Educators and Students March for Black Minds Matter

Something really amazing and positive happened last week… educators and Black students organizing around advocating for educational equity! Here’s what Ed Trust–West had to say:

Nearly 1000 Students Rally in Sacramento

Last week, the California Alliance of African American Educators (CAAAE) , the Umoja Community of Scholars, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), and the California Student Aid Commission, along with The Education Trust – West organized nearly 1000 students from high schools and colleges throughout California to participate in the Black Minds Matter Day of Student Advocacy. The message was clear: We are all accountable for the success of Black students. Check out the gallery of photos from the Student Day of Advocacy

Starting from CAAAE’s vision to advocate with, and not just on behalf of, Black students, this year’s event called for closing opportunity and achievement gaps. Students from over 30 different high schools and colleges rallied in front of the California Department of Education and the State Capitol to urge policy makers to:

  • Ensure Equity and Accountability for Black Student Success
  • Provide all students, including African American students, more rigorous college and career preparatory courses and instruction
  • Dismantle the School-to-Prison-Pipeline
  • Support Transition to and Reduce Remediation in Colleges and Universities

The rally included speeches from Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Assemblymembers Jim Cooper and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Karen Monroe and students from across California. Ed Trust – West also facilitated “Data Equity Walks” where the 1000 students reviewed data about Black student achievement and engaged in a dialogue about the disparities Black students face.

Ed Trust–West is an equity-focused education think tank based in Oakland. I worked in Oakland with the Chief Academic Officer of OUSD as a liaison between district leaders and Ed Trust West on a project analyzing senior transcripts district-wide. (They looked at ALL the transcripts of EVERY student in the ENTIRE district people!) What they found was many students were being tracked OUT of opportunities in middle school and they didn’t even know it! (YES! “honors” vs. “regular” track.)

By the time they got to high school, even high performing students that hadn’t been in the “right” classes, or went to the “wrong” middle schools WEREN’T EVEN ELIGIBLE to take some of the awesome engineering or math programs offered by high schools they entered.

Worse yet, some kids who took the old CA Standards-based algebra class ended up repeating it year after year. In fact some eventually dropped out! This is all because the way teachers were expected to teach was way too broad (I am not a math teacher but I can’t tell you how many times I heard this!) and wasn’t focused on REALLY understanding math in a conceptual, problem-solving, integrated way.) Here’s a great read from EdWeek on why the NEW math is actually HARDER and more complex than the previous ways we taught algebra.

That year I worked in Oakland, I learned many experts focused on helping first-generation college bound students had identified algebra as a “gatekeeper” to college. (You can Google this, as it’s well documented.) It became clear to me then that there were some VERY REAL structural barriers to students getting access to college and career opportunities.

I know it’s hard to see barriers sometimes when you don’t have them. For example, I never notice when there isn’t a wheelchair ramp because I don’t NEED it. Or, when once I got married, I really started noticing how many privileges my husband and I had as a straight couple. Experiences like these really remind us how different our experiences can be.

There are a lot of valid questions parents have about the new course sequence and how the district will REALLY support differentiation in our schools. Nonetheless, I’ve seen and heard a lot of disparaging comments lately about Black kids and Black families lately though, some from folks handing out CARE/SFUSD_parentwatch flyers (see comments from some parents on this post questioning merit-based enrollment) and some on parent email groups (PPS-SF included!). In addition, I’ve heard several very vocal Lowell community members for example saying Black parents don’t care about education… (One parent even said this to a grandparent at the last SFUSD Board of Education meeting while her grandson was present!)

In fact, over the past year I’ve heard and seen comments like this!:

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As a Black parent and educator it has really been disheartening, especially in these times when it often feels like #BlackLives DON’T Matter.

That’s why I really value being a member of the African American Parent Advisory Council (AAPAC) because even though parents there ALSO worry that their kids aren’t challenged, are concerned about discipline, and sometimes feel frustrated with teacher quality (JUST LIKE middle-class parents!)… They OVERWHELMING understand the barriers Black (and Latino) kids have had to face in our previous two-track public education system.

Seeing this story reminds me how important it is to work together with educators, students and families of all races to make sure that in our pursuit of excellence for ALL kids #BlackMindsMatter in the equation. (Did someone say #ALLMindsMatter at the last BOE ?!?)

I know a lot of SFUSD parents are worried because our district is doing things differently than some other districts. I think that’s a GOOD thing! And so do others. See how SFUSD is being recognized for “Changing the Equation” and challenging the “opportunity gap” in this publication by Ed Trust West

Want to learn more?:

How does this resonate with you? How are you helping Black (and Latino) families organize and advocate for educational equity in your child’s school/district?

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