Teaching and learning may be taking place in some inner-city school districts, but how effective is it? Based on the growing number of Black boys who aren’t reaching graduation and success thereafter, it is not as impactful as it could be. This seems to be the case in Atlanta where parents and residents are on opposite sides of how impactful current Superintendent, Meria Carstarphen, has been.
Once again the world is watching. After the cheating scandal, will Atlanta fail Black children again?
The reality for Atlanta, like many urban school districts, is we have children suffering in classrooms. In particular, Black and brown children often experience a lot of changes in staff, leadership, and programs. Even with thriving charter schools and new models such as partner schools, traditional public schools operated by charter organizations, there is still a need for traditional public schools to succeed.
Children Suffer in Public Schools, Period!
The ongoing call for the current superintendent by the business community is developing a false sense of learning that isn’t consistent across the district. Too often, stakeholders get caught up in advocating for school district leaders and turn a blind eye to the real issues children face in public schools.
Black children aren’t suffering alone in public schools. Black teachers are,too. One of the key issues is that Black parents and students feel as if they don’t have teachers who are passionate about teaching. Before the recent runoff election, some communities had less than 100 people to vote. Some attribute the lack of voter turnout to the lack of parent and community engagement in Atlanta schools, especially schools on the westside that are facing major changes.
Many changes, including the collapse of traditional public schools, are forcing many tenured and seasoned teachers out of classrooms. Urban school districts face the following challenges with maintaining teachers:
1. Teacher salary and benefits
2. Teacher support in and out of the classroom
3. School culture
Recently featured on EdLanta was a local Black male educator, Marcus Harden. He spoke truth to the importance of teachers implementing self-care. Once a teacher is overworked, burned out, unappreciated and feels unsupported, teaching and learning is negatively impacted. Students will not reach their highest potential.
Funding Still Isn’t Equitable for Schools Serving Black Children!
Imagine this and facing the possibility of not having a job because schools are closing. Public traditional school systems don’t support charter schools as they say. Although various charter models result in students performing well in the classrooms, the school budgets are often limited and impact teacher salaries. On average, most teachers are working one to two additional jobsto make ends meet.
Additional funding would help strong school leaders to improve urban education. Too often, a large portion of the salary budget is diverted to people who aren’t even in the classroom, That’s the first thing that needs to change! We have to stop providing livable wages and higher salaries only to those in administrative or upper-level positions. This is one major reason why we can’t keep qualified teachers in the classroom and support staff in schools.
If the children can’t get to school because the bus drivers are on strike due to low wages, that’s a problem. If schools don’t have family engagement liaisons, social workers, and counselors, that’s a problem. If teachers are having to work two to three additional jobs just to make ends meet for their families, that’s a problem.
School boards and elected officials have to put forth effort and address the issues Black children are facing. Improving resources for social and human services, remediation and quality academic and administrative staff is a start. When I say invest, I am referencing improving support for teachers and students in schools. This support looks like elementary, middle and high schools having more than one counselor. Having a balance of male counselors in schools, especially for Black boys who are leading the subgroups in behavior and discipline infractions.
We need family engagement liaisons in schools to connect with parents and support effective learning at home. We need support for school remediation programs in the mornings, during lunch, and after school so that teachers can have opportunities to sustain themselves while doing the work needed to give Black children better educational outcomes.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.