Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Depressing Suspension Investigation of SPS

The Times has a sad story this morning about a federal investigation by the US Department of Education against SPS over discipline rates of African Americans.   The Times does point out that this information is really nothing new.  The district (and parents) have know about this for years and yet it is still the case.

African-American students are suspended from school more than three times as often as white students from elementary schools to high schools.

More than one-fourth of black middle schoolers have received short-term suspensions every year since 1996. Native Americans are disciplined more often than Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The “compliance review” began in May but didn’t become public knowledge until it was reported Tuesday by KUOW radio.

District Superintendent José Banda acknowledged problems with student discipline — and said he intends to do something about them. 

Banda said he didn’t know how long the federal compliance review will take, and the Department of Education’s Bradshaw declined to provide additional information. 


Banda pledged cooperation with the investigation and said he expects the Department of Education will find disproportionate disciplining of black students.

The district's answer?  More committees.  That might be great but most committee work gets a pat on the back and goes nowhere (ask the original race and disproportionality committee that did their work some 20+ years back).   

There is new attention and a trend towards trying harder to keep kids in school because, of course, if they are not there, they are not learning.

This unevenness in SPS is, of course, wrong.  

So what is happening that teachers feel compelled to exit students from their classroom?  It's a valid question because if this many students are exited, then we likely have large numbers of teachers throwing up their hands.

If teachers make behavior expectations clear at the beginning of the year - to both students and parents - with gentle follow-ups if there are issues, you'd hope that both teachers and parents would stand firm on those expectations.

Why are students acting out?  Are they bored, do they need behavior modification or some other kind of direction?  Consistent acting out means something is wrong and if the rest of the class isn't acting out then you have to try to figure out what you give the teacher to deal with a student who will not comply. 

Unless there is a study of some sort in SPS to ask teachers what these issues are, all the committee work in the world won't mean anything.

I understand that children learn differently and may have different cultural ways of expressing themselves.  But, at the end of the day, the teacher is the arbiter of what happens in the classroom.  When you get 30+ students in a classroom, there needs to be variation in the day so that students are not just sitting passively but there also has to be an understanding that disruptions to the classroom on a continuing basis won't work.

But this cannot stand and that the district has know about it and yet it has continued is one more sad dysfunction  to a district that has been slowly turning itself around.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

Principals suspend students not teachers.
teachermom

Anonymous said...

Isn't this a societal issue. The incarceration rate among African Americans is way higher than that of causasians. So doesn't this number within SPS just reflect what is happening in society - a disproportion. Thus isn't SPS a smaller slice of society and not the 'bad guy'?

Maybe I am not understanding.


-Ted

mirmac1 said...

Banda says this, yet he will not meet with SEAAC to discuss the population with the greatest discipline disproportionality: special education students. Not enough staff are trained in de-escalation, positive behavioral supports and recognizing behaviors that are the result of a disability. SPS has failed to provide compensatory education to those students who's parents are called to "come pick up your kid". Principals would rather call security and brand a child as violent, than implement a behavioral intervention plan.

Mr. Banda, we don't need committees that you and your staff won't listen to. Shoot, SEAAC is your advisory committee and we have to beg for your time.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. Stuff like this comes right after Michelle Rhee is in town, and once again focuses the lens on classroom teachers as the problem.

If you can't bust their union, I suppose you can malign their reputations by insinuating teachers are, beyond lazy, entitled, and failing our kids, racist too.

I don't see this federal investigation doing any more than what people in the schools are already trying to do. Again, see how Everett and Renton have improved their graduation rates by keeping kids in school.

The issue is not who is evil, or right, or wrong. It's about finding ways to deal with kids within the schools, other than suspensions, which only serve to alienate kids and push them further behind.

I don't find this story sad at all. I find it politically and racially charged to make a good headline, sell papers, and keep some federal investigators on the payroll during a time of heavy budget cuts.

I don't deny there may be unfairness and disparities and areas for improvement. But I smell lots of rats behind this investigation.

Anonymous said...

WSDWG above.

CCM said...

I think this is a societal issue - but the question is does the societal issue start in schools across the nation through uneven disciplinary practices?

Is is a cultural awareness issue? The way we talk to one another and approach one another based on how we look? Those responses can be innate based on our exposures throughout our lives. Not racist per se - but so much of our immediate reactions are driven by what we know and are familiar with.

Its interesting to think about how responses change based on who you are dealing with. Do we give someone who looks like us more of a break than someone that looks different and acts different and makes us feel uncomfortable?

I grew up without much exposure to people of other races - in white suburbia where everyone looked just like me. The first time we moved to a location where I was exposed to racial diversity, I was very uncomfortable. People of different races have different cultural expressions, have different ways of approaching problems, communicating etc. Thank goodness - I might add - as I wouldn't want us to be all the same.

With continued exposure and interaction, I now enjoy our differences and in fact welcome them and am working to pass that knowledge and understanding to our kids. That is a HUGE reason that our kids go to public school. The Life payoff down the line is so much better than placing them in a private school bubble.

I think it has little to do with teachers specifically - I am in the camp that the majority of teachers are in the profession because they care about kids and want to make a difference with ALL kids. However, the fact that the majority of the teaching staff is typically white may impact disciplinary reactions due to the factors above.

I welcome the discussion - not the accusations - but it is time that we start to come up with other options than suspensions. These kids need to continue learning and need to have the support that they need to make different choices.

In the case of violence or threats of course - all bets are off for in-school options. However, - those kids ALSO need their education to continue while they are separated from the greater school population.

way2 college said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

CCM-

Good points. many private schools have diversity numbers that are very similar to public school numbers.....fyi...many private schools are not diversity bubbles.

-Ted

Someone said...

Happened to this on KIRO last night, in their usual "sensationalistic" fashion - but the gentleman from the district was, well, less than convincing that SPS actually cares or would do anything about it. It was essentially, yes yes, we have task forces and committees and we are talking about it - again...yet still...
There is certainly a societal aspect, but also an "SPS cultural" one - in that it appears,easier to "remove" the problem then actually deal with it..sighhhhh...

CCM said...

Ted -

Don't disagree about some private schools having diversity - and that they are similar to some public schools (North of Ship Canal most likely).

However, not even close to the diversity south of the Ship Canal and the diversity in private is much different as it only includes families that have made an active choice.

Public Schools take all - which includes students that the majority of private school kids will never interact with.

Mary Griffin said...

Melissa,

I believe Ann Dornfeld of KUOW KUOW Report on Discipline Rates of Black Students in Seattle Schools covered this first yesterday. She has a good link to a similar case in the Oakland, CA school district. None of this data is new and none of it is a surprise. There is lots and lots of good information on how to deal with the problem.

TeamChild and Washington Appleseed recently published a 69-page report. I read the whole thing. They of course, couldn't get data from Seattle Public Schools and chose to leave Seattle Public Schools out of the data concerning race/ethnicity. Surprise, surprise!

But their report does highlight the fact that recommendations have already been made on what path to follow. At the very least, SPS needs to instigate a program such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, which involves a research-based school-wide problem-solving approach to addressing the problems behind the behaviors instead of removing the kids from the educational environment. PBIS PBIS.org is a research-based program that has been proven to work and was recommended in the Federal Department of Education's agreement with the Oakland School District over a similar compliance review Oakland Long Term Discipline Reduction Plan. Training in de-escalation techniques especially for principals would be useful. Cultural competency is another area that could use training for dealing with population who are not from the dominant culture.

Interestingly enough, as a de facto member of SEACC (Seattle Special Educaton Advisory and Advocacy Council), I was to meet with Supt. Banda a week ago about a similar issue dealing with Special Education. My research (using data obtained by mirmac1 through a public records request)indicates that in Seattle Public Schools in the 2011-2012 school year, by virtue of the fact that a K-12 student's disability status, he or she is conferred a risk ratio of 5:1 for receiving a long-term or short-term suspension. This contrasts with the risk ratio of 4.5:1 for a K-12 student with the ethnic/racial designation of African American.

Qualitatively wise, I recently attended a disciplinary grievance meeting for a fourth grade student who I have never met. The student, who is autistic, experienced a behavioral crisis related to unmet poorly planned want on his part. Instead of relying on the specifics of his IEP, the principal chose to ignore them, escalate the situation, bring in security, suspend the student, write up the incident with a trumped-up code, and used very loaded, inflammatory language in the Notice of Disciplinary Action. This is not an atypical case. The parent was able to access experts in the Special Ed department to testify at the re-entry/manisfestation meeting that the behavior that was exhibited was directly related to the child's disability, but nonetheless, the damage was done as far as this child's self-esteem was concerned, and the principal is sticking with her guns about the incident.
(More in above post)

Anonymous said...

CCM-

Schools south of ship canal can be added tot he diversity number. Agree that active choice does change the dynamics of education drasticly.

-Ted

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mary Griffin said...

(See above for first part)
Special Education students comprise 14% of Seattle Public Schools students. African American students comprise 20% of Seattle Public School students. This is not an insignificant issue for either population. Nor is it an insignificant issue for American Indian/Alaska Native students, Hispanic students, ELL students, homeless students and students in foster care.

An additional thought, if you go the district's own data at Seattel Public Schools Data Profile: District Summary December 2012 and go to page 147, you will see that there is a wide variation in the use of exclusionary discipline even among different Seattle middle schools, varying from 7.6% for Hamilton International to 20.5% for Aki Kurose. The data for high schools is at page 144, and varies from 2.1% at Roosevelt to 12.9% at Rainier Beach. You could easily explain both of those sets of outliers by demographics, but you can also compare schools with similar demographics which have widely different rates of suspension. These schools that have lower rates of suspension should be examined to see what they have in place that keeps that rate lower.

mirmac1 said...

repost for anonymous (pick any ole moniker)

"My african american son spent eight years in Seattle Public Schools trying to rise above the label he was given (for no particular reason) beginning in 1st grade - a learning disabled criminal. For the past 3 1/2 years I've spent half my paycheck on private school where he is considered an honor student, a star athlete, a leader and someone who doesn't have to be perfect because he is there to learn. "

Mary Griffin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Griffin said...

@Ted,

This is known as a school to prison pipeline ACLU: School to Prison Pipeline. It is a well-known fact that there is a correlation between exclusionary discipline and incarceration, BUT, it doesn't have to be that way.

One mother of a third grader in special education due to anxiety issues put it this way, (and this is not in relation to suspensions, but is in relation to restraint usage in special ed) "I just talked to my son (XXX) and asked him to show me how he was restrained at school. He demonstrated how the teacher held his arms from behind and pushed him forward while XXX sat on the ground. I asked him if the teacher ever put his weight on top of him while he was lying down he said yes, so I asked him show me. He turned me over onto my stomach, still holding my arms behind my back and he layed down on top of me. It hurt. He said it hurt a lot and sometimes he would be thrown to the ground from a standing position then restrained. I felt like they were training him to comply at any price. It was like he was meant to go to jail or to the military, not like he was in a school."

dan dempsey said...

It seems to me that the level of misbehavior needs to be addressed.

More than one-fourth of black middle schoolers have received short-term suspensions every year since 1996. Native Americans are disciplined more often than Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Do these rates correspond to the disciplinary infractions committed?

The seems to be an assumption that "equal outcomes" is an appropriate and reasonable expectation. .. But is it? I would like to see more emphasis placed upon improving student behavior. While suspensions are sometimes warranted there are a variety of other techniques that may be used.

Is this law being correctly used
RCW 28A.600.020?

(2) Any student who creates a disruption of the educational process in violation of the building disciplinary standards while under a teacher's immediate supervision may be excluded by the teacher from his or her individual classroom and instructional or activity area for all or any portion of the balance of the school day, or up to the following two days, or until the principal or designee and teacher have conferred, whichever occurs first. Except in emergency circumstances, the teacher first must attempt one or more alternative forms of corrective action. In no event without the consent of the teacher may an excluded student return to the class during the balance of that class or activity period or up to the following two days, or until the principal or his or her designee and the teacher have conferred.

The district has a history of failing to provide effective interventions and socially promoting students. This creates a significant problem for students who are not prepared to do grade level work at middle school.

Here are the percents of students scoring at level 1 is grade 5 (2012 MSP) by ethnicity

Reading
3.5% => White
23.8% => Black
7.2% => Asian
11.0% => Pacific Islander*
25.7% => American Indian**

Math
6.8% => White
43.0% => Black
10.9% => Asian
44.4% =>Pacific Islander*
42.9% => American Indian**

----
* only 18 students total
** 35 students

================
Let us not put to much focus on the symptoms but rather focus on curing the disease.

The suspensions should not be as big a concern as the academic performance levels.

Approximately the percentage of Black students scoring at level 1 is approximately 6 times that of white students. ... FOCUS ON THAT PLEASE.

More than one-fourth of black middle schoolers have received short-term suspensions every year since 1996.

From 2012 5th grade stats
about one fourth the Black students are poorly prepared to be in 6th grade reading materials
and
over 2/5 are poorly prepared for 6th grade math.

=======
Looking at 2011 5th grade and 2012 6th grade the White - Black gap narrowed during that year.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's be clear.

The problem is not the frequency of discipline but a question about the equity of the discipline. The Feds are asking if students punished the same for the same infraction.

They aren't.

There's one explanation for that which is quick, easy, and requires no proof: racism.

There are other explanations that are more likely. They include cultural competency gaps, more and stricter rules in schools with historic discipline problems, and factors other than the infraction (intent, acceptance of responsibility, expressions of remorse, commitments to comply in future, etc.).

The Feds have a tough job ahead of them because the data they want is not kept in a retrievable format, is not kept accurately, and often is not kept at all.

Mary Griffin said...

@ Charlie,
I know that you think that this investigation is not about the rate of discipline, but both the Seattle Times and KUOW highlight that it is, in addition to the issue of harshness of discipline. the first issue is much easier to get at. the second 1 is much more difficult. different schools use different coatings for disciplinary actions, and many are much more reliant on exclusionary discipline . my own data sets from Seattle Public Schools indicate that Hispanic students in special education received twice the length of days in suspension as do Caucasian students. but like I said that date is hard to get at.

Anonymous said...

Mary presented great info about solutions to this problem. Even with the fed's investigation, I'm not sure there is much SPS will achieve on its own. It has South Lake HS down in Rainier Beach as one effort. The problem is if you go to Aki. What's the buzz word from downtown? Test scores. Ask parents what they want in schools, they want safe and good schools. The level of violence in many of these communities seem to have gone up or haven't gotten any better. Every week there's a shooting or an assault often involving teens. That sense of fear adds to the pressure to keep things safe at school. I wonder if that is one of the reasons why we see higher suspension rates in these schools --getting rid of troublemakers. The feds can investigate all they want at the school level, but they really need to look at what is going on in the communities and the gang situation. Because you can't fix the suspension problem without fixing those issues too.

As to money, we passed the Family and Educational Levy. Maybe we need to really look at where the $ is going and is it going to effective intevention programs? Reviews and evaluations anyone? Because I'm having my doubts.

worried parent

mirmac1 said...

Interesting data on students who return to school after suspension.

Summary of Discipline Data Available from the OSPI Student Data Systems

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Mary what other characteristics are you seeing in the sped race discipline analysis??? Readers need to understand.

The coding issues are also telling a lot about prejudice.

Reader

Anonymous said...

The investigation and comments prompted a memory of an incident at Whitman Middle School when a student was expelled when a squirtgun he'd painted brown and black fell from his backpack in the lunchroom.

His expulsion was converted to a suspension and he was allowed to return to Whitman after an appeals board agreed that his intent in bringing the toy to school wasn't malicious, but it was pointed out in a story published in the Seattle Times that the reinsatement probably wouldn't have happened if the family hadn't engaged the services of a lawyer. I also recall that the parents circulated a petition amongst his classmates supporting his reinstatement as well.

The positive point is that this child's reinstatement led the district to re-examine 12 other expulsions that happened that academic year for similar offenses to see if there were other mitigating factors that might cause them to reverse the decision. But one wonders how these statistics might differ if all expelled students had families with the financial means and connections to secure quality legal representation.

-RH

Mary Griffin said...

RH,
What you are talking about in the Whitman School incident sounds like an instance of a "zero tolerance policy" for guns or toy guns. Zero tolerance policies are known to contribute to excessive exclusionary discipline.

Reader,
I will have to get to trends in the data later today. Unfortunately, I don't have length of suspension in the one data set that would give us the best information for the entire population.

Charlie is right that a lot of this information is that the data collection and aggregation is the biggest issue in being able to present an accurate picture.

For example, both sets of discipline data that I received from codes race differently than the demographic info reported by SPS. As an example, discipline info codes Pacific Islander differently than Asian American. This is important, because actually Pacific Islanders are disproportionately over-represented in the discipline data and Asian Americans are under-represented.

But the demographic data released by Seattle Public Schools lumps Asians and Pacific Islanders together.

Anyway, I will return to this subject later tonight when things have quieted down in the household.





Anonymous said...

Working in the South End area schools in this district it wasn't the lack of reporting by teachers it was the lack of 'what comes next'.

A student screams and throws things? That's not normal so while there has to be a consequence which is fair (and not a pass) you need to address the root issues.

Generally that means a social worker. Someone who can help correct the home problems that we mislabel as school problems.

On another note I have been in meetings where a principal told the staff that any referral for whatever reason was too much. That writing that referral was a failure of cultural competency and was essentially racist.

100% of the behaviors falling under 'cultural competency' have nothing to do with culture. It has to do with economic status and resulting parenting issues that crop up with that. A teacher cannot out-teach or raise the score on hunger or abuse. We can REPORT and DOCUMENT the effects in the hope that Administrators will be provided the tools to make effective post incident interventions.

Right now the student gets in trouble, goes to the office, gets a talking to, misses some school days, and nothing changes except the mutual frustrations for all involved.

SPS needs a coherent and transparent strategy. This isn't cultural competency, this isn't racist teachers, this IS a lack of planning!

-Planning?

Anonymous said...

The suspensions should not be as big a concern as the academic performance levels.

Approximately the percentage of Black students scoring at level 1 is approximately 6 times that of white students. ... FOCUS ON THAT PLEASE.



uhhh. It's the other way around. Kids who are repeatedly suspended will never perform well. End of story. You can't do well - if you aren't there. FOCUS ON THAT PLEASE.


Is this law being correctly used
RCW 28A.600.020?

[blah, blah, blah] ... Except in emergency circumstances, the teacher first must attempt one or more alternative forms of corrective action.


Yes! The part about first must attempt one or more alternative forms of corrective action.
FOCUS ON THAT PLEASE (Alternative forms that work, how about it? If you have to repeatedly suspend a student - well duh! Suspension isn't working..

And finally - give it up on the "social promotion" crap. That hasn't worked. How will repeating a grade help anybody? If it didn't work the first time, it won't work the next. The reality is that almost all curricula are spiraling. Grade level work is repeated if not mastered the first time.

-parent

dan dempsey said...

Dear Parent,

About "repeating a grade" and that not helping... Data from Florida demonstrated that ending "social promotion into grade 4" was a big significant positive... because it was accompanied by effective interventions. These interventions eventually began long before grade 3. Florida has seen a steady rise in NAEP scores along with fewer grade 3 retentions each year. The positive academic effects are persisting long after grade 4 and well into middle school. ((The first group is just now entering high school.))

Also in regard to spiraling ... the perecent of students scoring at level 1 ... does not change very much as cohort groups move through school. I am NOT a spiraling fan.

Check the data for what has been shown to work... John Hattie's Visible Learning is a good place to start.

--Dan Dempsey

This data was compiled based on the entire state. Complete information can be found on Jay Greene's blog.

Mary Griffin said...

@Dan,

I know that you think that this has something to do with teaching a child to read. So I will go with that here, but that is not an official intervention listed by anyone who has spent any time dealing with this specific issue.

Either way, you will find that the so-called Florida retention miracle has more to do with giving third graders the opportunity to participate in a summer reading program, have an academic improvement plan, be assigned a "high-performing" teacher and receive intensive reading intervention. Schools must provide all students with 90 minutes of uninterrupted reading instruction every day. Schools must assess students' literacy skills as early as kindergarten and notify parents if their child is already below grade level. The state of Florida invests more than $100 million per year to ensure schools could deliver these services in kindergarten through 12th grade. So it's actually more about teaching the kid to read rather than holding him back.

mirmac1 said...

Mary,

Amen, sister.

Dan,

I truly admire your hard efforts but Mary has pointed out the many distinctive differences between "social promotion" and disparate treatment of those who are "different".

dan dempsey said...

Mary,

Here is a post from Jay Greene:
Grade Retention is Common Nationally but Effective in Florida

You are absolutely correct. Producing competent students depends on a great variety of factors and many of these are beyond the control of the teacher or school.

A child's exposure to rich language and vocabulary before age 4 has been shown to have a huge effect on school performance.

The idea that the academic gaps we are seeing in the SPS between Black students and White students is due largely to suspensions is NOT credible.

A much better instructional approach is warranted that includes effective interventions.... to make that feasible sound instructional programs need to be used.

NYC has now dumped Everyday Math and dumping Readers and Writers workshop is in progress.\\NYC is considering the Core Knowledge program for adoption.

====
Head Start as structured has been a big waste of funds.

Lets use facts and .... improve the system through the intelligent application of relevant data.

So perhaps a district official could explain the reasons for the huge disparities in the percentages of students scoring at level 1 in different ethnic groups..... rather than just babbling about suspension rates. ... Honesty would be a refreshing approach rather than BS.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Mirmac1,

I do not say that disparate treatment does not exist (as it does). I just wish to expand this discussion into what needs to be done to improve the SPS instructional program for students.

Anonymous said...

I got an idea. FIRST - you fix the suspension rates (because that would be a lot easier than practically anything else).. THEN you look at OTHER relevant data which is difficult to tease apart. The only "data" that is interesting - is longitudinal - and getting correlations there isn't easy.

-parent

Anonymous said...

Dan D.
Right on!! If Seattle teachers began doing their own reading screening (for phonemic awareness and phonics) starting in kindergarten, and they had the resources and training to intervene immediately, we'd eventually begin to see a drop in the suspension rates. Instead, we continue to soldier on with a horrid, sight-word dependent, whole language approach to teaching reading that science proves does not work for many children (if not most). It is especially harmful for children in poverty. so we shouldn't be scratching our heads about WHY this is happening. Behavior problems are symptoms of academic and emotional problems that are not being addressed, nothing more. I know everybody loves to complain about the math program, and yeah it's weak, but our early literacy curriculum is ridiculously out of date, and it is contrary to ALL of the current science out there. Illiteracy is a powerful risk factor for incarceration. The path to incarcerations begins with suspensions- how do we not see the connection here?
TS

Anonymous said...

PBIS is alive and working well in many of the schools in the district. Like lots of programs and trainings, not everyone is aware of it. IMHO this program of positive behavior intervention supports should be required of all elementary staff.

Sped Staffer

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine that phonemic awareness and phonics is going to be a realm in which Teach For America interns are capable of stepping in. As a matter of fact, neither were the teachers that continually overlooked our child's writing patterns despite our seeking answers.
In retrospect, none of them seem to have been capable of seeing 'signs' of challenge. After a long struggle and outside intervention, things have turned around greatly. Thankfully we have health insurance that covers some of the cost.

One and a quarter years to go.

Anonymous said...

TS said "The path to incarcerations begins with suspensions- how do we not see the connection here?"

Really? I can see how suspensions might be a minor contributor to incarceration, but do you really think suspensions have a greater effect than the student's home environment?

Time for a sanity check

Anonymous said...

Sanity-
I think that suspensions/incarceration/home life have a high degree of inter-relatedness. That being said, suspensions decrease the likelihood of a child being successful in school, which in turn increases the likelihood of future incarceration.

Rachel

mirmac1 said...

Rachel,

Amen. Once you are 2-4 grades behind, and you're a teenage, WTH motivation is there to "catch up" and graduate? Who is there to give you the compensatory education that the law demands? "Not my problem!"

Anonymous said...

I think you're making the classic mistake of confusing correlation and causation. You seem to believe that suspensions cause incarceration. I believe that they are correlated, that they often happen together because they are caused by the same thing - a poor home environment.

From a political perspective, it's a lot easier to blame the schools than the parents.

Time for a sanity check

Anonymous said...

Very interesting conversation. However, let this not be a wake up call or a blaming exercise. We all know the situation exists, and blaming the teachers or the families have not yielded positive results so far. Indeed, let this set up a full-on open and collaborative examination for solutions. Cultural incompetency is a serious problem among teachers, and creating a warm, respectful environment for parents of color is a chronic problem for most north end schools (perhaps some south end schools as well). We are all products of our culture that is highly influenced by the media. (for instance how many schools have increased their gun controls on white young men when all the school recent massacres have been perpetuated by young white men; so were the terrorists in Oklahoma) Our media overplays our fear of the unknown - the different, instead of creating cultural sensitivity and awareness. Every child is very smart and intuitive. They are not immune when teachers fawn over certain types of students and look at them with a frown or expectation for trouble. Our children are malleable - they grow and mold themselves into what society expects of them. Children are all good and loving when they are born. We teach them to hate, to judge, and to discriminate. They learn to feel unloved, to lose hope, or to live in fear based on what the adults in their lives tell them. Teachers have a profound experience on children. While my education was elsewhere and in an international setting for a while, I knew without doubt that my teachers had only the highest expectation for me, and I learned to live up to that expectation. When our teachers are products of a limited spectrum of our society, with limited exposure to different cultures, they act out their limited beliefs in the classroom. Having a largely homogeneous teaching pool further limits their exposure to people from other cultures and perpetuates the negative trend towards white privilege and entitlement. I have seen minority adults who are products of the district. While they have loving, middle class parents, they themselves are psychological messes. Why? What happened to them? How can we create a diverse society of successful graduates? Why do we live in fear that the opportunities for success are few, therefore we have to make sure only a small cadre of students are trained towards those ends? Why do minority students prosper in Seattle's private schools (like one of mine does) but are quickly labeled in the public schools...we need to look for solutions that benefit EACH child and not settle for anything else. Otherwise, our generation, like previous generations would be failing our children, again.
- another saddened parent