“To teach in a manner that respects and cares
for the souls of our students is essential if we
are to provide the necessary conditions where
learning can most deeply and intimately begin.”
In 1954, the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education effectively dismantled the legacy of Jim Crow. The Justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. Unfortunately, progress is reversible. Even schools that were successfully desegregated are again racially segregated.
Today, more than half of the nation’s school-age children are in racially concentrated districts in which over 75% of students are of the same race, and districts are further segregated by income. In fact, economic segregation and racial segregation have intensified the educational disparities between the rich and the poor, and the Black and the White.
This is true nationally as well as in the Des Moines Public School district. Of the 33,402 students in the Des Moines Public School district, nearly two-thirds are students of color and more than three-fourths of these students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. Educational inequities remain one of the main barriers to equality for all.Did you Know:
- In central Iowa’s 20 school districts, 46% of students of color are proficient at reading in the 3rd grade, compared to 75% of their White peers. That’s a 29-point gap.
- Black males in grades K-5 have 3 times as many suspension days than all elementary students as a group.
- Central Iowa’s students of color have an 87% high school graduation rate compared to a 94% graduation rate by their White peers. That’s a 7-point gap.
- High school graduation rates for all students of color in central Iowa have been on a steady rise to the current 87%. That's an 8-point increase since 2010, when the graduation rate was 79%.
TODAY’S CHALLENGE: Do one or more of the following…
Watch How America’s Public Schools Keep Kids in Poverty, a TED Talk with Kandice Sumner. “We sit and we keep banging our heads against this term —'achievement gap’…I think we, as Gloria Ladson-Billings says, should flip our paradigm and our language and call it what it really is. It's not an achievement gap; it's an education debt, for all of the foregone schooling resources that were never invested in the education of the Black and Brown child over time.” (13:42)
During this time when students and teachers must adapt to distance learning, it’s especially important to prepare students to be independent learners. Find out more by listening to Apollo 13’ing it with Zaretta Hammond, an episode of Vrain Waves: Teaching Conversations with Minds Shaping Education. Zaretta Hammond, author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, explores the importance of independent learning, along with what relationship-building really means and how educators can be more effective collaborating with families. (Full episode with introduction is 49:05 or start with her interview at 6:10.)
Make a commitment to learn about what it truly means to be anti-racist AND make the commitment to engage in anti-racist behavior. Whether you’re an educator or not, find some helpful ideas in How to Be an Antiracist Educator, by Dena Simmons.
Read The Black Male Teacher Experience, by Willie Williams, Jr., a book that details the life of a Black male teacher who is not only trying to educate and make a better life for the students around him, but is also attempting to remain true to who he is.
Don't judge students. They need adults who truly want to connect and listen. Do this and be amazed by the results.
Students at Hiatt Middle School in Des Moines get up on Saturday mornings and go to school so they can have positive, constructive interaction with adults who care. Cheryl Hayes, MSW and coordinator of Let's Talk, a school-based mediation program, describes "Saturday School" like this:
"Students who otherwise would have been suspended can go to Saturday School and discover they are intelligent enough to work through issues and be without conflict. We start by finding out how the kids are feeling. That's the first thing. This way, students come to trust that they aren't being judged. We talk on their level. We talk about parents in prison, drugs, and about their options, like having a job at McDonalds and how that impacts their budget versus going to college or a trade school. They come to see the difference between their needs and wants. They see that they can make it through. They see they are just as valuable as any other kid in the city."
CONVERSATION PIECE: Art Addressing Equity
Artist:Edwin Lord Weeks
Title: Loading the Caravan – Early Morning in Persia [oil on canvas]
Date of piece: Late 1800s
Description:This scene is surely taken from a trip of 1892 when Weeks traveled by caravan from southern Russia, through Turkey, and into Persia (modern-day Iran).
"As a signature piece in our gallery, and part of the collection of the Des Moines Women’s Club, we’ve selected this piece for its imagery of the human experience and the work and struggle it takes to dream of a brighter future.”
Hoyt Sherman Place Foundation