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School Choice

The fight for integration honors Dr. King’s dream, but the fight for school choice acknowledges his (and our) reality.

When it comes to school choice we should follow what our leaders do more than what they say.

It’s both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s day of celebration, and the beginning of national #SchoolChoiceWeek. That’s a fitting duo.

As most of the nation celebrates the birth and life of Dr. King today, I must admit I don’t see his dream. Instead, I see our reality and, at least in education, isn’t worth celebrating.

I can’t say it enough: eight million black children attend public schools that help too few of them reach their highest potential. Today’s public education doesn’t even approximate the beautiful dream of a beloved community that died with Dr. King.

Researcher Erick Hanushek puts it this way: “After nearly a half-century of supposed progress in race relations within the United States, the modest improvements in achievement gaps since 1965 can only be called a national embarrassment. Put differently, if we continue to close gaps at the same rate in the future, it will be roughly two and a half centuries before the black-white math gap closes and over one and a half centuries until the reading gap closes.”

Tyrone Mowat of Ed Inquiry, a group that works with schools to improve educational outcomes, consistently reminds us that black 4th-grade reading proficiency is only 31% in the best state, New Jersey.

At worse, only 12% of our children are reading proficiently in Missouri.

Mowat says “[w]e are failing a whole population of children. Relegating them to permanent third or fourth class status. So where is the outrage?”

Truly.

Where is our outrage about failing to secure what Dr. King said was the “most important asset,” the “intellectual care and development” of our girls and boys?

For their part, integration fundamentalists, the supposed bearers of King’s dream, are lost in the cheap jingoism of the refrain “separate can never be equal.” History has an ironic reply in that Dr. King’s own success was formed in the black church and in Atlanta’s black public schools.

And, it was at Morehouse college that Benjamin Mays helped King step into the calling of the Christian faith that would become his moral power source, and where he was inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience which would become his intellectual shield.

Like Morehouse, other HBCUs offer generations of black students culturally affirming environments that graduate students who go on to be leaders at all levels.

According to the UNCF, these colleges and universities generate “25 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields for African Americans, award 14 percent of all African American engineering degrees, and graduate the most African Americans seeking doctoral degrees in science and engineering out of all U.S. colleges and universities.”

I won’t argue for separatism. For me and my integrated family, social separation is unrealistic and spiritually broken. But our struggle for equality should get us equal power to determine where and how we live, what we eat, what we believe, who we marry, how we pray, and to what God. Add to that the power to determine where and how our children are educated. We need equality of opportunity and access, not a socially engineered demand for conformity handed down by distant intellectuals.

Many will attempt to project what Dr. King would think about the senseless educational dichotomy between integration and choice. Integrationists will look to his words for poetic justifications of their premise, and they will find it.

Realist, on the other hand, will see actions are the more powerful indicators of what people value and believe.

On that note, Dr. King’s family exercised schools choice when his children integrated The Galloway School, an elite private school.

Malcolm X’s children followed suit.

Jesse Jackson? Same thing.

Even congressman Keith Ellison, who for years was the most visible heir to Paul Wellstone’s political theology, chose traditional, charter, and private schools for his children.

That matches old research that found most of the Congressional Black Caucus were private school parents.

Even Hillary Shelton, the NAACP official who traveled the country year before last giving speeches against school choice had three kids in Georgetown Day School.

Could there be a more glimmering example of what black people do when given a chance to access better schools, black people with resources lead by example?

I support all of them in their rights to choose schools, but if equality is our goal the school choice they enjoy should be a right shared by all.

It’s a right that even the best integration schemes have failed to produce.

Look to LaShawn Robinson, a parent in Connecticut who tried for 16 years to get her children into Hartford’s famed magnet school system. Although there was room for more students in the school she wanted, the open seats were being held for white students. Ms. Robinson’s children are black.

Proving their zealotry for ideology rather than justice, none of the local integration advocates are standing with Ms. Robinson out of fear her case would ruin their integration plan. That’s a perversion I’m certain Dr. King would abhor.

I’ve come to believe the case for self-determination, parental sovereignty, and, ultimately, school choice, is superior to continuing the wait for the fickle nymph of public school integration.

The two ideas – integration and choice – don’t need to be in a contest, and they are only made so by zero-sum thinkers on the integration side, but if we must pick a preferred route out of chronic social inequality, school choice is for me the better accelerant for that mission.

No, I can’t sidestep the academic evidence in social science that integration helps students build interracial relationships and outscore their peers living in education wastelands.

Likewise, I won’t ignore research that tells us private school choice produces similar civic benefits that improve the country.

I believe Dr. King’s dream is still possible, but not by limiting educational options to ones our most notable civil rights leaders avoid for their own children. Whether integrated or not, we’ll do best with a marketplace of schools and programs that prepare students for the mixed company of America’s open spaces by fostering the self-confidence required to be active, contributing, and generous citizens.

By any means necessary.

Pursuing the power of self-sovereignty and personalized learning to create secure citizens and abundant communities. #TheOppositeOfSchool #AllPowerToThePupil

School Choice

Distance learning spare students chaotic classrooms

Veronique Mintz is a 13-year-old student in New York who isn’t having troubles with distance learning that we hear so much about in the media. She isn’t missing the social interactions of in-person schooling because, as she tells it, those interactions were rife with distractions that impeded her ability to learn.

Over three years of middle school Veronica’s classes were disrupted daily by students “Talking out of turn…Destroying classroom materials…Disrespecting teachers…Blurting out answers during tests…pushing, kicking, hitting one another and even rolling on the ground.”

Things are different now that she’s learning at home. The upside of school closures is that she has a quiet, safe, and productive place to learn at her own pace without a demand for student collaboration learning activities that hold the most dedicated students hostage to the varying motivation levels of fellow students.

Writing for the New York Times opinion page, she says:

I have been doing distance learning since March 23 and find that I am learning more, and with greater ease, than when I attended regular classes. I can work at my own pace without being interrupted by disruptive students and teachers who seem unable to manage them.

Students unable or unwilling to control themselves steal valuable class time, often preventing their classmates from being prepared for tests and assessments. I have taken tests that included entire topics we never mastered, either because we were not able to get through the lesson or we couldn’t sufficiently focus.

I do not envy a middle-school teacher’s job. It’s far from easy to oversee 26 teenagers. And in my three years of middle school, I’ve encountered only a few teachers who had strong command of their classrooms — enforcing consistent rules, treating students fairly and earning their respect.

I go to a school that puts a big emphasis on collaborative learning; approximately 80 percent of our work is done in teacher-assigned groups of three to five students. This forces students who want to complete their assignments into the position of having to discipline peers who won’t behave and coax reluctant group members into contributing.

Distance learning gives me more control of my studies. I can focus more time on subjects that require greater effort and study. I don’t have to sit through a teacher fielding questions that have already been answered. I can still collaborate with other students, but much more effectively. I am really enjoying FaceTiming friends who bring different perspectives and strengths to the work; we challenge one another and it’s a richer learning experience.

We spend so much time defending the rights of students that struggle with self-regulation, motivation, and focus that perhaps we forget the students who take school seriously and show up fully present to learn. Given the fact that classroom management practices aren’t likely to calm increasingly disinterested students distance learning is one way to address the needs of students like Veronica who deserve every opportunity to learn in a quiet, respectful, and knowledge-rich setting.

Remember, equity means every student gets what they need to thrive.

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School Choice

School choice takes student from bullied to bolstered

Never forget: publicly-funded school choice isn’t about politics, billionaires, or hatred of traditional public schools.

It’s about opening doors for kids.

When the education establishment and its dogmatists engages in scare tactics and shame campaigns intended to close the roads to opportunity that school choice provides for millions of students, we must stand up for the families who have good reasons.

Watch this video below and you’ll meet Keenan Cooper, one of those millions of students. He’s a North Carolina student at Cornerstone Christian Academy who is “the first student in the state of North Carolina to earn a scholarship to go to college through the scholastic 3d Archery Association.”

So, how did he get to this place of success? Listen to his mother Kena Cooper as she explains the situation that motivated her to desperately seek a scholarship to get Keenan out of a public school where he was increasingly depressed, into a private school that supported his needs and led to a “metamorphosis.”

She says:

Picking up my son from middle school, he got in the car, he turned around and looked at me and his face was stained with tears.

 

And I said what?

I just put breaks. He said I can’t take it no more. I can’t do it. I said what you mean? What’s wrong? He said “they keep picking on me, they keep messing with me, they keep bullying me. I’m not getting help.” 

I felt like I what do I do?

was going through the mail and there was a pamphlet that said “how would you like for your child to attend a private school for free? We have scholarships.” I turned it over because I was looking for the little small print around the sides to say, you know call this 900 number, but it was legit. It was real. I was like God and I was like, okay, I’m gonna take every take a stand at it we’ll see what happens and then the next you know, we got the call to come to rally and speak to.

 

I am one of the 4,046 [who received the state-funded scholarship]. I want my child as well as the other parents are here want their child to have a quality education that their children are not looking at as a number but as a person. 

Watch the video:

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Parents

Alabama parents arrested for recording staff abuse of their autistic child

Did you know school principals can issue warrants and their school resource officers can arrest parents for something like recording staff abusing their children? Me either.

The parents of a middle-school girl in the Talladega County School System were arrested because they provided their autistic child with a recording device so that she could secretly capture staff verbally abusing.

From what the family says, they captured 28 instances of abuse, but there’s one problem.

Apparently, the school district’s policy prohibits the use of recording devices at school.

Read this nonsense and tell me you’ve heard anything more asinine.

The charges stem from their daughter Jessalynn’s use of a hidden recorder to document her treatment at Childersburg Middle School, part of the Talladega County School System, the couple claims. Jessalynn is severely learning-disabled and autistic, and she suffers from seizures, anxiety and depression.

[…]

According to her parents, in November, Jessalynn turned her recorder over to the school. Jones, the principal, then wrote a warrant for their arrest.

The McEwens say they were driving down the street in front of their house when they were pulled over and arrested by several school resource officers from Childersburg Middle.

“We were surrounded by three county cop cars like we were murderers,” said McEwen.

The Alabama Department of Human Resources also launched an investigation into the couple.

DHR records show the department removed Jessalyn and another minor daughter from the family’s home last fall for five weeks while they obtained a psychological evaluation that concluded there was not sufficient evidence to support mental abuse or neglect.

Did you know school principals can issue warrants and their school resource officers can arrest parents for something like recording staff abusing their children?

Me either.

For all the talking we do about the school-to-prison pipeline, and schools that fail to serve students with special education needs, we don’t hear so much about it when it happens in traditional public schools (at least not as much as when it happens in charter schools).

In this case, the parents are facing real consequences:

If convicted, they each face a $100 penalty or 90 days of hard labor. The truancy law not only governs the enrollment and attendance of children, it also says parents can be charged with a misdemeanor if they fail to “compel” their child to behave “in accordance with the written policy (or) school behavior adopted by the local board of education.”

This is a story that should make anyone see the benefits of school choice.

Read the whole story here.

h/t to Jason Bedrick for posting this story.

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