Threat to DACA

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By Gary Hardie

"I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Immigrants, parents of DACA recipients, came here yearning for the promises America was founded upon: the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They responded to the call and beacon of hope found in the American dream. They sought to remove whatever barriers lay in the path to the future of their children and families.

Our immigration laws are unjustly unfair to immigrants who should benefit from a clear, realistic, and affordable pathway to citizenship. The current process is too expensive, complicated and out of reach for most immigrants.

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a program created with humanity in mind, knowing the children of undocumented parents had no say in why or how they were brought to this country. Their parents risked their lives to bring them here, often fleeing war, violence and extreme levels of poverty to give them a chance at a better life and future. Since being brought to America, Dreamers have honored the sacrifices of their parents by being model citizens, leaders in their communities and in their fields. They are what makes America great.

We call them Dreamers, not just because it's a clever phrase. They’re Dreamers because they work and study, humbly and with no sense of entitlement, to EARN their stake in the American dream. Some have fought and died defending the freedoms this country should afford them. They don't draw attention to themselves; they go about their days doing the best they can to defeat whatever odds are stacked against them and their families. With dreams and goals in mind, feeling the full weight of being the first generation to complete high school, attend college, buy a home, hold a job with salary and benefits, they strive to embody the dreams their parents had for them.

DACA is intentionally cruel to these Americans who make our country great, many of which I have worked with or have attended school with; we owe it to them to #defendDACA on their behalf. America is their home; America is their country. To those cruel masses of people chanting, "Send them home!" They are home! To say otherwise is inhumane and un-American as they know no other place than America as home.

If Trump feels the need to end something today, it should be his presidency, not DACA.

Increasing ESSA Plans

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The District of Columbia won approval for the accountability plan submitted under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). D.C. will  incorporate district measurements in its accountability tool.

"As more and more state plans come under the department's review, I am heartened to see how states have embraced the spirit of flexibility under ESSA to improve education for individual students."

Read more here

Emotional Intelligence: A Foundation in Recovery from Oppressive Behaviors and Improving the System of Care

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By Chioma Oruh

I continue to unpack what has happened during and since the events in Charlottesville, VA, since I have recently also experienced many personal and family-based crises that require public attention directly linked to the failed system of care. Defined as a spectrum of effective, community-based services and support, this system of care is not just for children, but also adults and the elderly with a variety of disabilities. The absence of a working system with government and provider organizations makes thinking of oppressive ideas and political posturing difficult. Having a front row seat at the racial and economic divide of affordability and accessibility of care options exposes me to not only who has access to care options, but how one is treated when interacting with government agency representatives and providers when seeking help.  There is something terribly wrong with how things work, or don’t work, for families seeking a helping hand when in crisis and I argue our biggest social problems are not neo-Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan.  

From my vantage point as a black, first-generation American and mother of children with disabilities, it is difficult to hear discussions of white supremacy or white nationalism in a vacuum. Pundits on news shows will say, those racists/neo-Nazis/white nationalists and paint the picture that racism and bigotry is a sport for lower class deplorable white men.  The left-out part of this American tragedy is the fact that for my family, and many other oppressed people and communities, the boogie man of white supremacy does not always wear a white hood or is branded openly with a swastika, but most often times is the local police, the social worker, ICE officer, the public school teacher, etc. These agents of the state and civil servants have the power to deeply impact people’s lives, and while there are historical, political and economic explanations for negative treatment, there is also an emotional basis to this oversight.

There is a socio-economic basis that lends to my empathy for these public servants and officers, regardless of how they interact with me, keeping in mind they earn a humble middle class living wage, are loaded with student loan and other personal debt, possibly are functioning in a toxic work environment of crabs in the barrel and might be battling their own traumas and health issues. In saying this, it is not to excuse unethical or discriminatory behaviors that are often experienced in these encounters, and certainly I have personal testimony, yet it is to humanize the phenomenon and to employ empathy effectively and consistently requires emotional intelligence.

To this end, training is the key. Not simply as a practice but as a principle based on a well-designed training system to orient employees and to invest in the on-going need to oil-the-machine with refresher courses and opportunities to acquire new skills. This is true for not only the development of hard skills (i.e. job specific licenses and certifications), but also for soft skills, which include a wide range of transferable knowledge that attributes of personality, behavior and speak to how one interacts with others.  When it comes to emotional development, there is a growing field of study of social emotional learning (SEL) that has piqued my interest. It provides an opportunity to develop hard and soft skills through a variety of integrated and interactive approaches. While a big part of the intrigue for me is in its application in early childhood education, the principles of SEL also apply to adults in the workplace. In truth, we spend a significant amount of our time in life simply just learning how to live yet I have discovered that life itself is just a series of on-going lessons and growth opportunities.

From Kindergarten to 12th grade (13 years), the average child in the United States spends 35% of those years in school. Additionally, many children (approximately 42%) under the age of 5 with employed mothers spend at least 35 hours a week in child care or preschool – which is 20% of time per year. This does not factor in university education, which generally functions on the principle that it take 10,000 hours (approximately 1 year) to master information and students on average spend 4 years pursuing an undergraduate degree and many more years if one pursues graduate or doctoral studies.  That’s a lot of hours of time spent from birth within structured learning spaces.  Yet while it is illegal, bullying and harassment are prominent features in the experience of many individuals in an educational campus including LGBTQ and immigrant youth as well as children and youth with disabilities. Acknowledged by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, bullying can have a profound impact on students, raise safety concerns, and eroding efforts to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to the myriad of benefits that education offers.

Institutional racism or discrimination, which speaks to the system of care, is set by those appointed or employed to decide the functions of the system. It is through these many years of schooling one learns white supremacist behaviors and other related survival of the fittest mentalities of sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, etc. So, after all these many years being exposed to under-addressed and sometimes nurtured in discriminatory processes, behaviors learned from observing, participating in or being victimized by bullying in the many years in the school yard spill into the work environment and do not simply go away at graduation.

To me, this suggests an unlearning process in the workplace is as critical to human development as it is important to equip children at a very young age with these tools to achieve emotional intelligence and achieve real and sustained cultural competencies. It takes political will - the will to not enforce white nationalist ideas – and leadership with integrity that offers incentive and invests in the emotional development of government agents and others whose work duties  impact the lives of so many vulnerable families and communities in need.

Customized Learning

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At Washington Leadership Academy in Washington, DC, individualized learning that helps propel students to success is paramount.  The charter school utilizes software to instruct students and catch any issues they may be having with subject matter.

"At Washington Leadership Academy, educators rely on software and data to track student progress and adapt teaching to enable students to master topics at their own speed."

Read more here

NAACP’s Attempt at Nuance Leaves Much to be Desired

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By Jacqueline Cooper, President, Black Alliance for Educational Options

The NAACP released its much-hyped, and dare I say, now much maligned, report on “Education Quality” last month to mixed reviews. What’s not so “mixed” is that the organization is once again taking aim at charter schools across the country. The report claims to be “speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves” and calling for “stronger charter school accountability measures.”

I thought this story was over and done with last year when the NAACP heard from parental choice groups like the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and others when we made our way to their national board meeting to pushed back against the civil rights group’s call for an ill-advised moratorium on new charter schools and charter school expansion. Supporters even spoke out in favor of greater transparency and accountability for all public schools—charter and traditional district—that serve our children.

And while the report acknowledges many of the shared concerns we have with the effectiveness of the public education system, the report still calls for, what is now, a 10-year ban on charter schools and placing existing charter schools under the control of traditional school districts. This shows an inherited bias among some in the organization that they are more interested in pursuing bad education policies instead of scaling up what’s working well for our children. It’s hard to see how our children will win with such a subjective view of education choice.  

The NAACP says it “has always advocated for quality education of African American children as the gateway to economic prosperity and to become fully contributing citizens of society.” If this were true then why aren’t they fighting for Black families to have more high-quality education options, not less? Why aren’t they fighting for Black families to have greater access to excellent teachers, curriculum, administrators, and school staff, not fewer? And why aren’t they fighting for Black families to receive the same quality education as their peers across town, and not second-rate instruction?

The NAACP didn’t even acknowledge in its report new data on college completion that showed low-income students of color from cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Newark who graduate from top charter networks, earn four-year degrees at rates up to five times higher than their counterparts in traditional public schools. Yet they want you to think charter schools are the real problem.

Well, one thing is clear: those of us on the front lines fighting for low-income and working-class Black families won’t be fooled by a one-sided report that offers limited solutions for our children.  That’s why we are urging all charter advocates to be more vigilant now than ever as the NAACP pushes model legislation to change state laws to stop new charter schools. Up until now they’ve been all talk and no action. Now is the time to fight back and double down on our own “model legislation” to bring more education options to families across the country. BAEO is ready for this fight.

So, NAACP: Black families deserve better from your organization if we’re ever going to, as you put it, “become fully contributing citizens of society.”

Jacqueline Cooper is the President of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, one of America’s preeminent nonprofit education advocacy organizations dedicated to increasing access to high-quality education options for low-income and working-class Black families. As BAEO’s president, Cooper leads a national executive leadership team in implementing the organization’s mission, strategic goals, and vision.

Cooper previously served as BAEO’s Interim President and as Chief of Staff. She was responsible for the central coordination of staff activities and ensuring organizational alignment with the strategic priorities of the board. As a key member of BAEO's executive leadership team, she supported the organization in achieving its goals and objectives through improving performance management and talent development; eliminating barriers to coordination, cooperation, and collaboration; and stewarding the organization's resources to promote efficiency and cost management.

Cooper arrived at BAEO in 2009 as Director of Strategic Initiatives. In this position, she designed and implemented a management system that clarified strategy, optimized data, achieved vertical and horizontal alignment and linked strategy to operations. Most notably, Cooper directed BAEO's Annual Symposium, the largest gathering of Black education reform supporters in the nation.

Prior to BAEO, Cooper worked for 11 years at JP Morgan Chase. In her last position as Vice President and Business Manager in Global Syndicated Finance, she managed staffing, logistical needs and the performance review process for the investment bank's largest department. Cooper also owned and operated four elite "Shining Star" Curves franchises in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Cooper earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Bryn Mawr College and a M.B.A. in finance and accounting from New York University's Stern School of Business. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Cooper resides in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.