These Lucky Little Riders Get Personalized Handmade Toys from Their School Bus Driver

This yarn lover is in love with the story about a Wisconsin school bus driver who crochets stuffed dolls for her students. Let me clarify, every student on her bus gets a personalized, handmade toy courtesy of their bus driver, Ms. Trudy Serres.

As someone who crochets and knits (not well, but my heart is in the right place), I can appreciate the time and dedication Ms. Serres commits to each project, interlacing love throughout each stitch – hundreds of stitches for each toy. Oh yeah, let’s not forget, yarn is not free!

The greatest story within the story is Ms. Serres’ commitment to her role in the lives of children. Understanding that the school day starts when students step onto her bus and that she is as integral to students’ education as anyone in the school building.

“My elementary students see me crochet and they thought they could challenge me,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “It all started with a taco, and it ended up being 34 items.”

Yarn on, girl!

Check out the full story and hear from Ms. Serres here.

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Ed Reform and Its “Polite” Segregationist Agenda Take the Stage at NAACP Convention

It’s Saturday, July 22, 2017 and the 108th Convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is in session. At the drop of the opening gavel members of the NAACP will begin the business of deliberating and voting on the issues meant to further the progress of Black people in America.

Screenshot 2017-07-22 at 7.40.32 AMThroughout the next five days nearly 80 celebrities, members of Congress, and more political, religious and community leaders will take the convention stage and speak on any number of issues that disproportionately affect the Black community. The membership will hear from the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson — just to name a few.

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Even more interesting than the star-studded plenary is the days leading up to the convention. The interwebs have seen a series of shots fired on the education battlefield. You already know the century-old organization dedicated to advancing “colored people” will – once again – take a stand in opposition to charter schools. I’ve written extensively on the moratorium to halt the proliferation of charters around the country and it never not shocks my system when I think about how anti-advancement of Black people this resolution is!

In preparation of the defense of the moratorium (because they already know it will be affirmed), the NAACP landed some surprise punches through its powerful partners. Known NAACP partner Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called charter schools and vouchers “slightly more polite cousins to segregation.” But before the ed reform community was called semi-segregationists, they were called outright racists by Black America’s best friend.

I understand the teacher’s union relentless pursuit to protect its bottom line and, quite frankly, I’m sure the loss of union dues will make you say things like that, but the R-E-V-E-R-E-N-D?

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There are a number of blogs, commentary, and news stories devoted to the NAACP’s stance on charters and I’ve certainly not been shy about my thoughts on the subject. I have no expectation that the NAACP will turnaround their stance on charter schools. That they will actually look at the data that represents millions of families that CHOOSE to be in these schools. The data that shows Black and Brown children knocking it out of the park. The data that shows these schools are providing a high quality choice in neighborhoods where there are none. How can anyone equipped with a heart and brain believe a moratorium on these schools is advancing a people? Unless…

The only thing can be is an inherent determination that the people who were formerly in slavery, regardless of anything else, shall be kept as near that stage as is possible…  – Thurgood Marshall

Check out these other voices:

Parents, Educators and Community Members Speak Out Against the NAACP’s Charter Moratorium by Michael Vaughn

A History Lesson For Randi on Black Education in America by Dirk Tillotson

BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY: WHAT IF THE PRIVILEGED ACTUALLY LIVED BY MALCOLM’S WORDS? by Sharif El-Mekki

NAACP’s Misguided Moratorium on Charter Schools Puts Children Dead Last

Since 1909, the NAACP has been at the forefront of civil rights struggles in the United States, from ending lynchings to securing Black voting rights and ending school segregation.  But its rigid stance on charters flies in the face of reality.

Take the ACT college exam for example. On what planet does it make sense for the NAACP to tell a black charter school leader like Christopher Goins, whose black students average 19.5 on the ACT, to stop serving students when the national average for ACT scores among Black students is 17? A 17 and a 19.5 are only two and a half points apart, but that’s the difference between going to a community college or 4-year university.

Goins isn’t alone. He is in good company with charter school leaders like Lagra Newman, of Nashville’s Purpose Preparatory Academy, a school of mostly black, brown and poor students where nearly every student is reading at or above grade level. Then there’s the award-winning Soulsville Charter School in Memphis led by NeShante Brown.

All over the country, dedicated educators of color are leading charter schools that cultivate the minds of children too-often locked out of success in traditional public schools. In Philadelphia, Mastery Charter Schools’ Sharif El-Mekki not only treats his students like his own children, he is teaching his own “grand-students” (students whose parents were his students, too). Plus, he’s working to bring more Black men into the teaching profession.

img_0867Let’s be clear, the inequities of public schooling persist everywhere, both in the charter sector and in traditional public schools and parents know this better than anyone. Last October, I traveled to the NAACP’s annual meeting in Cincinnati with 150 parents, mostly from The Memphis Lift parent group, to stand for children and families in opposition to the moratorium on charter schools. That event produced the NAACP’s commitment to conduct “hearings” across the United States, including a stop in Memphis, to consider the merits of the debate.  Less than a year later, emboldened by their “listening tour,” the NAACP is likely to double down on its moratorium in even bolder terms.

But the NAACP must not have listened carefully to all the testimony it collected during hearings on its charter moratorium proposal. It feels like they still don’t have a good sense of the bigger picture.

Back in April, charter supporters and opponents at the New York City hearing found surprising common ground. Basically, they concluded, when parents are looking for options, that tells us the public school system isn’t working. And we can’t pit schools against one another when all of them are striving toward the same goal: educating our next generation to help them reach their highest potential.

It’s sad that the NAACP is focusing so much energy on road-blocking the only path many black and brown students have toward a brighter future. Perhaps the most painful thing about all this is to watch the NAACP join forces with the teachers’ unions, a powerful union that puts adults before children.  Now is not the time to form unholy alliances in a desperate attempt to restore relevance.

The NAACP is famous for its role in challenging the U.S. Constitution and winning. Heck, they’re still riding on those laurels. But we’re at another critical time in the American education system where severe inequities threaten our most vulnerable communities. If education is the civil rights issue of the day and the NAACP is clearly on the side of adults, then we must ask who stands for the children?  If not the NAACP, then who?

 

Longtime Educator Offers Last Rites, Lays to Rest Tired Debate on Public School Choice

Guest Blogger Dia L. Jones joins Volume and Light to lay to rest the charter school vs. traditional public school argument – once and for all. Ashes to ashes.

Dearly Beloved,

We are all gathered here today to celebrate the life and death of a perennial verbal battle. An argument where the 1% continues to pull the strings of the 99%. Where the 1% narrate the perpetual oratorical debate that poor folks should not…will not decide whether their children deserve a first-class education. This argument is now dead and we come to pay our last respects to the old banana-in-the-tailpipe BS. 

I would like to begin by reading from the gospel according to Howard Fuller “How can it be that in a country as great as ours that we can understand that 17-year-old Black and Latino young people are doing math and reading at the same level as 13-year-old white children in this country? How can this be?” 

No More

You see, my friends, this can’t be…anymore. We won’t let this be…anymore. My brothers and sisters, we all want the same things. All parents want…the same things. We want our children to earn a great education via great schools with great teachers, teaching rigorously engaging and relevant lessons in a safe, respectful, warm environment.

We want our children to gain knowledge of themselves and the world around them. We want our children to leave learning institutions with 21st-century marketable skills to take with them to and through college and into the workforce. We all ultimately want our children to have the life that only they can dream of.

Can I get an Amen?

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So, why are we even arguing about public charter schools vs. traditional public schools, aren’t we all speaking the same language? Whether the school is traditional, charter, magnet, parochial, online, project-based, Montessori, application, neighborhood, or suburban. If a parent says, “I want my child to learn from here because I want my child to have this type of education,” then why are we fighting about it?

And this is why the Charter vs. Traditional School Argument is Dead. 

Parent choice is a choice for educational freedom. Freedom, my brothers and sisters! Freedom for parents to enroll their children into the school of their choice despite location, race, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation, income, sexual orientation, sexual choice, nationality or disability. 

So, everyone… Everyone who wants to remove the shackles of academic oppression of all children – gather ’round. Pick up a rose, a lily, because, yes, He’s the Lily of the Valley…Amen? 

Or grab a handful of dirt and throw it on this pine box where this argument now resides. May it rest in pieces. Now and forever more…Amen and 1 Love


Dia L. Jones has worked to build culture rich schools and organizations for the past 20 plus years. For the past 13 years, she has been a teacher, Dean of Students and an Assistant Principal in traditional and charter schools in Philadelphia. In 2016, she was chosen by Educators Rising to help create a national curriculum to cultivate high school students from around the country to become highly qualified teachers. She was a 2017 Ryan Fellowship Finalist. She’s an avid reader, traveler, a photographer, news hound, sports watcher, foodie specialist and awesome auntie extraordinaire—ask her multitude of nieces and nephews.

Later this year, she is launching a blog where she will shed light on school culture and climate in hopes to push educators into 21st-century discipline practices, ultimately destroying the school-to- prison pipeline. STAY TUNED!

A Nashville Charter School Shares the Love With District Teachers #RelationshipGoals

Starting in the fall Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools will add coding to its middle school curriculum. Coding is the language of the digital world we all find ourselves, especially our youth, and now middle schoolers will be experts in what it takes to make computers and phones communicate, putting them at a great advantage.

In addition to stepping outside the traditional offerings of reading and math (and variations thereof), I appreciate the effort the district is making to curb the predictable fourth-grade leap. Historically, Metro Schools suffers a huge loss of middle to upper-class families at the end of fourth grade and another enrollment drop just before high school.

While coding alone will not keep the middle class from rolling out in search of high-performing magnets and private schools, it is a step in the right direction. It is also worth noting the urgency with which the district is implementing the classes, offering coding at all middle schools as opposed to a few at a time – as it’s known to do.

But, perhaps, the most thrilling part of this story is the collaboration between the district and a charter school. You read that right. In Nashville, where we have a few issues on the subject of charters, there is collaborative work happening and our children will benefit greatly (because they get it –it’s about the babies).

RePublic Charter Schools has been teaching coding classes for three years and recently started offering classes to the public free of charge. In a politically risky, but brilliant money-saving (even peace-making) move, the district is tapping into the expertise right in its front yard. More of this, please!

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This is a perfect illustration of why charters even exist. These schools are allowed to operate on the premise of offering innovation in exchange for greater accountability. They are simply a non-traditional option to move students toward greater success. The goals of traditional public schools and charter schools are the same, only the methods differ. So working together not only makes sense it’s expected.

I’m proud of RePublic and the powers at Metro Schools with the foresight to forge this collaboration. I’d love to believe this is beginning of a beautiful relationship, but I know better. In the meantime, I’ll bask in the glow of this shining example of how it should be. #RelationshipGoals

Check out the NPR story on RePublic and Metro Schools

“Let America Be the Dream the Dreamers Dreamed” – Love, Langston

by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes

10,000+ Nashville Charter School Families Get Official Eviction Notice

This is what happens when politics outranks people.

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A resolution introduced by board member Mary Pierce enforcing the board’s role in advocating for every student (and family) failed in dramatic form this week. The breakdown of the vote on the measure to support ALL families was, unfortunately, not surprising — 4 voting yes, 3 abstaining, 1 refused to vote and 1 absent. But what shocks the system is the message it sends to the families on the other end of the failed motion. A message best explained in a Cee-Lo Green song “although there’s a pain in my chest, I still wish you the best with a F— you.”

There’s not much to add to this story besides petty commentary and that, quite frankly, does nothing for the parents now officially alienated from the school district. However, I do feel the need to amplify one tiny part of the school board’s own policy mandating the elected body to “advocate for the organization and all of the students it serves.” The failed motion means only one thing for these families, the school board has abdicated its responsibility to serve charter school children and families. Holla!

So, I urge parents to reach out to board members. Express appreciation to the members voting on your behalf and to those who didn’t vote for you respectfully remind them that you’re still part of the family. Like it or not.

“The resolution is not about whether or not our board philosophically supports charter schools — individual members have made positions clear on the board floor and on social media,” Pierce said. “Rather, this is about our service as board members as advocates for the entire district and all the students it serves.”

Please read every word of this resolution.

A resolution declaring the Board of Education’s intent to reaffirm our commitment to our Governing Policy Three: Board Job Description with a specific focus on number Eight: Advocate for the organization and all of the students it serves.

WHEREAS, Metro Nashville Public Schools currently serve students in all of the following: traditional zoned district schools for students in grades K-12, open enrollment district schools, pre-kindergarten programs, magnet schools, non-traditional academies, alternative schools, homeschool programs and public charter schools; and

WHEREAS, MNPS educates nearly 88,000 students who come from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, many with diverse learning styles*; and

WHEREAS, MNPS public charter schools, authorized by the MNPS Board of Education, serve almost 10,000 students; and

WHEREAS, the cultural and socio-economic diversity within MNPS public charter schools closely reflects that of the entire district**; and

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Nashville Davidson County Board of Public Education is committed to providing every student a high-quality education that promotes social and emotional learning and strives for increasing academic achievement; and

WHEREAS these core beliefs are reiterated in the commitment in Governing Policy Three that this Board will “advocate for the organization and all of the students it serves;” and

WHEREAS, the Board of Education has been addressed on numerous occasions by parents and others with children enrolled in one of our 28 MNPS Board approved charter schools by way of letters and public comments that they do not feel supported by the totality of the board; and

WHEREAS, these same parents have asked that the Board of Education treat them and their schools with the same courtesy and respect extended to parents and educators in zoned schools, magnet schools, and all other types of schools authorized by the Board of Education; and

WHEREAS, this board has consistently adopted standards that promote collaboration, including the first Annenberg Standard, which states that “Traditional district and charter schools should work together to ensure a coordinated approach that serves all children”; and

WHEREAS, we recognize that in every type of school our organization offers or authorizes, there will be concerns that should be addressed by the Director of Schools and district staff, and RS-2017-3

WHEREAS, at times, advocacy for students and families with concerns might appear to conflict with advocacy for MNPS, it is possible to do so without disparaging the schools, the employees or MNPS, and

WHEREAS, all of our students, and their families, regardless of the schools they attend, deserve to be treated in a respectful, inclusive manner;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Metro Nashville Board of Public Education:

  1. Recognizes that our MNPS public charter schools are part of the organization of MNPS and serve the same diverse populations as our other MNPS schools; and
  2. Commits to ensuring its schools remain safe and welcoming places for all students and their families regardless of the type of school they attend; and
  3. Commits to treating students, parents, staff and leaders of MNPS public charter schools with the same respect and civility extended to those in district run schools; and
  4. Commits to handling concerns, issues and sensitive information reported by families or staff from a district charter school in the same discreet, consistent and professional manner as those brought by families or staff from a district-run school; and
  5. Commits to high standards of personal accountability when giving public statements (social media posts, opinion editorials, statements on the board floor, etc.) to ensure the accuracy of information to the best of one’s ability; and
  6. Commits to leading as a productive, student-centered board focused on making every MNPS school excellent.

Adopted this 13th day of June 2017.

(NOT ADOPTED)