02 Oct Why do we need a strategy?
WHY DO WE NEED A STRATEGY?
In the United States, nearly 50.4 million students attend our public elementary and secondary schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, we are now a minority-majority education system, with 51% of our students (25.9 million) being of color. Our nation’s diversity is one of our greatest assets– and it is time to once and for all embrace this diversity and move past a system that merely promotes and encourages tolerance. We believe that by making inclusivity and respect for all students’ differences a priority of American public education, the United States will once again be a leader in high-quality education.
Our public school system was founded on the belief that education is essential to our democratic society. We take pride in helping students learn, and in preparing them for their role in society as an engaged, productive and responsible citizen. However, we don’t always take on responsibility this equally. The American education system is failing, and our students of color, especially Black students, are faced with a system filled systemic barriers that do nothing but allow these students to struggle and fall behind.
EQUITY AND EXCELLENCE GO HAND IN HAND
In order to achieve an equitable and inclusive education system, we must identify, address, and eliminate the biases and barriers that cripple our students’ cognitive and social development. These barriers, often expressed unconsciously, are developed based on the sex, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic background, ability, and most often race, of our students. The impact how we discipline our students, the type of courses we offer, the expectations we have for success, and even ways we go about allocating funds for our districts.
It is without question that an equitable and inclusive education system is essential for all students to reach high levels of achievement. In developing the Education 2030 Framework for Action, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural organization noted that equity and inclusion is a key component to peace and tolerance, as well as a key to achieving full employment and eradicating poverty (2015). Through substantive change, the United States can be a leader of equitable education.
It has been over sixty years since the Brown v. Board of Education decision. However, discrimination in American schools in an ongoing plague that demands attention– especially now as our schools are more diverse than ever before. For Black students, bullying, hate propaganda, racism, disproportionate rates of decline, and unequal access to courses and services are a concern to our parents and students. Our Black students feel rejected, excluded and isolated from their school communities. As a result behavior problems and chronic absenteeism are on the rise, and achievement rates are low. In 2016, it is unacceptable that our students should be subject to any racism in their communities, especially at school.
It is time we demand solutions to these concerns. We must embrace the diversity of our nation, and address the needs of a rapidly changing and increasingly complex society. We must fully carryout the holding of Brown v. Board of Education, and ensure equity and justice in the education system for Black students.
WHAT IS BEING BLACK AT SCHOOL’S EQUITY IN EDUCATION STRATEGY?
The Being Black at School’s Equity in Education Strategy aims to utilize policy analysis, demographic data, mindfulness of implicit biases, and cultural competency to help the education policymakers identify and address discriminatory biases and systemic barriers to support the achievement and well-being of all students.
Although much of the Equity in Education Strategy is lead by our Policy Initiative team and focused on federal and local governing bodies, parent and community engagement is essential for long-term success. Student achievement has been shown to increase when parents play an active role in their children’s learning, and that good schools become even better when parents are involved. Parents and community members are encouraged to use our resources while your school works toward developing polices focused on the safety and equity of Black students.
WHAT DOES THE STRATEGY ACCOMPLISH?
To achieve equity and inclusive education, Being Black at School has identified the following three goals:
Equity and inclusive education policies and practices will be implemented to support positive learning environments. Black students should feel engaged and empowered by what they are learning; supported by their educators; and safe in their schools.
A commitment to leadership by the Department of Education, local school boards and school administration will be essential to identifying and eradicating biases in our classroom.
Accountability and transparency is crucial to assure progress is being made. By measuring current weaknesses in equity practices in schools, districts can make informed decisions on necessary changes. This information, along with a plan of action, should be communicated to the public and used to show progress towards achieving equity Black students.
WHO IS INVOLVED AND HOW?
Being Black at School is eager to work with policymakers to establish a policy that calls for:
- Schools to create and support a positive, safe learning environment that fosters equity, inclusive education and diversity
- School administration to support continuing education efforts that address equity and implicit biases
- School boards to develop and implement district wide equity and inclusive education policies
- Being Black at School to provide resources for both parents and educators, as well as resources to better inform policymakers on decisions regarding how Black students fit into American public education as a system
- Parents and community partners to support the school and school board efforts by providing resources and professional learning opportunities
- Federal and state governments to provide direction, support and guidance
Much work has to be done to ensure equity and safety for Black students in our schools. In the coming months we will publish a series of policies looking to address the systemic issues affecting our Black students such as: access to education, implicit bias, multicultural topics and diversity in teacher education, disproportionate levels of discipline, and more. We look forward to working with policymakers at the federal, state and local levels, and welcome you to our movement. Together we can empower parents, educators and policymakers to make schools exceptional for Black children.