The societal turmoil, protests, and unrest—all a cry for justice. The focus is on Black lives; however, this goes beyond Black lives being protected from police brutality. Black lives must also be protected from educational malpractice.
For decades, researchers have shown there is an achievement gap between Black and white students. More recently, concerns have shifted to the opportunity gap, which highlights the fact that Black students are not receiving access to the same opportunities as white students. Last, there is the belief gap when teachers don’t believe a student has the capability of improving. The bottom line is all these gaps show the repeated and consistent educational malpractice toward Black children in school.
If educators really want to join in the fight for educational equity, they must help improve educational outcomes for Black students. Here are some ways to ensure Black lives matter in schools.
Acknowledge that Black lives have not mattered in the school. A problem can’t be solved or addressed if there is no acknowledgment that it exists. Many schools across the country are just now having a conversation about race in the school. When these conversations happen, they must start with honesty. Name it. Say Black lives haven’t mattered. Say that you have not cared that the Black students were not learning. Acknowledge that you gave up on Black students. Set yourself free with honesty.
Identify the inequities in the school. Stating that Black lives haven’t matter was the easy part. Next, school leaders and educators should examine issues in the school with Black students. Look at academic data for all subject areas. Review discipline data. Break the data down by the teacher. Determine how many texts are written by Black authors. Evaluate all curricula and determine how often Black students are seen in the curricula. Don’t forget the electives. Are Black artists covered in art? Are Black bodies displayed in diagrams for health class? Evaluate programming. Who is in the gifted classes? Question and analyze everything!
Create an equity committee. This must be a continual conversation. To ensure the conversation continues, there has to be some accountability. There have to be people committed to doing the work throughout the school year and for every school year in the future. This committee must have real power. If all the committee can do is make recommendations, and no recommendations become reality, then the committee is not serving a purpose.
Accept the school will change. What I have noticed is that some school leaders are trying to maintain the status quo and then determine how to squeeze in changes. This is not how this should work. This may mean a curriculum has to be replaced, teachers trained on a continual basis in anti-racism, and accepting people will be upset. There will be push back but continue to push on.
This work is for everyone. There are schools with no Black students. This does not excuse those schools from doing the work. These school leaders must ensure Black history is covered throughout the year. The curriculum should be analyzed to ensure those students are seeing positive images of Black people and that there are Black authors included.
Shawnta is a married mother of identical twin boys. As an Indiana native, she attended school in two Indianapolis school districts; she attended Indianapolis Public Schools for two years and completed her education in Lawrence Township Schools. Her sons entered kindergarten during the 2016-2017 school year, so she not only navigates Indianapolis schools from the educator's perspective but also ...