Weekend Links (6/24/207)

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

We Strap Roller Skates on Their Feet and Push Parents Out the Door

At the Citizen Education Blogger Training and Media Meet-up:  A Discussion of Education, the Media, and Our Communities in Washington D.C. there was a panel discussion on education, poverty, racial justice, and the media.  Panelist Pat Brantley, CEO of Friendship Public Charter Schools, when speaking about parents exercising choice said, “Parents when they have access and true choice, they vote with their feet.”  Panel moderator Chris Stewart challenged this notion when he responded, “Parents do vote with their feet, but some schools put roller skates on their feet and push them out the door.”  How did our education system get to a point where we are discounting parents and pushing them out the door?
 
Schools are part of our communities, but many times parents feel school is a place where they have no voice and decisions are being made for and about their children without consulting them or listening to their viewpoint.  My twin boys finished kindergarten this past school year.  One of my sons had a difficult time adjusting mostly because his teacher was chronically absent and lacked cultural competency.  One day, I took off of work and showed up unannounced at school to observe him in class.  Once I arrived at the front desk and explained I wanted to observe, the secretary thanked me for being actively involved in my son’s education, had me get a visitor's badge, and sent me to his classroom.  In a school where I previously worked, a teacher was constantly having difficulty with a student, and the student had also been suspended, but when the parent arrived at the school unannounced to observe him, she was turned away.   She was told she had to have a background check completed first and then would have to schedule an appointment in advance.   The explanation given to the teacher was, “We don’t know how these parents are going to act.”  Can we always know how anyone is going to act when they walk into any other community establishment?
 
Some schools have reduced parent engagement.  I worked at a school that the school district was considering restarting and of course there was a community meeting about it to get parent input.  When were families notified?  They were told the same day the meeting was scheduled to take place.  
 
Some school officials put the blame on parents by claiming they don’t want to be involved.  I can look at my own family’s experience and know that being involved doesn’t mean that you won’t feel pushed away and excluded by the school.  Some years ago my father told me, “When the school needed money for another fundraiser they found our phone number, when they needed your mom to volunteer for classroom parties and bake cupcakes, they found our phone number, but when your sister was cutting up at school, they didn’t find our phone number until they wanted to give her harsh consequences.  We were at the school a lot, and they couldn’t even bother to keep us in the loop until they wanted to crack the hammer down.  We couldn’t help because we didn’t know.”  
 
In conversations with many parents in the community, I know these incidents are becoming way too common. Parents have told me they have called the school or repeatedly emailed to speak to their child’s teacher or another staff member and never received a return phone call or when they do finally get contacted by the school, it’s mid-year and the parents get to hear about every incident that has taken place since the beginning of the school year.
 
Parents should be our partners in helping their children have a successful school experience.  We have to genuinely want their involvement.  Some parents last experience with school was when they attended, and it was not a good experience.  Schools should help change the narrative.  Parents pay taxes which help schools stay open, but those schools could be a place where they don’t feel welcome or heard.  
 
When families switch schools and use their power of choice, schools have to take a long look in the mirror and determine whether the family really had a choice to stay.  Maybe the school just strapped roller skates on their feet and pushed them out the door.

 

State Officials Investigating ISTEP Calculator Mix-Up

By Andrew Pillow

Several hundred students may have inadvertently broke the testing rules during the latest round of ISTEP testing.

According to WFYI students at 20 Indiana schools may have mistakenly been given permission to use calculators on the ISTEP in sections that don’t permit calculator use. Certain sections of the ISTEP do allow usage of calculators, and certain sections don’t.

Because of the mix-up around 700 students from the Rochester School Corp have had their test scores thrown out. Pearson, the state’s testing company, mistakenly told the schools that they were allowed to use a calculator on the wrong sections.

Pearson says it regrets the mix-up.

Most students will not have to retake the test but the throwing out of large numbers of scores could lower a school’s performance on the state A-F system.

ISTEP will officially be replaced by the ILEARN in 2019.

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Trust can be a double edged sword sometimes

In leading a growing school-aged OST (Out-Of-School) program, serving over 120 students this summer, our families have invested in us based largely on established trust, years in the making for many. 

That trust enables my program staff and me not only to assist our parents to navigate their school choices but to speak freely, safely and as a family when uncomfortable student issues arise. It enables our ability to access student data, provide immediate interventions where necessary and ultimately tailor programmatic aspects to fit individual needs. 

Without that trust, our ability to help ensure student gains is severely hampered, especially if we are limited to our parental dialogue. And if as advocates we are unafraid to speak truth to power, we must trust in our parents’ ability to examine the truths that too often, can contribute to the larger problem due to perceived apathy, lack of awareness or, in this case, just how they communicate with their kids. 

Take our first week of summer camp as an example. In the administration of disciplinary action for student behavior, one of our parents chose to berate their child in a manner, verbally, I would only call enlightening. Enlightening in that the demonstration informed much regarding how this child comports himself with adults and other children. In all honesty, I would have been less uncomfortable had the parent instead employed the “spare the rod” approach….elsewhere. 

While this display is an outlier; each such instance is one too many. It is not the whole measure of the parents care for their children, this parent, in fact, is one that carefully and thoughtfully chose a district magnet school based on her children’s strengths, and following an assessment of the school’s overall performance. Further, as a result of years of relationship, we recognize external factors beyond their parent's control have very recently contributed negatively to a tenuous family stability dynamic. 

I trust the parents’ comfort toward our relationship is why they allowed for an exchange that as a parent myself wreaked as vile, inappropriate and mentally abusive, without malicious intent but the wrong redirect. 

But in hindsight, the failure to communicate effectively was not the parent’s alone. In this case, the failure was shared in that trust did not compel us their community partner to advocate on behalf of a child at their most vulnerable.

If fear is truly not an option where the work of saving our students is applied, then any and all that threaten our children’s prospects are fair game. 

I can only trust our parents recognize this condition of our relationships together as we go forward with a common purpose. 

Dems to DeVos: Indiana Christian school can accept vouchers but deny LGBT admission?

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Betsy DeVos) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Betsy DeVos) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andrew Pillow

Can a school that uses public money discriminate based on sexuality or gender identity?

That is the question that senate democrats are demanding an answer to.

Every state allots a certain amount of money per student. Usually a few thousand dollars. Traditionally this money is reserved for public schools, leaving students that want to go to private institutions to pay their own way. Vouchers however, allow students to take their allotted money from the state, and use it at private schools as well.

While this is seen as controversial, the voucher system does have some bi-partisan support. However, democrats have cried foul at religious schools that take public money and deny enrollment to LGBT students.

Enter the Lighthouse Christian Academy. A small K-12 Christian school in Bloomington Indiana has caught the eye of democrats because while around half the school's population uses public vouchers, and received around $665,000 in public funds this year, the school maintains the right to deny enrollment to LGBT students.

Lighthouse Christian Academy has a publicly view-able admission’s brochure and it very clearly states that the school reserves the right to deny entry to prospective students based on sexual oreintation or gender identity:

“The Bible prohibits specific behaviors and limits marriage to a covenant relationship between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:21-25; Ephesians 5:22-33). LCA will instruct students in these teachings. Behaviors prohibited in the Bible include, but are not limited to:
  • Heterosexual activity outside of one man-one-woman marriage. For example, premarital sex, cohabitation, or adultery (John 8:1-11; I Corinthians 6:9-20; Hebrews 13:4);
  • Homosexual or bisexual activity or any form of sexual immorality (Romans 1:21-27; I Corinthians 6:9-20);
  • Practicing alternate gender identity or any other identity or behavior that violates God’s ordained distinctions between the two sexes, male and female (Genesis 1:26-27; Deuteronomy 22:5);”

Officials from the school claimed that they have never actually invoked this clause. However, that hasn’t stopped senate democrats from using the school as an example of lack of private school accountability in regards to civil rights.

Betsy DeVos who is already embroiled in another civil rights controversy, says that while discrimination is wrong, it is the job of the state to decide how to handle it, not the department of education.

The Trump administration has pledged more support for school choice initiatives so it is likely that this will become an issue of greater focus for both school choice opposition, and LGBT advocates within the school choice movement itself.

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Celebrating Juneteenth: 5 African American Heroes we should Celebrate Today

 
Today we celebrate Juneteenth. Juneteenth is the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery. Juneteenth gets its name from combining June and Nineteenth, or June 19. It was June 19, 1865, when slavery ended in Galveston Texas. It was General Order Number 3 from General Gordon Granger that said, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
 
The Juneteenth celebration holiday holds just as much importance in American history as that of Fourth of July,  President's Day, and Memorial Day. Unlike those holidays it is not a federal holiday where people are off work, but in many cities across the country, the day is celebrated. Because Juneteenth is not a day we get off work, there are many Americans especially African Americans who do not know the story behind Juneteenth. What makes Juneteenth so remarkable the fact that blacks in Texas had to wait to be told that slavery had ended and they were no longer enslaved. Juneteenth should also celebrate the nearly 200,000 blacks who served in the Union army during the Civil War. Not just those who fought to help end slavery, but others who risked their lives in another capacity for the cause. In many schools across the country, Juneteenth is usually not covered in the history books or even taught during Black History Month. Now over 150 years later many of the heroes of that time are forgotten. The only names celebrated during that era are Harriett Tubman and Frederick Douglass. 
 
As we celebrate Juneteenth today allow me to highlight five other Blacks whose contribution to the end of the slavery should not be forgotten and should also be celebrated on Juneteenth:


Alexander Augusta was one of the first African-American physicians to sign up for the Union Army in 1861. At one point he was the highest ranking African-American serving when he rose to the rank of major. He was later transferred to Washington DC after two Union assistant surgeons complained about reporting to an African American. Even after the war ended, he continued to serve as a doctor and fought for the rights of blacks. 
 
Garland White was a slave who escaped and moved to Canada. When the Civil War broke out, he moved back to the US and enlisted. While serving as a chaplain, he helped raise the enlistment of black units in many states including Indiana. 
 
Aaron Anderson joined the Navy at age 53 in 1863. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery when his boat was attacked by 400 Confederate soldiers. After taking heavy fire, Anderson along with a few others were able to maneuver the boat to safety despite the heavy fire they took. Even with the heavy fire he took and the damage to the boat, only one person was injured during the fight. 
 
Robert Small was a slave on the Confederate blockade runner. Small would later impersonate the ship’s captain. He then would take over the ship and would lead the rest of the slaves on the ship and their families to freedom. He later joined the Union Navy where he served as a pilot and captain. 
 
 John Lawson enlisted in the Union Navy in Dec. 1863. During the battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, his ship the USS Hartford was damaged badly. Lawson was the only one of the ammunition crew members to survive. He was injured badly during the battle, but despite his injury, he continued to supply the gunners with ammunition to fight the Confederates. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and heroism. 
 
These are just 5 Blacks who we should celebrate. On this Juneteenth Holiday, I encourage everyone to learn more about other blacks who were heroes during the Civil War and check out a local Juneteenth event in your city. 

Comment

David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Happy Father’s Day: How a Father Impacts a Black Boy’s Education

Many would argue that a great school, quality teachers, and a well-rounded curriculum are the most important factors to educating a black boy. They wouldn't be wrong in arguing these points. All of which are important; however, one factor that seems always to be neglected from the argument is the role and the importance a father plays in the education of that black boy. 
 
Many black boys grow up in a neighborhood and household where the father is not present. They grow up never seeing a father supporting them especially when it comes to school. Their father isn’t there to take them to school on the first day, they are not there to attend the parent-teacher conference, they are not there to come to their talent show, and they are not there to see them received their certificate for honor roll. Even worse the father is not there the day they accomplish a significant milestone like graduating high school and college. 
 
Numerous studies suggest that a black boy who grows up in a household where the father is not present have the highest chances of being incarcerated at some point in their life. They also have the highest chances of having some behavioral issues in school and are more likely to be suspended. It is the Father’s role especially in a black boy's life to provide guidance, structure, and the expectations. When those pieces are missing the boys seeks other avenues and very rarely does education become a priority. 
 
Nationwide there are efforts to combat the issue of fatherless boys. Former President Barack Obama launched an initiative in 2014 entitled My Brother's Keeper. The purpose was to create and expand opportunities for black boys with one of the focuses being on education. Across the country, there are many communities that are fortunate enough to have schools that help address the needs of fatherless black boys in education. In Ohio, there is Ginn Academy. In Chicago, they have the national recognized Urban Prep Academies In New York, there is Eagle Academy, and in Indianapolis, there is Tindley Preparatory Academy. These are all steps in the right directions, but things would be so much easier if there were fathers present to support the schools and their sons. 
 
In his 2007 book Raising Black Boys author, Jawanza Kunjufu stated many black boys are suffering what is called “post-traumatic missing daddy disorder.” He also talked about that it is important that boys have a mentor, but there is no one a black boy wants more than to have his father in his life. 
 
As we celebrate Father's Day today. We cannot underestimate the importance of the impact a father has on a black boy’s education. We salute the Fathers who are present in the lives of their black boys. We encourage those that are not in their son’s life that it is not too late to step up and get in their child’s lives. More importantly, we must focus on raising our black boys up that we can reverse the statistics of black boys growing up fatherless that we raise our black boys to be men that will be in the lives of their black boys. 

Comment

David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Weekend Links (6/17/17)

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Betsy DeVos Tells Charter Schools Not to Become “The Man”

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Betsy DeVos) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Betsy DeVos) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andrew Pillow

It’s a well-known fact that Betsy DeVos is a fan of school choice and charter schools. However, DeVos took some time to lecture the charter school community the other day. The Secretary of Education warned the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools audience against becoming the very thing they hate.

DeVos told the crowd, "Charters' success should be celebrated, but it's equally important not to [quote] "become the man." I thought it was a tough but fair criticism when a friend recently wrote in an article that many who call themselves "reformers" have instead become just another breed of bureaucrats—a new education establishment.”

“The man” of course being the longstanding colloquialism for “big government”.

"We don't need 500-page charter school applications. That's not progress. That's fundamentally at odds with why parents demanded charters in the first place. Innovation, iteration and improvement must be a constant in our work." Said DeVos.

The anecdote has been perceived to be a thinly veiled rebuttal to DeVos’s critics within the charter school sector.

The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools is the nation's largest charter school organization. Their three day conference included advocates that support the Trump administration's plan for school choice, and those who do not. 

DeVos has fallen under criticism for supporting policies that critics say lead to less accountability. People also criticized DeVos for not addressing the Trump administration's budget request, which would cut around $9 billion in education funding. 

Read DeVos's full remarks from the speech here. (ed.gov)

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Mindfulness & Wrap Around Services Support Student Success in Schools

Rondell and his mother at a spring session of K-2 STEM Challenge Club.

Rondell and his mother at a spring session of K-2 STEM Challenge Club.

It was Saturday, May 14, 2016, and it was the first time I met Rondell Sarver who was five years old at the time.  He was standing next to his brother Noah Sarver who was lying in a casket.  Noah passed away on Sunday, May 1, 2016, at ten years old from an accidental gun shooting.  I did not know it at the time, but he would become my little buddy.
 
A few months later, it was August, and Rondell began kindergarten at Wendell Phillips Elementary School #63, the school his brother Noah previously attended.  It was apparent right away that Rondell was a bright boy, but he struggled to adapt to the school setting.  
 
One of my school responsibilities was breakfast duty.  Each morning, I greeted students as they picked up their breakfast from the cafeteria.  Early on in the school year, Rondell struck up a conversation with me in the breakfast line which led to us talking almost every day.  Some mornings when he walked into the cafeteria, he would be in tears and didn’t want to speak, other mornings he would be angry and pace, and some mornings, he just wanted a hug.  Rondell loved learning and enjoyed coming to school each day, but he struggled at times processing his emotions.  
 
Our school created a new position, Culture and Climate Specialist, the previous school year. Our specialist, Kayleigh, was charged with building a positive culture for our school by helping and coaching students to make different choices.  She also supports teachers in changing their mindsets around discipline and incorporating mindfulness inside of the classroom.  “My first task was connecting Rondell and his mother with counseling through Midtown so they could receive grief support.”  
 
Many times in education, I have seen families get connected to support, but then it falls through the cracks.  With a Midtown office in our school building, this allowed for sessions to take place during the school day at the optimal time for the student.  Having a mental health office inside of a school also helps decrease the stigma of mental health services.  The stigma of mental health services especially in minority communities keeps families from wanting to receive necessary treatment.
 
One day, I was walking down the hall on my way to observe reading instruction.  I came across Rondell walking alongside an adult.  “Mrs. Barnes, I want you to meet someone important.  This is my therapist.  She’s pretty cool.  She helps me, and I get to play games with her.”  He did not have any shame introducing her to me, and the way services are integrated into our school, this seems to be the case for other students.
 
In addition to being a literacy coach at my school, I also served as the high ability building facilitator and brought a K-2 STEM Challenge Club to our school through The STEM Connection.  Rondell attended club during both our fall and spring sessions.  I noticed how focused he would become during tasks and the level of critical thinking questions he would ask.  After discussing my observations with his teacher Ms. Wood, we recommended him for high ability testing.  Testing showed he qualified for high ability for English/language arts.  This critical piece of information allowed his teacher to serve his academic needs better while our Culture and Climate Specialist served his social and emotional needs.
 
“After connecting Rondell’s family with services, I implemented a plan for him.  Every morning he checks-in with me.  He would receive a schedule of his day with smiley faces and frowns next to each task.  His goal was to earn at least eight in the morning.  If he earned eight,  he would enjoy a fun activity at noon with me. We would play some pragmatic skills games.  If I could see he just needed a little down time, we would color, play tic-tac-toe, or just listen to music and draw.  At the end of his break, we would do some breathing and stretching.  I would remind him of his expectations and goal to receive eight or more smiley faces.  If he earned those in the afternoon, he was able to dismiss with one of his favorite teachers.  He would turn his paper into me the following morning to earn a sticker on his goal chart.  We chunked his goal chart at the beginning in really small increments.  

By the end of the year, he was completing his goal charts in two-week chunks.  After filling out our chart from the day before, we would go into our breathing and stretching routine.  We would role play and go through scenarios for the day that might give Rondell challenges.  He learned several different coping skills throughout the year.” Kayleigh Fosnow - Culture and Climate Specialist
 
It was evident as the year progressed that Rondell was able to recall the coping skills he learned and apply them to various situations.  This allowed him to spend most of his school day inside of his classroom.  His mom April Sarver shared, “I am grateful to school 63 especially Mrs. Fosnow.  Rondell calls her his school mom.”
 
Even the brightest students, when they face trauma need proper supports in place.  The old adage, “It takes a village” is the attitude every school should have.  Each person, a child, comes into contact with should add value to the student’s life and help him or her work towards success.  I recently attended Indianapolis Public Schools Wellness Luncheon, and Kristina Hulvershorn from the Peace Learning Center said, “The wellness of students is the business of everyone.”  We have to reach the whole child, so we are sending adults into society who can cope with life challenges in a productive manner.