Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bringing Regularity to African American Children

President Obama says African American people having a stake in this country is normal, "regular."  Something we do not even talk about any more. Having a stake and taking advantage of the stake are not one in the same.

Dr. Emma Jones, Director of Maxine Mimms Academy - Seattle, says that being regular is all there really is.  When we are irregular we are suffering from disease.  I am privileged to regularly be in the presence of African Americans who are finding answers to the problems presented by African American children who are not regular, out of rhythm with their natural selves and out of sync with a forward moving society. Just as any child who has a critical ailment, African American children in the collective are best revived to their most healthy existence when the parent is involved in the cure and sustained care of the child. Parents for Student Success, a parent directed non profit in Seattle, has established an Academy for developing Parent Practitioners. These parents see the world of raising and getting the best education for their children through the world view of a parent. They are fully engaged partners with any and all who make decisions about their children. Without this level of engagement of parents of African American children, the children go lacking, some have actually died, from violence, suffer from extreme traumas, that are never healed, or they wander through life never getting to their best purpose or becoming contributors to the societal good.

Fortunately, the majority of African American parents, have a sort of genetic memory that despite exposure to what makes children not function to their fullest, can keep them well. Genetic memory is passed on through culture. There is no culture that is not steeped in survival and well being. Violence is not an African American culture, resisting oppression and seeking self sufficiency is very much a part of African American culture. Education is and has always been a major part of the African American culture. There is a legacy of 104 Historically established and sustained Colleges and Universities in the United States to support this. There are many family stories of learning in segregated schools being taught in church basements, even clandestine reading lessons during a time when southern states made it a crime to teach a slave to read. Fredrick Douglass, in his writings tells of hearing his master tell his wife that the reason for such a law was that it was not possible to enslave a person who is educated. He had been taught enough about reading to go on to continue to teach himself, and read every book in his master's library. He, freed himself, went north and was the first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard. The possible for greatness is inextricably linked to an education that frees the mind, thus the person. African American lead and guided universities throughout the southern and border states are clear examples of our ability to bring about equity and excellence for our African American children. Helping them become more regular. Students who were mediocre students in our school across the nation are accepted into these colleges and receive the rigor, and high expectations that has always been part of the African American view of education as a liberating tool. These children who were said to be failing or not teachable in schools created primarily for the well being of white children, do well when the education sees a value in them as contributors, not just consumers.

Failed children have for the past quarter century have been fodder for the economics of failed humanity. More money is placed in schools when the students are poor, not excelling and their families create new jobs for social service providers. These agencies for the parents, like the schools of the children are not administered to bring those served to full equity.  In fact the problem proposed to be solved is exacerbated by inept problem solving, administration, and implementation. The victim becomes the perpetrator. African American children are not learning, families are not feeding them, housing them, being engaged we need to put more money into the solution, and this is just too hard we need higher salaries.  The industry built around irregularity of black, brown and poor white children is a corporate levels. The former Community based organizations, are being swallowed up by mega organizations with corporate representation on the Boards of Director, and what were Directors from within communities are now replaced with Executive Directors, and the new practice is to give the title as that of corporate leaders; Chief Executive Director, and Chief Financial Officers. These are titles of huge industries.

Like the medical industry, there is little interest in getting patients well back to "regular" the drug industry finds its wealth in giving out pills that do not heal. They solve a problem, but does not solve "the" problem associated with many diseases, and irregularities of our bodies.

Back to the issue of African American children in Seattle, where I do the bulk of my work with parents, policy makers and educators, African American parents are becoming Practitioners and have called in specialists to bring about a healing for what plagues our children and their educational well being. Some of the procedures will appear to be radical to a more healthy observer, but as with what is life threatening, to not administer an extreme cure for an extreme life threatening illness might mean the death of the patient. An example is Saturday Math Academy and Early Morning Algebra. Parents asked Norman Alston a professional mathematician to teach their children. His methods are extreme, he teaches complex math to children as young as 6 years old, 8 year olds can identify a Unit Circle, which is calculus, and solve algebraic equations. They learn from this the elements of balance, and that algebra teaches equity.

African Americans do not discriminate or separate that these have been applied to us and our children. We were once separated based on our color and we know it is not natural. So when African Americans brought into being expanded math for our children it attracted others; The classes have Asian, white, hispanic, bilingual students and parents fully engaged with each other. We know that African American children are trend setters, what they think is cool, other children will follow. So it is in the best interest of all to create with African Americans trends of excellence, that comes from hard work and focused capacity building.

Africatown Education and Innovation Center is the recently established think tank and solution center for the education of African American children and the economic self sufficiency of their parents. Yes, African Americans like other families fall upon hard times. But when we are in charge of helping them out of these hard times and are funded to solve the problems, families do not have generational cycles of hardship. From the days following the emancipation of slaves, until the mid 1970's a century later, each generation of African Americans did better then the prior in the same or greater numbers than the general population.  Then, something happened and we have been sent on a path of failed policies, solutions, administration and implementations. Africatown, Parents for Student Success, Technology Access Foundation, Village Spirit, First Place, Fear No Number Math, Life Enrichment Institute, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, are all clear examples of what can occur when African Americans take their own lead. Each of these organized efforts work in sync with each other, and are growing to bring a healthier environment into being for our children. But the nature of the irregularity that our children and families are in requires capacity building to reverse the damage. So we work with whites and all people who can help us, there is no drawback in being help mates across all of the distinct populations.

I think that the regular President Obama speaks of is demonstrated in his campaigns and presidency. He is changing the image of America as a separatist nation to one where there is no majority or minority.  We need that lesson to come more quickly to Washington State in the education and well being of African American children, their families and all children who are not experiencing excellence. But to heal one and and leave very ill others living in the same environments, only leads to the infection of all, thus creating an epidemic.  This is being now reported by global media. The United States is now only mediocre in the education of our children.  Well what did we expect. You can not have the amount of failed education heaped that is heaped upon African Americans so firmly established that it has created spin off economies and think that all the children would not be likewise touched in a negative way.

Whites who have the primary control of policy making, the processes that lead to the passage of policies, and the management of funds meant to bring equity and excellence. Changing this will require radical moves and changes. Unfortunately, much of what occurs to create what is in place, is system based, not individually. So, we have people with the best intentions, themselves falling prey to the system in place to separate by race, class and national origin. So while some immigrant groups are absorbed within one generation into the USA society, other are forever referred to as refugees and immigrants, even after receiving citizenship. I grew up during the days of the "civil defense drills," the Russians were coming and they were are enemy. Yet, as immigrants and refugees, there was not one negative statement made against them. They are known to be much more violent and onerous in their gang activities in WA State but the system allows them the same respect that all whites get, their crimes are associated with the individual. African American crime is associated with the entire population and cast as our having a culture of violence.

New voices, added to new narratives can change the dynamics of what bring irregularity to African American children.  I ask all who got to the end of this to work with us who are Taking a Leap With African American Children. Jumping over obstacles, and being strategic in how we leverage our human and fiscal resources to get past what plagues our children, our families and our village. Much of the work will occur internally among ourselves, but the major work is external to what we have controlled for the past quarter century.  We must get back to schools and agencies being primarily centers of learning and capacity building. We watched them turn to what they are now, primarily economic centers. This does not detract for decent salaries, but accountability measures must be in place. Those who are not elevating African Americans should not be able to be funded year after year at the detriment of those the propose to be funded to educate and bring into self sufficiency.

Africatown Education and Innovation Center brought together a collaboration of African Americans and with little and no compensation in some areas, kept African Americans in daily high expectation environments. At the end of summer they out performed the children in every other summer program in Seattle. The Fashion Design class, kept students at design boards and sewing machines and resulting in a public fashion show, no less than any we see on television. The little preschoolers learned the languages of their peer, and were bilingual within two months. The parents were fully engaged and the teachers taught from love and determination. Those who devise, set policy and administer funds for the $237,000,000 Family and Eduction Levy showed little if any interest in these solutions and outcomes coming from within community and united the community. Where African Americans are funded they are rewarded for being in a silo.

So, we can and will bring about a more regulated life for African American children in Seattle and the nation. Our newly elected Mayor, Ed Murray has met with President Obama and other newly elected Mayors. He tells us that the issue of African Americans is a major part of the conversations he has had with these mayors. He has proclaimed an intent to make Seattle a model of ways a city can turn around downturns for African Americans. For this proclamation I applaud him, and commit to helping making this happen with support from the best of who we are aligned with our own action that will help him get us where we need to be.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Teaching Complex Math to Young Children

Take a look at this clip of the possible as demonstrated by Fear No Number Math and then read this blog entry.

Much of my time as a retired person is spent finding what works in getting African American childrne educated and excellent. I love applying influence, changing negative language and practices into ones that inspire and elevate.   I am much too young to be frail and too old to be foolish. I leverage this gift of time, and good health and well being to snatch away from those who do not have a kernel of interest in seeing African American children and their brown and poor peer groups educated for equity and excellence.

So I research, and I write and today this is what I researched and what inspires my writing.

What is sophisticated about Elementary Math?

This is a not so easy article to read unless you are a mathematician, curriculum specialist, educator, or someone who has not convinced themselves that learning the difficult is undesirable. I am going to digress as I sometimes do. When my husband was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, I was counseled by the wife of the late John Stanford. He was Seattle School Superintendent who had recently died of cancer. She told me I had to be the advocate, I had to learn difficult terminology, that I was to keep a journal and write down everything; the names of tests, the ingredients of the chemotherapy, the names of the many prescriptions.  She assured me that if the doctors could learn all of this so could I. It would keep me feeling in control.  It did and it did. And for us the outcome of my husbands illness was that the cancer went away and never came back.

But what I learned is that I could learn difficult things under difficult and stressful circumstances. African American children are intellectually ill, some are choking, others are comatose and on academic life support. When that happens you have to bring in a specialist, and parents have to learn difficult things. Failed education outcomes for African American children is an epidemic as dangerous and critical the public health as any flu or communicative disease. There are many specialists that are about the business of inoculating our children with complex solutions and parents are learning how to coach them through their therapies and how to discuss the situation with teachers, and most importantly how to keep them on good academic footing once they turn that corner and are able to stand up and be healthy.

Fear No Number Math is not like the snake oil that is being sold in the same abundance as any product on a late night infomercial.  And unfortunately, these gimmicks are being bought up with money that is go be used to elevate learning for African American children and other children who are now and for a very long time been underserved by public education.  I am in awe at the nonsensical solutions that abound for educating our children.  We need to do the difficult research and reading Professor Hung Hsi Wu is worth reading. Take your time, by the time you are through, you might be willing to help us get the children healed and up and working on a beneficial, and rigorous education pathway.

Another work that inspires greatness:

The book Radical Equations chronicles the work of Robert Moses the founder of the Algebra Project for African American brown and poor students.  This a review by Dr. Neal Kobitz, a UW Professor.  Early in his review he highlights this message by Moses:

"In today’s world, economic access and full citizenship depend crucially on math and science literacy. I believe that the absence of math literacy in urban and rural communities throughout this country is an issue as urgent as the lack of registered black voters in Mississippi was in 1961...[M]ath literacy—and algebra in particular—is the key to the future of disenfranchised communities. (p. 5)"

There are many elements of Mose's Algebra Project that is part of  Fear No Number Math which was created by Norman Alston a professional mathematician and gifted teacher.  Parents for Student Success has a close alignment in that we have helped to shape his thinking about the role that parents must play if his teaching is to be sustained.

Moses likewise saw parent and community involvement as important to his Algebra Project, and Kobitz highlights this;

"Moses comments that “the only ones who can really demand the kind of education they need and the kind of changes needed to get it are the students, their parents, and their community, which largely remains silent on issues like this” (p. 151). Thus, it is the job of a math literacy campaigner to organize these groups. And it is precisely in the South, where Moses and David Dennis had had the most experience tapping into the rich community structures, that the Algebra Project has had the most sustained impact."

We know this from 30 years of experience advocating for parents of children that those who overtook public education have catapulted to the bottom of the public education heap. A heap of expensive application of what does not work in the diverse society that the United States has become.

We figured out many things along the way to today. Yet, with all of what we know with all of our brilliance we act as if we do not know the answer to educating African American children. Well move over quacks, we are seeking and finding specialists who will do the radical surgeries and remove the disease of low self esteem, lack of purpose, and low expectations.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Family and Education Levy Funding Inequality.

This is a long one, but  then the trail to this level of arrogance demonstrated in these examples is long and consistent. Every week those who believe that we in South East Seattle and South King County are the colony of Downtown, North Seattle and East King County give me so much to write about and our young people to organize against.

This week I am both disgusted and inspired the inspiration comes from each day spending time with incredible people who are brilliant and unapologetic in their activism. They are those committed to keeping alive the flame of resistance to oppression.  I applaud Jessie Hagopian a Garfield H.S. teacher who said NO!!!.  There of course will be a price paid, but they will not kill him. I just watch the documentary on the Abolitionists, I went to see La Miserables those young people were killed, and I lived through the Civil Rights and Antiapartheid Movements our young people were murdered.
But, they never still the voices and commitment of all.  And we have new leadership in the White House and he tells us to organize where we are in our own communities. And that is where oppression will be stopped or at least diverted. My age and experience and continued activism makes me believe greed and inequality will always find a way to live among us. But likewise this same experience makes me know there will always arise a resistance to oppression.

I am using this blog to write of the ways that Mayor Mike McGinn and his Seattle Education Team is managing the Family and Education Levy Funds ($231, 500,00)  that Seattle property owners voted for. I know the goodness of the majority of the people in Seattle and I know they voted for to double the levy because they truly want African American children off the bottom of the Education meltdown. And they want the gap that is sinking the entire school district closed.  What I write about today, is not unique, it an insidious problem that has rendered South East Seattle and South King County "Colonies" of Downtown and North Seattle and East King County.

This is what they said:
  • 2011 Levy took lessons from 2004 Levy by proposing integrated funding from early learning through elementary, middle and high school allowing for investments that are adjusted for the needs and characteristics of individual schools and their students. 

This is what they are doing

I own three properties in Seattle and thus have as much right as any to be incensed by what I seeing and hearing from too many people.  Seattle is in its dealings with brown, black and poor people. Especially, African Americans is not living up to what they promised the voters.

These funds are suppose to close the achievement gap. African American K-12 students are at the bottom of the achievement outcomes as reported by OSPI. Here is the report for  math outcomes for 4th Grade Black Students in Washington 60 % did not meet standard and 40% were well below standard. Don't take my word for it was easy to just go to the online data that OSPI supplies. This is just one grade but an important one. When African American children do not meet grade standard by 4th grade researchers tell us those who fund for Department of Corrections starts preparing for their arrival in 10 years and before. We can beat them at their game but it takes paying attention and not getting too much sleep.


Math - Grade 4
Meeting Standard23436.3%
Level 4 (exceeds standard)7111.0%
Level 3 (met standard)15924.7%
Basic (met standard)40.6%
Not Meeting Standard41163.7%
Level 2 (below standard)11718.1%
Level 1 (well below standard)29045.0%
No Score40.6%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal10.2%
Meeting Standard excluding No Score

Outcomes for all Seattle 4th Graders is 33% below Standard

Please Take a look at these two short videos. A picture is worth a thousand words and we have thousands of feet of footage showing excellence in African American teacher and Teaching Assistants, African American children learning, and parents and community engaged.

It is important for you to see the excellence of the African American response to the above rate of failure after billions of dollars in the name of black, brown and poor children has been poured into bank accounts of those living outside of our reality.  African Americans have been kept on the perimeter of the education industry, school reform movement and management of education funding. Not pointing fingers, but we try really hard and have some excellent solutions. We have known but now we have proof that processes in place are used against us and there is no intent to give us our children's money that is appropriated for the elevation of their learning.

Fear No Number Math Trailer

Fear No Number Saturday Math Academy

Fear No Number Math conceived by an African American male base on the research of Dr. Robert Moses (Radical Equations) a proven method for elevating the math outcomes for African Americans and all thus all young children.

Mr. Alston received not one but three rejection letters; the original submission received a rejection letter that stated no experience, and insufficient data. Okay, so we appealed.  Another reject letter. And in case he thought that they did understand that No is No, they sent a reject letter for summer academic learning.  He is not the only one. In a recent meeting with SE Seattle Principals of schools with the highest numbers of low income students three likewise received reject letters. Hearing this and seeing what the collective impact of these rejections indicated, I decided we needed to do some research. At the end you will see where the outcome of my research and viewing a PBS documentary takes my thinking.

In nature there is always a Ying and Yang, and the rejection from Mayor McGinn got the attention of not one but two professional mathematicians, offers of support for fund raising, and we are going to have Elders in Residence call forth the children from the rejected and the accepted teachers to perform for the community what they have learned. We want our children performing math in the same way they are coached to perform sports and sing and dance know the channel of television shows, and other things they need to know to be well balanced.

I do not think that Pi Plus and Explorations in Math will be able to bring a team as well prepared to understand and solved complex algebraic problems. I bet they will not know how to explain or even know what the Unit Circle is. Our parents are being taught to be math coaches for their own children how else would you sustain and apply learning for  populations that are very transient. They rent, therefore they move from school to school. We have children whose uncles and grandfathers, and both parents who are divorced and not speaking to each other supporting their children in Fear No Number Math. This comes from intentionality that comes forth when others say you are not good enough. That is what I heard. We can not find a better mathematician able to teach young children to love math than Norman Alston. We brought him back from the Eastside where he was teaching the children of Microsoft, technology industry and professional sports families. He took a cut in pay to do this for children he thinks deserves excellence and a chance to compete.  And this is what the Mayor's process found lacking. Well the student always wins when the parents are in place and determined. And parents who never showed up at an organized parent meeting, sit with their children for two hours on Saturday Mornings and gets up an hour early to get their children for before school math.  A model told to us by Pres. Obama he says that when he was in elementary school his "single" mom would get him up early before she went to work to study and when he complained, she told him "this is no picnic for me either buddy."  Also when asked about poor families, he told the interviewer, a poor parent can turn off a television. It is this level of respect for poor parents we interject into Fear No Number Math.  

I always respect people's time so If this is too long please bookmark it and come back and finish reading to the end. The research and summary is important and revealing. We know that there is inequity, but these are two perfect programs one rejected and the other accepted to prove it.

I am trying hard to lead us right to what is  being done to our children money voted for black, brown and poor children and why they are failing.

The City of Seattle published the list of who did get funded in December 2012 for Family and Education Levy Funds. This organization located outside of African American community in Mulkiteo; Pi Tutors was approved.  Remember what you saw in the Fear No Number Math video with brown, black and poor parents and community engaged, involved and sitting right next to their children. Now see what this organization says about their experience with parents.

  1. "What are the challenges and barriers these students face and how do you address them? A few challenges and barriers for low-income and at-risk students are: Lack of family support and engagement, inconsistencies and frequent transitions, unstable home life, limited access to basic resources, difficulty focusing in school due to outside stressors, unreliable transportation, low self-esteem, as well as lower test scores or grades in class. Pi Plus Tutors has experience assisting students academically, serving as a family advocate to provide support and resources, and providing parent/guardian involvement opportunities and training."  (excerpt from PI Plus Tutors)

    Now let's look at what the say about who they serve and connect with and yet they hire only white women. The organizations used to get a accepted to receive Seattle Funds (though they are in Mukilteo) is stating a history of partnering with organizations serving primarily non white, non privileged children with high numbers of African and African Americans. We know these organizations well.

    Pi Plus Tutors has a strong history of community involvement and partnerships. The company has partnered with several local community organizations with the intention of working together to improve the education and lives of the students involved. Some past partners have included: The Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, Rainier Community Center, Yesler Community Center, Associated Recreation Council, Children of the Valley, and several low-income housing communities across the state. 

    Now look what they say about their staff. Remember they say they have a history of working in minority communities. This is the same answer that Mitt Romney gave in his "binders of woman" answer during the debates. Except they have white women so I guess this answer means they will compile binders filled with minorities. 
    "Section Four: Women and Minority Inclusion
    1. It is likely that Pi Plus will have to hire additional employees to support this program? Pi Plus Tutors is committed to diversity and hiring candidates who come from a variety of backgrounds, whether cultural, race, creed or gender. Pi Plus always encourages diverse candidates to apply for a position with the organization. The city of Seattle is very diverse already, so finding diverse candidates is not a huge challenge. Some ways that the company can build and sustain a diverse candidate pool is to say on the application “diverse candidates encouraged to apply” or post a job opening on diversity-specific websites. Most of the company’s employees (both tutors and management) are women, due to a higher number of female educators." (excerpt from Pi Plus Tutors application)  

    This is an insult to the children and families who Seattle Voters agreed to have their properties taxed to shrink the gap. They say they already have a history in the communities with large numbers of black, brown and poor children and families. Well from what we have seen in outcomes whatever they are doing has not made a significant difference. They have not inspired families in ways that makes their methods sustainable, and they have used their public funding in the past to hire only white women. All public funds assume diverse hiring. If they did not hire during their "history of being in our community" and it is "not a huge challenge."  Then why did they not meet this not huge challenge?  Why would we trust them with our money or our children?

    (To be continued)