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As another year begins, school reform falls on everyone to create change

Leslie Puente-Ervin

Over 50 years ago, Brown versus the Board of Education declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in schools and employment. Even so, sadly, in 2016, the U.S. school system is still deeply segregated and discriminatory.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 51 percent of the nation’s students come from low-income communities. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has found that the majority of those students are Blacks & Latinos. Countless communities in the U.S. are almost exclusively Black or Latino and do not have access to the quality education that suburban districts offer.

Federal law grants each school district the autonomy to institute its own educational policies; therefore, districts must change their policies to reflect more equitable practices. First, administrators can provide struggling students with effective interventions, balanced with a rigorous and engaging curriculum that includes a district-wide reading initiative.

Teacher assignments should be reviewed and balanced as well. Students who have the most need should be assigned to effective teachers and be heterogeneously grouped, as to not be tracked or ostracized. There should be equity in course assignments too. We certainly don’t want to burn-out the teachers; however, with quality training that is consistent, relevant, and personalized, teachers are more likely to “buy-in” to the changes.

Administrators can also forge partnerships outside the district. Hartford, Connecticut developed a transfer program where city students attend suburban schools. The Somerville School District in New Jersey partnered with a local college to afford students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. These are the types of bold initiatives that school districts across the country should be making to truly transform schools.

It’s incumbent on all stakeholders to reform schools.

Teachers must work together to provide students with quality instruction. We need to put aside our pride, roll up our sleeves, and really put children first. This means being receptive to teaching in a differentiated classroom, continuing to grow professionally, and teaching students to meet the standards, not lowering the standards to meet the student.

As educators, we shouldn’t make excuses either. If the school doesn’t provide the resources you need, then use your ingenuity. There are a ton of free resources out there:; EdmodoCon; ActivelyLearn; Socrative – are a few of my favorites.

Parents cannot continue to be silent. We shouldn’t wait until our children die to demand equity and justice. Malcolm X once said, “A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”

We have to stand for what is fair and just. We are our children’s first advocates. Don’t be intimidated to voice your opinion. Go to board meetings. Meet with administrators and teachers. Make inquiries about your child’s learning. Remember that you’re the consumer. School districts work for you.

Everyone has a part to play. Research has shown a correlation between effective schooling and decreased crime. This affects all of us.

Our future leaders deserve more. They deserve better.

Leslie Puente-Ervin is a teacher, scholar, and researcher. She’s currently enrolled in an EdD program and has dedicated most of her 15 year teaching career studying curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

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