Power to the Parents; the Best Hope for Black Children in Oakland

We know there is no cavalry coming to save our kids.  If there was it would have already done come.  Centuries of educational exclusion where it was illegal to teach Black slaves, followed by decades of legal educational neglect during Jim Crow, and now a formal equality that exists largely on paper, but not the lived experiences of children and families.

The statistics paint a sad state and poor overall chances for Black children; only 7% of Black seniors were college ready in Math and 17% were proficient in reading.   The encouraging and depressing  part of it is that things are the best they have ever been, at least statistically.

Look at Oakland statistics.  16 years ago 2.3% of Black students in Oakland had passed the classes to even apply to the state universities, now its 23.6%.  Huge strides but a long way to go.

When I read the numbers and re-read the numbers, and see new numbers that say the same things.  It’s depressing.   But I also see really great things happening.

The Power in Community and Community Schools

When I am in the community it is energizing.    I have done some great visits this year to Roosevelt and Urban Montessori and the District has supported growth of some potentially powerful internal proposals, with its first dual language stand-alone middle school in SOL, and also supporting an exciting study abroad opportunity in Thailand, with Thrival Academies.

Mack made significant progress in its academic performance, especially for African American males, and Coliseum College Prep showed outstanding results

There has been progress and there is real hope.

Power to the Parents

Talking to parents in Oakland it’s a familiar set of challenge; substitute teachers rather than real classroom teachers, basic materials missing from some schools, struggling to get special education services, lower quality neighborhood schools, and even when we “move on up” (to quote the Jeffersons) it’s another set of challenges, having an equal voice and getting equal respect at the “good schools.”

Parents, rightly, wondered whether the “A” their child received was one that they earned and that would stand up to competition.  Whether the standards were high enough, with a creeping suspicion, or uncomfortable knowing that they weren’t.

And  parents generally have good and bad things to say about charters and district schools-unsurprisingly.   There are  huge disparities in the access to resources that again spanned both district and charter schools.  One OUSD school’s PTA raised 648K, other OUSD schools reported very little.  One charter had a $500 a plate fundraiser, and deep pocketed sponsors for it, another, raised almost no funding.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Cavalry

We know that there is no cavalry, superintendents change, boards change, studies are done, papers are written, reports delivered, meetings held, and things mostly stay the same.  It’s never going to be someone coming to help us. It has got to be the community fighting for theirs, and for those who can’t really fight yet, working for better schools, better access, and equal concern and respect.

Cavalry is the wrong metaphor.  It’s more like the Mau Mau or some indigenous defense forces.  It’s not someone from outside that will ever save us.  It is always us, and sometimes our allies, and an ongoing struggle for progress.

These are our schools.   It’s inspiring to see the families organizing and gearing up to fight for them.

What do you think?

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