Education Week - October 28, 2015 - (Page 15)
talk about the positive things about
our black males," said Goar. "Because
the narrative is singular in nature,
which is, if you are a black boy, you are
going to go to jail, you're going to fail,
or you're going to get suspended. We
want to change the narrative."
For Walker, the job was a natural
fit. An assistant principal upon his appointment, he had developed programs
for at-risk young people as the youthdevelopment director at the YMCA of
the Greater Twin Cities. He spent the
first days on the job asking the community-people at barbershops, hair
salons, and malls-about their experiences with the school system and what
they wanted from the office.
What he heard was that black boys
felt there was a double standard in how
they were disciplined at school. They
spoke about racism and stereotypes,
and that they felt that some teachers
didn't expect much from them. Parents
told him they did not think educators
were fair when dealing with black boys.
Educators didn't believe they had all
the tools necessary to help black boys
to be successful, he said.
There are not a lot of data yet to
show if the programs are working,
Walker said. Anecdotally, he points
to a drop in disciplinary incidents,
increased attendance, and positive
engagement for the students who
participated in a pilot of the BLACK
classes last year.
Helen Hunter, a single mother of
four, said that she appreciates what
the classes are doing to help her two
boys, Glen, 14, and Glentrel, 13.
Given the grim statistics for black
students, programs specifically aimed
at "balancing the scale for AfricanAmerican children" were overdue, she
said. "There was nothing celebrating
what they were doing, but so many
things looking at what they were not
doing," she said.
For his part, Glentrel said his "kings"
looked out for him. They worked together in groups, encouraged each
other to do homework, attend classes,
and stay on task, and called out each
other on behaviors they thought were
"Hopefully, we'll see some results,"
said Walker. "We'll see it getting better.
We'll see it changing."
School-Parent Linkages Chip
Away at Cultural Barriers
By Caralee Adams
Maxine Nguyen used to think getting her four
children to school and making sure they finished
their homework was enough.
"From my culture, we usually leave it to the
teachers to deal with education," said Nguyen, of
Kent, Wash., who came from South Vietnam at
age 4 as a refugee and had painful memories of
being treated differently by teachers because of
But her attitude changed once she got to know
teachers, administrators, and other parents
though a process in which her local school district
was redesigning strategies to engage parents.
Nguyen said she began to see teachers as fellow human beings who were approachable. The
experience made her feel more confident asking
questions, allowed her to better understand what
was happening in her children's classrooms, and
prompted her to volunteer at the school.
Increasingly, schools are working to bridge
the cultural differences to get families engaged
more deeply in their children's education. This
means welcoming families, visiting their homes,
listening to their experiences, and explaining
the educational system so that families can recognize when biases are hurting their children's
learning and work to overcome them.
"Teachers go into the classroom and they are
confronted with kids who are a rainbow of colors
and backgrounds, and [teachers] are just woefully
underprepared," said Anne T. Henderson, a senior
consultant for the Community Organizing and
Engagement program at the Annenberg Institute
for School Reform. "I'm convinced the inequitable
practice of engaging families is very much behind
the disparate outcomes that we see for our morevulnerable children."
Not Out to 'Fix Parents'
Henderson said that instead of traditional, oneway activities that aim to "fix parents," such as lecturing parents at Back-to-School Nights, schools
need to reach out to families and help them navigate schools. "Parents know when a school looks
down on them," she said.
The key is to change the relationship from one
of distrust to one of respect and collaboration. "We
are moving from thinking of parents as the problem to parents as partners," said Henderson, a
co-author of the 2007 book Beyond the Bake Sale.
Take Mt. Rainier Elementary School in Maryland, composed mostly of Hispanic and African-
American students, about half of whom are English-language learners. Principal Shawn Hintz
wanted to do more than hold a social event, such
as the annual barbecue, to engage families in the
education of their children and the decisions of
In partnership with Teaching for Change, a nonprofit that helps schools and parents build positive
connections, Mt. Rainier last year invited parents
into the classroom, with translators who could
help educators explain how lessons were taught
so they could replicate the methods at home. Hintz
also hosts regular parent-principal "chit-chats"
where parents are encouraged to raise issues.
"Before, the parents would do a lot of talking
amongst themselves," Hintz said. "Now they feel
more empowered to come talk to me about their
Creating a Story Quilt
This year Mt. Rainier will begin a six-week
story-quilt activity where parents are given different prompts (such as to talk about their first
paycheck or a time when they got in trouble) and
then share their experiences as they make a quilt
together. They also discuss challenges in the school
and begin to do some community organizing, finding power working in a collective.
"It's based on the idea that we build meaningful relationships by sharing our stories," said
Allyson Criner Brown, an associate director of
Teaching for Change, in Washington. Teachers
and principals are also encouraged to take part.
"We are trying to address the power dynamics
in the room and looking for where there may be
differences, and biases and structures that may
be putting up barriers."
In the Central Falls, R.I., district, drop-in "family rooms" have been set up in schools to provide
a warm, welcoming space, along with computers
and a staff member who is bilingual to connect
with parents before, during, and after school.
"With so many minority families, especially if
they don't speak the language, there is this big
wall in front of the school," said Joshua Wizer-Vecchi, the coordinator of a federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant through Children's Friend, a
Providence nonprofit that works with the district
on family engagement. "Maybe you had a terrible
experience or feel that you don't have a place here.
We have tried to break that down and say, 'No, no,
come in.' "
Sometimes school staff members mistakenly believe parents are not interested in their children's
educations because they don't show up at school
events. But it can be a matter of tuning into what
works for the school's diverse community.
"We are guilty of scheduling for a time that
works for us," said Wizer-Vecchi, who has switched
events to evenings to accommodate working families. The district also has also begun to replace
pizza and pasta with rice, beans, and empanadas
to appeal to Latino families.
Expanding Teacher Awareness
In Kent, Nguyen was among the parents who
designed and developed a family-engagement
curriculum in collaboration with teachers, administrators, and researchers from the University of
Washington. The process gave parents a chance to
share their experiences, create bonds, and develop
priorities for improving the school together with
educators, said Ann Ishimaru, an assistant professor of education at the University of Washington
in Seattle, who facilitated the work.
In turn, the process raised a level of awareness
for these educators about how social, cultural, and
racial dynamics influence their ongoing interactions with children and families, in and out of the
classroom, Ishimaru said.
Being part of the collaborative design team was
"enlightening," said Teresa Wocken-Linders, a 5th
grade teacher who is white and works at Panther Lake Elementary School in Kent, which has
become increasingly diverse through influxes of
"It was interesting to hear what was most important to parents-it's not always the same thing
as what seems important to staff," said WockenLinders.
For instance, parents were concerned about
safety and wanted training on how to prevent
bullying. They also thought it was important that
their children develop a positive racial identity
within the school system, she said.
Wocken-Linders began to ask parents about
their priorities going into conferences so they had
more of a shared agenda.
"As a teacher, I feel I have an increased awareness and respect for what parents know about
their child and the needs of their child," she said.
Now she translates more of her correspondence
with parents-into Spanish or Vietnamese, as
needed-using Google Translate. "I'm trying to be
Coverage of issues related to creating opportunities for
all American students and their families to choose a
quality school is supported by a grant from the Walton
Family Foundation, at waltonk12.org. Education Week
retains sole editorial control over the content of this
Visit the K-12 PARENTS & THE PUBLIC blog, which tracks news
and trends on this issue. www.edweek.org/blogs
club that partners with teachers to
address bias issues on campus.
Problems can be subtle: One
teacher, after hearing about a fight
at lunch, incorrectly assumed aloud
it had been triggered by a group of
mostly black teenagers who often
stood together in the cafeteria.
"Teachers often don't understand
that saying stuff like that is racist,
because it is coming from a place of
implicit bias," Ellie said. "Teachers
often don't know what microaggressions are ... and they don't know that
when they are committing them,
they are making problems worse."
Justin T. Gellerson for Education Week
Coverage of the experiences of lowincome, high-achieving students is
supported in part by a grant from the
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, at www.
jkkf.org. Education Week retains sole
editorial control over the content of this
Jeremy Gabrieo and his
daughter Gabriel River
browse at the book fair
at Mt. Rainier Elementary
School in Maryland.
Earlier, Gabrieo attended a
breakfast and lecture for the
Men of Mt. Rainier, a group
made up of the parents and
guardians of children at the
school. The school has been
working with a nonprofit to
reach out to more parents.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 28, 2015
Education Week - October 28, 2015
Study Paints Chaotic View of Testing
In L.A., Tensions Rise Over Teacher Investigations
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: ‘Ephemeral’ Apps Put School Leaders in Tricky Spots
Unequal Access to Advanced Classes Targeted
Fighting Subtle Bias
News in Brief
Oak Foundation Aiding Those With ‘Learning Differences’
Long-Term Study to Track Adolescent Brain Development
Blogs of the Week
In Minneapolis, a Targeted Effort To Bolster Black Boys
School-Parent Linkages Chip Away at Cultural Barriers
Fate of Programs Complicates Path To ESEA Compromise
Some School Choice Backers Tepid On Title I Portability Proposal
State Chiefs Look to Montana For Ways to Meet the Needs Of Native American Students
Signs Point to Increase in High School Graduation Rates
Blogs of the Week
SETH KERSHNER & SCOTT HARDING: Do Military Recruiters Belong in Schools?
JEREMY A. STERN: On the AP U.S. History Framework
Unearthing the Humanity Beneath Stereotypes
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
JOHN HATTIE: The Effective Use of Testing: What the Research Says
Education Week - October 28, 2015