Author: RiShawn Biddle

King and Lhamon on the Fight for Children’s Future

The Trump Administration’s war on poor and minority children is not only terrible for the futures of children, it highlights all of the other damage being wrought on them (including…

The Trump Administration’s war on poor and minority children is not only terrible for the futures of children, it highlights all of the other damage being wrought on them (including the denial of high-quality school opportunities) that have long been a feature of American public education.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education John King (now President of the Education Trust) and Commission on Civil Rights Chairman Catherine Lhamon explain what reformers must do in this clip from yesterday’s Congressional Black Caucus Foundation panel on education and equality.

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St. Louis Fails Black Kids

On Friday, Black and Brown children in St. Louis learned, thanks to Circuit Court Judge Timothy Wilson, that a police officer can get away with murder and planting evidence even…

On Friday, Black and Brown children in St. Louis learned, thanks to Circuit Court Judge Timothy Wilson, that a police officer can get away with murder and planting evidence even if he is caught and admits to doing both. More importantly, they learned that their own lives, and that of their parents, don’t matter at all.

That day, they were told about the other murders of young Black men and others by rogue cops that have happened in America. Including the 2014 slaying of Michael Brown in Ferguson by now-former police officer Darren Wilson, for which justice will never come. They learned that justice doesn’t happen for people like them.

Then during the weekend, they saw their parents and other caring adults (including an elderly woman) arrested, tear-gassed, and assaulted by cops because of their protests against the verdict, which allowed former police officer Jason Stockley to get away with his 2011 murder of Anthony Lamar Smith.

They heard cops say “Whose streets? Our streets” as they arrested citizens who pay their salaries. They listened to acting Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole declare with pride that “Police owned tonight”. They learned that Mike Faulk of the Post-Dispatch was arrested, tear-gassed, with a foot on his head, because he did his job.

For Black children at Kirkwood High and other schools in the St. Louis area, protests aren’t just for the murder of young Black men by cops on city streets. [Photo courtesy of St. Louis Public Radio.]

They learned that as far as their local and state governments are concerned, their constitutional rights to free speech, assembly, and protest are meaningless. Because they are Black and Brown.

They found out that the protection of rogue policing is more-important than the lives of the people who are supposed to protected and served by law enforcement. Again, because they are Black and Brown.

They now realize that they must stand up and advocate as earlier generations have to ensure that the promises of liberty and freedom granted by the Founding Fathers are continuously extended to them and their kin. These lessons, by the way, are being learned by Black and other minority children elsewhere in America.

Which is why we must be gladdened by the news yesterday that teens at three local high schools — Kirkwood, Webster Groves and University City — walked out of their schools to protest the Stockley verdict.

But they were also protesting because of what has long been happening in the traditional districts they attend. Facts that can be seen in the most-recent statistics submitted by districts in the St. Louis area to the U.S. Department of Education.

As reformers, we must be as fierce for children in St. Louis as the men and women who have taken on rogue policing this week.

There’s the fact that in 2011-2012, the most-recent year available, the St. Louis District meted out one or more out-of-school suspensions to 31.9 percent of Black children under its care. [Your editor says most-recent because St. Louis never submitted its 2013-2014 Office for Civil Rights data to the federal government.] This rate is higher than the 28.3 percent of all children suspended district-wide, and the atrocious 15.1 percent of their White peers. Even worse, seven Black children were referred to law enforcement (and thus, put on the path to juvenile justice systems) by the district, a punitive step that wasn’t done to children from other backgrounds.

Black children in St. Louis are less-likely to be provided the college-preparatory courses they need for lifelong success.

Just 9.1 percent of Black high schoolers in the district took Advanced Placement Courses in 2011-2012. This is lower than the 13 percent rate district-wide and the 26.7 percent rate for White high school students. Just 3.6 percent of Black high school students took calculus, trigonometry, elementary analysis, analytic geometry, statistics, pre-calculus and other advanced mathematics that year. This is lower than the awful five percent average for the district as a whole and the low 10.5 percent rate for White classmates in the district.

What the St. Louis district is doing to children is unacceptable and immoral. But it isn’t the only one committing educational abuse and condemning Black children to the school-to-prison pipeline.

In the Kirkwood district, the epicenter of yesterday’s protest, officials meted out-of-school suspensions to 7.3 percent of Black children in the district. That’s three times the district-wide average of 2.3 percent and seven times the mere one percent of White students suspended. Just 22.1 percent of Black children took calculus and other advanced mathematics, a rate lower than the 26.8 percent district-wide average, and the 28.3 percent rate for White peers. Just 12.3 percent of Black high school students took AP courses, lower than the 26.9 percent rate district-wide and the 31 percent rate for White high schoolers.

The University City district meted out-of-school suspensions to 17.6 percent of Black children in 2011-2012. That is higher than the 15.6 percent average for the district, and the 4.5 percent rate for White students. Just 14 percent of Black high schoolers took advanced math, lower than the 17.7 percent rate district-wide and the 42 percent rate for White high school students. Just 5.1 percent of Black high schoolers — 37 of them — took AP courses, lower than the awfully low 9.2 percent district-wide average and the rate of 38.6 percent for White high schoolers.

Meanwhile the Webster Groves district meted out-of-school suspensions to 7.2 percent of Black students. That’s three times higher than the 2.5 percent average for the district overall, and the 1.3 percent suspension rate for White students. -[The district arrested or had referred to juvenile court equal numbers of Black and White kids that year. Twelve altogether.]  A mere 6.8 percent of Black high school students (23 Black children) took calculus and other advanced math courses, a rate far lower than the 20.5 percent rate district-wide and the rate of 25 percent for White high schoolers. Only 5.6 percent of Black high schoolers (19 teenagers) took AP courses, three times lower than the district-wide rate of 17.9 percent and the rate of 21.6 percent for White high school students.

These numbers aren’t shocking. As Dropout Nation reported just after the Ferguson protests three years ago, the Ferguson-Florissant district is also notorious for shortchanging Black children of high-quality education, overusing harsh traditional forms of school discipline, and turning schools into police zones. This includes arresting or referring to juvenile court two percent of its students — 268 children — in 2011-2012, as well as meting out-of-school suspensions to 13.3 percent of all students (including 15 percent of Black children) in the district.

Another awful district is the one in Normandy, whose academic malpractice has essentially made it something other than an educational going concern, meted out-of-school suspensions to 28.6 percent of children (including 28.9 percent of Black students) left in its care in 2011-2012. Just 12 high school students, all but two of them Black, took AP courses that year (that’s eight-tenths of one percent of the district’s high schoolers); another 52 students (including 46 Black children) took calculus, trigonometry and other advanced math that year, which means only 3.5 percent took those courses.

The good news, at least for some Black children and others, is that there are some high-quality charter schools from which they can flee the worst traditional public education in the district offers. But with only 52 open in the entire state, there aren’t enough for children to flee. Expanding school choice should be on the list for Missouri’s state leaders to do on the education front. This doesn’t just include adding charters or even launching a voucher program. Ending the gatekeeping of high-quality education within districts, which starts with teachers and guidance counselors keeping poor and minority children out of gifted-and-talented programs, would go a long way to increase the learning they need and deserve. Reformers nationally can support efforts in St. Louis and other communities to make these opportunities a reality.

Even with a massive expansion of high-quality choice, the need to address the overuses of harsh school discipline would remain. That is a problem. What happens in our schools ends up in our streets. When districts overuse harsh school discipline, they teach law enforcement outside schools that poor and minority children are only criminals. The lawlessness of police departments in the St. Louis area — and the evil they have shown toward the black people who live their and pay their wages — is mirrored by the unwillingness of those working within its schools to provide all kids with high-quality education. With the Trump Administration all but abandoning the previous administration’s efforts to end overuse of harsh discipline, reformers in St. Louis are teaming up with Black Lives Matter activists to push for better alternatives. Reformers in the rest of the nation should do the same — and even give allies in St. Louis a helping hand.

Our children in St. Louis deserve better lessons than the ones taught by courts and cops over the past few days. They also deserve high-quality education and to be able to go to school without worrying targeted as miscreants in the places that are their second homes.

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Do Acts of Life-Giving Kindness

People in Washington, D.C., and its surrounding region do a lot of posturing. They show up in front of the White House to protest. They attend events about achieving social…

People in Washington, D.C., and its surrounding region do a lot of posturing. They show up in front of the White House to protest. They attend events about achieving social justice. They even do the occasional fundraising campaign for some favored cause of the moment.

But if the truth is to be told, for all the protesting and pretending to do things for others, the reality is that many people give little help or show much in the way of the way of kindness to those in need right in front of us.

Three years ago, while walking through Lafayette Park near the White House, I met the man captured in this photograph. He had a smile on his face even though he was homeless, with little to cover himself and nowhere to go other than to sit on a park bench.

I gave him a few dollars, chatted with him for a few minutes, and even said a prayer with him. I listened to him as he told me what was going on with his life. Before I left, I wished him a good day.

The need for small acts of kindness came up again yesterday as I walked around the Jonestown section of Baltimore, passing by the Church of St. Vincent de Paul. There in front of the entrance of the church was a man sleeping, likely getting the only peaceful slumber he can because he has no home.

Nearby in the church’s park, an organization was feeding the crowd of homeless men and women, providing them with the only nutritious meal they will have all day. One man celebrated as he ate his meal, saying that it was so good that he had to “slap his mamma”.

There are some 7.473 homeless men, women, and children in the Nation’s Capitol, and another 2,725 (including 1,400 young men and women under the age of 25) in Charm City. Certainly their issues are systemic in nature  the extreme consequences of the interplay between low-quality education and lack of resources (as well as the reality that even the best decisions cannot overcome the dearth of both). That many homeless men and women suffer from mental illnesses, many of which manifest while they are in elementary and secondary schools, also highlights the need for advancing systemic reform to address those problems.

At the same time, we can all do something small, random, tangible and kind, even as we posture and rant about the state of the nation today. A few dollars, some kind words, even help a church or nonprofit provide meals. If we are truly to be moral people who want better lives for our children, we must also want to help those who are in need right now, who were once also children, who also need our kindness and concern.

Giving Life Out of Sorrow: Earlier this year, the joy of my friend, Jeremy Lott and his wife, Angela, turned into pain when they found out that their then-unborn daughter was suffering from exencephaly, a rare birth defect in which the brain is developing outside of the skull. They only got a few months to enjoy little Cecelia kick, move to Irish music, and get rowdy in her mother’s womb before she died stillborn this past July.

Others would have let the massive weight of a child’s death crush their spirits. No one could blame them. There is nothing worse than the death of your own child. Yet Jeremy and Angela went a different direction. They used their grief to do something for other people’s children.

Over the past few months, they convinced others to donate some 82 books to the Whatcom County, Wash., public library in Cecelia’s honor. Those books , including such children’s books as Anita Label’s Hello, Day! and Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe, will now be borrowed and read by children at three of the library’s branches.

Certainly the book donations won’t erase the pain of Cecelia’s death. Nothing can do that. But in their effort, Jeremy and Angela are giving life in the form of literacy to generations of children who will never met Cecelia, but will carry her spirit with them in every word they read.

All of us can give life to all children, from donating books to local libraries, to tutoring kids in your neighborhoods who are struggling with their literacy. Let us all follow Jeremy and Angela’s example in our own lives.

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Telling the Histories of Our Sampsons

There once was a man named Sampson Moore. He was an enslaved African American. He gained freedom after the Confederates, who wanted to keep him a slave, were defeated during…

There once was a man named Sampson Moore. He was an enslaved African American. He gained freedom after the Confederates, who wanted to keep him a slave, were defeated during the Civil War. He lived through Reconstruction and Jim Crow. He was a farmer who lived in what is now Staunton, Va. He was also my great-great-great grandfather.

The facts that we do know about Sampson’s life tell us the uncomfortable facts and truths of American history that often get unmentioned to our children while they are in schools. Which is why we must push for civic and history education that is as honest in tackling the bad and ugly of our nation’s past as it is in celebrating the parts that are good.

As with so many former slaves, there’s a lot about Sampson we will never know about. He died 16 years before the Federal Writers’ Project embarked on its massive collection of first-hand accounts about life in bondage from once-enslaved Black people.

His death certificate states that he was born sometime in 1840. But Census records also record him giving different ages, meaning that he could have been born in 1830 or even 1835. Given that slaves weren’t even considered human, and therefore, unworthy of a proper recording of their birthdays, we will never know when he was truly born.

For many slaveowners, selling slaves to buyers in places as far as Louisiana and Tennessee was a great business. But it led to the breakup of Black families.

If Sampson’s life before the Civil War was like that of the surviving former enslaved Black people who recounted their lives for the Federal Writers Project, it was especially brutal. Chances are that he grew up with little to no clothes (and definitely no shoes) because slaveowners were always looking to reduce the costs of keeping the people they enshackled.

Besides the brutality of the slavemaster, Sampson also likely saw death all around. Particularly in places such as Augusta County, a gateway into Appalachia, slavemasters saved more money (and kept their often lower-than-national average production of corn and other crops for themselves and horses) by ensuring that enslaved Black children were malnourished, often on diets consisting of just a mush of cornmeal and buttermilk. As a result of the undernourishment, 60 percent of enslaved Black children in the nine Southern States in Appalachia died before age 10, according to Wilma Dunaway of Virginia Tech, one of the leading researchers on American slavery. This was higher than even the one-in-two chance of survival for slaves nationally.

Put bluntly: Sampson was a survivor. Probably even outlived his brothers and sisters.

Sampson Moore lived on what is now Arborhill Road in a section of what was unincorporated Augusta County called Beverley Manor. The land is now occupied by several farms, including one called Berry Moore. He could not read or write in 1880, according to the Census taken that year. But he managed to learn how to read by 1910, the second-to-last Census he participated in before he left this earth. Sampson owned his own land, one of the few Black men to do so. That probably made him very happy.

He was married to a woman named Elizabeth, who he also called Lizzie, who was also born in bondage. They first appear as a married couple in 1865, but may have actually been a couple earlier than that. This is because slaveowners often sent over enslaved Black men to other farmers in order to mate with Black women in order to birth more Black children for enslaving. Given her possible year of birth (1835), Elizabeth may have been the 15-year-old girl listed by the Census Bureau in 1850 as one of the enslaved of Archer Moore.

Slaves were never mentioned by name in the U.S. Census. Because no one was supposed to know them.

Elizabeth was unusual. She knew her mother and father, Morris and Lucy (also named Moore) and got to see them for years after the end of bondage. In 1880, they lived next door to her and Sampson, along with their children (including Samuel, my great-great grandfather). Sadly, Morris and Lucy died three years later. But they at least got a chance to experience freedom — and Elizabeth got to see her parents out of bondage.

Sampson wasn’t so lucky — and the same was true for so many other formerly enslaved Black people like him.

Because slavery was a financial enterprise that extended beyond merely owning the lives and liberties of Black people. As Dunaway details in books such as The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation, slaveowners in states such as Virginia and Maryland often sold and rented out enslaved Black people to other slaveowners in cotton-planting states such as Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. The slaveowners counted on such revenues, often garnered during spring planting and fall harvesting seasons, to offset the cyclical nature of farming, especially tobacco (whose prices were in decline for most of the 19th century).

Particularly for slave owners working smaller parcels of land in parts of Virginia such as Staunton and Augusta County that are the gateways into Appalachia, selling slaves was more-profitable than working the fields. Dunaway estimates that at least 100,000 enslaved Black people from places such as Augusta County were sold away and left the Appalachian South between 1840 and 1860 alone. This included teenage boys and girls being removed from their families before they turned 15. Two out of every five enslaved Black children were permanently removed from their homes and sold to slaveowners in the Deep South, according to Dunaway.

As they pursued profit, these slaveowners broke up Black families. Broke apart bonds of love between Black men and women formed despite slavemasters having whipped them, raped them, and  exploited them economically. Took children from the arms and love of their mothers formed despite the fact that their mothers often never got to wean their own children because they were breastfeeding the children of slave owners. Removed children from fathers who cared for them despite the degradation of oppression.

Slavery broke Black families apart. Few came back together. The legacy of the deliberate destruction of the building block of society resonates to this day.

Many of these families tried to find each other after the end of the Civil War. Most were often unsuccessful. This was the case with Sampson.

Three years into Reconstruction in January of 1868, Sampson mentioned his plight to an employee of the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, known to us today as the Freedmen’s Bureau. He told the a worker at the Staunton office looking at his case that mentioned that his father died before the end of the war and his mother had been “sold away South”. Sampson also mentioned a son named Andrew, who was 11 years old at the time of the recollection.

It is hard to know what happened to Andrew. But there are no mentions of a boy aged three or younger on Archer Moore’s slave schedule for 1860, and he doesn’t appear on the 1870 Census, the first in which Sampson and his family were no longer enslaved. There is a chance that Andrew may have been with Sampson for a short time, then died before he reached adulthood.

Sampson was one of many formerly enslaved Black men and women who had found themselves seeking help from the Freedmen’s Bureau. Sometimes it was about being owned wages for work done for former slave masters. Other times, it was about disputes they had with White men under which they apprenticed. In many cases, the Freedmen’s Bureau offices set up the very first schools Black children ever attended, settled disputes, even interceded on their behalf in court cases.

White former slaveowners who worked slowly and successfully to bring about Jim Crow hated the presence of the Freedmen’s Bureau and the expansive role the federal government was playing in Southern States. But for Black people like Sampson, as well as for people such as Hiram Revels (the first Black man ever to serve in the United States Senate), the Freedmen’s Bureau was the one tool they needed to ensure that they had a chance to at least have their civil rights and liberties defended and respected.

Reconstruction would end with the emergence of Jim Crow with its brutal segregation and oppression of Black people. Despite this, Sampson would manage to raise 10 children, and see many of them, including my great-grandfather, Samuel, make it into adulthood. Samuel, in turn, would watch his daughter, Florine, leave the South as part of the Great Migration and settle in New York’s Nassau County, where she and her husband, Henry Stone, would raise my grandmother, the first person in our family to go to college. The story carries on today as my family and I live the life Sampson never had the chance to have, and fulfill the dreams he would never have a chance to see.

The least we can do for our Sampson Moores is teach our children about their enslavement and their fights to be free.

Certainly that is all well and good. But there is no way that the realities of Sampson’s life in bondage and oppression, along with those of other formerly enslaved Black people should be obscured with talk of happy endings. Especially since Black people of today, along with other minorities, are still fighting for their liberties and for their children to gain the high-quality education they need and deserve.

If anything, what we need now, more than ever in this time, is an honest discussion of how America’s legacy of slavery, segregation, and oppression continue to shape our politics and society. That begins with providing all children with honest, unflinching knowledge about what people like Sampson went through, from slavery to Reconstruction to Jim Crow.

As your editor pointed out in last month’s essay on Confederate statues, much effort has been dedicated, both by generations of segregationists as well as by academics embracing the Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War, to render the lives of enslaved Black people and their descendants invisible, and to forget that their talents and other contributions were to the overwhelming benefit of generations of White people. American public education has been complicit in this erasing of reality, especially through classroom instruction, (as well as curricula and standards, that have wrongly taught generations of children that the Civil War was merely a battle between two equally noble sides, and sidestepped, even minimized, the true brutality of slavery.

The consequences of this failure to fully educate children can now be seen everywhere, including a White House occupied by a historical illiterate embracing the kind of White Supremacy that would have been respectable in the 19th century. Even respectable discourse about matters such as reforming schools are clouded by the inability of some to fully understand why it is critical to transform systems that are living legacies of deliberate decisions by past generations of White people to deny liberty and freedom to enslaved and oppressed Black people.

This is where a strong, comprehensive civics education comes in. When all children are taught the full and honest facts about American history, they can deal thoughtfully with the issues facing the nation today.

The good news is that we now have opportunities to correct that failure to provide children with proper civic and historical education. Common Core’s reading standards allow for teachers to use original texts (including documents from Freedmen’s Bureau offices) as well as more-accurate books on the history of slavery. Thanks to sites such as Family Search and, as well as other resources such as the Library of Congress (which houses the Federal Writers Project’s former slave recollections effort) teachers and even families can get their hands on these sources.

Another step lies in improving how we train teachers, especially those specializing in history, civics, and social studies. This is where organizations such as Teach for America, as well as university schools of education, come in. It is high time that those men and women who teach our children are fully knowledgeable about how America as much perpetuated denial of civil rights as it tried to fulfill the promise of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness espoused by the Founding Fathers.

Our children deserve a more-honest history. The Sampson Moores deserve to have their struggles and roles in American life acknowledged. Now is the opportunity to do both.

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Maryland’s Educational Shame

As Dropout Nation readers know by now, this publication has long taken the Old Line State’s political and educational leaders to task for continually and deliberately deceiving everyone about its…

As Dropout Nation readers know by now, this publication has long taken the Old Line State’s political and educational leaders to task for continually and deliberately deceiving everyone about its educational malpractice. This has including catching them excluding children with Limited English Proficiency and those condemned to special education ghettos from the National Assessment of Educational Progress in order to burnish the Old Line State’s Lake Woebegone reputation; as well as condemning the state legislature earlier this year for effectively eviscerating accountability in order to keep Gov. Larry Hogan and his appointees on the state board of education from actually holding districts and schools accountable for educational abuse.

But one of Maryland’s worst sins when it comes to educating children is one that is quite familiar in other parts of the nation: The rationing of college-preparatory learning, especially higher-level mathematics, that children need in order to succeed in higher education and in their adult lives. As an analysis of data reported by the state to the U.S. Department of Education reveals, the Land of Crab Cakes continuously shortchanges youth, especially those from poor and minority households.

Just 29.7 percent of Maryland’s high schoolers — a mere 75,126 children — took calculus, pre-calculus, trigonometry, geometry, statistics, and elementary analysis in 2013-2014, according to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights data collection. Put simply, only three in 10 high schoolers in the Old Line State were provided with the advanced mathematics necessary for graduation from the traditional colleges, technical schools and apprenticeship programs that make up American higher education.

The good news, in theory, is that the numbers are higher than the 23.8 percent of high schoolers taking advanced mathematics in 2011-2012. But as you would expect, those numbers get even worse — and the inequities more stark — once you break the numbers down by demographics.

Black children in high schools are shortchanged the worst. Just 17.9 percent of them — that’s little more than one in eight students — took calculus and other advanced mathematics in 2013-2014, far below the statewide average, though higher than the 15.3 percent of Black high schoolers taking such coursework two years earlier.  Latinos fared little better, with just 21.7 percent (or one out of every five) taking advanced math. This is still better than the 17.4 percent who took advanced math in the same period two years earlier.

Asian children fared the best in getting college-preparatory math, with 54.7 percent (one out of every two) students taking advanced math; that’s far better than the 47 percent who took advanced math in 2011-2012. One out of every three White children — 37.5 percent — took advanced math that year; that’s better than 30.7 percent two years past.

The problem extends beyond those classes to participation in Advanced Placement courses which have proven to be crucial in helping children, especially those from poor and minority households, prepare for success in higher education and beyond.

Twenty seven-point-two percent of Maryland’s high school students — one out of every four — took AP courses in 2013-2014. That’s just 69,085 students that year. The good news is that this is slightly more than the 25 percent of high schoolers taking AP in 2011-2012.

The shortchanging also looms large when you break things down by race and ethnicity. Just 16 percent of the state’s Black high-schoolers (one in eight) took AP courses that year; this is a nine-tenths of one percent drop over levels two years earlier. A mere 21.1 percent of Latino peers took AP; that’s an eight-tenths of one percent increase over the previous period. Both numbers are abysmally low compared to other peers. Some 51.7 percent of Asian students took AP courses in 2013-2014, a five-tenths of one percent increase over 2011-2012; while 34.4 percent of White students taking AP coursework, a four percentage point increase in the same period.

What about Algebra 1 course-taking at the middle school level, a key way of helping children get ready for the rigors of higher education down the road? As you already expect, Maryland’s public education systems are also falling behind on that front.

Just 22.7 percent of the state’s seventh- and eighth-graders took Algebra 1 in 2013-2014. That’s a seven percentage point drop from levels two years earlier. Sixteen-point-four of Black middle-schoolers took Algebra 1 that year, a 10 percentage point drop from levels two years before; while only 19 percent of Latino peers took the coursework, a six percentage point drop over that period. Black and Latino children aren’t the only ones being shortchanged. Some 37 percent of Asian middle-school students took Algebra 1, a 15 percentage point increase, while 26.5 percent of White peers took the math course, a 1.3 percentage point decline over levels two years ago.

The Maryland General Assembly has continuously proven to be opposed to any kind of systemic reform on behalf of poor and minority children.

No wonder why a mere 13 percent of Black and 32 percent of Latino children in the state’s Class of 2017 met ACT’s benchmarks for college-readiness versus 64 percent of Asian and 58 percent of White peers.

What we have in Maryland is what Contributing Editor Michael Holzman calls an educational caste system, one that reflects the legacies of slavery, nativism, and Jim Crow segregation that is at the heart of America’s Original Sin. But it isn’t simply about the past. The Old Line State’s political and educational leaders are making decisions in real time that essentially deny opportunities for all children to gain the knowledge they need to succeed once they reach adulthood.

Nothing in the state’s proposed plan for meeting federal requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act mentions how it will work to increase access to advanced math and AP courses, especially to Black and Latino children. The state is also silent on how it will require districts and other school operators to help children gain entry into those courses through high-quality curricula and teaching in the elementary grades or how it will end the gatekeeping of gifted-and-talented programs that often keep out poor and minority children.

That the Democrat-controlled state legislature has weakened the ability of the state education department to hold districts accountable for how they serve children, a move done as much to please the National Education Association’s Old Line State affiliate as to weaken the Republican Hogan’s control over education policy, now means that another generation of Black and Brown kids will end up on the path to poverty and prison. That the legislature’s Black caucus was complicit in this move (as were state board leaders through their unwillingness to call up Black reformers in the state who could have helped them out) is especially shameful.

Meanwhile the continued opposition to expanding public charter schools and other forms of choice, which could open up high-quality opportunities for Black and Latino children served poorly by traditional districts, remains the norm. While Maryland has made some progress on that front two years ago by passing a law creating the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students (which now serves 1,900 children from poor households), the state has all but stifled the expansion of charters.

Another way to expand opportunity for poor-and-minority kids also remains untapped: Providing them with free access to AP courses. Particularly for poor families, the $15 cost for each AP course taken is a roadblock to the opportunities their children can access to move out of economic destitution. But neither the legislature nor Gov. Hogan have addressed this problem when they can clearly do so. Districts could also find ways to provide AP to the children in its care — as well as use advice from the Education Trust on how to support them (as well as teachers and school leaders) in achieving success. There is little interest in doing so.

It is high time for Maryland’s political and educational leaders to stop shortchanging children of the college-preparatory education they need for their success as well as that of the state as a whole. There’s no reason why this is happening — and it must stop.

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School Reformers Must Choose Sides

Now is the time for school reformers to choose sides. Actually, it has been time for a long time. Since Election Day of last year. But after yesterday’s move by…

Now is the time for school reformers to choose sides. Actually, it has been time for a long time. Since Election Day of last year. But after yesterday’s move by the Trump Administration to continue its open war on the lives and futures of undocumented immigrant children, neutrality is no longer possible.

Once again, the current occupant of the White House has effectively issued a challenge to the school reform movement, especially to conservatives who once were the dominant force within it: Will they up stand against the administration’s war against the futures of poor and minority children?

As many expected, the Trump Administration announced Tuesday that it would end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the initiative started under the Obama Administration that protects 760,000 undocumented emigres brought to this country as children from deportation.

Declaring that DACA somehow “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans” and calling innocent young men, women, and children “illegal aliens”, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared on behalf of the coward occupying the White House that the administration would no longer renew applications for DACA participants.

The result of the Trump Administration’s decision can only be a tragedy, one caused by an immoral regime’s continued bigotry against people who are Black and Brown.

Children as young as nine who are entering fourth grade, will likely be removed from the only homes they have ever known, from the only country they have ever truly lived in, and will be treated like trash by the only government that is supposed to protect their civil liberties. We are talking about helpless children in the midst of learning now being told by the federal government and by the Trump regime that they are undeserving of being treated humanely like the Children of God and members of the Family of Man that they are.

Young men and women who are now in the traditional colleges, technical schools and apprenticeships that make up America’s higher education will also be deported from the only country they have ever known, sent to places that they don’t call home. These are the people who would otherwise be our future business, civic, and government leaders. But the Trump regime is also telling those youths that they are to be treated inhumanely primarily because they aren’t White or native-born.

The Trump Administration, led by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is now engaging in a low-grade form of ethnic cleansing.

Then there are the young adults already out of college and contributing to America’s economy and society. This includes 20,000 teachers, including some 1,000 teachers working in traditional public and public charter schools thanks to Teach for America, who are helping poor and minority children gain the knowledge they need for lifelong success. These men and women will now lose their jobs and be tossed out of the country just because their parents brought them here to have better lives and be builders of this nation.

These young men and women, by the way, have also begun starting their own families, with children attending schools. Deporting these undocumented emigres also means breaking up families, putting those children into child welfare systems incapable of providing them with opportunities for brighter futures.

If the Trump regime’s action was done by a regime in a foreign country, it would be decried by Americans here at home as an atrocity. It most certainly is, no matter the efforts by the current occupant of the White House and Sessions to argue otherwise.

Even worse for these young people is that the Trump regime can now easily identify and deport them. Because they had to apply for DACA participation and have provided information on their status as undocumented emigres, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement can easily round them up and secure deportation through immigration courts. These people trusted the federal government only to find themselves entrapped by it.

The Trump Administration announced that it would not embark on any deportation proceedings those previously covered under DACA for six months, declaring that it wait on Congress to pass legislation that would eventually allow those undocumented immigrant youth to stay. But the regime has an already-proven track record of not keeping its word on anything. As Dropout Nation noted last week, the regime began rounding up and attempting to deport Dreamers even before the announcement. Given the allegations of abuse against undocumented emigres by ICE officials and operators of jails under its watch, these children and young adults are also likely to be beaten, tortured and harmed.

While the regime argues that a potential lawsuit from attorneys general in 10 states forced its hand, the reality is that federal immigration law gives it wide latitude in how it handles undocumented emigres, especially those who are children. In fact, Congress (including Republicans now in leadership in the House and Senate) granted that authority in the Immigration Reform and Control Act passed three decades ago, while earlier administrations, including that of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, have implemented orders similar to DACA.

The reality is that Trump, whose successful campaign has been based on accusing undocumented immigrants (especially Latino emigres) of being “rapists” and “bad hombres”, is engaged in a low-grade form of ethnic cleansing. From where he and the rest of his administration sits, Latino children, undocumented and otherwise, along with other minorities, are nothing more than “aliens” who threaten their sanctified White culture. For all of Trump’s supposed hesitation about ending DACA, he had already declared during his campaign that he would do so. On Tuesday, he merely kept his promise.

Put simply: Some of our most-vulnerable children are being denied brighter futures. So are some of the good and great teachers helping our children succeed. As are young men and women contributing greatly to our society today. They are truly American citizens — and they deserve better. There is no way that school reformers who are supposed to be champions for youth can stand idly by and watch them suffer harm.

Some 20,000 teachers, including Teach for America recruits such as Vanessa Luna, are among those who will deported because of the Trump Administration’s move to end DACA. [Photo courtesy of the New York Times.]

The good news is that there are plenty of reformers and organizations, many of them in the civil rights wing of the movement, who are standing up for Dreamers and other undocumented immigrant children.

This includes the Education Trust and Teach for America, whose chief executives, former Secretary of Education John King and Elissa Villanueva-Beard, have stood out front to decry the Trump Administration’s immorality. That group also includes Chiefs for Change, the lobbying group of reform-minded chief state school officers, who have also issued their own statements calling for protection for undocumented children.

Meanwhile, among conservative reformers, Former Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Chester (Checker) Finn Jr., a lion of the movement and someone who pushed for passage of laws allowing for those children to become citizens, has also called out the Trump Administration for its deplorable action. Given the help he has given to a Dreamer who was covered by DACA, the opposition to what Trump did is quite personal. Third Way, the centrist Democrat outfit, along with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have also been prominent in condemning Trump’s action. Even Walton Family Foundation, which usually eschews taking any public position, allowed its education policy boss, Marc Sternberg, to call for protecting DACA children from deportation.

But there are still reformers, especially those in the conservative and school choice wings, as well as some centrist Democrat players, who remain silent in the face of what is happening. Why? They have their reasons.

They think that opposing Trump’s efforts on immigration will lead to the regime withdrawing its support for expanding charters as well as implementing education savings accounts that can be used just like vouchers. They seem willing to ignore the fact that Trump Administration has proven spectacularly incompetent in rallying fellow Republicans in Congress around any legislation, and has sparred with key congressional leaders to boot. The Trump Administration’s proposed $167 million funding increase for the federal Charter Schools Fund as well as implement education tax credits into the proposed revamp of the tax code are already dead in the water.

They also think that their ties to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (as well as the support they receive from her family’s foundations) gives them an edge in making their agenda a reality. They seemingly ignore the fact that DeVos has been unable to convince Trump to take any positive action on behalf of vulnerable children; DeVos couldn’t even convince the administration to wait some time before ending the Obama Administration’s guidance on dealing with the bathroom issues of transgendered students. Her failure in policymaking at the federal level (as well as inability to fill key jobs at the Department of Education) has also become quite clear.

Centrist Democrats, in particular, are worried that civil rights- and progressive reformers will drive out conservatives in the movement (as well as White moderates such as themselves), weakening long-term support for advancing systemic reform. What they fail to realize is that standing quietly against the Trump regime’s bigotry will not help their cause (or that of the school reform movement) at all. If anything, silence guarantees that progressives and minority communities being harmed by Trump (as well as other White people of good will) will reject every proposal to transform American public education.

Meanwhile the biggest problem of all with such silence is that it is a betrayal of the school reform movement’s mission to build brighter futures for all children. This includes opposing the kinds of political actions that constitute what Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston’s Catholic archdiocese calls the cultures of death that consume the lives of far too many children.

You can’t declare that you are champions for children when you are willing to tolerate the racism and nativism that has been America’s Original Sin, as well as how that is used to denigrate and discriminate against some of our children and young people. You cannot declare yourself dedicated to helping all children succeed when you are willing through your silence to let some kids be failed by the government their parents support financially. And you cannot be a school reformer if you are complicit in the evil being done to any of our children, even if you think that the your goals justify the means.

Trump’s decision to end DACA has now put a litmus test before those within the school reform movement. Those who choose to stand silently and idly by while this regime commits evil against children have failed it already. As with Trump and his minions, those erstwhile reformers deserve nothing but scorn.

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