Friday, January 28, 2011

Could segregated homerooms help black students?

Only about a third of McCaskey's African-Americans scored proficient or advanced in reading on last year's Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), compared with 60 percent of white students and 42 percent of all students.

Pennsylvania's McCaskey East High School has come up with a controversial plan to help the school's black students: to segregate them.

The idea originated with Angela Tilghman, a McCaskey East instructional coach who was alarmed at the poor academic performance of the school's black students. Tilghman suggested that the school separate black students and pair them with black homeroom teachers of the same gender. She offered to work with a group of black female students.

WGAL News reports the school started the practice in December, dividing its junior class into their homerooms by race and gender.

The policy applies only to homeroom, which meets each day for six minutes and once a week for 20 minutes, and was intended to help close the school's racial achievement gap.

The plan was proposed to help black students, and bring their test scores up to those of their white peers, but it's sparked a debate about the pros and cons of separating students.

Responding to cries of racism, school employees have defended the policy using research which shows that having mentors of the same race and gender can help inspire young people to have better self-esteem and perform better in school.

Homeroom mentors will be keeping close tabs on their students' grades and test scores to track how the program affects them.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

WCBU reports security camera footage CONFIRMS STUDENT'S ACCOUNT of Wenger altercation

As a parent of a student in a District 150 school, I hope they are looking at measures to institute that will protect ALL students from irate family members and spouses coming on to school property.

I understand wanting your family member to be paid well and respected for the hard work they put in. There are some people down at my husband's office I have a few choice words for and maybe even a couple I would like to get my hands on, but that would be considered highly unprofessional.

Wenger charged with battery
WCBU Classical Music Host Lee Wenger was arrested on a battery charge Tuesday night at Peoria High School. Wenger 57, is charged with allegedly shoving and threatening a female student. The Peoria Police Report says he pushed the student into a row of lockers and began to scream at her for disrespecting his wife. The student says Wenger then raised his fist to her face and she thought he was going to hit her. The police report says school security camera video footage confirms the student’s account of the altercation. The incident happened during play practice for Peoria High’s dinner theatre production of “The Mikado.” Wenger’s wife directs the annual production. The shows that were scheduled for last night and tonight have been canceled. A statement from District 150 says the production was cancelled for circumstances beyond its control. Pre-paid ticket holders will receive a full refund. Wenger was released at the scene on a notice to appear. Source

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hope for parents whose children are tracked into special education

If this case sets a precedent for similar cases around the country, maybe it will highlight the problem of black students that are placed in special education and remedial courses without merit - sometimes students that are significantly ahead of their peers but are misunderstood for cultural differences.

Landmark Trial Could Set Precedent for Black Students Tracked to Special Education

Black parents are often skeptical when their children are placed on a special education track.

Sometimes students legitimately need extra attention, but other times students have been misplaced, often just mischievous and acting out because they are not being challenged academically.

Eight parents in Lower Merion County in suburban Philadelphia have decided to fight on behalf of their children and other African American children they felt were improperly classified as special education or placed in "low-expectation" courses. They filed a class-action lawsuit against their school district three years ago and the trial will begin November 1, 2011.

It is a major achievement because prior to setting a trial date, a judge ruled that each case should be handled individually. But Jennifer R. Clarke, executive director of the Public Interest Law Center, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, had bigger objectives:

"We want to establish a more objective method of identifying children for special education and also a different way in which children are being tracked into different courses..particularly so early on and particularly in math but also in other courses. We want parents to understand more about the process. And the changes we seek also have to do with how teachers and administrators treat African American kids. We know that if they have high expectations, the students will live up to them, and if they have low expectations, the students will live down to them."

The district defended itself saying that no students have been placed in special education that were not found eligible to receive services and whose parents that did not approve in writing that the services be provided. They also argue they have adopted measures to address the achievement gap, including a Minority Achievement Program that has yielded significant gains in achievement.

But parents say while they are pleased with some of the achievements, they have only provided a band-aid solution to the problem.

If this case sets a precedent for similar cases around the country, maybe it will highlight the problem of black students that are placed in special education and remedial courses without merit - sometimes students that are significantly ahead of their peers but are misunderstood for cultural differences. Source

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Activists need your help to stay active

It was interesting watching the Block the Bonds group mount their campaign against building the museum Block. From what I was reading on the Peoria Chronicle, it looked like they really stood a chance of making a difference. However, when it came time for a vote, despite all of the cries for change and the words of support, folks went with the status quo. At the end of the day, the Block the Bonds actitivists were left crying for help.

Many Peoria bloggers and commenters could be considered activists. They are obviously passionate about the city in which they live, otherwise they wouldn't care enough to put together blog posts (or comments). While some blogger activists are being challenged to contribute more, others are actually putting their names on ballots in local elections and seeking board positions in the hopes of helping to make a difference in their community.

Laura Pettele is one blogger activist whose election to the school board was buoyed by the people who read her blog. Here's to hoping that other local activist bloggers and commenters can receive the same level of support in upcoming elections.

Can We Do a Better Job Taking Care of Our Activists?
Can someone be helped if they don’t meet you half way? I had a very intriguing conversation with a close friend the other day and she said that she supported President Obama. I asked, “How did you support him?” She stated, “I supported him by my approval of his campaign.” This really piqued my curiosity to dig further. After a few minutes of badgering her, I learned that she actually believed she supported the president just because she said she supported him.

The more alarming part of this revelation is there are millions of people in our community who feel the very same way. They feel that they support someone simply because they say they do. My friend never held campaign signs, voted, contributed to President Obama’s campaign, or participated in a phone bank; yet she confidently believed she supported him. How can we really believe we support someone (or something) if we never translate that endorsement into an action?

We have community activists that commit their efforts, finances, risk their freedom and reputation, and sometimes willing to lay down their lives to help others. But if we do not convert our moral support into tangible actions, we are as opposing to them as those who openly contest their ideology. When the possibility of failure emerges and a plea for actionable support is needed, the volume of the vocals reduces to a whisper.

Some of us continually pay for what we want but beg for what we need! What we need is self-efficacy, equality, and invasive education that roots out the cosmetic coverings of knowledge we have carried for generations. Activism is tough work. It frequently means working for people who don’t understand the real help they need. But as we witness activism, whether on large or small levels, we must give true support of progressive and effective movements or we can expect that at the end of the day, the activist will be the one crying for help. Source

Teaching the intricacies of Black History

image from "From Slave Ship to Freedom Road"

Back in November 2010, I read an article about a father who sued the school district over a fifth grade teacher's reading about slavery. The teacher read excerpts from a book by Julius Lester, entitled "From Slave Ship to Freedom Road" The book contained racial epithets and racist characterizations.

How do you think that father would react if his fifth grade student came home and told him this:
"Today we learned about slave ships. The teacher made all of the boys lay on the floor to demonstrate how the slaves were packed into the ships."

What are your thoughts on such a demonstration? Would you be concerned if your child was one of the students taking part in the demonstration?