going on. And you want to make sure those kids—particularly those kids—have the tools they need to be included.”
Dan Willingham said something rather similar in his book Why Don't Students Like School (page 36):

We might ask ourselves, Which knowledge should students be taught? This questions often becomes politically charged rather quickly. When we start to specify what must be taught and what can be omitted, it appears that we are grading information on its importance. The inclusion of omission of historical events and figures, playwrights, scientific achievements, and so on, leads to charges of cultural bias. A cognitive scientist sees these issues differently. The question, What should students be taught is equivalent not to What knowledge  is important? but rather to What knowledge yields the greatest cognitive benefit? The question has two answers. 
For reading, students must know whatever information writers assume they know and hence leave out. The necessary knowledge will vary depending on what students read, but most observers would agree that a reasonable human target would be to read a daily newspaper and to read books written for the intelligent layman on serious topics such as science and politics. Using that criterion, we may still be distressed that much of what writers assume their readers know seems to be touchstones of the culture of dead white males. From the cognitive scientist's point of view, the only choice in that case is to try to persuade writers and editors at the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and so on to assume different knowledge on the part of their readers. I don't think anyone would claim that change would be easy to bring about. It really amounts to a change in culture. Unless and until that happens, I advocate teaching that material to our students. The simple fact is that without that knowledge, they cannot read the breadth of material that their more knowledgeable schoolmates can, not with the depth of comprehension.

While I agree with Hirsch and Willingham in how literacy develops, I disagree there's nothing we can do about whose history or culture we learn about or that changing whose ideas we learn about depends upon who writes and edits major newspapers. Obviously, writers and editors of newspapers have a lot of influence but there are other places of influence, like schools.

Hegemony as defined by Autumn Tooms Cypres (2013) is:
"a socio-political construct that explains how groups or individuals can maintain their dominance over other groups of individuals in a society via coercion rather than violence. This phenomenon is achieved through persuading those in the subordinate group to accept, adopt, and internalize the dominant group's definition of what is normal. This kind of veiled oppression is achieved via mechanisms such as the media and school curriculum, which are used to inculcate and maintain this viewpoint and the power of the dominant class."
If I say that there's nothing I can do, I am accepting and aiding unhealthy and imbalanced cultural hegemony of white males. Since schools and curricula (and not just newspapers and publishers) can help achieve hegemony then one of the best places to "change the culture" and over turn hegemony of white males is to start teaching the ideas and work of non-white males, too. Essentially, if we teach it, they will write it.

Jane M. Gangi, an associate professor in the Division of Education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York, and Nancy Benfer, an instructor in literacy and literature at Mount Saint Mary College and a fourth-grade teacher at Bishop Dunn Memorial School, have endeavored over the course of their careers to expand what is read in their classrooms and in the classrooms of the teachers they teach. They also have also worked with architects of Common Core, to see that a more diverse set of literature and authors are included with other works in Common Core recommended texts. They explain their reasoning here:
One is rooted in the proficient reading research. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers asked, “What do good readers do?” They found that good readers make connections to themselves and their communities. When classroom collections are largely by and about white people, white children have many more opportunities to make connections and become proficient readers. Appendix B of the CCSS as presented added to the aggregate that consistently marginalizes multicultural children’s literature: book lists, school book fairs and book order forms, literacy textbooks (books that teach teachers), and transitional books (books that help children segue from picture books to lengthier texts). If we want all children to become proficient readers, we must stock classrooms with mirror books for all children. This change in our classroom libraries will also allow children of the dominant culture to see literature about others who look different and live differently.
A second reason we must ensure that all children have mirror books is identity development. For African American children, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are not enough. They must also see African-American artists, writers, political leaders, judges, mathematicians, astronauts, and scientists. The same is true for children of other ethnicities. They must see authors and illustrators who look like them on book jackets. Children must be able to envision possibilities for their futures. And they must fall in love with books. Culturally relevant books help children discover a passion for reading.
Unfortunately, no changes to the Common Core Appendix B have been made.

Education writer, edu-color activist, and Montgomery County Public School parent Melinda Anderson has advocated for public education to better serve students of color including recruiting and retaining more teachers of color, developing more culturally competent teachers, and teaching richer and more relevant curricula including literature by and about people of color:
The mirrors metaphor is strong and powerful. Writers of color started a Twitter campaign #WeNeedDiverseBooks as a rallying cry to build momentum for greater diversity in literature. The need for people of color to see themselves reflected in the pages of books, in school curriculum and classrooms, and in leadership positions is real and inescapable. Equally, people of color need to be recognized for their excellence – it matters who we as a society lift up as worthy of recognition.
I would argue further that all students would benefit from a shift in the canon. As a K-12 student, some of my greatest experiences with literature were with works by authors of color: Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Amy Tan, Ralph Ellison, Claude Brown, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Sandra Cisneros. In later and more recent years I have added: Amy Tan, Yiyun Li, Kazuo Ishiguro, Haruki Murakami, Julia Alvarez, Junot Diaz, Edward Jones, Manil Suri, Jhumpa Lahiri, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Esmeralda Santiago, Isabelle Allende, Reinaldo Arenas, and Naguib Mahfouz. And those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. I read these books because many of my teachers assigned them (and most of my K-12 teachers were African-American) but also because they were in my house growing up--my parents read them and gave them to us to read. Then I was hooked and on on my own, I read more.

The cultural canon is movable.  It takes hard work, but it can be done. After all, Hirsch said he had a "spock-like" mind. Star Trek isn't exactly what comes to mind when we think of the "cultural canon," is it? No matter your stance on it, the Common Core would be a great place to start as would Virginia's Standards of Learning.

If we say that we value black lives, that black lives matter, then we also have to show that black ideas, inventions, research, and creativity matter and have been integral, not just to students of color but to our country as a whole.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Long time, no blog

Hello readers!

I had thought that a doctoral program in Educational Leadership would mean I would be doing lots of reading, writing, and blogging about education. But it didn't exactly turn out that way. The reading and writing part held true. I kept up with all of my education reading and it served me well in my studies. In fact, after long days of reading academic journal articles, reading education news and blogs was a way I unwound and relaxed. And, of course, I wrote: notes, questions, and thoughts about what I was reading and then papers and projects and exams.

But the blogging, well, not so much. And then all of a sudden it is the end of the semester and I haven't posted anything in over three months. Nothing. Not even one post. Not even a draft. And I went days and weeks without tweeting.

My negligence of this blog was in part due to lack of time; between my classes, my graduate assistantship, my family, and a few humbling hard balls that life threw at us, I didn't have much free time to blog to or to keep up with the reparte that goes with blogging and tweeting. Sometimes even if I had the time, I didn't have the mental energy.

The desire also wasn't totally there. This doctoral program was in part to be an exercise in learning and studying education in a way I hadn't before--from an academic standpoint. As such, my perspective has become even more circumspect and cautious. There is just so much complexity to how people learn, how people in K-12 settings behave, why educators and decision-makers make the choices they do, and in how policy works. Although some guiding principals and values remain as influential as ever on me, I am more reluctant than ever to make what could be unsubstantiated claims or take strong stances.

I also realized early on this semester that the classroom is not like my blog. I am not the only one in the room. I don't get to remain in the bubble of my own experiences, thoughts, and writing. This is a time to share but also to listen and absorb. My classmates and my professors have experiences and thoughts, too. And while we benefit from learning from one another, we also learn how we are informed differently and in some cases misinformed or uninformed.

On the other hand, in grad school sometimes I have found myself having to come up with something to say in order to contribute, whereas here when I have something to say, I say it and then I hope I might be contributing. I hope I have started to lay the groundwork to contribute academically--I've got some ideas :) But in the meantime, while I have breather, I may have few things to say here, outside of the doctoral classroom that I've been saving up. Stay tuned. . .

Friday, September 5, 2014

Pre-doctoral program warm-up: A look at high school teacher turnover in Hanover County, Virginia

This past summer in conjunction with a local public education advocacy group, Friends of Hanover Schools, that I am a part of, I engaged in a little pre-doctoral program warm-up. 

At a Hanover County School Board forum in the spring, I had expressed concern about high school teacher turnover  and was told more or less that my concerns were unfounded. Other members of the FOHS leadership team had also been long concerned about high school teacher turnover, so after they and I spent some time gathering information from the division, I compiled a report of my findings. Other members of the leadership team gave feedback and provided edits for the final version. I may do something with this later or I may decide it is too J-V :)

Here is a summary with links to the documents I used:


In the 2013-2014 school year, Hanover County Public Schools increased high school teachers’ workload and they went from teaching five of seven classes a day to teaching six of eight. After teachers protested the policy, saying it would affect the quality of instruction and feedback they’d be able to give students, Friends of Hanover Schools began to hear reports of low morale, of higher than average teacher resignations and retirements, and of increasing numbers of teachers seeking positions elsewhere. I took a closer look at the data regarding teacher turnover in Hanover and compiled a report of my findings which was distributed to school division leadership.

According to budget and retirements and resignations data provided by Hanover County Public Schools, the combined turnover rates for all four of the comprehensive high schools are:
School yearResignRetireTotalTotal teachersPercentage turnover
2004-200530636502.1917.17%
2005-200656561480.7312.69%
2006-200753760492.49112.18%
2007-2008551469500.49113.79%
2008-200927431496.3916.25%
2009-2010331043487.1918.83%
2010-2011381149474.19110.33%
2011-201231738465.9918.15%
2012-2013421153452.99111.70%
2013-2014*35540440.9919.07%
10 year average400804804795.64910.01%
*The data for 2013-2014 is as of August 6, 2014.

Other than the schedule re-alignment, several factors may have influenced teacher turnover in Hanover County such as the economic recession after 2007-2008, retirement incentives offered in 2007 – 2008, and school-site specific issues such as administrative instability or transition.

According to studies of teacher turnover (compiled by Mary Levy), the national average for teachers who leave a school district system leavers is 8% with higher poverty systems yielding closer to 15 – 20%. Hanover County high school teachers leave, on average, at a consistently higher rate than the national average. Furthermore, for the past two years, the percentage of turnover that can be attributed to high school teachers has grown to 43.5% of all teachers. In all other years, with one exception, the percentage was roughly one-third. Finally, based on an assumption of a teacher corps of 1500 teachers, the system-wide attrition rate was 6.87% for 2012-2013 and thus far 5.05% for 2013-2014, but the four high schools consistently have rates higher than that, closer to 10% on average.

The data available are limited but do paint a picture of close to double-digit turnover rates at the high school level, Furthermore, the numbers spiked in 2012-2013, when a policy change to a six of eight teaching schedule was announced.

FOHS and I urge the school division to undertake a more qualitative study of teacher satisfaction rates by:
  • Finding out more about the kind of teachers who are leaving. How much experience do they have? Are they National Board certified? Hanover Scholar Educators? STEM-area teachers? REB-award winners?
  • Opening up channels for all teachers and staff to give positive feedback and constructive criticism. Healthy schools and school systems are ones that welcome informed feedback of its employees.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In the past twenty-five (not 15!) years, the overall number of teachers of color in DC has decreased by almost a third.

In one of my last posts, I wrote about the decline of and need for more teachers of color and about my own PK-12 schooling at DCPS.

In private conversations, a few DC friends have asserted that while they don't entirely agree with the Rhee and now Henderson regime of policies, that there was "nothing racial" about them. I'm not so sure. I don't think that Rhee, etc.'s approach to reform has been intentionally or explicitly racial, but they have been racial at the very least in perception and effect.

For one, I refer you to this post I wrote in response to Rhee biographer Richard Whitmire's take on education reform in DC, where he continually refers in coded and loaded language to the majority black DCPS system that Rhee came into as "incompetent," "corrupt," and full of blinding race pride. This seems to encapsulate the collective mind-set of the DC rhee-formers and repeats many erroneous bits of what became collective wisdom that so many even earnest journalists repeat.

Second, the three sets of numbers I will present tell somewhat of a racial story.

Before I present them, a few caveats:

1.  Data sets 2 and 3 (from 2007-2008 and 2011-2012 respectively) include both the charter and the district sectors. While both may be complicit in the decline of teachers of color, since in DC DCPS and the charter schools system are totally separate entities, one can’t hold the division responsible for the human resources policies of the charter sector nor the inverse.

2.  Teacher recruitment and selection plays a role in the number of teachers of color in DCPS (and in any school system). Changes in DCPS’s approach to teacher recruitment and selection began way before Michelle Rhee’s chancellorship. In 2000, the DC New Teacher Project contracted with DCPS that same year to do an alternative teacher certification program and not long after to run teacher recruitment for DCPS. Coincidentally, however, Kaya Henderson was the Executive Director of DC TFA in the late 1990s, and in 2000 became head of the DC New Teacher Project (an organization founded and headed by Michelle Rhee).

3. As I mentioned in my last post on this topic, there has been a decline nationally in the percentage of teachers of color and the decline is projected to continue. I'm not sure if this is a decline in gross numbers or just in proportion or percentages and I can't seem to find any hard numbers that make that distinction. In any case, DC may simply be part of that same trend.


Now for the data:

1. There is, historically, very little in the way of data about DCPS teacher and staff demographics I asked DCPS watchdog, budget analyst and Keeper of all DCPS Stats Mary Levy what she had from the past and the only thing she could find was the table below which is DCPS data for school year 1988-1989, provided to the Committee on Public Education (COPE), a project of the Federal City Council. She got the data from DCPS in her role as a consultant to COPE, and included it in her report to them:

Teacher Demographics for DCPS 1988-1989

Race/ethnicity
Female
Male
Unknown
Total
Percentage
Black
4,747
1,207
6
5,960
93%
White
223
107

330
5%
Other
58
28
15
101
2%
Total
5,028
1,342
21
6,391


Race/ethnicity
White
Black
Other
Total
Number
330
5,960
101
6,391
Percent
5%
93%
2%


2. This is for the 2007-2008 school year, taken from the Center for American Progress's 2011 Teacher Diversity Report (see Appendix A, page 12):

Teacher Demographics for DC 2007- 2008

State
White
Black
Hispanic
Asian/Pac Islr
Nat Amer
DC 
26%
65%
5%
X
2%


3. This is from the 2011-2012 school year, taken from the Center for American Progress's 2014 Teacher Diversity Report (see Table 2 on pages 7 and 8):


Teacher Demographics for DC 2011-2012

State
White
Black
Hispanic
Other
Two or more
DC
36%
52%
7%
5%
7%


So,
  • In 1988-1989, DCPS teachers were 93% black, 5% white, and 2% other. Or, 95% of color and 5% white. 
  • In 2007-2008, DCPS and DC charter school teachers were 65% black, 26% white, 5% Hispanic, and 2% Native American (The Native American number is footnoted as doubtful. In surveys, “Native American” is occasionally interpreted as meaning “I was born in America”). Or, 70 - 72% of color and 26 to 28% white.
  • In 2011-2012, DCPS and DC charter school teachers were 52% black, 36% white, 7% Hispanic, and 5% other, Or, 64% of color and 36% white
Or, for the bar graph version:



So, while there has been an increase in non-black teachers of color, which is a positive trend, since 1989, there has been a decrease in the number of black teachers in DC public and charter schools from 93% to 65% to 52% and an overall decrease in the number of teachers of color in DC from 95% to 72% to 64%. That is an overall decrease of 41 percentage points for black teachers and 31 percentage points for teachers of color overall. There has also been an increase in white teachers, from 1/20th or 5% of the teacher corps in 1988-1989 to a little over 1/4th or 26% in 2007-2008 to well over a third or 36% in 2011-2012. In short, there's been an overall increase in the number of white teachers in DC from 5% to 26% to 36%.

Meanwhile the student body has changed but not proportionally so, or rather, the demographics of the teacher population have not changed in proportion with the student demographic changes. In DC in 2007-2008 there was a 21 percentage point difference between the percentages of nonwhite teachers and nonwhite students. In 2011 - 2012 that difference grew to 28 (source: CAP Teacher Diversity Reports, Table 1). Here are more data points regarding DC public and charter school student enrollment:
  • In Fall 1989, the enrollment of DCPS was 90.7% black, 4.6% Hispanic, 3.7% white, and 1% Asian. Or, 96.3% of color and 3.7% white (source: DCPS Annual Membership Report, Fall 1989). 
  • In 2007-2008, the enrollment of DC public and charter schools was 83% black, 10% Hispanic, 5% white, and 1% Asian/Pacific Islander. Or, 94% students of color and 5% white (source: Appendix A, page 16 of CAP 2011 Teacher Diversity Report).
  • In 2011-2012, the enrollment of DC public and charter schools was 78% black, 13% Hispanic, 7% white, 1% Asian, and 1% two or more races. Or, 93% of color and 7% white (source: Table 3 of CAP 2014 Teacher Diversity Report).

Hence, the decline in teachers of color does not correspond with the decline in students of color and the increase in white teachers is significantly out of step with the increase in white students.

Lest you think I believe Virginia somehow exists outside of a glass house, I will be checking into their data next. Stay tuned. . .


UPDATE 9/18: I'm not sure how I missed this, but Melinda Anderson published a piece in Ebony in May 2014 succinctly chronicling the story of black teachers from the Brown v. Board era to now (in NYC, New Orleans, Chicago, and Philadelphia). Please read that here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

To fix racism is to fix poverty is to fix education

I am cooking up a follow-up post to my recent post about teacher diversity but given recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, I feel I needed to finish and publish another post I have been planning for a while.

As I explained in that post about teacher diversity, growing up going to the schools that I did in DC, with the classmates and teachers I had, was a positive experience that meant I grew up surrounded by people of color as well as by regular conversations about race and racism. This has granted me a unique white person's point of view, one that is perhaps a much more open and tolerant one. However, it has also meant that not only did I sometimes have blinders on as to my own work to do on racism, I had blinders on as to the extent of racism in our country. For example, I went through a it's-no-longer-about-race-it's-about-poverty/ it's-the-classicism-stupid phase, but I've since been convinced otherwise. Classicism certainly exists, but racism is also still alive and well. So the blinders are now off, but only in so much as they can be off given that one is always blinded to a certain extent by their own perspective/privilege, experiences, and surrounding culture.

The post I was planning was in honor (or maybe in response to?) the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, but not in the conventional sense. I am not big on anniversaries, for one. Second, for as monumental as Brown v. Board was, it has not accomplished  (see, for example, this 2005 report on segregation in DCPS) what many seem to says it did or hoped it would. And I think that's at least partly because so many other policy areas, such as housing (think of restrictive housing covenants) did not or have not adequately, if it all, addressed racism in their manifestations.

My life's work is teaching, writing, and education. I know a great deal of change can be affected within classrooms, schools, and school systems but the current reformers' saying "fix education and you've solved poverty" is dangerously and hopelessly myopic, especially when many reformers and their funders are actually hostile to the idea (like the Waltons) of solving inequality or don't agree ( like Bill Gates) that income inequality is a problem.

But also those who want to work on solving poverty first can be myopic; they don't always look at what causes poverty. So much poverty among people of color is caused by institutionalized racism. People who say we must fix poverty in order to also fix education must also acknowledge that we must also fix institutional racism in order to fix poverty. As I said recently on twitter:
And by the way, by pattern, I don't mean conspiracy; I mean a pattern.

So, in honor of Brown v. Board's 60th anniversary and in light of what's happened in Ferguson and in so many other places, I am asking that all education organizations, groups, and high-profile individuals, of all stripes, endorse the following agenda:
  • Reparations for those descended from slaves. African-Americans are responsible for generating huge amounts of wealth for our country and for individuals in it and the vast majority have yet to truly share in that prosperity. I don't know if reparations would be awarded to individuals or to communities, but if compensation to 9/11 victims and their families could be worked out, then so can reparations to African-Americans.
  • Compensation should also be paid to African-American victims of racist housing policies, racist education policies, and racist public safety and criminal justice policies. 
  • Major reforms to current public safety policies, many of which disproportionately and negatively impact people of color. Included in this is de-militarization of police forces, an end to stop and frisk policies, better pay and funding for police departments so that there is no more reliance on corrupt civil forfeiture practices, better training for police officers that emphasizes preventative, non-discriminatory neighborhood/community based policing.
  • Major reforms to our criminal justice system, which also disproportionately and negatively impacts people of color. (Even if you don't agree with me on the humanitarian reasons, look at it from a financial standpoint. It is unreasonably expensive to imprison people both is terms of real costs and in terms of long-term costs, including those to society.):
    • The dismantling of the War on Drugs. Decriminalization of most illegal drugs (notice I did not say "legalization"; I said "decriminalization"--those are two different things). 
    • Immediate clemency for all those imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses. A shifting to mental health care rather than imprisonment for offenders.
    • Better funded and staffed public defenders' services.
    • An end to imprisonment for non-payment of fines, and an end to imprisonment for minor, non-violent offenses. (I am not advocating for no consequences, mind you, just for ones other than imprisonment.)
    • No more privatized prisons and the return to the public sector of all privatized prisons.
    • An end to capital punishment.
  • Healthcare policy reform including Medicaid expansion for now and a single-payer system eventually.

    I hope that fellow education activists, educators, and education policy people understand that such policy reforms will only help our students and improve our schools and school systems and that they will endorse these recommendations. These flawed policies are impediments to the progress of people of color and people living in poverty, as well as to the progress of our society.