Increasing and Improving Internet Access for All Students!


Future Ready Map by

For our schools to be ready for the Future, is indeed a concern especially for so many low-income and rural schools lacking Wi-Fi and technology.  I am encouraged by FCC Chairman proposed $1.5B increase on E-Rate spending from $2.4B to $3.9B, which will be voted on December 11, 2014.  Tom Wheeler tried to emphasize how small the increased cost will be to ratepayers, “If the FCC reaches the maximum cap recommended, the estimated additional cost to an individual rate payer would be approximately 16 cents a month, about a half a penny per day, or about $1.90 a year—less than a medium-sized soda at a fast food restaurant or a cup of coffee,” a fact sheet released yesterday says.

  1. 68% of all districts (73% of rural districts) say that not a single school in their district can meet high-speed internet connectivity targets today.
  2. Nearly 41% of rural public schools lack access to fiber networks sufficient to meet modern connectivity goals for digital learning, compared to 31% of suburban and urban public schools.
  3. 14% of schools in low-income rural and urban areas meet speed targets, compared to 39% in affluent areas.
  4. 45% of school districts lack sufficient Wi-Fi capacity to move to one-to-one student-to-device deployments which is increasingly necessary to achieve modern digital learning objectives.
  5. More than half (58%) of districts say the monthly recurring expense of connections is the most significant barrier to faster service.

I think we need audits that clearly show how and where the money is being used for internet related items and where it will be used. We must assure that the schools with the greatest needs are online or upgraded first! According to one vendor, there are five major cost areas to consider: Architecture, Access Points, Antennas, Bandwidth, and Software.

I  have these suggestions:

  1. Build partnerships with companies to donate some service/supplies to the schools.
  2. As you quantify what “Future Ready” means, provide standard scales that schools can use to evaluate their status and where they need to be.
  3. Provide incentives for districts to build School-to (Out-of-District) School mentorship. Districts should not compete against each other as sometimes constant scoring and ranking might promote.
  4. Districts can take the Future Ready Pledge here.  ” The pledge recognizes the importance of building human capacity within schools and districts for effectively using increased connectivity and new devices to transform teaching and learning.”

As mentioned in a recent Homeroom blog for the Department of Education, there are other skills important for being Future Ready that include better developing 21st century skills.   Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton asked the defining question this way, “What will Future Ready look like when we accomplish it?”  I, along with many education leaders such as Alliance for Excellent Education, believe that education that prepares our students for the future must involve “Deeper Learning.  Read one of my next blogs, “Digging Deeper into Deeper Learning.”

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How Are You? Are You Sure?

September 10th is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Day! Please share this valuable information to help those in our families and communities who might benefit.

Debate and Switch's Blog

Image“How are you?”  “I’m falling apart! might be our inner cry, but we often say “Fine,” without a hitch.  How often do we think of what that question sounds like to someone who is not fine – to someone who is not“mentally” well?  Do they always realize that they are not well? And if so, are they comfortable telling others or even getting help?

Image Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III of TUCC

Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III of Trinity Unity Church of Christ (TUCC) in Chicago recently shared “Losing Daphne” with Ebony Magazine – a painful and true heart-drenching saga of his sister’s tumultuous struggle with her mental health.  Her battle was with paranoid schizophrenia with delusions and hearing things that weren’t real.  Pastor Moss recounts, “I heard her talking to herself. Whispers through the walls, the sounds of sadness, anger and pain leaked into…

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Social Media


Social Media!  Well some of you might still be wondering just what is Social Media?” Social Media is generally defined as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.”  Some of the popular forms and the ones I tend to use include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Blogs and more! The definition given above can be a bit misleading.  Because of the word “social”, some assume it is a big waste of time or just something for the kids or movie stars.  With this misconception, many can miss out on the myriad uses of social media that involve advocacy, building businesses, student projects, news updates, political involvement and more. Social media can be very serious and is big business for many!

How to get started?






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Early Childhood Education

 1533824_10154785462020277_2301900467372946445_nAmericans have many values that we hold dearly.  As shared in Real Family Values: Child Care and Early Childhood Education, “Americans hold few values dearer than equality, fairness, and opportunity, and high-quality early education is a key tool that helps level the playing field for children from low-income families. Access to high-quality child care and early childhood education has been shown to set children on a path to success, and it is one of the most important tools we have to break the cycle of poverty that exacerbates inequality in the United States. Early learning is also known to prepare children for school, but studies of Head Start participants have also shown that children who receive quality childhood education are healthier, stay in school longer, and earn more in their futures.”

Parent Engagement is also a key element impacting students’ performance.  Statistics also show that the achievement gap actually starts before students enter kindergarten –“48 percent of children from low-income families are not ready for school by age 5, and these low-income children face a 15-month learning gap compared to their more affluent peers.”  Unfortunately, many families have work demands and other challenges that prevent each child from receiving the early support needed.  Schools must recognize the importance of meeting children where they are so early high quality child care must be provided for all children who might not receive it otherwise.

The Child CARE Act, introduced by Rep. Donna Edwards  and the Right Start Child Care and Education Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Albert Ruppersberger (both of Maryland) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), sought to amend the federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by allowing more families access to it. This would particularly help low-income families cover the cost of child care.  Legislation such as the Strong Start for America’s Children Act requires investments in our future.  The Children’s Defense Fund explains “The Strong Start for America’s Children Act (S. 1697/H.R. 3461) invests in and encourages expansions of high quality home visiting programs, Early Head Start, Head Start, child care, pre-kindergarten and quality kindergarten programs to provide high quality early childhood development and learning experiences for low-income and vulnerable children from birth through age 5.”   This act also promotes family support and parent engagement and assess with parents, community members and organizations a coordinated system to facilitate referrals and provision of services related to health, nutrition, mental health, disabilities and family support for children enrolled.  Read a short summary here.  You can also see child care status by state here.

For example, in our state, here is an excerpt of just some of the information provided.  Even though Kentucky has some excellent schools, as you can see where less than 1/5  of 3 year olds and less than 1/2 of 4 year olds are in Head Start; much more than half of our students are not doing math or reading at grade level in 4th and 8th grades.

Child Hunger in Kentucky:  

  • Number of children who receive SNAP (food stamps) 318,000;
  • Percent of eligible persons who receive SNAP (food stamps) 85%
  • Number of children in the School Lunch Program 549,534
  • Number of children in the Summer Food Service Program 33,091
  • Number of women and children receiving WIC (Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) 132,698.  

Early Childhood Development in Kentucky:

  • Percent of children under age 6 with all parents in the labor force 64.3%
  • Number of children served by Head Start 20,687
  • Average monthly number of children served by the Child Care Development Fund/CCDBG 30,900
  • Average annual cost of child care for a four-year-old in a center $5,766
  • Percent of 3-year-olds enrolled in state pre-k, Head Start, or special education programs 17.2%
  • Percent of 4-year-olds enrolled in state pre-k, Head Start, or special education programs 47.8%.

Education in Kentucky:

  • Annual expenditure per public school pupil $8,957
  • Percent of public school fourth graders: unable to read at grade level 64.5% unable to do math at grade level 61.2%
  • Percent of public school eighth graders: unable to read at grade level 63.7% unable to do math at grade level 69.3%
  • Number (percentage) of 16- to 19-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not graduated from high school 10,241 (4.3%).

The trends in our country are clear that lower- income families have less resources and often receive the least amount of support for the challenges they face.  America is among the richest countries, yet students should not have to be financially rich to receive a rich education.   We must invest early in education and high quality child care and reduce the cost we pay in the end due to under-educated students, higher dropouts which lead to costly incarcerations and lost work force.  All opportunities are not fair and equal, but Fair and Equal access to high quality learning opportunities should be everyone’s goal to insure our students are career and college ready and beyond. 

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JROTC, Minorities and the Military

150px-USAJROTC-SSIA recent article highlighted some troubling trends with Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs that target minorities for recruitment into the military-directly or indirectly. The Chicago Reporter points out that Chicago Public Schools is home to the largest junior reserve program in the country, with more than 9,000 cadets enrolled in programs at 45 of the district’s 104 high schools.  Ninety-three percent of Chicago junior reserve cadets are African American or Hispanic, according to March figures from the CPS’ Department of JROTC.  More than 70 percent of junior reserve programs are offered in high schools located in majority-black or majority-Latino ZIP codes.


Brenda receiving Award from Sgt. Parker


Superintendent Finch, My mom-Gaynell Drummer, and Asst. Super. (rt)

I participated in Army JROTC at Calumet High School in Chicago all four years and loved it! I was the 2nd highest ranking officer and even was presented an award and medal by our leader, Sgt. Parker and the CPS Superintendents for a city competition I won. Yes, I put this on my college applications! I was also in honors classes and in a Principal Scholar’s program promoting Engineering with extra Math and Science classes that I also loved! Even though we learned history and about some wars as do students taking American and European History, we also learned about discipline, leadership skills, marksmanship, military history, & drill routines.  I was a class leader and enjoyed other facets of JROTC. We received ribbons for being on the honor roll, etc.   There were scholarships available, but if students do ROTC in college all 4 years, they were required to go into the military.

“In a February 2000 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, the armed service chiefs of staff testified that 30%–50% of graduating JROTC cadets go on to join the military overall where 50% of those from Air Force JROTC go to the military.”   General Colin Powell said in his 1995 autobiography, My American Journey, that “the armed forces might get a youngster more inclined to enlist as a result of Junior ROTC,” but added that “Inner-city kids, many from broken homes, found stability and role models in Junior ROTC.”  Former United States Secretary of Defense William Cohen referred to JROTC as “one of the best recruitment programs we could have.”

The armed forces was ordered to be integrated by President Truman in 1948.  Out of approximately 1.1m in the army, more than 80 percent of soldiers are male, and 61.4 percent are Anglo; 20 percent are black, with 11.7 percent Hispanic. “There are only 53 minority generals among 391 in the Army, or 14 percent….

The Army’s Cadet Command, which oversees junior and senior ROTC programs in 1,731 high schools and 1,000 colleges, has taken steps to diversify the force.”  However, high schools are focusing on educating students to be College and Career Ready. I suppose this option would include those who might want to pursue military careers. I do think this article raises a good concern to make sure we do not have a conflict of interest where we lag in investment and effort to better educate our students so that the military can be better filled while possibly targeting minorities to do so. With that said, we shouldn’t overlook the benefits of exposing our students to multiple subject areas and interests that might make school itself more bearable for some. Click here to see other benefits of JROTC.

Related Articles:

In Chicago schools’ Junior ROTC programs, some see a troubling trend

ROTC at NMSU Targets Latinos

Army-looking-to-recruit-more-minorities-to-become Officers

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Veterans of “armed forces” for Equality


Black Panther 40th Reunion in Oakland, Ca.

While we remember our veterans for whom we are deeply grateful, let us also take time to appreciate those “veterans of the city wars” fought for peace and freedom.  In addition to those fighting in the U. S. Armed Forces, there are many who went up against “armed forces” while fighting in the streets for the civil rights promised to African-Americans and all Americans. Many of our rights were written “on paper“, however, many of the leaders fighting for our rights were portrayed “in papers” as villains, imprisoned, beat or assassinated.


Many Black groups speaking against poverty, unemployment, unequal rights,  war, etc. were targeted by our government. The Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover issued directives governing COINTELPRO, ordering FBI agents to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” the activities of these movements and their leaders.  This operation was started shortly after the Black Panther Party was formed.  Eighty-Five percent of its resources were used against Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Congress of Racial Equality, other civil rights organizations; black nationalist groups; and the American Indian Movement.  The other 15% was used on white hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan even though the Klan had lynched/killed thousands of blacks, bombed many of their families, churches and homes.

Fred Hampton

Chicago’s Black Panther leader, was brutally murdered by the police in a raid soon to be forty-four years ago on the Chicago’s West side.  Months later, a

Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton

federal investigation showed that only one shot was fired by the Panthers, although that number remained in dispute. Police fired 82 to 99 shots. Many saw this raid as a pretext to kill Fred Hampton, 21 years old. As he stated, “You have to understand that people have to pay the price for peace. You dare to Struggle, you dare to win.”  Mr. Hampton also said, ” You can kill a revolutionary, but you can never kill the revolution.”

Geronimo Pratt

Geronimo studied political science at UCLA using a GI Bill from his service in the army.  As a Black Panther leader, he was wrongfully imprisoned for a 1972 kidnapping and murder for 27 years, while 8 of those years were in solitary confinement.  Johnny Cochran was on his legal defense team, who was known for “defending the underdog”.  While in prison, Pratt studied law, built a defense, and together got his conviction vacated.  He was freed in 1997,

Geronimo Pratt

Geronimo Pratt

eventually receiving $4.5 million as civil suit settlement for false imprisonment, with $2.75m being paid by L. A. and $1.75m by U. S. Dept. of Justice.  He was working as a human rights activist up until the time of his death. He helped others believed to be wrongly imprisoned such as journalist and fellow Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal.  He was removed from death row in 2012, after Pratt’s death in 2011 in his adopted land of Tanzania of East Africa.  He was also the godfather of the late rapper Tupac Shakur.

Dr. Huey Newton

Seale and Newton, heavily inspired by Malcolm X, a civil rights leader assassinated in 1965, and his teachings, joined together in October 1966 to create the Black Panther Party for Self Defense and adopt the slain activist’s slogan “Freedom by any means necessary” as their own.  Seale became the chairman of the Black Panther Party and underwent FBI surveillance as part of its COINTELPRO program.  Newton earned a Ph.D. in Social

Huey Newton

Huey Newton

Science.  Huey spent time in prison for manslaughter and later was fatally shot three times in the head in 1989 after leaving a crack house by a member of the Black Guerilla Family. Unfortunately, even some veterans “in the US Armed Forces” became hooked on drugs as well.  In 2011, it was estimated that 35% of soldiers were addicted to prescription drugs – illegal drug addictions are also quite concerning.  Spike Lee made a movie, The Huey P. Newton Story in 2001.  The movie was initially created, written and performed, as a solo performance, by Roger Guenveur Smith.

Bobby Hutton

Bobby was recruited by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale.   He and Bobby were also some of the Panthers who rallied at their capital against the Mulford Act, a bill that would prohibit carrying loaded firearms in public and was arrested for carrying a gun.  Bobby Hutton was killed at age 17 at an ambush against police a week after Dr. King’s assassination.

Bobby Hutton, Bobby Seale and other BPP at Capital protesting Mulford Act.

Bobby Hutton, Bobby Seale and other Black Panthers at Capital protesting Mulford Act.

Eldridge Cleaver said, “police shot Bobby more than a dozen times after he had surrendered and had stripped down to his underwear to prove that he was unarmed.” Being the first Black Panther killed, he became a martyr for the cause.    Thousands attended Lil Bobby’s funeral, including actor Marlon Brando and author James Baldwin.  As of 1998, Lil’ Bobby Day is celebrated April 11th in California. His grave just received a headstone one decade ago.

Irene Morgan

Irene Morgan

Irene Morgan

In 1944, a bus driver tried to make a black lady, Irene Morgan, give up her seat to whites.  Ms. Morgan refused, spoke up and was represented by the NAACP in the Supreme Court which struck down laws for segregated seating on interstate travel.  This sparked the Freedom Riders led by James Farmer.  In 1944, Rosa Parks was helping the NAACP investigate the gang rape of Recy Taylor in Alabama which was around a decade before Rosa refused to give up her seat which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

James L. Farmer

Farmer is also known as one of the “big four” civil rights leaders.  When he was 21, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited him to the White House for a conversation with the president.  In  the following year, 1942, Farmer co-founded what later became the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) which was integrated by gender and race.

James Farmer

James Farmer

Despite the victory of Irene Morgan vs. Virginia (1946) and Boynton v. Virginia (1960) to integrate interstate travel, southern states didn’t abide by it. Farmer is known for helping pioneer the dangerous “Freedom Rides”

Freedom Riders Burning Bus

Freedom Riders Burning Bus, 1961

to integrate buses. Some of their routes had been ambushed by the KKK and the bus was firebombed while the doors were held closed near Anniston, Al.  An explosion actually caused the hatemongers to release the doors allowing the freedom riders to escape.  They were still beaten. Most were refused care at the hospital and those who did get admitted, were tossed out due to angry mobs outside. Attorney General Kennedy sent a helper but at another stop, KKK beat the riders with bats and iron pipes.  The Freedom Riders 50th Anniversary was celebrated in 2011.

Stokely Carmichael

Carmichael was a freedom train rider who also Stokely_Carmichael_1967was a leader of SNCC and the Black Panther Party. He was one of the riders sent to Parchman prison for more than a month and a half. “A call went out across the country to keep the Freedom Rides going and ‘fill the jails‘ of Mississippi” with freedom riders. While being hurt one time in jail as a rider, Carmichael began singing to the guards, “I’m gonna tell God how you treat me,” and the prisoners joined in.  The governor was said to instruct guards to “break their spirit, not their bones. Stokely kept spirits up of the prisoners in jail by telling jokes. Many sang freedom songs which they felt fortified their unity, purpose and spirits.  He later changed his name to Kwame Ture after rejecting the Black Panthers as not being separatists as he served political leaders in Ghana. The anniversary of his death of 15 years is this month.  

Many other great civil rights leaders were assassinated while fighting for country’s freedoms including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers,  President John F. Kennedy, U. S. Senator Robert Kennedy and many more.  Today’s freedoms have become more tangible because of the vision and sacrifice of these leaders.  Below, are  leaders who are some of the survivors of those movements and are still “keeping the good fight”! This brief list does not touch our iceberg of leaders such as Gen. Colin Powell, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congressman John Lewis, Marian Wright Edelman – but these are some that are not mentioned as often.

Rep. Bobby Rush

A Black Panther later becoming a U. S. Representative of Illinois for the

Rep. Bobby Rush (IL)

Rep. Bobby Rush (IL)

Chicago area since 1993. Rep. Bobby Rush, along with the Congressional Black Caucus, recently organized a

Rep. Jackson(Tx), Bren Martin, Rep. Bobby Rush(Il)

Rep. Jackson(Tx), Bren, Rep. Bobby Rush

National Emergency Violence Summit in Chicago this summer. I was proud to attend this summit in my hometown.  Rep. Rush also recently led a tour with U. S. Illinois Senator Kirk through Englewood, one of the hot spots of violence in Chicago.  He wanted to show the link between violence and the real issues of creating jobs and providing affordable housing. Follow @RepBobbyRush.

Bobby Seale

Bobby Seale

Bobby Seale

Co-founder of the Black Panther Party also targeted by CoIntelPro.  Bobby Seale was with Lil Bobby Hutton when the protested in Sacramento against the Mulford Act, which would thwart their legal right to patrol the police with guns as they felt it necessary to defend themselves against police brutality.  He was added to a charged group making it the “Chicago Eight” defendants for  conspiracy and inciting to riot, in the wake of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, in Chicago.  The trial of the Chicago Eight was depicted in the 1987 HBO television movie Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8, whose script relied heavily upon transcripts from the court proceedings.  The Black Panther Party celebrated its 47th anniversary last month where Bobby Seale was on the agenda and 40 year anniversary in 2006 in California. Bobby cooks now and has a book, Barbeque’ N with Bobby. Follow @BobbySealeCom.

Dr. Angela Davis

Angela_davis_at_esuDo you believe stories that Angela Davis was a criminal or a Black Panther?  Well, she was neither!  This revolutionary was wrongfully accused of murder and found innocent.  Dr. Davis studied French in Paris, earned her doctorate in Germany and was teaching at UCLA.  Recently a documentary, Free Angela, by Shola Lynch was released about her struggle to clear her name. Leaders like her are still relevant to today’s challenges and progress. Prisoner rights have been among her continuing interests; she is the founder of Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex. She is a retired professor with the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is the former director of the university’s Feminist Studies department.

Angela Davis

Angela Davis

Her work and our struggle continues.  As she stated, “I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as an individual who may have achieved whatever but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement.”  Follow @FreeAngelaFilm.

Mumia Abu-Jamal- Controversy

Journalist Abu-Jamal had been a target of CoIntelPro. In 1980, at the age of 26, Mumia was elected president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. The following year, he was named one of the city’s “People to Watch” by Philadelphia Magazine. The article spoke of his “eloquent, often passionate and always insightful interviews.”  He had recently lost his radio journalist job with National Public Radio before he was accused of killing a Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner in 1981, who had served in the U. S. Army.  A debate continues, “Has Abu-Jamal been imprisoned justly or unjustly?”   He was sentenced to death but received a new capital sentencing hearing.  His  lawyer said that the results constituted “extraordinarily important new evidence that establishes clearly that the prosecutor and the Philadelphia

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Police Department were engaged in presenting knowingly false testimony“.  In this transcript, there is a comment by a witness that the police made her falsely testify against Mumia.  He was removed from death row in 2012, but was not granted a retrial.  Some critics wonder why his younger brother, William Cook, did not testify on Jamal’s (born Wesley Cook) behalf at the 1982 trial.  He could not be found but witnessed the crime as he was driving the Volkswagen when Officer Faulkner pulled him over.  Abu-Jamal had been associated with and had given voice to the MOVE group to which the Philadelphia Police Department was antagonistic.  In 1978, over 600 police raided MOVE’s home with guns and arrested Move-9.  All were sentenced to over 30 years in prison. Interestingly, Abu-Jamal was one of the reporters who covered this story. Mumia Abu-Jamal spoke out from the crowd of journalists, sharply raising questions about the way police had destroyed evidence after the raid. Through a call on the radio, Mumia aka “William Wellington Cole” got Judge Mahmed of the case to admit he had “no idea” who the murderer was, which highlighted the miscarriage of justice of the imprisonment of the MOVE-9.  Such acts earned him his grassroots moniker,The Voice of the Voiceless.

Reportedly, “A police report later that night shows that Civil Affairs inspector Fencl was quickly called into this investigation. Fencl was the same police official who gave the order to strip Black Panthers in the street in 1970 (and photographed for the papers to humiliate them before their convention), who planned the raid on MOVE’s Powelton home and who headed the political police unit that had spied on Mumia since he was 15…. In 1974 two pregnant women from MOVE were man-handled by cops until they miscarried. MOVE’s demonstrations intensified. The police responded with a campaign of “arrest on sight.” Between 1974 and 1976, there were 400 arrests of MOVE members, resulting in bail and fines of more than half a million dollars. Life Africa, a three-week-old baby, was killed during one violent police attack.”  Later in 1985, MOVE’s house was attacked and bombed by police, killing children, MOVE founderJohn Africa, and others while destroying over 50 homes.

Abu-Jamal wrote books, notably 1995’s Live from Death Row, which deals with prison, social and political issues.  There is a petition seeking his release. He is the subject of the song,Voice Of The Voiceless” by Rage Against the Machine.  A controversial film was made in 2010 by Tigre Hill.  Stephen Vittoria made a film about him, Long Distance Revolutionary.  You can follow @MumiaAbuJamal and @LDRMovie. Presidents Jacques Chirac of France and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Foreign Ministers Kinkel of Germany and Derijcke of Belgium, and members of the Japanese Diet have urged the U.S. to grant Jamal a new trial.  Officer Daniel Faulkner’s wife, Maureen, still contends that the rightfully convicted murderer of her husband is in jail.
I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as a single individual who may have achieved whatever but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement. Read more at
I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as a single individual who may have achieved whatever but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement. Read more at
I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as a single individual who may have achieved whatever but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement. Read more at

Also read DebateandSwitch’s:

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Increasing Graduation Rates


Jocelyn Martin, Alma Powell, Brenda and Caleb Martin

The average national graduation rate has risen to 80% from 78%, which was the highest it had been since 1974!  However, the goal of this president is to have that increased to 90% by 2020.  This is a distinct challenge since, every 26 seconds, a high school student drops out! For minorities, the drop out rates are even more startling! While an average of 85% of Whites are graduating annually, only 67% of African-Americans are graduating in the same four year period.  According to the Schott Report, nationally, nearly half of all African-American males are not graduating in the scheduled four year span! I recently presented some of this alarming information at the National PTA Emerging Minority Leadership Conference in Washington DC where our keynote speaker was none other than, Alma Powell, chair of America’s Promise Alliance who hosts the annual Grad Nation Summit, which I was honored to be sponsored to attend before. Graduation and dropout rates are not the inverse of each other and are hard to compare as definitions vary. For example, some states or districts might count 9th-12 graders where some only count 10th-12th graders. This would automatically be skewed since many dropout in the ninth grade, and some even sooner.

There are several important indicators that suggest a higher likelihood that a student might drop out of school. According to the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network, who will host its national conference in Atlanta in NovemberNational Family Literacy Month. Those indicators include:
* Poor attendance
* Low grade point average
* Low standardized test composite scores
* Number of grade retentions
* Number of discipline referrals
* Educational level of parent
* Special program placement
* Free/reduced lunch program
* Number of school moves (transfers)
* Low reading and math scores
* Ethnic/gender distinctions
* Language spoken in the home
* Number of suspensions
* Interest in school
* Participation in extracurricular activities
* Pregnancy/teen parent
* Number of counseling referrals
* Family status (single parent family, family size)

Some studies also suggest that environment and school size can contribute to the drop out rates. Some factors cannot be immediately changed such as family status, educational level of parent, ethnic/gender trends. However, we can have impact in a number of areas. We will just look a few in this article.


Attendance has become such an area of concern that September has been designated as National Attendance Awareness Month. Chronic absenteeism can be defined as missing 20 days or being absent ten percent or more of school days. By schools analyzing their attendance patterns more intently, some have been able to adopt strategies that identify areas for change and have improved their records. Some schools personalized interventions by helping to establish and build relationships with staff and students that increased expectations and support systems. Others allowed parents to respond to attendance, behavior or curriculum issues on-line to reduce the need for them to have to take off work to come up to the school. This alternative has shown to increase parent involvement and engagement.

    Low Reading Scores

Statistics show that students who are not reading at grade level by the end of the third grade are more likely to drop out later. According to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2011 Nation’s Report Card, there was a 25 point gap in White-Black average reading scores for 4th and 8th graders.  When students are not prepared to continue with the higher-level challenges, they slowly lose interest in school and develop self-esteem issues that impact their belief that they can do it. They often become embarrassed by not knowing the answers and afraid of their peers ridiculing them. Sometimes, students are continually passed on despite the fact that they are not prepared for the next level which can slow them down even more. Ninth grade has become the most crucial grade where many students drop out! However, the ground work for that act is likely set long before then.

Early Literacy

The Achievement Gaps have been shown to appear prior to children even starting school. This shows how important early literacy and family engagement is for lifelong learning. This summer, Governor Pat Quinn signed a new law that lowers the compulsory school age for students in Illinois in order to ensure all children have the opportunity to build a solid foundation for academic achievement. Governor Quinn believes the law, which goes into effect July 1, 2014, “will also help to combat truancy. Research shows that children who start school at an earlier age are less likely to drop out of school, be placed in special education or commit crimes, and more likely to attend college.”

1. Parents are the first educators and help to stimulate communication and important brain development which occurs early. 2. Early quality education is even more important for parents working multiple job and perhaps are not able to provide some of the at-home training that boosts skills and interests in learning. Low-income students tend to show the lowest proficiency in reading which can lead to a life-long prediction of problems vs. a life-long learning experience. 3. Investing in our students early is worth promoting more positive outcomes instead of paying for prisons, drug rehabs, health care, Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Programs (SNAP) that are increased for students who drop out. 4. Our productivity loss as a country also increases when each child loses out on realizing his/her potential!


Center for Public Education points out that it takes more than just knowing indicators that suggest higher probability for students to drop out because those indicators do not identify which ones will or will not. “Cohorts” provides more detailing information by tracking students “grade to grade as members of a “cohort”—a group of students who start out in the same grade at the same time.”

    Civic Marshall Plan

America’s Promise Alliance outlines the Civic Marshall Plan to increase graduation rates which includes 5 key evidence-based components each at the elementary/middle and high school levels”.

I. Elementary/Middle School Goals: Increase on-grade level reading by 4th grade; Reduce chronic absenteeism; Monitor early warning indicators; Better design middle school to promote engagement and rigor preparation; Adult/Peer Support with wrap-around services as needed.

II. High School Goals: Transition Support especially for 8-10 graders from schools with graduation rates under 75%; Transform Dropout factories; Raise Compulsory School Age to 18 everywhere. (Our state of Kentucky recently passed Senate Bill 97 to raise our dropout age to 18.); Provide every child access to Career and College Ready paths-even dropouts; Dropout Recovery support.

We must collaborate with schools, families and communities to help to reduce this national epidemic! “No Child Left Behind”, is not just a reform needing “reauthorization”, but it is a real goal of which we should never lose sight.

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Posted in Achievement Gap, Diversity, Emerging Minority Leadership, Grad Nation Summit, Graduation Rates, Legislative Hearings, National Family Literacy Month, PTA, School to Prison Pipeline | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments