As President and CEO of the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) I have the privilege of speaking before many audiences, but I’ve never been more excited to come before a group — and to hear the immediate feedback about the impact of the day — than I was during National Black Child Development Week. Themed “A Week of Action,” the centerpiece of the week was NBCDI’s first Parent Power BootCamp. Held in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education (ED), the Parent Power BootCamp brought parents, caregivers and advocates together to “Get In-formation” – focusing both on exchanging knowledge and action planning to get in position to do the work of being relentless advocates and accountability agents on behalf of our children.
Busloads of parents and caregivers got “In-formation” about the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its implications for investments in early education, equity for disadvantaged students, high academic standards for college and career readiness, assessments, and accountability. They came from all across the surrounding region, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and the Washington Metropolitan area. Through ED’s live stream, our National Affiliate Network, including the cities of Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, Sacramento, Denver, Nashville, Detroit, Paramus (NJ) and Mid-Hudson (NY) joined as well.
We were joined by an amazing group of colleagues, referred to as “coaches”: David Johns, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans who urged parents to stand for equity; Lynn Jennings, Field Director at the Education Trust who empowered parents to know the assessments used to measure their children’s learning; Liz King, Josh Porter, and Jheanelle Wilkins from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights who presented on equity in school funding; and Janel George of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, joined by parent advocates Lorraine Wright and Kandise Lucas, who rallied parents to hold schools accountable.
Our goals for the day weren’t just that participants would leave feeling informed, but connected and in community with each other, and equipped and empowered through the knowledge and information they received. We created a NBCDI Parent Power ESSA Toolkit for each of them to take home and share with other parents, caregivers, friends and colleagues to ensure they have the resources to inform their choices on behalf of their children. They are the accountability force to ensure their children receive the education they deserve.
This is NBCDI’s message to them and to all of us. Let’s get information. But, let’s also do something with it. That is why NBCDI will collaborate with our National Affiliate Network to host Parent Power BootCamps in communities across the country. National Black Child Development “Week of Action” was only the beginning. We will get in formation and we will move.
Watch the NBCDI Parent Power BootCamp live stream here and get information.
Tobeka G. Green is President and CEO of the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI). For 46 years, NBCDI has been at the forefront of engaging caregivers, policymakers and advocates around issues that impact Black children and families. With the support of its National Affiliate Network in communities across the country, NBCDI is committed to its mission “to improve and advance the quality of life for Black children and families through education and advocacy.”
School’s out, temperatures are rising, and, for many students across the country, the summer slide has begun. Each summer, low-income students lose two to three months of reading skills and two months of math skills. As the center director for an after school and summer academic program for middle school students in Washington, D.C.’s historically underserved neighborhood of Anacostia, I see these statistics firsthand every day.
Many of the students from the community we serve take one of three paths in the summer. In some of our better case scenarios, students are either required to enroll in remedial classes to move onto the next grade or they sign up for recreational programs that do not have an academic component. At worst, students stay at home where they either watch TV, play video games, or spend hours on the computer. For many of the students in these categories, the only interaction they have with math is getting change from a store clerk when purchasing snacks. Their reading interactions are limited to social media posts – nothing that requires critical thinking skills.
The program that I work for, Higher Achievement, offers an alternative for students: a no-cost, six-week Summer Academy that includes experiential learning field trips (including a mock trial, a visit to the National Gallery of Art, a ropes course, and a tour of a local hospital), electives (such as theatre, rap, poetry, and hip-hop dance), college visits, and – importantly – classes with curriculum aligned for the year ahead, not the year behind. During the school year, learning is a high stakes game. Students prep for tests and focus on their grades. But for me and the teachers that I work with at Higher Achievement, summer is about getting ahead of the curve. The key is creating a safe space where students can take risks. Ask a question. Participate in an unfamiliar activity. We remind our students that they aren’t being tested or graded, so now is the time to bring back the joy of learning. Once the school year begins again, Higher Achievement continues to support students with mentoring, homework help, electives, and public speaking platforms.
The benefits of this environment are many. Take for example my student Muneerah, who is a rising sixth grader. Muneerah started the summer as a very reserved, quiet student who was very selective in what she shared. But through our spoken word poetry elective, she has discovered her voice. Now she is writing poems and participating in what we call “Community Meeting,” a daily gathering where students are able to talk about the things they care about. Topics this summer have ranged from bullying, to individual identity, to items in the news, to how to navigate middle school.
Students like Muneerah don’t just want these sort of summer opportunities, they deserve them. By using these quiet months in the summer as an opportunity to grow and challenge our students in a risk-free environment, we can make sure that the school year ahead is productive, interactive, and inspiring.
Tawana Bostic is a Center Director at Higher Achievement’s Ward 8 Achievement Center in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Prior to joining Higher Achievement, she was a science teacher at Bronx Park Middle School in New York City and a Mentoring Program Coordinator at Pipps Neighborhood, an organization that helps low income communities in NYC rise above poverty.
This week, the U.S. Postal Service is unveiling a Forever Stamp in recognition of Jaime Escalante’s life’s work. To celebrate this occasion, we are sharing 7 things this passionate teacher taught us about the importance of will, or in his own words, the importance of ‘Ganas.’
1. That time he taught his students about the importance of being yourself, and owning it:
2. That time he reminded us that we need to stop worrying, and start doing:
3. It wasn’t just about the academics, but about the hard lessons too:
4. Or when he needed no sugar-coating to his real talk:
5. The time he didn’t give up on his students and held them to a higher bar:
6. Every time he asked all the right questions:
7. Or when he nailed it in 6 succinct, but oh-so powerful words:
Jaime Escalante’s passion, determination, high expectations for the students he taught, and unrelenting belief in the limitless potential of all young people, regardless of their background, created one of the greatest success stories in modern education history. Many of Jaime’s former students persevered through difficult circumstances to become highly successful, nationally renowned experts in their fields. He demonstrated that success is attainable—even under the most difficult circumstances—for every student.
His teaching showed us that success in the classroom—even under the most challenging circumstances—is possible for everyone if we remain steadfast in our commitment to our students. With the unveiling of the Forever Stamp in his honor, this legacy will continue to live on.