All posts by Wayne D. Lewis

Wayne D. Lewis is the author of The Politics of Parent Choice in Public Education. Lewis is Executive Director of Education Programs in the Kentucky Education &Workforce Development Cabinet and Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies at the University of Kentucky.

Group Calls for Moratorium on Out-of-School Suspensions

SOLUTIONS NOT SUSPENSIONS, prostate a self-described “grassroots initiative of students, cialis educators, viagra parents, and community leaders, has called for a national moratorium on out-of-school suspensions. The group calls on states and districts to support teachers and schools in dealing with disciplinary infractions “in positive ways–keeping students in the classroom and helping educators work with students and parents to create safe and engaging classrooms that protect the human rights to education and dignity.” The group cites research showing that Black and Latino students and students with disabilities have been grossly disproportionately affected suspensions and expulsions; meaning disproportionate numbers of these students miss critical classroom instructional time,

I completely support this group’s efforts to replace out-of-school suspensions with positive alternatives. The disproportionate rates of suspension and expulsion for Black and Latino students, Black and Latino male students in particular, are nothing short of shameful. This group’s identification of the problem as a human rights issue is correct; this disproportionate treatment of Black and Latino children does in fact rise to the mark of being a human rights concern. Second, as an education concern, having disproportionate numbers of Black and Latino students unfairly kept out of their classrooms makes eliminating achievement gaps between them and white students and decreasing high school dropouts among these groups of students highly improbable.

But all hope is not lost. This is a problem that we can and we will address together; we must for the sake of our children.

For additional information on SOLUTIONS NOT SUSPENSION, please see: http://stopsuspensions.org/

My Visit to Carter G. Woodson Academy (Lexington, KY)

Early this morning I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes talking with a very special  group of young men, viagra the first group of students at the Carter G. Woodson Academy in Lexington, viagra KY. Seeing this group of young Black men in their ties and blazers reminded me so much of my own experience at St. Augustine in New Orleans, stuff LA. In their sleepy eyes I saw promise, amazing potential, and determination to realize that potential and become the leaders we need them to be in their homes, in their communities, and in their professions. In the eyes of their teachers and school leaders I saw a fierce commitment to doing everything they can to help their students achieve success.

My prayer is that the Lexington community will rally in support of this effort. Right here in Lexington, we are losing our young Black men. Carter G. Woodson Academy and other efforts like it make the clear statement to gangs and violence that we are not going to lose our young men without a fight. That is why this academy is so important. This is a fight we have to win.

Male Elementary Pupil In Computer Class

Why I Left the K-12 Classroom

Pretty often someone asks me why I left the K-12 classroom. Since I am someone who works pretty hard to recruit talented young people into the teaching profession I think that’s a fair question. It is no secret that there is a critical shortage of teachers of color, particularly male teachers of color. So why have I chosen to spend my career in the academy instead of in schools where I can have a more direct impact on students?

Let me start by saying that I in no way profess to have been God’s gift to the profession; but I do think I was a pretty effective teacher by the time I left K-12 teaching. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when I started. I owe my growth in teaching to fabulous mentors who spent a lot of time with me during my first few years; four very special ladies in particular: Tina Baptiste (New Orleans Public Schools), and  Rhonda Voiselle, Tanya Bourgeois, and Erin Raiford (St. Charles Parish Public Schools). With their help, I can comfortably say that I was consistently having a positive impact on student learning by the time I moved on.

But what I also learned beginning in my very first year of teaching, was how broken systems and failed education and social policy can create conditions in schools that even the most talented teachers cannot overcome. A teachers is unequivocally the most influential school-level determinant in a child’s academic success, and teachers impact the lives of their students in extraordinary ways; but it is very hard to fix broken system and influence policy from the classroom. Most effective teachers that I have known spend well over 40 hours a week on their planning, instruction, and assessment. So while I loved my job as a middle school and high school teacher, I realized pretty early on that I wanted to work to change systems and influence policy. That’s why I returned to graduate school to earn a PhD, and why I took a faculty position at a research university.

I see my job now as preparing high quality teachers and leaders for schools, and working to change policy to create conditions where teachers in our most challenging schools and districts have a much better shot at impacting student learning in significant ways. That’s what I try to do everyday at the University of Kentucky, and I want all of you to hold me accountable to that.

 

Lending Young People Our Confidence in Them

We spend a great deal of time discussing children’s skills and abilities, drugstore and rightfully so; but we often neglect another necessary prerequisite for achieving academic and professional success. I am talking about a child/student having the necessary confidence in his/her intellect, skills, and abilities to work toward achieving success. Many of our children, and truth be told even some of us, suffer from what I term a crisis of self-confidence; simply stated, not believing that they have the intellect, skills, and abilities to achieve success. This crisis of self-confidence is a serious matter. Even for children who have very clearly identifiable gifts and talents, a crisis of self-confidence can be a debilitating condition, preventing them from achieving the success that they are fully capable of achieving.

In response to such a crisis, one of the things that I have learned over the years is that my confidence in a student can sometimes be enough to get them on the way to believing in his/her own abilities. In essence, what I am talking about is loaning a student my confidence in them; allowing them to use my confidence in their abilities as a foundation for them to move forward. In other words, while we work on building Susan’s confidence in her ability to get algebra, she uses my confidence in her abilities to get started. Why does this work? Because while Susan does not yet have confidence in her abilities, she trusts me and believes that my confidence in her must be based on something.

This shouldn’t sound like an altogether foreign concept. Many of us have had the experience of being motivated or lifted by someone else believing in us. That parent, friend, or teacher’s confidence had the effect for many of us, of helping to get us to the point  where we could see what it was that they saw in us. It was not a complete replacement of the self-confidence necessary for achieving, but it was just enough to get us started. That is exactly what we have to do for some of our children/students; lend them our confidence in their abilities. It could be just enough to help unleash the amazing potential that lies within them.

Be empowered my friends and remember, change begins with you!

Happy children in a multi ethnic elementary classroom

Our Children…

My message today is a simple one: Don’t give up on our children. Don’t ever allow what you see in the media and what you hear at the grocery store and the barber shop to make you consider giving up on our children. Despite what the statistics stay, despite the great challenges that we face with ensuring that all of our children have access to a world-class educational experience, despite the crime and violence that grip so many of our communities, I have never been more sure than I am today that our children can and will not only succeed, but lead.

How can I be so sure of this, you ask? Because daily I look into their eyes; and through our children’s eyes I see their ambition, I see their determination, I see their God-given gifts and talents, I see their strength, and I see their courage. And I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that nothing, and I mean nothing, can stop them doing what they set their hearts and minds to doing. Our children can and will beat the odds. Our children can and will be the leaders to take America to heights never before seen or imagined.

So don’t you let anyone fool you into believing things about our children that are not so. Please don’t give up on our children. They haven’t given up; they’re just getting started.

ACT Scores Show Black Students in Kentucky are in Serious Trouble

Last week the ACT Scores for Kentucky’s high school class of 2012 were released. The results show that while their composite average has increased slightly from a 19.2 for last year’s class to a 19.5 for this year’s class, no rx Kentucky seniors’ scores still lag behind the national average composite score of 21.1. But possibly of even greater concern for this audience is that the gap between White and Black students in Kentucky has increased.

Average scores for White children in Kentucky have increased from from 22.1 in 2008 to 22.4 in 2012. Average scores for Asian students have risen from 22.9 to 23.6. Average scores for Hispanic students have risen from 18.7 to 18.9. The average scores for Black children in Kentucky since 2008 have been substantially lower than any other group of students. Black students in 2008 had an average composite score of 16.9, check and in the last four years has increased by only one tenth of a point to 17.0  That means the gap between White and Black students’ scores has increased from 5.2 points in 2008 to 5.4 points in 2012.

 To put those numbers into perspective for you, buy  that means in Kentucky’s class of 2012 only 5% of Black students have met ACT college-readiness standards in all four subject areas. That is compared to 42% of Asian students, 32% of White students, and 13% of Hispanic students who met ACT college-readiness standards in all four subject areas. To be clear, none of those percentages are particularly good, but the fact that such a small percentage of Black students have met college-readiness standards in Kentucky in 2012 is pretty scary to me. 

Students and parents should understand that many of the jobs that existed in previous generations do not and will not exist in the US for today’s students. The impact of globalization and technology have greatly changed the opportunities that will be available for students. Understanding that, it troubles me how often I still hear adults debating whether or not children need to on to college to lead productive lives. I may upset some folks here but I don’t care. The truth is that if students do not go on to pursue some type of post-secondary education, either earning a degree in a field where they will be able to get a job paying a living wage, or going on to a community or technical college to learn a skill or trade, they will be left on the outside looking in on the 21st Century US economy. If anyone tells you anything different, they are either uninformed about these changes or they are choosing to mislead you. Previous generations of students may not have gone to college and everything may have worked out just fine for them, but the American economy has changed.

The just of all this is simple; unless we can make some pretty significant changes in a lot of areas quickly, Black children in Kentucky are going to be in a whole lot of trouble.

Remember, change begins with you. Be empowered my friends!

african american college student

Black Male Academy Induction-The Importance of Expectations

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the induction ceremony for young men who will be the first students at Carter G. Woodson Academy, here  a new program in Lexington, Kentucky which comes as a result of the collaborative efforts of the Black Males Working (BMW) Program at First Baptist Church Bracktown and the Fayette County Public Schools. With the explicit mission of helping young Black men to achieve at high levels, store the program has enrolled students in grades six through nine and promises to offer educational experiences designed to have them realize their full academic potential.

The induction ceremony was a special one. Each young man was individually recognized and called to the front of the standing room-only sanctuary of First Baptist Church Bracktown where his parent(s) or grandparent(s) presented him with his official academy blazer. Additionally, as a token of the expectation that each student would graduate from high school, each young man was presented with a symbolic high school diploma.

There are lots of things that I think are special about what this program, the church, and school district leaders are planning and doing with Carter G. Woodson Academy, and I expect to have conversations here about its approach and accomplishments for years to come. For the moment, however, I’ll touch on just one thing that I believe to be crucial; that is the importance of having and articulating high expectations for the achievement of young Black men. Unfortunately, too many young Black men have heard neither their teachers nor their parents articulate and hold them to the expectation that they will achieve academically at high levels. If we are to change the educational and life outcomes for young Black men in our homes, schools, and communities, this must change. Parents, family members, church family members, and community members must first begin to believe for themselves that young Black men can compete academically with anyone. Personally, I think having high expectations for a child ought to be a prerequisite for having any dealings with him/her. The sad truth of the matter, however, is that if that prerequisite were enforced, there would be lots of adults that would not be able to work with Black children anymore.

I applaud the leaders of the Woodson Academy for making the expectation of academic achievement clear from the outset, and making that expectation known not only to the young men and their families, but to the larger community as well.