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Taking Hits

My Privilege

I have privileges. I am a woman of color, and I have privileges. Part of doing racial justice work is being able to reflect on your positionality and how you show up in different spaces. It’s also important to reflect on how that has changed over time.

For example – I have been very poor. I’m not anymore, and now I have middle-class privilege. I’m also more educated than I used to be, which gives me more privilege. While I want to believe that I can relate to poor people, I have to ask myself why I’m trying to relate. I’m not in that position anymore. My new experiences have reshaped my perceptions. That’s not saying I can’t relate, it’s just to say that I have to reflect more when trying to relate.

Reflecting on my privileges is the easy part. The hard part is acting because of them. We teach people to use their privilege to defend the less privileged. This is true in racial justice work, especially in places like Seattle, home of the “passive progressive.” I feel like if we’re not constantly pushing progressive Seattleites to do better and be less racist, they’ll fall right back into their false sense of racial justice Nirvana. Becky in her Uggs and North Face jacket with her pumpkin spice latte will put up her Black Lives Matter yard sign and be done with racism.

Pulling Back the Veil

I see my job as a privileged person working in a racist institution to be the one pulling back the veil. I see and experience things I had only heard about before as a classroom teacher. Teachers experience microaggressions and hostile work environments, for sure. As a district leader, I get that and then some. I have heard second hand about racial equity leaders being bullied out, or being set up for failure to the point it affects their physiological and mental health. Now I know why.

I am the ethnic studies program manager. I have my job because of my experiences and understanding of racial justice. The thing is, until now, I’ve only ever talked about “the system” without understanding how the individuals made the parts of the sum. It’s not “the system” that doesn’t want to change. It’s the individuals who enjoy the system and attack anyone who challenges it.

We are currently in a situation in which the superintendent meets with and receives counsel from a group of all white leaders with the exception of Dr. Brent Jones, a Black man. Guess which role Dr. Jones plays? Yup, racial equity. He’s technically the chief of community engagement and partnerships, but the director of the Department for Racial Equity Advancement reports to him. That’s his “department.” Sounds a lot like tokenizing to me. And many of the white leaders in the superintendent’s cabinet have been in the district long enough to legitimately blame for the existing racial disparities.

Taking Hits

As I am apt to do, and because I believe my privilege comes with certain responsibilities, I call racism out when I see it. This has earned me titles like “divisive,” “trouble-maker,” and my favorite, “not a good fit” for my position, ethnic studies program manager. I want to take a moment to claim credit – which I rarely do, because I recognize my work is supported by the labor of many – but I created this program and made it what it is today. In a racist system with racist people in power, that’s not enough.

A dear friend and sister of the heart told me she respects me because I’m willing to take the hits. This is true, again because of the privilege thing, but how many hits can I take? My job has been threatened. My integrity has been questioned and my social media stalked. I have been reprimanded and told I cannot directly contact the superintendent or board of directors over “contentious” issues. I have been accused by leadership of trying to sabotage the work I created because I have called out principals for obstruction (which I have evidence of). My social media is followed and reported to the superintendent. She had a stack of my Facebook posts, tweets, and blog posts in hand the last time she called me into her office.

I can take the hits. It’s not martyrdom, it’s necessity. If I’m not doing it, who will? I suppose there are a handful of leaders of color in the district who are taking the slow but steady route, but I don’t have time for that. Our students don’t have time for that. I’m tired of sitting around and having meetings about plans that we never implement. I’m tired of talking about racial equity with people who have never experienced racism and who can’t even define equity. These are the people driving our district. These are the people advising the superintendent. These people are the system I’m taking the hits from.

I can take the hits for now, and I believe my work speaks for itself. I have the respect of the people who matter the most and the people I believe have the answers and can actualize change. But I’m at a point where I’m questioning how much more I can take before I have to exit, too. That’s if they don’t get rid of me first.

Creating a Data Culture

This week I was asked to write about my thoughts on data culture. Before I started this class I would have just written that data culture makes me want to vomit, but after learning thus far I realize I only felt that way because SPS has been doing it SO WRONG! I have a deeper appreciation for the power of data – when it’s the right data and it’s created and analyzed by the right people.


Data Culture and Collaborative Inquiry

In creating a data culture, the science of andragogy needs to be considered. Andragogy is the practice of teaching and learning for adults. Knowles, Holton, and Swanson explain how collaboration and need to know are central to the practice of andragogy. They argue that first, adult learners must understand why they are learning a new concept and how it will improve their experiences, then they need to work collaboratively toward solutions while learning the new concept (2015).

When creating a self-sustaining professional learning community (PLC), collaboration is key, as it creates a sense of group ownership in the work, learning, and accountability. DuFour and Fullan posit that data PLCs must be the driving force behind systemic change (2013). For this to happen, all stakeholders must be active in the work. Dr. Bernhardt states that if a school or district is to have an effective data culture, all data must be analyzed, not just data that indicate gaps (2016). Again, this approach requires collaboration on levels that does not frequently exist in schools.

How to Create a Sustainable Data Culture

            Some of the literature on successful data culture indicates that data literacy is the key to effective, sustainable data culture. There are two types of data literacy according to Mandinach and Jackson: being able to read and use data to change practice and being able to assess the validity of the data. They argue data are only as good as the tools and instruments used to collect them (2012). While this makes sense, Bernhardt argues that to best engage educators in data is to challenge them to discover data that is missing (2016).

Bernhardt’s argument is aligned to the inquiry-based approach to andragogy. Simply giving data to educators and telling them what they need is the antithesis of the science behind andragogy. Knowles, Holton, and Swanson identify six characteristics at the core of adult learning (2015):

  1. Learners need to know why, what, and how.
  2. Self-concept of the learner is autonomous and self-directing
  3. Prior experience of the learner is utilized.
  4. The readiness to learn is dependent on how the learning is related to the life of the learner.
  5. The learning must be problem-centered and contextual.
  6. The motivation to learn must be intrinsic and must be linked to personal gain.

If the process of creating a data culture starts with tasking educators with finding data they are missing, that starts the process with self-directed autonomy. It provides space for educators to determine the why of learning which is dependent on their prior experience, readiness to learn, and their professional need and context. When educators are looking for data that will address very specific needs to improve their instruction, it is more likely their motivation will be intrinsic.

Starting with what is missing makes it easier to have a PLC in which educators are leading instead of building or district leaders. Dr. Bernhardt believes that putting principals or other people in authority as leads in PLCs prevents true, collaborative, inquiry-based planning (2016). Professional Learning Communities that start with authority figures are what DuFour and Reeves call “PLC Lite.” PLCs lite are characterized by “[m]eetings that only address standards, that focus entirely on disciplinary issues and parent complaints, or that center on [human resource] issues” (2016). Since school principals and other authority figures are evaluated on these topics, it makes sense they center data about them. These issues, however, rarely relate to daily teacher and student experiences nor do they inform how to change instruction to meet the needs of students.

Instead, DuFour and Reeves suggest the following characteristic for student and instruction-centered PLC work (2016):

  1. Collaborative teams that take collective responsibility for student learning
  2. Establish a viable, student-centered curriculum
  3. An assessment process that includes frequent, team-developed, common formative assessments based on point 2 above
  4. Use the data collected from formative assessments to identify students who need help
  5. Create a system of interventions that do not remove students from primary instruction

DuFour and Reeves’ emphasis on formative assessments is supported by Bernhardt’s emphasis on the same (2016) and is in line with andragogical theory about context and linking learning to personal gain (Knowles, et al, 2015). Summative assessments, like high stakes testing data, does nothing to help educators adjust instruction during learning. Data from formative assessments are the most appropriate for use in creating a sustainable data culture.

Examples of Effective and Ineffective Data Culture in Seattle Public Schools

Most data analysis work in Seattle Public Schools is centered on high stakes testing and discipline data, and most data analysis work starts with gaps in existing data. The language in the mission statement of the district explicitly names gaps: “Seattle Public Schools is committed to eliminating opportunity gaps to ensure access and provide excellence in education for every student” (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.c). The mission statement mandates that educators start with gaps in the data culture. This is in direct conflict with prevailing wisdom on how to create a data culture (Bernhardt, 2016).

The mission statement also infers that students lack access to opportunities instead of educators lack the ability to meet needs of their students. Data from Seattle Public Schools indicate that even when students of color have access to opportunities (higher socioeconomic status), they still achieve at the same levels of white students who have less access to opportunities (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.a). By naming a gap in students’ opportunities, we remove the onus from educators to do deep, reflective work on their practice.

More student-centered language (Fullan, 2011) would be, “Seattle Public schools is committed to providing excellent education for every student by providing anti-racist, culturally responsive educators for every student.” The latter statement puts direct accountability on the district and educators for doing personal, reflective work to meet the needs of students, regardless of the students’ “opportunities.” It still addresses the racial disparities by calling out anti-racism and culturally responsive practices while shifting the deficit from students’ “opportunities” to educators’ practice.

An additional factor to consider is that the research and evaluation team in Seattle Public Schools consists primarily of white people, with the director being a white male (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.b). When Bernhardt writes about finding data that is missing, this is one crucial piece of datum. When the goals of the district, including the Strategic Plan, specifically call out racial disparities, it would make sense that the data culture be led by a person who identifies with impacted groups. A racial equity literate (Gorski, 2015) person of color would be best suited to set the parameters and purpose of data collected than a white male who cannot fully understand the needs of students of color.

An example of a successful data culture exists in Seattle Education Association’s Center for Racial Equity. This is a department committed to furthering racial justice in the school district operated by the educators’ union. The Center is directed and operated by mostly women of color. Most members are currently classroom teachers. The director is a teacher on special assignment (Seattle Education Association, 2019b). While this group uses district data as a starting point, they frequently do a gap analysis of the existing data, looking for what is missing. Since most of the members are people of color, they have a better sense of the needs of students of color and the types of data to look for.

Within the Center is another group called Racial Equity Team Coaches. This is a group of mostly women of color who are currently classroom educators that work to support the data analysis of racial equity teams across the district (Seattle Education Association, 2019a). The success of this program can be attributed to the fact that the coaches are educators of color who are doing the work they expect others to do. Educators are leading the work instead of administrators which leads to increased experiences of efficacy (Dunn, Airola, Lo, & Garrison, 2013), if only vicariously through the coaches at first. Those being coached, however have been observed to respond better to their peer coaches than to administrator coaches.

References

Bernhardt, V.L. (2016). Data, data everywhere; Bringing all the data together for continuous

school improvement (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

DuFour, R. & Fullan, M. (2013). Cultures built to last: Systematic PLCs at work. Bloomington,

IN: Solution Tree Press.

DuFour, R. & Reeves, D. (2016) The futility of PLC Lite. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(6), 69-71. DOI:

10.1177/003172171663687.

Dunn, K. E., Airola, D. T., Lo, W-J., & Garrison, M. (2013). Becoming data driven: The

influence of teachers’ sense of efficacy on concerns related to data-driven decision making. The Journal of Experimental Education, 81(2), 222–241. DOI: 10.1080/00220973.2012.699899.

Fullan, M. (2011). Change leader; Learning to do what matters most. San Francisco, CA: Jossy-

Bass, A Wiley Imprint.

Gorski, P. (03.2015). Equity literacy for all. Education Leadership. Retrieved from

http://www.edchange.org/publications/Equity-Literacy-for-All.pdf

Knowles, M.S., Holton III, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2015). The adult learner: The definitive

classic in adult education and human resource development (8th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Mandinach, E.B. & Jackson, S.S. (2012). Transforming teaching and learning through data-

driven decision making. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Seattle Education Association. (2019a). RET Partner Program. Seattle Education

Association. Retrieved from https://www.seattlewea.org/center-for-race-equity/ret-partner-program/

Seattle Education Association. (2019b). SEA’s Center for Racial Equity. Seattle Education

Association. Retrieved from https://www.seattlewea.org/center-for-race-equity/

Seattle Public Schools. (n.d.a). Eliminating opportunity gaps. Seattle Public Schools. Retrieved

from https://www.seattleschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=627&pageId=14245065

Seattle Public Schools. (n.d.b). Research and evaluation. Seattle Public Schools. Retrieved from

https://www.seattleschools.org/cms/one.aspx?pageId=15164

Seattle Public Schools. (n.d.c). Strategic Plan. Seattle Public Schools. Retrieved from

https://www.seattleschools.org/district/district_quick_facts/strategic_plan

Student Performance Data and Assessment and Instruction

In this segment of my paper on data-driven instruction, I was asked to do an analysis of how data is used in decision-making and reflection to support standards-based learning across the district. I was asked to analyze how this process is systematized (hint: it’s not) and what I believe the relationship between data and curriculum, assessment, and instruction is.

Notice – I have cited my sources for some of my claims about the disconnect between district and building leadership…


Using Assessment to Drive Instruction

Mandinach and Jackson identify two different forms of assessment from which to collect data: formative, or assessment for learning; and summative, or assessment of learning (2012). Formative assessments are generally given in the classroom by the teacher, while summative assessments are more formal, like state testing. Interim assessments are a combination of both formative and summative. They sum up the learning that has been achieved and help steer the teaching in the necessary direction to fill gaps (Bambrick-Santoyo, P., 2010).

One example of a formative assessment is the Bethel School District’s grade 1 reading fluency assessment (Braun, D.H., 2011). First grade educators administered what they and Mandinach and Jackson call “benchmark” assessments of reading fluency at different points in the school year (2012). The data is disaggregated to show gaps in fluency between different groups of students. This helped educators target these groups and identify what these students needed in order to improve their fluency by the end of the year (Braun, D.H., 2011).

The Oregon Reading Assessment is a summative assessment that is used in Bethel School District to measure student learning. Data from the 2002-03 school year indicated that only 51% of students were proficient in reading in the Bethel School District. This informed district leaders of the need to shift academic focus to reading instruction and improve practices. In the 2007-08 school year, proficiency jumped to 70% (Braun, D.H., 2011).

District Practices: Standards-Based Teaching and Learning

            The Mandinach and Honey conceptual framework for data-driven decision-making maps out how the authors envision the use of data to drive decision making in districts and schools (Mandinach, E.B & Jackson, S.S., 2012). For the Seattle Public Schools district, some of the data Mandinach and Honey identify as integral to this process are missing. Mandinach and Honey’s framework suggests data should be organized and collected, analyzed and summarized, synthesized and prioritized, and then a decision should be made. It also suggests that more data should be collected after the decision is implemented to measure impact and fed into a feedback loop of collecting, analyzing, synthesizing, decision making, implementation, and impact (2012).

Seattle Public Schools provides the first few steps to this process, but there are no data available about implementation, impact, or reassessment of the decision-making process. Seattle Public Schools has had a focus on racial equity and closing “opportunity gaps” for nearly a decade, but it appears they have been looking at the same types of data while expecting different results (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.).

Seattle Public Schools is committed to standards-based teaching and learning to the detriment of their students of color. Disparities in achievement continue to grow along racial and ethnic lines because of the fact the district continues to rely on standardized test scores so heavily as a measure of achievement (Morton, N., 2018). The new strategic plan that says the district will, “unapologetically address the needs of students of color who are furthest from educational justice,” also says they will achieve this, in part, by, “[d]elivering high-quality, standards-aligned instruction across all abilities and a continuum of services for learners;” however, there is no indication the standards that have failed students of color for decades will be changed in any way (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.). The same standards will be used hoping for different results. This could be attributed to the fact there is no feedback loop present in Seattle Public Schools data-driven decision-making framework.

Abbott’s framework of improvement and readiness has the same components as the Mandinach and Honey framework, but it adds a “collaboration” and an “internalize” component to their process of data-driven decision making (Mandinach, E.B. & Jackson, S.S., 2012). This is in line with Michael Fullan’s writing on systematizing decision making and building collective capacity to use data to inform system reform (2010). Seattle Public Schools, however, is lacking the ability to “internalize” or systematize any kind of consistent, effective use of data-driven decision making because it does not have a solid foundation for collaboration between various stakeholders in the system. Mandinach and Jackson identify the following components of a successful “data culture,” in which each component interacts with and acts on each other: leadership (district and school), resources, vision, data culture, professional development, data system and tools, data coaches, data teams, common planning time (2012).

Of the identified components of a successful data culture system, Seattle Public Schools struggles with nearly all of them. Most schools do have data/literacy coaches. Some have data teams, but professional development and common planning time continue to be sporadic, disconnected, and fought over. In the last two bargaining years, the Seattle Education Association has fought with the district to provide common planning and collaboration time for educators across the district and consistent racial equity professional development. Although it is currently in the collective bargaining agreement, educators regularly report their administrators deny access to inter-district collaboration opportunities.

Seattle Public Schools employs a strategy called “site-based decision making” which gives building administrators considerable power to either implement or not implement district strategies. Principals can do their own data analysis and decision making that may or may not align with district goals. For example, the district has officially made K-12 ethnic studies a strategy for closing gaps between white students and students of color (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.). The district collected and analyzed the racially and ethnically disparate data, identified ethnic studies as a solution based on data that indicate improved outcomes for all students (Sleeter, C.E. 2011), resolved to implement ethnic studies, and yet there is no collaboration or systemization of ethnic studies because of the disconnect between district and building goals.

The ethnic studies program manager has reached out to 29 of the 101 principals in the 2018-19 school year to build a relationship and provide support. Only four schools have agreed to pilot the ethnic studies program thanks to the activism of educators in the building, not because of principal leadership. Nine of the principals have not returned calls or emails. Two schools are in planning phase and will not open until the 2019-20 school year. The remaining principals declined to implement ethnic studies for various reasons (Gill, T., 2019).

Mandinach & Jackson have identified leadership, both district and school, as the cornerstone of a data-driven decision-making culture (2012). The disconnect between district and school leadership creates a fractured foundation upon which it is impossible to build collective capacity and collaborative practice in a data-driven process. The disconnect also makes effective systemic implementation of decisions impossible.

Describing the Relationship

It is challenging at this point to adequately describe the relationship between assessment, data, and instruction. Mandinach & Jackson make this claim stating, “data-driven decision making is seen as an emerging field. . . Research cannot measure what has not been implemented broadly or deeply (2012).” If Seattle Public Schools is an indicator of how data-driven decision-making is “implemented,” it cannot be said that data-driven decision making has been implemented “broadly or deeply.”

Bambrick-Santoyo claims data can inform educators about how to transform their instruction to better meet the needs of their students. Data and anecdotes are used to support this claim, but the data is not disaggregated by race or ethnicity (2010). Increases in achievement on standardized tests, which are measure of standards-based teaching and learning, can be great and still leave behind students of color. In fact, schools are winning awards in Washington State for “closing achievement gaps,” while simultaneously leaving behind students of color (Gill, T., 07.12.2018).

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi asserts the current standards-based model of teaching, learning, and assessment is inherently racist (2016). If the standards are racist from the beginning, the outcome of the decision-making based on the analysis of the data will be racist. From this perspective, the relationship between assessment, data, and instruction is one that perpetuates oppression for people of color and maintains the white supremacist status quo. This perspective is supported by history and research other than Dr. Kendi’s. Dr. Wayne Au has written extensively about the relationship between the racist, pseudoscience of eugenics and standards-based teaching, learning, and assessment (2009).

Dr. Bernhardt, in her book, Data, Data Everywhere; Bringing all the data together for continuous school improvement, indicates that relying only on standardized test outcomes to drive teaching and learning is faulty, and district and schools need to also be looking at climate data for students, as well as other, social factors (2016). Gill argues that even when climate and other social factors are used to drive teaching and learning, the people determining the parameters and purpose of the data are not racial equity literate enough to collect data specific to the needs and experiences of students of color (03.11.2018). The fact that 89.9% of educators in Washington State are white (OSPI, 2016) and approximately 80% of educators nation-wide are white (Geiger, A., 2018) support this claim.

In a district that proclaims it will, “unapologetically address the needs of students of color who are furthest from educational justice,” it may be necessary to reassess the relationship between assessment, data, and instruction and standards-based teaching and learning. Doing more of the same is not working, and that is supported by the data.

 

References

Au, W. (2009). Unequal by design (critical social thought). New York, NY: Routledge.

Bambrick-Santoyo, P. (2010). Driven by data: A practical guide to improve instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bernhardt, V.L. (2016). Data, data everywhere; Bringing all the data together for continuous school improvement. New York, NY: Routledge.

Braun, D.H. (2011). Bethel School District results [PowerPoint presentation].

Fullan, M. (2010). All systems go: The change imperative for whole system reform. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, A SAGE Company.

Geiger, A. (27.08.2018). America’s public school teachers are far less racially and ethnically diverse than their students. Pew Research Center. Retrieved fromhttp://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/27/americas-public-school-teachers-are-far-less-racially-and-ethnically-diverse-than-their-students/

Gill, T. (03.11.2018). When the devil IS the data. Teacher Activist. Retrieved fromhttps://teacheractivist.com/2018/11/03/when-the-devil-is-the-data/

Gill, T. (07.12.2018). Schools of distinction awards ceremony keynote. Teacher Activist.Retrieved from https://teacheractivist.com/2018/12/07/schools-of-distinction-awards-ceremony-keynote/

Gill, T. (01.2019). Matrix. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_qgaIi5h_ikFEksjT9MdBjkfIhTeQfyh1PhtgpW6Qyg/edit?usp=sharing

Kendi, I.X. (20.10.2016). Why the academic achievement gap is a racist idea. Black

Perspectives. Retrieved from https://www.aaihs.org/why-the-academic-achievement-gap-is-a-racist-idea/

Mandinach, E.B., & Jackson, S.S. (2012). Transforming teaching and learning through data-driven decision making. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Morton, N. (12.01.2018). Racial equity in Seattle schools has a long, frustrating history – and it’s getting worse. Seattle Times. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/racial-equity-in-seattle-schools-has-a-long-frustrating-history-and-its-getting-worse/

OSPI. (03.10.2016). Key facts about Washington public Schools. Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved from http://www.k12.wa.us/AboutUs/KeyFacts.aspx

Seattle Public Schools. (n.d.). Initiatives and core commitments. Seattle Public Schools. Retrieved from https://www.seattleschools.org/district/district_quick_facts/initiatives

Sleeter, C.E. (2011). The academic and social value of ethnic studies; A research review.National Education Association. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/NBI-2010-3-value-of-ethnic-studies.pdf

The Diagnostic Process and Alignment

Warning: It’s dry and illuminating.

I have to take a course on data-driven instruction for my doctoral program in curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Y’all should know how I feel about data, but I’m actually learning a lot. More importantly, the landscape of my district is becoming more clear, particularly in terms of racial equity and ethnic studies.

For this course, I have to write a rather lengthy paper on data-driven decision-making. My instructor is having us chunk it out into smaller papers due each week. I’m going to post them here in a special series. I think I’ll call this “Special Edition PhD Series: The Devil in Seattle Public Schools’ racial equity data.” No? Maybe I’ll think of something more catchy, but probably not. I know it’s very Seattle specific, but I’m sure it’s not too different from other districts. Hopefully it sparks a conversation.


District Profile

            Seattle Public Schools is the largest district in the State of Washington. As of October 2018, the district consists of 52,931 students, 102 schools, and 4,519 educators. There are 61 K-5 schools, 11 K-8, 12 6-8, 12 9-12, and 16 self-contained schools. Eighty-two percent of students graduate high school on time. Thirty-one percent of students are enrolled in free and reduced meal programs. Twenty-one percent of students come from a non-English speaking background, and 147 dialects/languages are spoken by students (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.).

Seattle Public School’s mission statement is, “Seattle Public Schools is committed to ensuring equitable access, eliminating the opportunity gaps, and excellence in education for every student,” and the vision statement is, “Every Seattle Public Schools’ student receives a high-quality, world-class education and graduates prepared for college, career, and community (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.).” While the district boasts that, “Our district outperforms the state’s academic average and often perform better than similar district’s nationwide (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.),” the district fails to mention that Seattle Public Schools has one of the largest gaps in discipline and achievement between white students and students of color in the nation, and has been under investigation by the Federal Department of Education because of egregious disparities in discipline rates among racial lines (Dornfield, A., 2017; Shaw, L., 2014).

The disaggregated demographic data from Seattle Public Schools tell us that 48.5% of students are female and 51.5% are male. Students of color are the majority with a 41.8% white student population. One half of a percent of students are Native American, 14.1% are Asian, 14.9% are Black/African American, 12.1% are Hispanic/Latinx, 0.5% are Asian Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, and 10.8% identify as two or more races. Fifteen and one tenth percent of students are enrolled in special education and 3.4% have a 504 plan (OSPI, 2018).

Despite the vision statement of closing gaps and providing excellence for every student, disparities remain consistent. White female students graduate at the highest rates while Native American and Latinx males graduate at the lowest rates and are pushed out (dropout) at the highest rates (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.). Black and Native American males are suspended at 6 times the rate of their white peers while attendance rates for Asian Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian and Native American females are close to ten points lower than their white peers (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.).

Standardized test scores continue to underline these racial disparities in achievement. The district website only provides standardized test score outcomes up to the 8th grade because there is such a high incidence of opt-out rates in high school that the data become inconsistent (OSPI, 2018). In 2017, 60% of all students met standard on the “Smarter Balance” standardized test for English language arts. Forty-nine percent met standard for math. When the disaggregated data is analyzed, however, the data is much less favorable. Thirty-three and nine-tenths percent of Native American students meet standard in English language arts and 24.9% for math. Seventy-nine and two-tenths percent of Asian students meet standard in English language arts and 74.5% for math. Thirty-five and three-tenths percent of Asian Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian students meet standard for English language arts and 22.6% for math. Forty and five-tenths percent of Black/African American students meet standard for English language arts and 27.5% for math. Forty-two percent of Hispanic/Latinx students meet standard for English language arts and 30.7% for math. Sixty-seven percent of white students meet standard for English language arts and 55.4% for math. Sixty-two percent of students who identify as two or more races meet standard for English language arts and 49.6% for math (OSPI, 2018).

The district recently created a new strategic plan. While this plan identifies the types of data to be collected to measure success, there is no indication of a plan for analyzing or sharing data (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.). The district has identified a set of strategies to help reach the goals outlined in the strategic plan. The district has a SMART goal it has identified as priority 1, Eliminating Opportunity Gaps, which includes the following strategies:

  • CSIP’s Equity Goals / Building Leadership Teams (BLT) training
  • Ethnic Studies Planning and Pilot
  • Race and Equity Teams (RET)
  • Preventative and Positive Discipline
  • Family Engagement/Partnership
  • My Brother’s Keeper (MBK)

The district does not, however, identify any strategies to monitor the efficacy of these programs, nor are there any data immediately available to determine their current impacts (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.).

Accountability traditionally has been a site-based model in which individual principals and building administrative teams have determined which data to focus on and how to hold educators accountable. The district does have a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) that acts as a form of accountability, particularly for those schools that are struggling with high rates of discipline and low rates of achievement. The MTSS team consists of special education educators, English language learner educators, school counselors, and content coaches for math and literacy. There is no racial equity component of the MTSS team or interventions.

The strategic plan calls for the collection of the following data, again, without any advice on how to analyze data or measure success:

  • Academic performance in early literacy and math for students of color who are furthest from educational justice
  • On-time graduation and college and career readiness for students of color who are furthest from educational justice
  • Social-emotional learning and welcoming school environments for students of color who are furthest from educational justice
  • Families are well-informed regarding district services
  • Improve operational performance in support of student learning
  • Improve diversity of staff and leadership at school and central office
  • Improve cultural competency and responsiveness of educators
  • Improve the environment for employees of color
  • Increase voice and leadership in school and district initiatives for students of color who are furthest from educational justice
  • Improve engagement around school and district initiatives with families and communities who represent students of color who are furthest from educational justice (Seattle Public Schools, n.d.).

There is no public or visible evidence of any system that gives educators access to district-level decision making, goal setting, or planning. There are partnerships between the district and the local bargaining unit, but these partnerships rarely involve classroom educators, and meetings and discussions generally consist of district and union leadership.

Data Analysis

            The data available to analyze all relate to instruction because they inform about who is achieving at various levels, who is engaged in instruction, who is delivering instruction, and how instruction is being delivered. They cover a variety of inputs and outputs including demographics of students and educators, graduation and push out rates, attendance rate, and discipline rates. Each of these data can be measured at classroom, school, and district level. Only testing data is disaggregated by grade level, and it is only disaggregated by content area as it pertains to “tested subjects.” No data exists for achievement in social studies, arts, language, physical education, or other content areas.

While all data can be disaggregated by race and ethnicity, not all the data collected by the district is disaggregated, specifically student climate data and educator data. The district reports on the race and ethnicity of teachers but does not collect disaggregated data on teacher attrition.

A longitudinal study of data would be relevant in meeting the district’s goals of closing achievement gaps, but there seems to be a lack of such data. An analysis of instruction, in particular, would require longitudinal data. Longitudinal data would inform educators how changes in instruction, or lack thereof, have contributed to existing gaps. Only through longitudinal data can themes, patterns, and inconsistencies be discovered. Starting with data about existing gaps is not a systems approach to data analysis (Bernhardt, V.L., 2016).

Data as tools to measure growth need to be formative and summative. Formative data are attendance rates, student climate surveys, historic data, and educator data. Summative data are data on graduation rates and test scores. The formative data are a measure of where we have been and where we are, and the summative data are measures of where we would like to be.

Synthesis

The district’s mission and vision statements and strategic plan are very clearly crafted around the needs of students of color and the disparities in achievement that exist between white students and students of color. The district has a wide range of data available that indicate a need for their stated mission and vision statements and strategic plan.

The districts goals and strategies are consistent with racial equity in instruction and outcomes, but there are gaps in the ways in which they intend to measure the success of these strategies. Despite the wealth of evidence about the inherent racism and ineffective practice of standardized testing (Au, W., 2008), most data used to measure “achievement” are related to standardized testing outcomes, and while most data are disaggregated by race and ethnicity, no data seems to be collected about race and ethnicity. Collecting disaggregated data on teacher attrition, the racial equity literacy level of educators and administrators, and student climate survey disaggregated by race will paint a clearer picture about how educators and students of color feel about instruction and learning in Seattle Public Schools. By only collecting racially disaggregated data on outcomes, education becomes “about” students of color instead of “for” students of color.

 

Appendix

Data Analysis Worksheet

Name of District:                Seattle Public Schools                                                                

Diagnostic Purpose: To improve instruction

Data that are available What do the data tell us? To what extent do they inform us about instruction?
Demographic data Who the students are Alone, they do not. When disaggregated they tell us which students instruction is effective for and which it is not.
Test score data Who is “meeting standard” These data tell us exactly how racist testing is and how we should not align instruction with testing data.
Graduation rates Who is graduating. If instruction is not engaging all students, some will leave school before graduating.
Push out rates Who is not graduating See above
Attendance rates Who is engaged in learning If instruction is not engaging for all students, some students will not make school a priority.
Educator data Who is teaching How well educators are relating to the lived experiences of their students and how that is seen in instruction practices and content
Free and reduced meal data Income levels of families How well educators are differentiating instruction to meet the socio-emotional needs of students
Multilingual data How many students speak more than one language How well educators are differentiating instruction to value the strengths of multilingual students.
ELL data How many students are learning English See above
Special education data How many students need extra services and supports How well educators are differentiating instruction to meet the needs and provide supports
Discipline data How many students are being pushed out and who those students are How many instruction hours are being missed and which group of students are missing the most

 

Data that are not available: Gaps in the data What could the data tell us about? To what extent would they inform us about instruction?
Racial equity literacy of educators and administrators How well educators are prepared to meet the needs of currently underserved students How racially biased instruction practice and content are
Student climate survey data disaggregated by race Which students feel safe and welcomed in their school environment How well instruction is meeting the needs of currently underserved students
Historic data about instruction and discipline How the gaps were created These data would tell us if instruction has been changed to close gaps or if instruction has remained unchanged which perpetuates gaps
Disaggregated teacher attrition rates What the district is doing to retain educators of color Teachers of color have  a tendency to be more culturally responsive in terms of instruction.

 

Data that are available Data that are not currently available
Less Important Must-Have Less Important Must-Have
Test score data Demographic data   Racial equity literacy of educators and administrators
Free and reduced meal data Graduation rates   Student climate survey data disaggregated by race
Multilingual data Push out rates   Historic data about instruction and discipline
ELL data Attendance rates   Disaggregated teacher attrition rates
Special education data Educator data    
  Discipline data    

 

List the data you want to include in this district’s Data Collage/Data Profile.
Element of Data Collage/Data Profile Describe what these data contribute to the Data Collage/Data Profile
Demographic data Without this data we cannot accurately define the gaps and target the groups of students who need the most support.
Push out rates This will tell us who is the least engaged in the education process.
Attendance rates This will tell us who is the least engaged in the day-to-day learning.
Educator data How well educators are relating to the lived experiences of their students and how that is seen in instruction practices and content – who do we have and who do we need?
Racial equity literacy of educators and administrators These data will measure the degree to which the district prioritizes racial justice.
Student climate survey data disaggregated by race These data will give us insights into the experiences of students in school based on their racial and ethnic identities.
Historic data about instruction These data would tell us if instruction has been changed to close gaps or if instruction has remained unchanged which perpetuates gaps.

 

The data profile I am creating consists of the data I believe is the most relevant to the district’s mission statement, vision, and strategic plan. All three involve closing gaps between white students and students of color. These disparities have existed since I began working with this district in 2013 with some disparities increasing in the past year despite a recent push for racial justice. If we are going to address racial disparities, the focus on data should highlight the racial and ethnic backgrounds of students, educators, and outcomes.

The process I used in selecting these data was researching the data that are readily available on the Seattle Public School’s website and the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website. I used this worksheet to help me find the data that are available versus the data that are not available or are not collected. In some instances, the data are available but not disaggregated by race or ethnicity. I then went through the list of available and unavailable data and prioritized them using the district vision and mission statements and the strategic plan as guides.

Demographic data are important because we are focusing on specific groups of students in our district goals. All data, especially demographic data should be disaggregated by race and ethnicity in order to ensure we are analyzing the correct data to meet our goals. I chose to include push out rates instead of graduation rates, because graduation rates tell us how well we are doing with instruction and push out rates will help us determine whose needs we are not meeting. While push out rates are a summative assessment of engagement, attendance rates are a formative assessment. Student climate data are often left out of this discussion. They are often used in building level discussions on how teachers can improve practice and instruction, but I have not seen them as part of the district level planning. I have left out testing data because of their inherent racism (Au, W., 2008).

The last few data sets are about educators instead of students. I believe that focusing solely on students is deficit thinking. We do not need to fix the kids. We need to fix the system that is failing the kids. Since the district claims it is committed to racial justice in schools, key data that are missing is how literate educators and administrators are in racial equity. Racial justice initiatives are only as effective as the people creating and implementing them, and our district has neither mandated district-wide training on racial equity nor does it have a way to assess the levels of racial equity literacy in its staff. It is also important to know the racial and ethnic backgrounds of educators since studies show student engagement and success is linked to the racial and ethnic background of their teachers (Anderson, M., 2015).

Historic data about instruction is important because it seems that the district strategic plan is beginning and ending with achievement gaps. In her book, Data, Data Everywhere; Bringing all the data together for continuous school improvement, Dr. Bernhardt emphasizes the need for data to show an organization where it has been, where it is, and where it needs to go (2016). The district’s strategic plan skips the first layer of data analysis. This is particularly important in terms of instruction and assessment, because we tend to do more of the same in hopes the outcomes will change. Data on previous instruction and assessment is needed to understand how gaps are created. Data on the types of instruction and assessment are needed, not only the outcomes of each.

 

References

Anderson, Melinda. (06.08.2015). Why Schools Need More Teachers of Color – for White Students; Nonwhite educators can offer new and valuable perspectives for children of all backgrounds. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/08/teachers-of-color-white-students/400553/

Au, Wayne. (2008). Unequal by Design: High-Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality. New York, NY: Routledge.

Bernhardt, V.L. (2016). Data, Data Everywhere; Bringing all the data together for continuous school improvement. New York, NY: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.

Dornfield, A. (06.08.2017). Fewer Seattle students are getting suspended, expelled, data show. KUOW. Retrieved from https://kuow.org/stories/fewer-seattle-students-are-getting-suspended-expelled-data-show/

OSPI. (2018). Seattle Public Schools [Data set]. Washington State Report Card. Retrieved from http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?groupLevel=District&schoolId=1&reportLevel=State&yrs=2017-18&year=2017-18

Seattle Public Schools. (n.d.). About Seattle Public Schools. Retrieved from https://www.seattleschools.org/district/district_quick_facts

Shaw, L. (27.03.2014). A year later: What’s up with school discipline case in Seattle? The Seattle Times. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/a-year-later-whats-up-with-school-discipline-case-in-seattle/

Guest Blog: Uncle Zyad by Bruce Jackson

Bruce Jackson is a special education educator at Aki Kurose Middle School in Seattle. He is a leader in the ethnic studies movement, a union leader in SEA’s Center for Racial Equity and Social Equity Educators, and ethnic studies curriculum writer for Seattle Public Schools. He is a teacher activist!

Below is a speech he gave at this past Friday’s Black Lives Matter at School Week rally. Thank you, Bruce, for permitting me to share this with my readers!


When I was 10 years old, my uncle, Zyad Shakur was murdered on the New Jersey turnpike while fighting to protect the unalienable rights of black people in this country. After his death, his family, my aunt Louise and cousin Craig moved in with us. A few days later she started receiving threats on her life and the life of her son.

My uncle was a member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, those organizations felt they owed a great debt to my uncle, so from that day on, there was an armed presence in and around my home. Consequently, there was no lack of people in our home that knew a lot about black people, black history and our people’s place in the struggle for liberation of all people. From that day on, I had mentors who would not let me fall.

I had proud, strong black men in my circle. I attended breakfasts with community members who would ask me about what I was learning in school and give me questions for my teachers about those topics, questions that would tip the conversations in class toward the topic of social justice. When I asked these questions in class, I would usually stand alone, or other students would use me as a way to avoid the teacher chosen topic of the day. I would usually lack the depth of knowledge to defend myself against my teachers, and due to my curiosity and these contradictions, I would often end up in the principal’s office asking those same questions. I remember asking those questions in relation to what I was being taught in school, in terms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I would often end up bringing those questions home to my mentors where I would be given the answers and rebuttals with no class time for the discussion necessary for the depth of knowledge I craved.

I wanted to create an ideology, something that made me stronger in the face of grief and loss. That didn’t happen in school, and at an early age, I knew that there was more to knowledge than what I was being told in school, that there was more to being black than poverty, ignorance, and slavery. As my mentors told me more about my uncle, I started to see my education as a gift I had no right to squander, a gift that no one had the right to twist and shape into a master narrative that omits the proud truths of my ancestors and the ancestors of the marginalized groups I lived and learned with.

My uncle was murdered while trying to create an Black Studies program in elementary and middle schools in New York and the surrounding areas. He was murdered while fighting for many of the demands we are still asking for with Black Lives Matter At Schools movement: Ethnic Studies, More Black Teachers, and a move toward Culturally Responsive treatment of people of color in this country, a strengthening of our communities. Why is this such a difficult thing to give? Why is the truth such a guarded secret? I still have questions.

Why must we glorify our oppressors in education? Why must we glorify criminal acts by praising that “Louisiana “Purchase” that “Manifest Destiny” all the while downplaying the genocide they caused? Why must we glorify racism by ignoring merciless acts of dehumanization like slavery, Chinese exclusion, Japanese internment, Native re-education schools, in this Master Narrative? Why can’t we glorify those who fought against these acts of cruelty? Why can’t we create our own heroes in history? Why can’t we praise humanity? Why can’t we join the human family? I want to teach our children to be humane beings on this planet, citizens of a world that needs their creativity, citizens in a species that will not survive without them. How can we save ourselves from self destruction when we teach history in its current form?
My uncle died 19 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision. He died moving the ball forward, moving the ball ever further away from ignorance and closer and closer to enlightenment. I am honored to help him push that same ball forward 40 years later. I am honored to live for the people, the humane beings on this planet. I am privileged to know my history, to know that I am capable of much more than the current master narrative believes I am. I want to share that dignity of knowledge with all who are willing to listen.

We have so many stories to tell, Stories of great heroes fighting and dying for justice, Stories of communities rising and demanding more from themselves and from those who govern them. Stories of our rise after being knocked down by the forces of ignorance. We, as educators are obliged to tell these stories, to hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal. As educators, we are required to teach an equality in education, we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

When we fight for our education, we fight for the rewards of independence. If we do not teach about the structures of life on this planet and how to maintain those structures, we are denied our rights. If we do not have critical knowledge about the cultures and ethnicities that fill this planet, if we are not free to interact with all people, we do not have liberty, and our rights are denied. If we cannot see happiness in as many of its forms as possible, we cannot understand it, we tend to pursue what we are told to pursue, and our rights are denied….we have to do better.

No more murders to deny self evident truth. I would have loved to have known my uncle, to have joined him in his struggle to make education benefit all people, but all I was left with was a ball that needed to be moved forward. I am not alone in my desire to see this ball moved forward. Many of us are in this audience now, there’s Tracy Castro-Gill, Head of the Ethnic Studies Department pushing, pushing that ball forward, There’s Jesse Hagopian, the first educator to teach Ethnic Studies in the city pushing, pushing that ball forward. Sitting among you is the NAACP Youth Coalition, students making the same demands as I made all those years ago pushing, pushing that ball forward. Help us push this ball forward to the top of the hill. Then release it with me.

Mandy Manning for President! (of WEA)

MY FIRST ENDORSEMENT

I’ve never had the opportunity to endorse a candidate for anything. Until now I’ve never been in a position to garner enough attention for an endorsement, but I am so happy that my first endorsement is for Mandy Manning for WEA president!

Mandy is the ONLY candidate running for State union leadership that I consider a teacher activist. The other candidates do the usual photo op “activism,” but Mandy is the only educator running for office that puts her name on the line and shows up for students who are the most marginalized.

I have to admit that when I first heard Mandy speak at the WEA representative assembly in 2018, I rolled my eyes and thought, “Oh, great. Another white savior teacher.” Mandy spoke about the work she did as an ELL teacher in Spokane, working mostly with immigrant teens. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to spend an evening with Mandy as part of the 2019 Washington Regional Teachers of the Year cohort. It was then Mandy changed my mind about her. I am the only teacher in the cohort who identifies as a person of color, and when the topic of race and racism came up that night, Mandy was there to call out the whiteness in the room. When the topic changed to LGBTQ rights, my non-binary child was telling their story and ended up in tears. Mandy was the first out of her seat to comfort my child and thank them for telling their story.

 

MANDY’S COMMITMENT TO JUSTICE THROUGH ACTION

mandy-manning-trump.jpg

 

I don’t know if I would have agreed to meet with “Individual 1,” but Mandy did, and she did in teacher activist fashion making a bold statement with the pins on her dress honoring the LGBTQ community, trans rights, and immigrants.

mandy_manning_in_front_of_students_0

When invited to speak about the experiences of immigrant students, Mandy passed the mic to the students themselves to tell their own story.

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Mandy organized a teach-in in Tornillo, TX, to protest the concentration camps for migrant children, but it doesn’t begin and end with the teach-in. Mandy has created a movement and a network of educators across the U.S. called Teachers Against Child Detention.

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Now, she’s running for WEA president, but she’s not running the typical campaign in which the candidate is expected to schmooze and curtsy to the powerful. In fact, she’s not really promoting herself in ways I’ve seen other candidates do. She is not interested in pretenses, nor does she need to be. She is the real deal. Her actions speak for her legitimacy, passion, and experience. Mandy is a fighter, and she’s proven it.

 

THE OTHER CANDIDATES

Honestly, I’ve only spent time with Mandy and one other candidate, Phyllis Campano, who is running for WEA vice president. Phyllis is currently the president of Seattle Education Association. Phyllis is the typical politician. Phyllis doesn’t rock the boat. Phyllis doesn’t seem to be interested in making real systemic change, and will go the way of the status quo if it benefits her political career. Seattle Education Association has made great strides toward racial equity in Seattle Public Schools, but don’t get it twisted. That’s almost completely thanks to the genius of Marquita Prinzing, Director of SEA’s Center for Racial Equity and Marquita has had success in spite of Phyllis, not because of her or her actions.

I met Stephen Miller during the Teacher of the Year retreat in September, 2018. He’s charming and personable. Other than that I don’t know much about him. I did, however, as mentioned, attend the 2018 WEA representative assembly in which the level of racism in that conference room was astounding. White educators came to the microphone saying things like, “colored people.” One white educator claimed she should be allowed into safe spaces for educators of color because she teaches a Spanish class and knows the culture. Stephen was there… and that was it. Nothing was done by any of the leadership in the room to call out or restrict these racist actions. It took the educators of color in the room to organize an impromptu protest and demand an apology. I believe that had Mandy been there, she would have stepped in.

Janie White is the candidate running against Phyllis. Janie is a woman of color and a classified employee. I have heard amazing things about her from both Mandy and Marquita. I am, sadly, no longer a member of WEA, but I would be honored to vote for a woman who has the respect of both Mandy and Marquita, and though I’m no longer a union educator, I am a unionist and an educator at heart. Don’t vote for the status quo. Vote for women who will bring real change to how things are done in our state! I am excited to see what a Mandy/Janie leadership team will bring to education in Washington State!

When Principals Get a PASS: How the principals’ association in Seattle Public Schools is fighting to uphold White Supremacy

Racial Equity History

In 2012, Seattle Public Schools created Policy 0030, Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity. Between 2012 and 2016, however, little was done to further this policy and hold educators accountable for meeting its goals. In 2014, the Department of Equity and Race Relations was created in an effort to support racial equity teams in buildings. The district only committed to 10 schools in the first year, and after a push from the Seattle Education Association, committed to another 10 the next year.

Despite the best efforts of the leaders in D.E.R.R., district and building leaders supported systemic barriers at every turn. In fact, educators who pushed for racial equity were targeted and punished, like the educators of color at Middle College High School, all of whom were displaced when the school was shut down, and some of whom were accused of communism by then Chief Academic Officer, Michael Tolley. There’s also the case of Jon Greenberg, Center School educator, who was disciplined for teaching his curriculum on race and gender when one white family complained their student was discriminated against in the class.

In 2016, The Seattle Education Association formed the Center for Race and Equity, now called The Center for Racial Equity. This body in SEA, led by Marquita Prinzing, has been organizing members, most of whom are educators of color, to lobby for, educate about, and demand racial justice in our schools. This led to a successful campaign to bring ethnic studies into Seattle Public Schools. One goal of the ethnic studies initiative is to open access to professional development on racial equity literacy to all educators, including non-classroom teachers. Hundreds of educators have participated in these offerings in the first semester alone.

Superintendent, Denise Juneau, recently released her new, draft Strategic Plan with strong wording that proclaims racial equity to be at the core of our teaching and learning. It reads:

When we focus on ensuring racial equity in our educational system, unapologetically address the needs of students of color who are furthest from educational justice 1, and work to undo the legacies of racism in our educational system…

By:

  • Allocating resources strategically through a racial equity framework
  • Delivering high-quality, standards-aligned instruction
  • Creating healthy, supportive, culturally responsive environments from the classroom to central office
  • Directly and consistently working in partnership with families and communities who represent students of color who are furthest from educational justice; and
  • Making clear commitments and delivering on them

Then we will eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps and every student will receive a high-quality, world-class education.

“Unapologetically.”

Racial Equity Reality

As of today, every single education association affiliated with Seattle Public Schools but one has passed a resolution of support for both ethnic studies and Black Lives Matter at School, including the Seattle Education Association, Washington Education Association, National Education Association, the The Seattle Council PTSA, and the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors. The one organization that’s missing from that list? The Principals’ Association of Seattle Schools (PASS).  This is unsurprising considering some of the reports my colleagues and I have heard from educators about the barriers many principals are putting up in their buildings when it comes to racial justice*.

Educators report building principals restricting access to teaching materials for both ethnic studies and Black Lives Matter at School. Principals are also denying educators time to learn about and plan for Black Lives Matter at School even when their educators are asking for it and after every principal and assistant principal in the district participated in a professional development session where they were handed tools and materials to take back to their buildings with the expectation of preparing for the upcoming week of action and learning. And that’s not the worst of it.

Educators reported last year that many principals refused to allow educators to wear Black Lives Matter at School t-shirts, let alone teach about it, citing the racist phrase, “All lives matter.” It’s been reported to me that another principal invited police officers into their school during the week to show students how “nice” police officers are. I can’t even begin to imagine the trauma some students experienced having a uniformed officer on campus after one of the worst years of police brutality in recent memory. Young Black and Brown children watch television like any other person. They see images of people like themselves being brutalized and murdered by police. In many cases, they have seen it first hand. School is supposed to be a safe place, not one that preys on traumatized children because the building leader is ignorant.

Then There’s Roosevelt

The image used for this blog post comes from a former Roosevelt High School student, Satchel Schwartz. I’m not even going to explain how or why this image and corresponding news article are offensive and racist. If you don’t know, you shouldn’t be reading my blog – any of it. This is the latest in a series of racist incidents at Roosevelt.

It cannot be defended.

Defending it is upholding White Supremacy.

Students have reported such racist incidents as being called the “N” word by peers without adult intervention; being bullied and discriminated against by their teachers; scheduling “Kindness Month” during Black History Month, and now this. It’s been reported to me that a video of students using the “N” word was actively covered up by the building administration. You can read more about it in Satchel’s own words here. With all that’s happened at Roosevelt, and the silence from PASS on racial equity, this does not surprise me. What it does is infuriate me into action. It should be having the same impact on you.

What Do We Do?

I think about this question and am asked it a lot by my peers. Policies and Strategic Plans are only as good as the people acting on them. We cannot expect the Superintendent to act alone. We must stand behind the shields created for us to fight this. We have the language from the Superintendent: “Unapologetically ensuring educational and racial equity.” Yes, those are fighting words. A former colleague once proclaimed, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Educators: this is a call to action. We must hold these administrators responsible for their obstructionism to racial justice. We must protect our students from this harmful practice of preventing us from doing the work we know must be done. It’s not, “What do we do?” It’s “What will we do?”

If these have been your experiences with building administrators, please share them in the comments. We can no longer allow them to act in the shadows. Their efforts to uphold White Supremacy must be exposed.

“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.”

Eli Weisel – in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day

*It’s not just white principals.