Education Activism Spreads Across the Country
Dec 1, 2014
By Kitty Kelly Epstein
Ethnic Studies advocates in Los Angeles won a school board resolution recently that makes ethnic studies a part of the graduation requirements. Possible courses include African-American history, Latino issues and others.
Activists in San Francisco are pursuing a similar resolution, which will be heard by the San Francisco School Board in December.
In Minneapolis the superintendent of schools has declared that no African-American student can be suspended without her explicit approval. This is in response to a national epidemic of African-American suspensions.
Locally, Principals Gina Hill from the Street Academy, Mekael Johnson from Community Day School, and teacher Alma Buenavista took up the same issue in a panel discussion at Holy Names University, advising new teachers that sending students out to the principal with a referral weakens the teacher’s authority and harms the children’s education.
They advised close communication with parents as a better answer.
Parents and teachers in Newark, New Jersey have been struggling to get back local control of their schools, which were taken over by the State 20 years ago.
The education struggle in Newark was a major reason for the election of Ras Baraka (son of Amiri Baraka) as mayor of the city. Parents and students took their fight to Washington, D.C. last week, where the district’s State Administrator Cami Anderson was scheduled to speak at the American Enterprise Institute.
Although parents and students had registered, those in charge began to cancel the event when they discovered that people from Newark were in the audience. Students asked why their own “superintendent” (appointed by Governor Chris Christie) would not meet with them in either Newark or D.C.
Thousands of parents and school boards from New York to Florida have been opting out of the tests that accompany the Common Core standards. The result in New York City was a City Council resolution (1394) urging the use of “multiple measures” rather than reliance on standardized tests.
Parents and educators have many reasons for their opposition, including the reality that corporations such as Pearson have encouraged the tests and will make billions of dollars administering them.
An important reason that is mentioned less frequently is the fact that standardized testing began with Eugenics advocate Lewis Terman in 1916, and its impact on non-white groups has remained negative.
Kitty Kelly Epstein, PhD, is host of Education Today on KPFA 94.1 and author of “A Different View of Urban Schools: Civil Rights, Critical Race Theory, and Unexplored Realities (2012).” You can follow her on twitter @educate2day941