What it means to be a socio-economically diverse school

Two years ago, I was on the Student Recruitment Committee of The Museum School, a charter school that struggles to enroll families of lesser financial means. We were under pressure from the county and state to diversify, not in terms of race, but in terms of socio-economic background. Some parents were nervous about the prospect of the school becoming more diverse. They liked the school the way it was and did not think the student body needed to change.

I had researched school diversity extensively over the years when I was an education reporter, so I wrote a white paper summarizing the research on school diversity. Research consistently points to positive outcomes for students from families of means in schools serving students from diverse backgrounds. But parents often have a hard time believing this is the case. They feel like a school where almost all the kids come from economically stable homes is the safer bet.

I am posting the white paper because economic diversity in schools has grown into a bigger issue in recent years, here in Atlanta and elsewhere. I thought the research might prove useful. I would like to note that language has evolved in recent years, and I now cringe at my use of the term minority instead of people of color. But the general findings that diverse schools are healthy and positive for most students have been consistent through the years.

OMG Full Frontal with Samantha Bee featured us ... and gave us a HUGE gift!

In one of the more surreal moments of my life and career, “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” contacted El Refugio, the organization I work, and offered us to feature us on their holiday special and buy us a house. And there weren’t any strings attached. And everyone associated with the show was so gracious. And the house is so perfect for our needs. I still can’t believe it happened.

Watch our segment here.

Read about it here.

Immigrant detention: immigrant abuse meets mass incarceration

I first learned of El Refugio in 2014, when the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, the organization I worked for at the time, put on a conference about immigration. Marie Marquardt, the organization’s board chair emeritus, mentioned El Refugio while on a panel discussing immigrant detention, a horror I did not know existed.

She explained that El Refugio was a ministry of hospitality, providing visitation to immigrants detained at Stewart Detention Center in the rural and isolated Lumpkin, Georgia, and free accommodations and meals to the friends and family members of detainees. I thought this was such a beautiful concept, so gracious and giving, a shining light of kindness amid dark circumstances.

When a job opportunity at El Refugio surfaced four years later, I jumped! Now I am learning all about immigrant detention and the network of privately operated civil prisons spread around the country that house more than 110,000 immigrants. The best sources for information are Freedom for Immigrants, and this publication by Project South.

I am so honored to work with detained immigrants and their families and to get the opportunity to educate myself about the gross violation of human rights going on right in my state. (Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms stopped detaining immigrants on behalf of ICS in Atlanta shortly after taking office.)

I will share more as I learn more…

This little yellow house is where the inherent kindness of El Refugio unfolds. We provide accommodation and meals to families who are visiting loved ones at Stewart Detention Center, which is right down the street.

This little yellow house is where the inherent kindness of El Refugio unfolds. We provide accommodation and meals to families who are visiting loved ones at Stewart Detention Center, which is right down the street.

Social media gobbles up time better spent elsewhere

It's hard to imagine a professional universe where social media isn't part of the strategy, isn't it? You can't just quit FB, Twitter, Instagram etc. That's true to an extent, but the key is coming up with a low-maintenance social media program (Ha! There's an oxymoron) that doesn't detract from the work you do that really matters. As this Times piece says, social media has an addictive quality that erodes your ability to concentrate. It's hard to do good work when you cannot focus for long periods of time without a social media fix. 

 

If you’re serious about making an impact on the world, power down your smartphone, close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
— Cal Newport

She asked for books, and she got 15,000 books

A mom in a struggling California town posted requests for books on two online writer's groups, and she ended up receiving more than 15,000 books for the local school library. Books, says Garcia, offer a world beyond the isolation that can breed intolerance. "I hear sweet kids say stupid things about Asian Americans and Chicanos. A little diverse information could go a long way in helping stem rural American racism, sexism, and homophobia." 

 

Indian Valley Academy has not had a librarian since 1997. 

Indian Valley Academy has not had a librarian since 1997. 

A few of the many, many things that bug me about standardized testing

When I left my career as an education journalist, I wanted to reinvent myself as an education activist. I have done that over the years by serving on the board of a charter school, starting a neighborhood group to support my local elementary school, and writing op-eds about education for Get Schooled, the AJC blog I founded in 2004.

But some issues bother me so much and on so many different levels, I hardly know where to start to try to make an impact. The fading of recess is one such issue and high-stakes standardized testing is another.

I tried getting my arms around standardized testing in this op-ed for Get Schooled. It started as a letter to the state school board and superintendent, but after months of going back and forth trying to determine the appropriate public forum to read my letter, I gave up, emailed it to them, and published it.

I consider it a very abbreviated screed, focused only on a few of my testing peeves: lying to students about the high-stakes nature of the test, questionable grading practices, and the lack of accountability for testing companies. There are many other concerns I have, but these were some I had not seen discussed elsewhere. It's hard to let some points go unsaid, but it is better to focus on a few digestible points than try to cover too much. There will always be room in the blogosphere for another post about testing.