Our Goals for Fixing the Education System.
Cultural Diversity Training: To meet the needs of African American students, educators and the designers of the instructional curricula must develop a familiarity with and understanding of the culture of this group of students through systematic pre-service and in-service training (Hilliard, 1980). As with teachers, a new paradigm of training school psychologists is needed to reverse the deficit view of African American students and families (Harry, 1992; Hilliard, 1992). School psychologists must develop cross cultural competencies to deal with the unique needs of ethnocultural minorities (Kearns, et al., 2005).
Hire more Black and Brown Teachers: Perhaps most important, the teacher workforce must be diversified. A number of researchers have documented how African American teachers are more sensitive to the backgrounds and needs of African American students, and are therefore less likely to refer these students to special education programming (Serwatka, et al., 1995; Talbert-Johnson, 2001; Taylor, et al., 2001). Yet, the numbers of African American teachers have declined in recent years (Welch, Patterson, Scott & Pollard, 2007). Therefore the chronic shortage of African American K-12 educators must be addressed (Wood, 2002).
Mandatory Implicit Bias and Anti-racism Training: Disproportionality must be addressed before teachers enter the classroom as an educator. In most teacher education and administrator preparation programs, too little emphasis is placed on racial disproportionality in discipline and ways educators help sustain the school-to-prison pipeline. The curriculum within teacher education programs should include a focus on implicit bias and institutional racism. Student teachers should be mandated to complete anti-racism training such as the Undoing Racism Workshop by the People’s Institute, and increase their awareness of racially biased ways of perceiving students.
Greater Data Transparency: We need to place greater importance on getting data from schools on the use of suspensions, expulsions and arrests in schools. Getting complete data on who suffers these punishments and who is being identified, why they receive them, and what the outcomes of the punishment are can help us fully understand what is happening in our nation’s schools.
Move from Euro-centric to more diverse curriculum: Education must incorporate culturally relevant curricula and pedagogy that builds the self-esteem, self-image, and racial identity of African descended children not just children of european decent. Curricula must present historical truths about Africa and its peoples.
Mandatory curriculum on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and events that followed (KKK, Jim Crow, Redlining etc): The systematic, planned enslavement and dehumanization of people of African decent was a watershed event in the history of humanity and should be examined on multiple levels. It should be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior (self-hate, Implicit bias and cognitive dissonance), current events (Black Lives Matter and Police brutality), an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism (Macro and Micro), and stereotyping, and an examination of the current negative statistical outlooks (health, education, crime and poverty) for the African-American community from a historical perspective. Emphasizes should be placed on what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values.
Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance Policies: We need to provide much better guidance to schools on best practices (restorative justice and peer mediation) so that student discipline is handled fairly instead of through arbitrary and heavy-handed ‘zero tolerance’ policies.
Restorative Justice Works: Schools need to move from the punitive, suspension/expulsion model to restorative justice practices. Instead of suspending or expelling students who get into fights or act out, restorative justice seeks to resolve conflicts and build school community through talking and group dialogue.