Tag Archives: African-American

Post Election Special News Report: Advice to President Obama

20 Nov

Tuesday, November 6, 2012, the United States of America re-elected President Barack Obama for a historic second term.  All eyes watched as the President took a slow, but sure lead over Republican nominee Mitt Romney in what some assumed would be a close race.  During the days leading up to the election, President Obama made it very clear that the choice ahead for voters was not one of party affiliation, but one of two fundamental differences in strategy for moving forward. Now that the country has spoken and chosen the President, we are assured that the nation’s focus on “nation building” through continued investments in education won’t be lost, but my concern is that our failure to celebrate what is working and to learn from it makes the journey more challenging and a bit dispiriting.

On November 8, Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, served as keynote speaker during the “Dispelling the Myth” Awards at the 2012 Education Trust Conference in Washington D.C..  The event annually celebrates three public schools that are making huge strides in narrowing the achievement gap for low-income and minority students. He championed these schools for “showing that all children can learn—and that great schools prepare children for college and careers no matter their zip code, skin color, or their parent’s bank account, and national origin.  He also said, “The truth is we don’t do nearly enough to celebrate success in education.”

While he went on to discuss No Child Left Behind’s, failures and its future, it was this sentence about our failure to celebrate what’s working that caused me to pay closer attention.  At that moment I looked around the room to see there was no media present. No one to showcase and inform us that these public schools are  succeeding at educating our children.   The winning schools should be profiled on every national news program and print publication because they represent an incredible case study for how people are working together to create a culture in these schools that gets the hard results we all care about.  It’s as if this conversation is only important to those of us who work within education or when Education Nation rolls around. THIS bothers me.  It’s disheartening to know that the solution is right in front of us, but it’s not sensational and thus uninteresting.

What we celebrate signals what we care about.  Where education is concerned, we’re overlooking the opportunity to motivate greater success when we’re silent about the small wins along the way. We have to celebrate the first downs and the touchdowns.  And here’s the thing: we don’t need policymakers to give us permission to do this, but we do need the media’s help. We have to take action to indicate that we want to know about things like this and this means we have to let them know.  Shout from the rooftops.  Call your local and national media outlets.  Make sure you’re heard.  Success breeds success.

I’m elated about President Obama’s re-election and happy to see that his designees are at least aware of the fact that there isn’t enough focus on celebrating and recognizing success; but, beyond highlighting this fact in his remarks, what is Arne doing about it?

Etienne R. LeGrand is president and co-founder of the W.E.B. Du Bois Society

To Everything There Is A Season

11 Sep

We have been working over the past 8 years to transform the lives and learning of minority children by celebrating and inspiring academic ambition.  From the beginning we’ve demonstrated that celebration and motivation are the keys to improving students’ academic outcomes. We’re proud of the many students that we’ve challenged thus far, and grateful to their parents and collective communities for stepping up to change the path of their lives.

We remain a long way from causing the change we’re after, but we have learned a great deal about the complexities of the public education system and the challenges to financing this work.  We’ve audited our processes, reviewed the landscape of education in this country and determined that the current conversation about education reform overlooks one important focus.

We’re convinced that learning is enhanced and transformed when the culture or conditions for learning in schools, homes and in our communities are aligned to foster learning.  Beginning with the 2013 school year, we will place an acute focus on school culture, and the dynamic educational and motivational shift that occurs when all connected to a school are aligned to focus on learning. What do we mean by “school culture”?

A collaborative educational system that celebrates the accomplishments of students and teachers, allocates the necessary time for teachers to collaborate and improve; invites parents to contribute their ideas and opinions, in addition to their resources; and coalesces necessary partners to support the myriad needs of poor students.

Why school culture?

Few are talking about it.  Research shows that schools with a positive culture foster academic improvement, cohesion, collaborative decision-making, professional development and staff and student learning.  Even as we tend to overlook it because we can’t adequately measure it, school culture influences what the school cares about, the way people behave, what the people in the school spend time doing, and what they celebrate. The school whose leadership does the best job of deliberately influencing culture does a better job at producing student and teacher learning.

As we focus on the link between school culture and performance we need your help.  We want to know:

  • What does culture look like in your child’s school or a family member’s school?
  • How does the school nurture and celebrate learning?
  • In what ways do the people in your child’s school work cohesively to foster learning for all children?
  • Are the teachers engaged and active in problem solving challenges or have they checked out?
  • What could the school do better?

Email me at etienne@webduboissociety.org and share what’s going on in your schools. Your stories and testimonials add value to the discussion, and are a critical factor in the success of our outreach.  Together, we can begin to disrupt the education reform debate to get this country focused on change that will make a difference in our children’s learning.

With investment, engagement, and support, we can make a difference.

Sincerely,

Etienne R. LeGrand

President

The W.E.B. Du Bois Society

Students need sticks, but they need carrots more

22 Mar

Imagine how fed up you must be if you’re willing to risk your child’s humility to save him.  That’s what a Tampa mother recently did when she stuck him on a street corner with a sign around his neck saying among other things “GPA 1.22. … Honk if you think I need education.”

Being a fan of tough love myself, I immediately thought “hooray for her!” According to this recent AP story, Ronda Holder says she and the boy’s father have tried everything to get their 15-year-old to shape up academically. They’ve offered help, asked to see homework, grounded, lectured him and confiscated his cell phone. Sound familiar?  Apparently, James Mond III’s indifference at a school meeting was the final straw. The following day, Holder made the sign and made her son wear it for nearly four hours.

Yes, she was reported to the Department of Family and Children’s Services and of course experts were highly critical of the move.  Holder insists she’s fighting for her child’s education.  She’s right of course. The real truth is: she’s fighting for his life.  With so much at stake in this fight, the undeniable question is: how can Holder and other engaged parents motivate their young students as a complement to reprimanding them?

There’s much we don’t know about this situation.  I’d like to presume James was performing in school at some level before he fell to his current 1.22 status and that he had a level of motivation; however fleeting.  I’m curious to know whether his parents understand what motivates him – – what, if anything he’s invested in.  I don’t know the basis on which his cell phone was returned.  Given his grades ultimately fell to a 1.22, I’d say it was returned prematurely.

We don’t know if “carrots” were offered to James when he climbed himself out of his previous academic performance holes.  He had to have, right? After all, he got his phone back.  Was he rewarded by word or deed for the increased effort, given an additional carrot on top of the returned phone?  We need to expect academic success and then recognize and reward students’ effort, progress and achievement at every juncture along the way.

We all need to be motivated to engage – to be emotionally concerned and invested – in what we want to achieve: do well in school, lose 10 pounds, eat more healthfully, clean out the garage, or learn a new language.

As we all continue to “fight for children’s education” as Rhonda Holder says she is doing, let’s add some carrots to jump-start the intrinsic motivation students need to get in done in the classroom.

After James’ recent experience, perhaps he has newfound sources of motivation to draw on when the work seems uninteresting or he’s just not motivated to work hard.  I pray the drastic step his mother felt compelled to take got his attention.  I also pray that we add some carrots to the sticks and support our children need to achieve in school and in life.

Click here to view the news story and to hear about James’ story firsthand from his mom’s perspective.

Diddy’s lessons on parenting

24 Jun

It’s not an easy job, or a comfortable one, but we’ve committed to doing it.  That is: shedding a spotlight on the messages, attitudes, behaviors and beliefs that are being perpetuated in black culture—in our media, in our families, in our communities, in our school systems, by our “celebrities”.

So, if you’re a Diddy fan, I warn you now, that I’m only doing what we’ve committed to do…don’t shoot the messenger.

Did you catch the ABC Nightline special on renowned rapper, hip-hop producer and media mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs?

If so, then you’re probably wondering as I am: Has Diddy lost his mind? Are his priorities that out of wack?

You can’t hate on the man’s success.  For what he’s achieved and for the obstacles he’s overcome, you’ve got to give the man props.  BUT, you can STILL hold him accountable for how he leverages his success, his platform, to reinforce the myth that engaged parenting is optional…secondary to the public accolades.

As you pause this month to honor Father’s Day and to esteem the critical role of engaged fathers, you can slap him on the wrist for perpetuating the lie that as long as you take care of your kids, lavish them with expensive things, that compensates for not being present.  That a $400,000 Maybach car as a gift to your son on his 16th birthday is an appropriate stand in for instilling the values of hard work, academic excellence and integrity.

Apparently, we’re not the only ones who believe there’s something sadly out of sorts about Diddy’s priorities and approaches to parenting.  Nightline’s Martin Bashir didn’t let Diddy off the hook in his questioning of Diddy’s views on fatherhood.  And, Diddy was noticeably annoyed…arrogantly offended.

Check out the link below and watch the Nightline profile on Diddy.  What say you?

http://new.music.yahoo.com/blogs/thatsreallyweek/83264/jun-7-13-diddys-360000-maybach-birthday-gift-to-son-questioned-on-nightline/