Education reform

Why Demanding Better Education is Paramount for Our Children

Young Children Ready For School

Arming a child with knowledge early in his or her life will position him or her for continued success. Not only does a great educational foundation provide the skills for a child to reach his or her greatest potential, but it also cultivates a better future society. Our children first learn the most from their parents, and they must lead by example to help the next generation. Parents know how significant their jobs are, but they can only do so much.

When deciding on a school for their children to attend, parents must devote serious attention to the quality of teachers and administrators at the institutions they consider for their children. Parents have a right to demand that schools create environments where students can thrive academically. Students will not, unfortunately, thrive academically in schools that don’t have effective teachers and administrators. Here are some phenomena to contemplate as you attempt to prepare your child for academic success.

Education in Early Life

It makes sense that investing in the education of a child builds a more prosperous and peaceful citizen. Those who have some kind of educational foundation are more likely to commit themselves to academic excellence and the notion of the life of the mind. A school system that continually challenges a student will lead him or her to see the value of lifelong learning. With a better education and more efficient ways of assessing our children’s abilities, more of them will feel valued. This will certainly lead to a more productive society. In children’s early learning, assist them in discovering their distinctive beliefs and worldviews. Early learning should be fostered by their own curiosity about the world, with lots of support, validation, and hints offered.

New Ways of Learning

As the saying goes, “Out with the old, in with the new.” We need to focus on alternative means of assessing our children’s academic growth. If you’ve ever taken a standardized test, you know how mind-numbingly painful it is to stay focused and regurgitate all the information you were forced to memorize. Students need new ways of being evaluated, such as oral exams or presentations. Modern schools are becoming better at employing new methods and strategies of imparting new material. Observe the ways in which your own child responds to different methods of learning, such as visual, auditory, and tactile learning, and identify ways you can address his or her needs inside and outside of the classroom.

Online Education

Online schools are increasingly becoming attractive options for parents for their children’s education. Not only are college classes held online, but entire K-12 schools are now online. These types of organizations are especially advantageous for those who don’t have easy access to a school, or children who want to be homeschooled without having their parents as teachers. Online learning also has the benefit of being directed by the student’s own curiosity. Some K-12 online schools offer field trips and community resources that allow for social engagement and community learning, as well as an individualized pace.

Conclusion

Ensuring the next generation is equipped with the tools essential for educational success is our responsibility. With some sweeping educational reforms, we can empower our children to evolve in a society where they are ready to ameliorate it persistently. Parents should lead the effort to advocate for the educational reforms necessary to improving American public schools dramatically.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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The Need to Improve College Readiness

Black College Student

Although increasing the number of minority students in higher education is essential, we must ensure they are prepared for college when they enter.  Too many students are entering in colleges and universities across the nation unable to meet the academic challenges they face.  In efforts to ameliorate diversity in higher education, we have to devote more attention to improving the quality of education students receive before they enroll in college.  While it’s certainly vital for more minority students to enroll in college, we don’t want them to enroll without the proper preparation.  Serious efforts to boost the number of minority students in college will be purposeless if we don’t send them to college with the academic preparation essential to empowering them to stay in college.

In our education reform discourse, let us be mindful about how important it is for us to discuss the significance of college readiness for all students.  Take a look at this piece that vividly articulates the impact of college unpreparedness: Unprepared for College.

What needs to be done to help students to be better prepared for college?  What will it take to make college readiness a national priority?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Combating White Skepticism of Black Teachers Teaching Black Students

While most White people involved in the field of Education will say that they support improving Black male academic achievement, some of them become skeptical when Black teachers play a significant role in helping Black students to ameliorate their academic achievement.  It’s natural for Black teachers to have a special passion for boosting the academic achievement of Black students.  Because of the impact of slavery and Jim Crow and their residual effects, many Black people understand the need to passionately advocate for other Black people.  Most Black teachers, if not all, want to provide all students with the highest quality education possible, regardless of their students’ race and ethnicity.  Unfortunately, some White people situated in the education sector do not truly want to see Black students succeed.

Some White people in Education do not trust Black teachers to be able to increase the academic achievement of Black students without cheating for them.  Now, most of the White people who cannot believe that Black students’ academic achievement can be increased without cheating for them will not directly tell the Black teachers that they think they cheated for their Black students.  It is fallacious to think that just because a Black teacher teaches Black students he or she will cheat for those Black students.  Now, you don’t hear a significant number of Black people running around saying that White teachers are cheating for White students just because they are White.

Some Whites’ skepticism toward the improved academic achievement of Black students that has resulted from the teaching of Black teachers dramatically intensifies when it is a Black male teacher helping Black male students to ameliorate their academic achievement.  It seems like some Whites think that Black male teachers are not only going to cheat for Black male students, but also cheat so much for them that their grades end up being astonishingly higher than they have ever been.  When Black male students are making tremendously high grades, it offers a serious counternarrative to the lies and negativity that some Whites like to propagate about Black male students and Black male academic achievement.

Black parents and White parents who are committed to the improved academic achievement of all students need to strengthen their support for Black male teachers who evince a zeal for enhancing the academic achievement of Black male students.  When one truly understands that extensive research has proven that Black male students at every level of the educational pipeline academically underperform all of their peers, then it becomes reasonable to understand why a Black male teacher would develop a special passion for improving the academic achievement of Black male students.  With such vexing academic underachievement at all levels of the educational pipeline, Black male students need everyone who is truly concerned about education in America to give them greater support and attention.

You cannot be seriously committed to education reform in America when you’re not devoted to the improvement of Black male academic achievement.  We should view Black male academic underachievement as a national crisis.  If White male students at every level of the educational pipeline were academically underperforming all of their peers, we would have been declared their academic problems a national crisis.  For some reason, Black male students have not been privileged enough to have their academic struggles be promulgated as a national priority.

Although the Black community must make the improvement of Black male academic achievement a serious national priority, stronger efforts to involve more Whites in this effort is necessary.  We have to think critically about ways to engage more Whites in the effort to ameliorate Black male academic achievement.  Moreover, we have to think more deeply about how make strengthening Black male academic achievement a national priority for Black people.  While some Whites will always remain skeptical of Black teachers working with Black male students to enhance their academic achievement, there must be larger efforts to support the continual efforts of Black teachers to improve Black male academic achievement.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Pay K-12 Students for High Grades

If you really want to boost student academic achievement, schools should reward students with money for high grades. Now, you can get all sophisticated and deep with me about how this reflects commodification and reification, but the reality is money can be used as a serious vehicle for positively improving academic achievement. For many students who are not performing well academically, money can be the incentive that they need to work to ameliorate their grades. Schools can seek private money from various foundations and individuals to fund the effort of rewarding students for higher academic achievement. Students who make the Honor Roll should be paid. I often hear many parents say that it’s the job of their children to do their school work. Well, then, let’s pay those children when they make the Honor Roll for the good work that they do on their “job.”

For students coming from low-income homes, the money that they receive for high grades can help them to survive. If you want to see minority and low-income students have a greater incentive to close the academic achievement gap, pay them to close that academic achievement gap. You will see that achievement gap get smaller and smaller. We have to be willing to try innovative things to increase academic achievement in America. Don’t allow your lack of an open mind on what I’m saying in this piece to prevent you from seeing the potential of paying students for higher grades to be one thing that we can do to bolster academic achievement.

I’m not asserting that paying students for higher grades is the panacea for the academic achievement problems students are facing across the country. Of course, students need more than just money to improve their academic achievement, but I want us to consider how rewards (like money) can be powerful motivating forces in creating change. Many students can improve their grades if they change the way they view their grades. If they know that there is money attached to getting high grades, they are certainly more likely to work tremendously hard to achieve high grades.

Although I come from economically well off family, receiving money served as a strong influencing force that kept me making good grades. Therefore, if you have children who are already making good grades, having schools to pay them for making those good grades will help them to keep making good grades. Many students need to see some type of tangible and meaningful immediate reward for getting good grades. Money is tangible, meaningful, and immediate.

Many who oppose the idea of paying K-12 students for making high grades contend that it sends the wrong message to students because they become more focused on the money than learning. Well, if they are not focused on learning right now, then we need something to cause them to at least begin to think about improving their grades. When they start to think about improving their grades for the money, they will have to have some focus on learning because they must learn to get higher grades.

One of the greatest challenges we have in the K-12 educational pipeline today is ameliorating Black male academic achievement. Black male students academically underperform all students throughout the educational pipeline. Many Black male students in urban areas see that it’s easier to go make some money selling drugs than it is to go to school and do some homework that is not going to produce them some immediate money. They find that they cannot be concerned with thoughts about college in the future because they have to survive right now. Now, just imagine if we were able to tell these Black males that if they make high grades they can get paid for those grades. I am confident that many more of them would choose to become more engaged with their studies than with things that will lead them to incarceration.

Okay, let’s just say that my proposal to pay students for getting high grades does not dramatically improve academic achievement. That’s fine! We should be thankful for the students this proposal does help. What’s wrong with putting my proposal into action on a trial basis on a national level to see what happens. I really don’t see any serious harm that can be done by trying this out. Paying students for high grades just might be what we need to jumpstart academic achievement in this country!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Form A Black Parents Association

Increased and improved parental involvement is unquestionably a crucial dimension of true education reform. As I continue to think about solutions to remedying the significant academic underachievement of Black males throughout the educational pipeline, I cannot help but think about how vital their parents are to improving their academic achievement. In every county in America, there needs to be the creation of a Black Parents Association. What do I mean by Black Parents Association? I’m referring to Black parents federate in every county to meet often about local and national issues pertaining to education, to discuss strategies for improving the academic achievement of their children, to work together to help their children with homework problems, to share resources with one another, to organize with one another to protest injustices in their local schools, and etc.

Now, there is certainly not anything wrong with this newly formed organization of Black parents joining and working with non-Black parents. Since Black male students academically underperform all students throughout the educational pipeline, Black parents are going to have to unite first to tackle this problem. After all, it’s their children who are experiencing this academic achievement problem. I think that the formation of a group like this in every county in the nation has great potential to energize Black parents and result in dramatic improvements in the academic achievement of Black students. When educators, school board members, administrators, and legislators begin to see Black parents more organized, more involved, and more committed to ameliorating the academic achievement of their children, schools will have to become more responsive to the needs of Black students.

Just like many Blacks organized to protest the Jena 6 injustice because many Blacks saw this situation as a crisis, we also have to see Black education as in crisis. Whenever you have Black male students throughout every level of the educational pipeline, including higher education, academically underperforming all students this is a real crisis. By creating a Black Parents Association, Black parents begin to become change agents and facilitators in the change we want to see in our children’s academic achievement. Our people have had a history of organizing to engender change to respond to crises. We have a crisis in Black education today and we need to respond to it.

Social media, newspapers, local publications, television, radio, word of mouth, churches, schools, local stores, and etc. can be used as vehicles for promulgating interest meetings about the construction of a local Black Parents Association. I would recommend that this new organization be guided and governed by democratic principles. Make the organization a formal organization.

Black parents, you have the power to increase wealth in the Black community by making stronger investments in your children’s education. We have to tackle the problems our children are having with their studies to bring in greater wealth into our community. We have to face it—improved academic achievement is central to ushering in more wealth into our community. Our economic and social conditions will not be meaningfully improved until we do a better job of buttressing our children’s education.

Black parents unite!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Parental Involvement is Crucial to True Education Reform

Although many parents are highly involved in their children’s education, there are many who are not. If you are not seriously involved in your children’s education, you are just as responsible as their schools for not adequately serving your children. Parents, you cannot simply depend on schools to offer your children a comprehensive education. A comprehensive education encompasses children being intellectually stimulated and engaged in their studies when they are at home. If you are a parent who lacks the education to help your children with their homework, the least you can do is make sure they are doing their home and have frequent discussions with them about what they are studying and any problems they are having in school. By doing this, you will be able to see what your children’s teachers see as things you could be doing at home, based on your abilities, to aid them in improving their academic achievement. If you are not able to meet with your children’s teachers in person, arrange to speak with them on the phone, even if it’s just for a brief period of time. If you have access to a computer, then you could communicate with their teachers via email.

Instead of buying your children all of these toys for Christmas, get them some educational material and software that can improve their academic deficiencies. You have to find creative ways to be involved in your children’s education. Being actively involved in your children’s education helps them to recognize that their education should be a top priority because you take their education so seriously. When you are not actively involved in your children’s education, think about what intentional and unintentional values you are communicating to them.

Learning should not end when students leave school. You should work to create an environment in your home that is well-suited for learning to take place. Be sure that your children organize their rooms well so that their rooms become spaces where order and discipline are encouraged and expected. Valuing order and discipline has important transferability in their academic studies.

When your children are not doing well in school, you need to encourage them to do better. Don’t allow them to give up on their academic studies because they are having difficulties with certain subjects. If you don’t know how to do anything else, you can motivate them to keep trying. Let them know that you just want them to give their best efforts in school.

While I was in the K-12 educational pipeline, I had the great fortune to have parents who were tremendously involved and supportive of me achieving at the highest levels academically, athletically, and socially. Even though I did not need any assistance with my homework from them, they would always ask me probing queries about my school work and homework, which communicated to me that I could never stop striving to become a better and better student.

If you are a parent who has the time and ability to help another parent’s child to succeed, then I would encourage you to reach out to that parent and child. Parents, don’t simply blame schools, administrators, and/or teachers for your children’s educational outcomes. Become an active participant in the type of education your children receive.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Real Crisis in Education: Black Male Academic Underachievement

Unfortunately, the prevailing professional literature has evinced that Black male students underperform all of their peers throughout the educational pipeline. What has largely been absent in all of this talk about education reform is ideas and initiatives targeted at ameliorating the educational experiences and outcomes of Black male students throughout the educational pipeline. Even more alarming is the fact that Black male student-athletes academically underperform all students. Although there have been some Black people who have been passionate about the improvement of Black male students’ academic performances throughout the educational pipeline, we need many more Black people to zealously fight for the improvement of these students’ academic achievement. For Black males, nothing can be more vital than working to ensure that schools are providing them with the best education possible.

In my scholarly and empirical work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I have passionately advocated for and studied innovative ways to improve the academic achievement of Black male students throughout the educational pipeline. My work has, however, primarily focused on improving Black male college student-athletes. One of the reasons I have focused so heavily on Black male student-athletes is I find that by identifying ways to enhance the academic performances of these students will help to provide us with ways that we can improve the general Black male student population. Although we enjoy the great athletic prowess of these Black male student-athletes that we watch on the fields and courts they perform on, we have to think about how these college and universities are exploiting them in ways that have many affinities with how slaves were treated in early America.

At the Pre-K – 12 levels, we are going to have to embrace culturally relevant pedagogy and practices to ensure that Black male students can improve their academic achievement. Many teachers are going to need to explore better ways to reach these students, especially when they see that the ways in which they have attempted to reach them are not working. Many White teachers are going to have to see Black male students as students who can be successful academically and who are worth more than their entertainment and athletic value.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to see people who find my research interest in college Black male student-athletes to be something that they can take for their own research interest to make themselves sound good. Additionally, I have found someone who has actually stolen one of my ideas about college Black male student-athletes and has received grant funding for the idea. The stealing of the idea and receiving grant funding for it does not anger me, but what does anger me is people not having a true commitment to the improvement of the educational experiences and outcomes of Black male student-athletes.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, you have an Associate Athletic Director, Sean Frazier, who is in charge of diversity in the athletic department and his idea of diversity means having a “Soul Food Night.” Are you kidding me? This is the same guy who claims to have written an article on mentoring Black male college student-athletes, but I have to wonder just how informed this article is when one’s idea of diversity in the athletic department is having a “Soul Food Night.” “The Soul Food Night” would be fine if there were other substantive diversity efforts being engaged in. The scary thing about this reality is this man is second in charge in the athletic department. Sean Frazier is a Black man and former college student-athlete at the University of Alabama.

Sean Frazier and others are simply exploiting Black college male student-athletes. You would think that a Black man placed second in charge at a predominantly White elite public research university would make things better for Black male student-athletes, but he is simply interested in keeping his six figure salary and just spitting out meaningless rhetoric about his serious interest in the academic achievement of Black male student-athletes. I have had the unfortunate opportunity to work with this man in the athletic department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and have found him to be a man who is only interested in himself. This is not the type of Black leadership that Black male student-athletes need.

I am writing a scholarly book that uncovers how colleges and universities are currently exploiting Black male student-athletes. I contend that Black male student-athletes should receive modest stipends for the athletic labor they offer to the colleges and universities they are situated in. These predominantly White colleges and universities are receiving so much money from the athletic labor of Black male student-athletes, but they are certainly receiving an uneven exchange for their labor because they are not receiving modest stipends for their work. Uninformed individuals think that all student-athletes are on scholarship. This could not be further from the truth. Most student-athletes are not on scholarship. Most student-athletes have to struggle to purchase the necessary things that they need. Yes, many of them receive free tuition and room and board, but not all of them. Make sure you have all the facts about these student-athletes before you try to unfairly criticize them.

The great problems that Black male college student-athletes experience need greater attention in the professional literature. We cannot turn their academic problems over to people who simply want to exploit them. When you engage in discussions about education reform, be sure to include Black male students in your discussions. When politicians are talking about education reform, be sure to ask them what they propose to ameliorate the academic achievement of Black male students throughout the educational pipeline.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison