Parent and Community Members Speak up about Charters
For several months now, parents, community members, and labor leaders in San Francisco have been pushing back on a billionaire-backed “astroturfing” organization that has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Walton Family Foundation (think Walmart) and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (think Schwab, Goldman Sachs, etc.) to “organize” and “innovate” public education in the Bay. Under the guise of a grass-roots Black/Brown family empowerment organization, Innovate Public Schools is engaged in a self-proclaimed “air and ground war” to create thousands of new charter seats in San Francisco Unified School District. Using its million-dollar budget, and a staff of PR, communications, and campaign experts, they have been convening fake parent education events, handing out misleading reports and posting negative Face Book ads about schools serving Black and Brown students.
This spring, KIPP Elementary, a new charter pushed by Innovate Public Schools, defied community organizations, labor leaders and democratically elected Board of Education officials denial of their new charter and went to the state Board of Education for approval for their school. Much of the rhetoric given as a reason for approval of their new school, was that Bayview schools “are failing” and parents are demanding a choice.
These claims could not be further from the truth.
Bayview Families Speak Truth to Power…
San Francisco Families Union, Coleman Advocates, and other community-based organizations are listening to the true voices of Bayview families and community members. We believe their voices, not voices of Silicon-Valley outsiders need to be heard. Below are three voices from that community.
Charters displace local communities
James Mabrie Jr. is a longtime resident of San Francisco who has witnessed the gentrification and displacement of his community. As James says, Ben Franklin used to be an SFUSD school serving primarily African-American students in the Western Addition. The school has long been shut down. In its place, a charter school remains. Ben Franklin school was located in the Western Addition neighborhood, much of which has been rebranded as Hayes Valley. What many folks don’t realize is charters are mechanisms of gentrification and displacement. What has happened to the Western Addition is now happening in the Bayview. Now Malcolm X is next, as KIPP plans for forcefully co-locate this fall, pushing out much needed programs and services for students.
Parents say they are concerned charters will harm to their children
Parent Nicole Morris, spoke about the important work Malcolm X Academy (MXA) is doing for her kids. She said the school really makes an effort in supporting struggling families and those with IEPs. Malcolm X has seen rapid growth in student academic success. This past year, student achievement in reading at Malcolm X showed a 10% gain in reading proficiency as compared to .8% district wide. As a result, roughly 80% of students are reading at grade-level. KIPP schools have a reputation for pushing out low-performing students. By it’s own account, KIPP middle schools suspend 2x higher rates of Black and Brown students. And even in spite of this, last year, KIPP’s 5th grades scored lower than Malcolm X students. Knowing this, why would we want to displace successful programs and replace them with schools that don’t serve all students.
Parent Rowsan Matautia talks about her positive experience with Malcolm X and negative experiences she had with KIPP schools not serving her English Learner kids. Parents deserve a voice in what happens to their schools. That includes parents in traditional public schools that are negatively impacted by charters who push into their schools and push out programming. Malcolm X Academy will be forced to negotiate a schedule to share lunch rooms, playgrounds and other common spaces. There is also concern that the afterschool program may be displaced.
Charters also do damage to school climate and culture. KIPP and Innovate have been trashing our district’s hardest working schools, and especially those on the Bayview, Mission and Excelsior. Parents report KIPP is cold-calling families at Carver and Malcolm X telling families our schools are “failing” and saying our teachers don’t care. Now imagine being the Malcolm X staff and having to negotiate a shared space with an organization that has actively disparaged you staff, your families and your school. Parents report that KIPP has been cold-calling families and telling them SFUSD schools “don’t care about” their kids. Parents say, “Charters are not welcome in our schools!
Bayview parents and community leaders have been advocating for more investment in their schools. African American Parent Advisory Council (AAPAC) co-chairs spoke up at a recent board meeting, stating they support parents in choosing public, private or charter options. Nonetheless, they do not need any new charters in the Bayview. Instead, they want more investment in their current schools.
Community leaders working in the area of college and career success agree. Longtime Bayview resident, Diane Gray, executive director of 100% College Prep recently wrote about the negative impacts of charters on Bayview schools. She states:
KIPP Bayview Elementary wants to push into Malcolm X next year, likely taking over just those spaces that support the school’s most vulnerable children to do much better. This year they’ll be taking over the garden and art classrooms; later, it could be the Wellness Center.
This will likely do harm to Malcolm X’s students. I’m for making our schools better for all students, not just for those students in charter schools.
Rather than depend on outsiders to run our schools, we have organizations that have worked in the schools for many years – many people like myself who have deep roots in the community. We are the ones who can best advance progress in cooperation with dedicated educators.
Want to learn more about pushing back on charters or supporting Bayview public schools? Follow us on our Facebook page! Or, promote our amazing parents, educators and community partners by liking and sharing the Friends of Bayview Public Schools page.
Ya sea que sus hijos vayan a una escuela pública o a una escuela chárter, ¡ellos (y usted) tienen derechos! Sin embargo, las escuelas chárter no tienen que seguir todas las reglas que las escuelas públicas siguen. Hay otras reglas que se supone que deben seguir, pero sin supervisión, se han documentado que las escuelas chárter expulsan a los estudiantes o les dicen a las familias que “no encajan bien” en su escuela, especialmente los estudiantes con discapacidades. Por ejemplo, el 60% de los estudiantes KIPP del Área de la Bahía que comenzaron en quinto grado abandonaron KIPP antes del noveno grado. Una nueva ley de escuelas chárter otorga más derechos a las familias. Adónde sea que su hijo vaya a la escuela, es posible que deba abogar por ellos.Aquí hay información sobre los derechos básicos y cómo abogar por usted o su estudiante.
Organizaciones de Recursos (Escuelas Públicas o Chárter):
Servicios Legales para Niños: 415-863-3762
Coleman Advocates por los Niños y Jóvenes: 415-269-0161
Unión de las Familias en San Francisco: 415-234-3045
Los estudiantes no pueden ser suspendidos por “interrupción”, “desafío voluntario”, llegar tarde o ausentarse, o por violaciones al código de vestimenta. Los estudiantes no deben ser suspendidos o expulsados de la clase por razones disciplinarias sin que la escuela documente la suspensión y siga el proceso adecuado. Los estudiantes solo pueden ser suspendidos después de que se hayan intentado otros esfuerzos y no hayan podido cambiar el comportamiento del niño.
Si un estudiante es suspendido, el padre o tutor debe ser notificado y la familia debe reunirse con el director para contar su versión de la historia. Si un estudiante es expulsado, usted tiene derecho a una audiencia, a ver y presentar evidencia, y a traer un abogado o defensor.
También puede presentar quejas (anónimamente) o plantear inquietudes a la junta escolar elegida públicamente cualquier segundo o cuarto martes del mes.
Al igual que las escuelas públicas, las escuelas chárter ahora no pueden exigir que los padres se ofrezcan como voluntarios o paguen tarifas para participar en actividades básicas. Las escuelas chárter no deben preguntar acerca de las discapacidades antes de que los estudiantes se inscriban y no se les permite desalentar a las familias de inscribir a un estudiante con discapacidades.
Las escuelas chárter deben darle públicamente una lista de las razones específicas por las cuales los estudiantes pueden ser suspendidos o expulsados.
Si lo suspenden o lo expulsan, la escuela tiene que darle un “debido proceso” que incluye decirle cuáles son los motivos y darle la oportunidad de contar su versión de la historia. Puede tener derecho a una audiencia con un árbitro neutral.
Si un alumno es expulsado por algún motivo, tiene cinco días para solicitar una audiencia.
Usted puede tomar preocupaciones a la junta de la escuela chárter. Es posible que la Junta se reúna fuera de SF y tenga representantes de intereses comerciales externos.
No aporte declaraciones por escrito y no firme los acuerdos estipulados.
Whether your children go to a public school or a charter school, they (and you) have rights! Charter schools don’t have to follow all of the rules that public schools do though. There are other rules they are supposed to follow, but without oversight, there are patterns of charters pushing students out or telling families they are “not a good fit,” for their school – especially students with disabilities. For example, 60% of Bay Area KIPP students who started in 5th grade left KIPP before 9th grade. A new charter school law gives families more rights. Wherever your child goes to school, you may have to advocate for them. Here’s some information about basic rights and how to advocate for yourself or your student.
Resource Organizations (Public or Charter Schools):
Legal Services For Children’s Warmline: 415-863-3762
Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth: 415-269-0161
Students can not be suspended for “disruption,” “willful defiance,” being late or absent, or for dress code violations. Students should not be suspended or removed from class for disciplinary reasons without the school documenting the suspension and following proper process. Students can only be suspended after other efforts have been tried and have failed to change the child’s behavior.
If a student is being suspended, the parent or guardian must be notified and the family should meet with the principal to tell their side of the story. If a student is being expelled, you have a right to a hearing, to see and present evidence, and to bring a lawyer or advocate.
You can also file complaints (anonymously) or bring concerns to the publicly elected school board any 2nd or 4th Tuesday of the month.
Like public schools, charter schools now can’t require parents to volunteer or pay fees to participate in basic activities. Charter schools shouldn’t ask about disabilities before students enroll, aren’t allowed to discourage families from enrolling a student with disabilities and are supposed to provide services.
Charter schools must publicly give you a list of specific reasons students can be suspended or expelled.
If you are suspended or expelled, the school has to give you “due process.” That means telling you what the reasons are, showing you evidence (not based on hearsay), giving you a chance to tell your side of the story and having a neutral party make a decision.
If a student is pushed out for any reason, you have five days to ask for a hearing.
You can take concerns to the charter school board. It may meet outside of SF and may have representatives from outside business interests.
Do not give written statements and don’t sign stipulated agreements.
Even “good” charters come at a cost to our public education system.
Last week, In the Public Interest, a research and policy center promoting the democratic control of public goods and services, released a report that measures how much charter schools are costing three California school districts. That might sound regional and hyper specific, but it’s a big deal. Here’s why: it’s the first to directly measure the cost for a district when a student transfers to a privately managed charter school. Districts nationwide can now make similar measurements using our model, potentially shifting the discourse about charter schools.
We can’t afford the cost of charters…
Here’s some initial reporting about it in Oakland.
In a first-of-its-kind analysis, In the Public Interest has found that public school students in three California school districts are bearing the cost of the unchecked expansion of privately managed charter schools.
Charter schools cost Oakland Unified $57.3 million per year. That’s $1,500 less in funding for each student that attends a neighborhood school. For San Diego Unified, the annual cost of charter schools is $65.9 million. In East Side Union, the net impact of charter schools amounts to a loss of $19.3 million per year.
Here’s how it works. When a student leaves a neighborhood school for a charter school, all the funding for that student leaves with them but all the costs do not. This leads to cuts in core services like counseling, libraries, and special education, and increased class sizes at neighborhood public schools.
Over the past few weeks, SF Families Union has been working with parent leaders, educators, and local California NAACP education directors to investigate a Walton (Walmart) Family-funded organization named Innovate Public Schools.
We have learned Innovate has been infiltrating San Francisco schools and parent advocacy groups in an effort to collect parent contacts. They recently came with the press and their own paid photographer to a School Board meeting to demand a new KIPP Charter School.
Innovate “Public” schools has very deep pockets and its founder, Matt Hammer, has connections to Michelle Rhee, charter schools, and Betsy DeVos through his partnership with such organizations as the Philanthropy Roundtable.
Smoke and Mirrors
The very next day, one of our members, an SFUSD parent and bilingual educator, posted a blog about her experiences with Innovate in a “parent led” meeting at Everett Middle School under the false pretense of being a “Innovate Parent Research Meeting”. The meeting was co-facilitated with one of our district assistant-superintendents. Both central and site staff involved with the meeting were unaware of Innovate’s mission to drive charter expansion in our district.
This amazing parent/educator has graciously published a write up of her observations of the Everett meeting in both English and Spanish below:
In addition to portraying itself as a SF “parent” organization speaking for Black & Latinx parents, Innovate staff and “Innovate parents” have been meeting with school board members, supervisors, legislators, non-profit partners and even public school staff under the same false pretenses.
They are inviting San Francisco VIPs to meetings and then using photos of them to portray support for expanding charter schools. This has been very confusing to SF community organizers and parent leaders who are fighting to every day to uplift the voices of Black and Latinx families in our district and in our schools. Unfortunately, Innovate is taking advantage of the good will of our true community advocates to further it’s goal of promoting charter expansion in our district by charter management chains.
Innovate’s Mission: Covert Corporate Takeover of our Schools
Do not be mistaken, Innovate is out to take over our public education system. If they are successful in their aims, the “new schools” they seek to create will undoubtedly come at the expense of schools serving our most marginalized students. We will follow in the unfortunate footsteps of Los Angeles, San Jose and Oakland who are currently facing a rash of charter takeovers and school closures.
Innovate may say it is a “parent empowerment” organization, but based on its founding documents its true focus is on “…education reform that will support the creation of new charter schools…”. Not only are they are heavily pushing news charters, they are also charterizing schools from the inside. In case you wanted to see their lay of the land, it looks something like this.
Innovate Public Schools founding documents.
SF Families members have reached out to CA NAACP Education Chair, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Ph.D., who has been supporting us in our efforts to push back on charter “reformers”. The CA NAACP is so supportive of our efforts, he even wrote a post to share with other SFUSD officials and community members:
“Parents and community members in San Francisco have called recently concerned about an “astroturfing” organization that has received several hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Walton Family Foundation seeking to “organize” and “innovate” in the Bay. It appears that the billionaires boy club has taken to heart calls for community-based reform (at least the appearance) as an alternative to top-down reform.”
Innovate has in its own words described its strategy as an “air war” and “ground war” to create “actionable demand” for charter expansion. Look at the Innovate website and you will see a board composed of people and organizations whose mission is charter school expansion (see attachment). According to reports, Innovate is currently advocating for more KIPP schools, and specifically supporting KIPP’s petition to bring a new elementary to our district. This petition was unanimously denied a charter by all members of the SFUSD Board of Education.
Additionally, Innovate is notorious for creating “parent-friendly” reports sharing inaccurate and misleading data about SFUSD schools, which intentionally devalue SF families, schools and educators.
We Won’t Let Innovate’s Corporate Tech Bullies Push Us Around! Stand Up for Democratically Controlled PUBLIC Schools!
We are a diverse city, but San Franciscans have one thing in common: We don’t take kindly to outside corporate interests privatizing our right to have a voice in our public institutions—and especially our public schools!
There are several things you can do to push back on Silicon Vally billionaires angling for a land grab of our public schools.
Get educated/Share what you learn:
Check out these resources below to get you started. Make sure to share them in the comments below. Tweet, Post and Share on Twitter, FB, Instagram and all your parent email groups. Use the hashtag #SFNotforSale.
Below is a compilation of research by SF Families parents and educators and our supporters. Click this link to download a Pdf.
Be a Part of the Community Schools Conversation!
SF Families Union agrees with teachers, NAACP leaders, and others working for educational equity. We believe our schools should be accountable to the communities they serve. Thus, we strongly support Community Schools. We will be sharing more about this in the coming months as we reach out to work with other parent leadership organizations and community partners across San Francisco, including Coleman Advocates, Parent for Public Schools, district and local Parent Teacher Organizations and Associations to define what WE mean by “community schools.”
Sign up to be on our email listserv to stay up to date on posts and actions. Click here to go back to our home page and scroll down to sign up NOW!
What resources do you have to share about the harms of charter expansion in our district? What are the benefits of democratically controlled community schools? Please share links and resources below!
Parents and community members in San Francisco have called recently concerned about an “astroturfing” organization that has received several hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Walton Family Foundation seeking to “organize” and “innovate” in the Bay. It appears that the billionaires boy club has taken to heart calls for community-based reform (at least the appearance) as an alternative to top-down reform.
However, standing in the way of the billionaires boys club are civil rights advocates from Journey for Justice, the Movement for Black Lives and the NAACP. I think it is important to understand that the NAACP has recently stepped up it voice in the conversations about education.
The California NAACP has led the national charge for greater transparency and accountability in privately managed charter schools. In 2016, the national NAACP made an unequivocal national statement concerning charter schools in a convention resolution. The national resolution originally submitted by the California NAACP states,
Charters have “increased segregation”
Charters’ “appointed boards that do not represent the public”
Peer review research shows charters “have disproportionately high use of punitive and exclusionary” discipline and “differential enrollment practices.”
Missing charter funds are “nearly half a billion dollars nationwide.”
Charters have resulted in forced co-locations.
As a result of these and other ongoing enhanced malfeasance across the charter sector, the national NAACP adopted the California NAACP’s call for a charter moratorium until “legislation and executive actions” are taken to protect the civil rights of children attending charter schools.
In 2016-2017, the NAACP’s Task Force on high quality education undertook a listening tour across the United States. In addition to several recommendations to protect the civil rights of students in charter schools, the NAACP’s High Quality Education Task Force report made several recommendations that provide research and evidenced-based alternatives to privately-managed charters for improving education for African American students.
First, provide more equitable and adequate funding for schools serving students of color. The report states,
Education funding has been inadequate and unequal for students of color for hundreds of years. And the United States has one of the most unequal school funding systems of any country in the industrialized world. To solve the quality education problems that are at the root of many of the issues we heard about, school finance reform is essential to ensure that resources are allocated according to student needs.
Second, invest productively in low-performing schools and schools with significant opportunity and achievement gaps. The report states,
Students learn in safe, supportive, and challenging learning environments under the tutelage of well-prepared and caring adults. To ensure that all students receive a high-quality education, federal, state, and local policies need to sufficiently invest in: (1) incentives that attract and retain fully qualified educators, (2) improvements in instructional quality that include creating challenging and inclusive learning environments; and (3) wraparound services for young people, including early childhood education, health and mental health services, extended learning time, and social supports.
The California NAACP reaffirms the national NAACP Task Force on High Quality Education’s call for proven, democratically-controlled reform models, such as early childhood education and community schools. The report states that these models better meet students’ needs.
High-quality early childhood education can foster meaningful gains in school readiness, as well as long-term benefits, such as lower rates of special education placement, reduced retention, and higher graduation rates. Early childhood education has also been shown to narrow achievement gaps, because children from low-income families and children of color gain the most from the experience. Community schools are “both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources, [with an] integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement.” This evidence-based strategy qualifies as a school turnaround strategy under ESSA and also qualifies for numerous federal grants, such as the Full Service Community Schools Program and the Promise Neighborhoods grants.
In conclusion, at the 2017 California NAACP state convention in Los Angeles, members affirmed a new resolution in support of properly-design, democratically-controlled, community schools and called for greater investment in this community-based approach as an alternative to more privately-managed (for-profit and non-profit) charter schools in African American communities. Stay tuned, I’ll post the California NAACP’s community schools resolutin here on Cloaking Inequity in the coming days.
p.s. For the parents in San Francisco battling KIPP tonight. Here are the resources I promised:
The data also show that despite the claims that 88-90% of the children attending KIPP charters go on to college, their attrition rate for Black secondary students surpasses that of their peer urban districts. And this is in spite of KIPP spending 30–60% more per pupil than comparable urban districts.
A study conducted by SRI of four KIPP schools in the California Bay Area found that 60% of students that started the 5th grade in four KIPP schools were no longer enrolled at the end of the 8th grade (Woodworth et al., 2008). They also found, “On average, those who leave KIPP before completing eighth grade have lower test scores on entering KIPP” (Woodworth et al., 2008, p. xi). Their finding suggests that lower- achieving students were more likely to leave KIPP. Critics have argued that KIPP “backfills” their grades with high-achieving students as low-achieving students leave— thus producing illusory achievement success noted in Mathematica studies.
Please Facebook Like, Tweet, etc below and/or reblog to share this discussion with others.
Parent affinity groups can have profound effects on schools. This post about my experiences starting an affinity group at my daughters’ elementary school, originally appeared on Blavity, a an online community of “the most exceptional multi-cultural creators and influencers in the world.” Blavity partners with diverse content creators and influencers to “help them reach a wider audience, amplify their message, and fund their hustles.” I am proud my work is highlighted there. Check out my article there, as well as more great content by Black millennials, artists, culture critics and entrepreneurs.
One Step Back, Two Steps Forward–Starting a Black Family Affinity Group at your School
Needs of underrepresented groups can get overlooked. Parent affinity groups can help.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I last spring I begun hosting a Black Family Breakfast affinity group for Black families at my daughters’ elementary school. This is part of an effort that my principal, I and a few key staff have initiated to “explore race and culture” at our school. Teachers noted last year that parents needed to be involved in the process (not just teachers and kids). As parents, we can undermine efforts of staff in creating a safe and welcoming environment for all families. That said, after several conversations with Black families at our school, we decided to get together to share ideas and resources to help make our school and even more welcoming place.
Apparently my “great idea” of bringing Black families together was not met with open arms by all staff. A few days after sending out invitations for our second meeting I learned some teachers were voicing concerns about Black parents getting together to talk about their experiences at the school (?!) This happened even at a school with an enlightened and supportive principal like mine! At this moment, I realized, there was still a LOT of work to be done in our district and at our school. Nonetheless, I’m glad I’m doing it.
What was all the hubbub about? Some staff expressed their concerns that an affinity group would be too “exclusive” and could potentially be seen as unfair by other racial and cultural groups at the school.
As a Black woman who is constantly having to navigate “white spaces”, I understand the importance of being able to “tell it like it is” and in a room full of folks who “get it.” I also understand how important it is to be able to speak about my experience without having to worry about defensive reactions of others.
With support from the principal (which is KEY) we decided to move ahead and use this incident as a “teachable moment.” The principal agreed to listen to staff concerns while still encouraging them to live with the potential discomfort that their questions stirred up. I explained to the principal that I was happy to answer any specific questions staff had, and we both agreed that if staff felt other affinity groups should be formed
Luckily, a friend of mine shared an article that proved helpful in explaining why our affinity group is so important for our families. This article is focused on setting up student affinity groups, nonetheless, I feel it also applies to parents as well:
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippurand Good Friday have long been on the calendar at Madeira School in McLean, Virginia; no major tests are given on those days. But it wasn’t until students in the school’s Muslim affinity group were discussing the dilemma of choosing between taking tests or attending Eid services that the lack of inclusion on the calendar became apparent.
“You really shouldn’t be having tests on a major holiday. We can communicate this up to the teachers and the administration,” math teacher and affinity group leader Jeannie Rumsey told the students. “We can find another time for you to make that up, but this is a major holiday for you and you should be able to celebrate it.” After organizing and communicating with their administration, the group succeeded in adding the major Muslim holy days to the following year’s school calendar. The dates were given the same treatment as the Christian and Jewish holidays: no tests.
This example of collective action is one of the purposes of affinity groups in schools: They allow students who share an identity—usually a marginalized identity—to gather, talk in a safe space about issues related to that identity, and transfer that discussion into action that makes for a more equitable experience at school.
Even though I experienced some initial pushback, it’s been interesting to see some positive outcomes of moving forward DESPITE the initial resistance.
First, it became very clear that YES… our teachers actually NEEDED to talk about race. Even if it’s just exploring how we feel about talking about it. (A good first step, No?) I am also learning that this work is ESPECIALLY important in schools with language programs. I never had an option to NOT talk about race teaching at other more diverse schools in our district.
In contrast, at my daughters’ former school, where a full HALF of our classrooms are bilingual Chinese, there may be many teachers who are very experienced teacher may never have never been confronted with issues of talking about Black culture or even race in general. So, I realized I had to reset my assumptions about the general comfort level or knowledge folks have about addressing race/culture in the classroom. This may even be more true for Asian-Americans teaching in mostly Asian-American schools because as People of Color they may get “checked” less often by folks of other disenfranchised groups such as Blacks and Latinxs.
Outside of my own learning, starting the affinity group didn’t ask anything of teachers (as it’s all parent initiated and supported.) Nonetheless, the conversation about whether we should or shouldn’t have a Black family affinity group (or other affinity groups for that matter) DID cause there to be more conversation about race among staff. 🙂
More and more, I began seeing folks coming out of the woodwork to form an informal network of folks interested in elevating this important conversation. This has in turn led to a clearer purpose and resolve to push for change around how we spoke about racial equity in our school.
A teacher sought me out the next morning to tell me how she’s been “fuming” about some of the ignorant comments and resistance of her teacher peers. The experience of listening to other staff voice questions and concerns, is making her want to speak up more and fight for the voices and needs of our most underrepresented kids. (Also, including LGBT, Spanish-speaking, low-income, etc.)
Our Literacy Specialist and the School Social Worker have on their own initiative decided to take on the idea of creating a K-5 Book Talk curriculum for ALL teachers in the school addressing race and culture. (WOHOOO!)
Our principal has also committed to funding our teachers and librarian in increasing the number of books with people of color in our school and classroom libraries. #WeNeedDiverseBooks!!! (I posted a resource for doing a Library Audit here if you are interested. I have also posted multiple book lists for diverse books here, here, and here.)
All of this had not directly been DRIVEN by families. Nonetheless, this type of dialogue would never have happened, if Black, Latino, Asian and White families hadn’t STARTED the conversation. Being at our school and serving on various parent leadership groups (School Site Council, Parent Teacher Organization, etc.) I know these questions had come up time and again. But over the six years I’ve been at our school, it had never been on the front burner. The fact that all this new activity happened was a direct result of families having conversations about the importance of naming and celebrating culture and race at our school. It’s one thing to have a principal make demands of teachers (among all the other demands made of teachers each day.) It is quite another for parents to make direct requests from teachers on behalf of their kids.
I’m thankful for all the protesters out in the streets today making it known throughout the land—our city will not tolerate hate! While there are some family-friendly protests going on this weekend, protests in general, are often not a safe place for families with kids. That said, I know we’re not the only parents with a need to take action, today and every day.
Fear not, there are many ways to participate in pushing back against hate. In fact, anti-racist parenting is one of the MOST important ways we contribute to creating a tolerant, inclusive world. In fact, parents play an even more important role than schools, in the ways we “racially socialize” our children.
With that in mind, here’s a shortish list of people/organizations you can follow and support to get ongoing racial & social justice resources for your family. Find these groups on Facebook, sign up for their email lists, donate, volunteer, educate and taking action!
Racial Justice Resource List for Busy Bay Area Parents
Are you wondering how race plays out in SF schools? In you’re new to this blog, welcome! Here, I write all about my musing on parenting, race and education, as an educator and mixed-race Black mom. Click the links at the top of each page to view posts by Equity, Parenting, Academics, and Books. Or, follow me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) where I micro-blog on current events and share education and parenting resources and professional articles I come across each day. While you’re there, introduce yourself! I love meeting other equity-focused parents. 🙂
Their Medium blog posts short and nuanced discussions of race for families, centering people of color and other less heard voices (including White folks working for racial justice). Download the Tip Sheet and other resources from their website. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram.
Follow this amazing group of educators on Facebook to find amazing events, workshops, and even a pre-school which educates children using a queer ecofeminist (and intersectional people of color led) lens. Help them increase access to their programs by funding their bus while you’re there.
Our Family Coalition provides support, advocacy & education for LGBTQ families and works for equity. Their newsletter is full of great events, including an upcoming LGBTQ friendly preschool fair. Ask them to come talk to your school.
SURJ organizes White folks to work for racial justice. The local group organizes monthly storytimes and family events with Abundant Beginnings, Our Family Coalition & other groups. Sign up here. Once you join, you can also become a member of their closed Facebook group.
People of color led organization advocating for families in and beyond SF public schools. Donate to them, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and support them. If you’re on the other side of an issue from Coleman, it’s time to give your position another look.
The SF Families Union is a multiracial organization of families working for racial equity and meaningful integration in support of our public schools. Go to the website to attend an upcoming workshop or event.
The SFPL has been putting on amazing programing about race and identity for all ages, keep an eye out! Next time you are there, check out the diverse book lists most libraries have in hard copy. Or, look for diverse books here.
Want one simple next step?
Have a racial justice movie night in your home, at school, or in other community spaces.
It’s a great way to find like minded families & work together collectively to take on the subtle and not so subtle racism that’s everywhere. SURJ Families has an agenda you can use with a Raising Race Conscious Children Webinar.
This is a report back from the SFUSD Ad Hoc Student Assignment System Committee meeting November 29, 2016.
At a moment when President-Elect Trump is talking about “making America great again” there’s a surprising way that San Francisco is closer to the 1960s than 2016. Our schools are as segregated now as they were in 1968, before the NAACP won a series of desegregation orders. The order was lifted in 2005, and in ten short years we’re back at civil rights era levels of segregation. Weird and a little shocking, for San Francisco, right?
Last night’s Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment meeting could be a part of undoing the systemic racism that leads to segregation in our schools. It started out on a frustrating path, but turned in a hopeful direction. What happens next will determine if San Francisco takes the position you would expect of a progressive city, or whether we maintain our little piece of the 1960s in our schools.
The presentation ran models of what diversity would look like under neighborhood schools.
Spoiler alert – neighborhood schools won’t create integrated schools, though our current “choice” system is even more segregating.
As Commissioner Walton pointed out, “choice is fundamentally inequitably distributed.”
The second half of the presentation focused on other approaches districts take to integrate their schools, including a look at Berkeley’s zone model.
A really positive moment came when staff noted that schools and districts which have achieved integration set specific goals and targets.
Will SFUSD do the same?
There was limited parent participation, maybe partly because as one parent testified, the meetings and materials and recordings have not been posted publicaly, despite several requests. However, all the parents who testified called on the district to use the SAS process to integrate schools, which seemed to have a powerful impact!
Commissioners were really responsive to feedback and asked staff to follow up on on getting information up online, getting a promise that materials would be up on the website the next day. Commissioner Norton and others articulated that they are not making a proposal that SFUSD move to a neighborhood school assignment system. Commissioner Haney said current levels of segregation are completely unacceptable and that we have a moral imperative to reduce racial isolation. Commissioner Walton turned this sentiment into action by asking staff what it would take to run models of different strategies with a goal of integration, and asking if we could bring in outside partners to help.
Will we do it?
It will take real leadership and consistent work to change from a system with 1960s levels of segregation to an integrated school district. Any changes made this year, or even next year would take 5+ years to roll out, since enrollment for families currently in schools wouldn’t change, changes would only happen for families applying in the future. The real proof will be in what happens next, and what the follow up is. Some of the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment materials are up on the website which is a good start.
The most important moment of the night was probably Commissioner Walton’s call to shift the question we are getting data on from “What would it look like if we had neighborhood schools” to “What student assignment system would best integrate our schools?”
It would be great to see models of how other systems would work in SUFSD. There’s a district very close to home which successfully integrated their schools & whose approach we should model. In this district, there was only one segregated school, test scores rose for all students, and the achievement gap closed.1 This district was SFUSD in 1997! We shouldn’t forget that we actually had integrated schools at one point, and should model past SFUSD systems side by side with what other districts are doing right now. Enrollment even crept up in the 1980s when we started using a system where every school had to have 4 racial groups represented, and no more than 45% of the students could not be from the same group. For the very nerdy, check out this really important footnote about federal law and guidelines, blah, blah, blah ;).2
Some of the best news in this process is that, it looks like the district shifting to create more equitable dynamics by working more closely with Black families on enrollment. The EPC (enrollment) came out to an AAPAC meeting to talk with Black families about their enrollment experience. AAPAC will be presenting on March 8th about their experience with segregation and the school assignment system. This is really important progress, compared to the 2014-15 report which spent pages and pages on the question “How can parents get into Clarendon” and just had a few short paragraphs wondering why most Bayview families didn’t attend neighborhood schools with no follow up. Hopefully the district will continue to make sure that this makes families who are most hurt by segregation partners in this process, working closely with groups like Coleman Advocates, AROC, Support for Families With Disabilities, La Voz Latina, Our Family Coalition, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Au Co and other groups organizing and/or serving marginalized families.
At the end of the presentation, staff pointed out that “Diversity in school assignment is not enough.” It’s a starting point, not an end point. They reminded us that meaningful integration must also include an “Integrated school climate, equitable discipline, culturally responsive curriculum and pedagogy, diversity and desegregation among teachers, and within-school integration: detracking.” We have to be careful to ensure that we are integrating our schools, not gentrifying them.
Integrating our schools will take courage, curiosity, participation, elbow grease, data, persistence and leadership from families, staff, and Commissioners. Fortunately, last night we saw all the ingredients come together. The real question will be what happens now, whether the next steps fall into place, and we are able to send our students to schools which will prepare them for the America they will graduate into, not the one we (hopefully) left behind in the 1960s.
1 – From court documents in San Francisco NAACP v. San Francisco Unified School District “Academic achievement data indicate a close relationship between resegregation and the disparity in academic achievement between black and Latino students in comparison with white and Chinese-American students. The overwhelming majority of schools that have been successful in closing the achievement gap, as indicated by the large percentages of students of all ethnic backgrounds who score at the proficient or above level on state standardized tests, have maintained ethnically and racially-diverse student bodies (Biegel Report No. 22 (2004–05) App. 1 at 2). In contrast, the Academic Performance Index (API), a school-ranking system based on standardized test scores, indicates that schools with declining APIs are those that have become resegregated.” https://www.clearinghouse.net/detail.php?id=9939 (p. 12)
2 – Federal guidelines for public schools looking to integrate say that districts should look at three different options for integration and chose the one which will meet the goal of integrating schools in the most tailored way. The three ways are “race neutral” (our current “choice”/lottery system – fail), generally race conscious (like Berkeley’s zone system), or individually race conscious (SFUSD in the 80s, when schools had a rule that they had to have 4 racial/ethnic groups represented, and no group could make up more than 45% of the student body). We’re fortunate to have examples of these strategies in our district and/or next door, which should give us really good data to answer the question of what enrollment system will actually integrate our schools. In terms of bringing in the leading experts on school integration to help us, it would be amazing if SFUSD asked the nationally recognized school integration experts at the UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles to help us figure out the right model for us and to negotiate legal issues.
One of the best ways to sell something is to create a problem that needs to be fixed. This is nothing new, as you can see in this old ad which uses the fear of spinsterhood to sell mouthwash.
Retromercial: Listerine Ad (1950s)
So, what does this have to do with education?
I’ve talked for a while #onhere about the ways false narratives hurt our public schools. Most folks do agree (at least publicly) that all children should have access to a high quality education. Currently, traditional public schools are the only schools mandated to serve all kids. With this in mind, one might wonder why folks who say they value public education perpetuate narratives that undermine our schools?
My dad would say, the answer is simple: For that good ol’ greenback dollar bill!
Truthfully, there are some strong public schools and some that struggle, but to throw our entire public school system under the bus is ludicrous. It does a great disservice to the many dedicated students, families and teachers that pour their time, money and love into our schools. More than anything, this harmful narrative seems to target urban public schools serving low-income, Black and Brown youth. However, hundreds of tiny miracles happen in our urban public schools each day that never get media attention. So it’s time to analyzed why the “failing public schools” narrative is so pervasive. Who benefits when public schools fail?
Let’s agree, challenging narratives about how we educate kids is a touchy conversation. So like the tiny print at the bottom of a prescription drug ad, I feel a need to make a disclaimer…
To be fair, I’m not saying all charter teachers are bad, or all private-school parents are racist. I worked in charters for over five years and I didn’t work there with the intention of ruining public education. I have friends who have children enrolled in private schools. I support folks in making choices for themselves and their families. We all have our reasons, and, there are always exceptions. Before reacting defensively, I want to get one thing straight—I’m talking about systems, not individuals.
That said, each day we participate in systems that either reinforce or dismantle the status quo. It’s time for us to start thinking beyond individual anecdotes to analyze the ways our collective choices create our childrens’ schools.
Now, let’s get back to the subject at hand…
Who benefits from trashing public schools?
Charters – Public School “Lite”
Previously, I wrote about the way private schools benefit from a “broken public school narrative”. But, they aren’t the only ones who profit.
The multi-million dollar charter industry relies on the perception that charters are private school “lite” with a public school price. The best way for charters to differentiate themselves from traditional public schools is by selling themselves as the free-market (read: better) alternative to public schools which proponents paint as “bureaucratic” and “inefficient”. Most often, charters sell the idea that they offer specialized curriculum or enhanced instruction that can’t be provided in “failing” schools by veteran teachers. Teachers in charters are painted as spunky, innovative, dedicated in contrast to the old, burnt-out, “impossible to fire” teachers they say are the problem with public schools. (Stay tuned for more on this hot topic. As you can see, I’m just getting started!)
Who Thought Nonprofits Could Be So Profitable?
Private and charter schools aren’t the only ones who thrive on trashing public schools. “Nonprofits” profit as well. Education think-tanks, curriculum developers, test creators and educational software developers are also ready to jump in and provide a “quick fix” to what they claim is broken.
“What’s wrong with urban public schools?” you might ask. “We’ll tell you for just three easy payments of $19.95… MILLION!” “Want to learn how to turn around your achievement gap? Hire our team of curriculum consultants and TFA wunderkind and we’ll save the day!” Talking about failing public schools is a real bummer, but MAN it really moves product!
Hysteria over our “broken system” has gotten so crazy that nonprofits often serve as middlemen for billionaire funders like Bill Gates who favor investing in outsiders over districts for fear they will mismanage implementation. Yet, when dollars flow to nonprofits to supplant the leadership in a district, it undermines rather than supports. The overall message to educators is, “We don’t think you can manage this… so we’ll do it for you.”.
In my experience, if an entity wants to help a district function more effectively, its work with leadership to fix underlying problems. Instead of truly being of assistance, nonprofits often enable failure within the system be creating workarounds or just doing the work for them. In this way, they become complicit in creating and maintaining problems from which they profit.
Last but not least, we can’t forget “progressive” parents seeking to shed the stigma of private school. Urban centers tend to lean left. Yet, despite the fact that affluent urban parents are more likely to be self-proclaimed liberals, you’ll still find them fighting tooth and nail to get their kids in private schools, strategizing ways to “win the lottery.” San Francisco is no exception. In fact, with our Bay Area history of hippies and wine culture, we practically invented the “chardonnay liberal.”
What does it mean to be a chardonnay liberal? Drive a Prius, buy designer hemp jeans, drink fair-trade organic coffee, all the while putting your kids in an independent school. (Independent sounds soooo much better than private, don’t you think?) Never mind the fact that enrollment is selective. Scholarships guarantee there are still a few low-income kids (who meet the “good fit” requirement.) And even though there aren’t many African-American kids, schools can still be diverse—if you consider international families. Some are even from Africa!
Again, I’m not saying every private school parent is a closet racist. Several of my low-income friends are among the scholarship recipients I mentioned. I’m not going to fault them for doing everything they can to get what they’ve been told is the best education for their kids. Nonetheless, I know way too many folks who’ve cried about the trauma of being assigned to perfectly AWESOME public schools, because there were “too many Cantonese-speaking families”. (Is there something wrong with Cantonese-speaking families?)
I’ve got a LOT to say on this topic! For now, let’s just say, if I drank a glass of chardonnay for every Russian hill parent I’ve talked to that said they really believed in public school and “wished” they could have enrolled, but were “forced” to go charter/private, I’d have a serious drinking problem.
Let’s get the record straight.
The crisis in public education is a manufactured crisis. And a “free-market” education system is about as equitable as letting drug companies set prescription prices. Public education isn’t a commodity, it’s a basic human right. It’s time to stop treating families like “consumers” and stop letting snake-oil salesman sell us lies about our schools.
The truth is, our public education system is not any worse off than it was 50 years ago. In fact public schools are doing better than their competition.
Private vs. Public
Let’s start with the obvious. Private schools choose their students. They don’t serve English Learner students, students with expensive disabilities, or homeless students. Public schools are charged not only with working with more needy students, they are “held accountable” to doing so.
But what about affluent kids of college educated families? What about all the stories we hear about “bored” gifted students in mixed-ability classrooms? Surely, they must do better in private schools.
Despite the mantra repeated by yoga-moms throughout the country, that private is better, educational research shows this isn’t the case. In their book, The Public School Advantage, professors Christopher Lubienski, and Sarah Theule Lubienski, at University of Illinois and University of Illinois, respectively, concluded:
Greater school choice for families and greater autonomy for schools leads to greater academic outcomes, right? Maybe not. Using two nationally representative datasets, we recently conducted one of the most comprehensive studies ever performed of school type and achievement in mathematics—a subject widely held to be the best measure of in-school learning. We analyzed instruction and performance for over 300,000 elementary and middle school students in 15,108 public, charter, and private schools. What we found surprised us. Students in public schools actually outperform those in private schools.
Don’t Believe the Hype: Charters vs. Traditional (Real) Public Schools
The research on charters has been coming out for a while now. Several years ago, a study came out of Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes looking at academic data from charter schools in 26 states and found insignificant results in many cases. Additionally, researchers are going beyond academic data (read: standardized test results) and finding charters perform significantly worse when looking at graduation rates, suspension rates, and who they serve (hint: disabled children aren’t high on their list. Empathy much?)
And despite the surge in charter messaging that they are more “equitable”, the evidence is mounting. Charter proliferation is actually hurting our public education system. So much so that in 2016 Black Lives Matter and the NAACP called for a freeze on charter school expansion and an increase in investment in traditional public schools. Kristina Rizga, outlines reasons we should be concerned with charter schools, including: “skimming” students, unregulated growth, lack of oversight, and inequitable disciplinary practices.
I could go on… and on… and on.. But, I’ll save that post for another day 😉
Why are we buying this narrative?
Getting back to where we began… We all know commercial products are vying for our money. Like it or not, education in our country is big business. Charters, private schools and edu-nonprofits use careful messaging and advertisements to create “brand recognition” and position themselves in the marketplace. Just like Coke, and Nike and Apple, various groups are working to spin a narrative to move more public and private dollars their way.
For these reasons, it is important for us to question what we hear about urban public schools. We all know McDonalds has a bigger advertising budget than the Broccoli Council (or whatever it’s called.) We should be asking ourselves… When did we start believing that mom’s meatloaf was such a bummer? And, is the “happy meal” of charter and private schools really all that?
Schools are the primary way we socialize our children. As such they reflect society’s deeply held values and beliefs. I urge you to ask yourself these questions:
Why do we perpetuate the narrative of “good” and “bad” public schools?
How can we participate in making our education system work the way it does?
How can we support our public education system in being more effective, equitable, and inclusive?