Separate is not equal, but sometimes neither is inclusion.



by Reginald Barbour

There was a celebration earlier this month that we didn’t hear a lot of talk about in the news; however, those of us in the education community should have remembered and could have done a better job of publicly acknowledging the 63rd anniversary of the Brown v. the Board of Education decision. On May 17, 1954, the US Supreme Court issued the momentous decision that has forever changed our education landscape.

Prior to the decision black and white students were taught in separate schools with separate teachers and separate experiences. Those schools (and other public areas) were marked “For Whites Only” or “For Blacks Only”. In those days, the schools where the white students were taught were often bright, cheerful, spacious, with new and/or usable textbooks, teachers who were treated well and given the necessary resources they needed to teach. There were school leaders who cared about the future of their students.

For Black students, their schools were often dark and dismal, run-down, small, and typically did not have any textbooks much less new ones. Their teachers didn’t have much; however, they deeply cared about the success of their students because they knew and understood that they were the catalysts for the sustainable future of their race and communities. 

Today, Black and white students can attend the same schools; however, just like separate is not equal, sometimes neither is inclusion.

There are students of many races sitting next to each other in classrooms everyday across this country, seemingly learning the same lessons on similar paces. However, as countless studies have shown, Black and brown students are disproportionately represented in just about every metric you can find in education. Expulsions, suspensions, and low student achievement, we’re at the top of the list. Advance Placement courses, high ACT scores, and graduation, we’re almost always at the bottom. 

Why is that?

There is a current debate going on how poverty affects educational outcomes and while I agree that is a critical factor in student achievement or lack thereof, I know there are other factors to consider. The “belief gap” immediately comes to mind. That’s where white teachers or non-Black teachers have an inherent reaction and belief that Black children in particular cannot learn. And therefore, they teach them with low expectations and engagement. 

Whereas, Black teachers, according to studies, have a tendency to hold Black students to higher personal accountability measures in order to ensure they do well. “Staying two steps ahead” is what we used to call it. I can’t believe we’re still talking about this in 2017.

I recently mentioned to a friend that I thought it was completely ludicrous that there are people are don’t like me simply because I’m Black. That’s just so dumb to me. You don’t like me because of something I can’t control. Not because I’ve been mean to you or I’ve done something to hurt you. Hell, I don’t even KNOW you. But because of the color of my skin you hate me? That is so asinine that it baffles me to even believe that it’s true.

In a country where being able to recognize and celebrate its diversity has become a struggle, believing that inclusion has worked in favor of marginalized communities has been a tough pill to swallow.

Reggie Barbour lives in Washington, DC and is a husband and father of two sons.

Teachers at D.C. charter school launch campaign to unionize

 American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten

According to the Washington Post's Alejandro Matos, Teachers at a D.C. charter school are pushing to unionize, citing a desire to provide more resources to students and a need to stabilize the teaching force.

About 80 percent of the 35 teachers, librarians and social workers at Cesar Chavez Public Charter School at Chavez Prep Middle School in Northwest signed a petition to ask the school’s administration to recognize their union, the D.C. Alliance for Charter School Teachers and Staff at Chavez Prep.

If recognized, the middle school would have the first teachers union at a D.C. charter school, after an effort to unionize at a different charter school failed earlier this year.

Mateo Samper, an eighth-grade English and language-arts teacher, said the effort to unionize is not “an indictment” of the school’s staff.

“We have banded together in order to serve our students better,” Samper said in a statement. “This union is not about my colleagues, the staff or the administrator. It’s bigger than the sum of its parts.”

Most charter schools do not have a union, because advocates say that allows them to experiment with teacher pay and work schedules, such as having a longer school year. But some charters are unionizing. The American Federation of Teachers said it represents 231 charter schools in 15 states. Read more here.

One D.C. school lost more than a quarter of its teaching staff this year.

 Dwight Harris, 16, an 11th-grader at Ballou High School, pictured outside the D.C. school. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Dwight Harris, 16, an 11th-grader at Ballou High School, pictured outside the D.C. school. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

According to Alejandra Matos of the Washington Post, nearly 200 teachers have quit their jobs in D.C. Public Schools since the school year began, forcing principals to scramble to cover their classes with substitutes and depriving many students of quality instruction in critical subjects.

The vacancies hit hardest in schools that already face numerous academic challenges, according to data The Washington Post obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

At Ballou High School in Southeast Washington, more than a quarter of the faculty quit after starting work in August. Many of their classrooms now have long-term substitutes. Dwight Harris, 16, an 11th-grader, said his Algebra 2 class has been chaotic since his first teacher left in January.

“No one is teaching. It’s been like that for months now,” Harris said. “We don’t do anything, so I leave and go to my biology class or English class and go do other work.”

Most teachers wait until summer to call it quits, but in DCPS a rising number are leaving during the school year.

The mid-year resignation rate for DCPS was higher than for some other urban school systems The Post checked. In the D.C. system, 184 of about 4,000 teachers — nearly 5 percent — quit from September to mid-May. That was a 44 percent increase over the 128 teachers who left in the 2013-2014 school year.

In Denver Public Schools, which employs about 4,600 teachers, 115 teachers left in a comparable period this year. In Baltimore City Public Schools, with about 5,150 teachers, the total who quit was 145. In Seattle Public Schools, with about 4,000 teachers, 55 quit.

DCPS spokeswoman Michelle Lerner acknowledged it is a challenge to lose teachers mid-year. School officials try to fill vacancies as quickly as possible with a full-time teacher, but she said the best time to hire is in the summer.

“Having a high-quality teacher in front of every classroom is a huge priority for us,” she said.

Read more here.

Despite D.C.’s pledges, hundreds of families a year bypass city’s public middle schools


According to the Washington Post's Alejandro Matos, hundreds of D.C. parents with children in traditional elementary schools yank them out of the system before they can reach their neighborhood middle schools, preferring to hunt for other educational options.

City records show that more sixth- and seventh-graders now enroll in charter schools — privately operated but publicly funded — than in traditional public schools. D.C. Public Schools holds a numerical edge in all other grades, from kindergarten through high school.

Middle schools pose such a challenge for DCPS that when Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) ran for office in 2014, she pledged to strengthen them throughout the city, ensuring that every campus in the system offered high-powered academics, clubs and athletics.

She called it “Alice Deal for All” — a slogan referring to the city’s most sought-after traditional middle school.

Alice Deal Middle, with more than 1,470 students in the Tenleytown neighborhood of Northwest Washington, continues to have a long waiting list and is at capacity. But two years after Bowser took office, there are few signs that demand for other DCPS middle schools is rising.

“If you are not in an affluent neighborhood, where you have fabulous DCPS elementary schools that feed into Deal, you are really left with slim picking,” said Selma Patillo-Simms. Her son, Grant-Austin Simms, is an eighth-grader at District of Columbia International, a charter school. His assigned DCPS secondary school was Columbia Heights Education Campusan option Patillo-Simms said she did not want because of its performance on standardized exams. Read more here.

D.C. approves new charter schools: Most seats for middle grades

 Photo Credit: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post

Photo Credit: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post

According to Alejandra Matos of the Washington Post, the D.C. Public Charter School Board approved three new charter schools this week, including an all-boys middle school and an adult education campus.

The new schools will add hundreds of charter-school seats to the city, the majority of them for middle school students.

The charter sector enrolls about 46 percent of D.C.’s public education students, but enrollment in charters surpasses traditional public schools in most middle school grades.

The board on Monday approved the opening of Digital Pioneers Academy, a computer-science focused middle school that will be located in Ward 7 or 8. The school is slated to open in the 2018-19 school year.

“We’re excited to bring a new, innovative model to the District and play a part in making Wards 7 and 8 a model of quality education,” said Mashea Ashton, the school’s founder. Read more here.