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OP-ED: Black Future Month: The Need for Black Teachers

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By Kimberly Mayfield-Lynch and Kitty Kelly Epstein

 

American schools need Black teachers. There is considerable documented evidence that Black students do better when they have more African-American teachers.

 

White and Latino and Asian kids also benefit from learning to respect the leadership and wisdom of the Black adults who teach them. Teachers of all ethnicities learn cultural competence by working with each other.

 

 

Furthermore, because teaching is a stable job with benefits, economic justice demands that it be available to local residents whose communities suffer from the highest unemployment and the lowest income levels.

 

American schools also need Latino, Asian, and indigenous teachers, and we will be discussing the specific needs and barriers that face these communities in a follow-up column. Seventy-three percent of students and only 29 percent of teachers come from non-Anglo groups

 

The educational system makes it difficult for Black and other non-Anglo adults to enter the field.

 

Policy makers know very well that standardized tests have always operated to the detriment of people of color, ever since they were first created by Eugenics advocate Lewis Terman.

 

In fact the National Teacher Exam (NTE) was specifically used in Southern states to keep Black teachers out of the classroom in the wake of desegregation (*See reference below) In quiet circles and backrooms the test was referred to as the Negro Teacher Eliminator. The current version of the NTE is the CSET (California Subject Matter Exam Test).

 

State and federal governments have added several other forms of standardized testing that are required of every prospective teacher.

 

In addition, new teachers are generally required to carry out unpaid student teaching, and this is an overwhelming financial burden for many Black families, given the racial wealth gap.

 

Oakland has historically done more than most districts to remedy this problem and break down these barriers.

 

In the early 1990s, the school board led by President Sylvester Hodges frequently asked staff for reports on hiring by ethnicity. In the late 1990s, the district created the Oakland Partnership Program, which recruited, supported and prepared many of the district’s best teacher-leaders and administrators, including Keith Brown who now serves on the OEA Board; Mia Settles, Kyla Johnson, and many others in the district administration and schools.

 

A few years later, the Effective Teachers for Oakland Task Force, organized by then Mayor Ron Dellums and led by Dr. Mayfield-Lynch, recommended the creation of programs to diversify the teaching force.

 

The district accepted this recommendation, and hired Dr. Rachelle Rogers-Ard to lead Teach Tomorrow in Oakland (TTO), a program that has become a national beacon for effective teacher recruitment and retention.

 

Education Week and the Center for American Progress have both extolled the diversity and quality of the program.

 

Four elements make the program especially effective at recruiting and retaining diverse teachers.

 

First, because the programs recruits local residents and the support is intensive, three-quarters of TTO teachers have been retained over five years. This is exceptional, given the national statistic that half of all teachers quit within five years.

 

Second, an element of the selection process involves seeing the prospective teacher work with young people.

 

Third, the support system is intimate and culturally competent. People who need help with finishing required tests get both hand-holding, and rigorous instruction The new teachers join as cohorts, are celebrated for their work and have specific professional development targeted to their needs.

 

Finally, the program has the beautiful mix of connection and autonomy, which makes school district programs work. Like the African-American Male Achievement Project, TTO is part of the district, but it also has some autonomy and self-direction.

The small cost of running TTO is more than compensated by the fact that it eliminates some of the financial and programmatic cost of constant teacher turnover.

 

(*Wayne Urban in Essays in Twentieth Century Southern Education: Exceptionalism and Its Limits (1998) p. 188).

 

Dr. Kimberly Mayfield-Lynch is chair of the Education Department at Holy Names University; a former Oakland teacher; and the parent of an Oakland student.

 

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein is host of the radio program Education Today on KPFA FM and author of “A Different View of Urban Schools: Civil Rights, Critical Race Theory and Unexplored Realities” (2012) Peter Lang.

 

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Closing the Loss of Learning Reading Gap

The new community-based non-profit, Right Path to Learning, promotes early literacy in these first crucial years while there’s still a chance to make a difference. They set out to prove that children in under-performing and under-resourced schools can thrive with the right resources.

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The EnCompass Summer School Pilot proved to be a successful partnership between Right Path to Learning, Sylvan Learning, and the families and staff of EnCompass Academy.

By Conway Jones

Reading is the foundation of a good education and fundamental to success in life.

Can you imagine your life without reading? What if you couldn’t read well enough to follow directions, conduct your business, or even enjoy a good book?

Success starts early. Until 3rd grade, children are learning to read; after third grade, they’re reading to learn. Students who don’t achieve literacy by third grade fall behind and become bored, frustrated, and unlikely to graduate high school, much less go on to higher education.

The new community-based non-profit, Right Path to Learning, promotes early literacy in these first crucial years while there’s still a chance to make a difference. They set out to prove that children in under-performing and under-resourced schools can thrive with the right resources.

This summer, they did it. RPL hired Sylvan Learning to provide 15 children, 50 hours of support education to help them achieve literacy at EnCompass Academy in East Oakland.

Sylvan Learning tested the children at the beginning of the program: they were one year to over two years behind grade level in literacy. At the end of RPL’s five-week program, 93% of the students enrolled in the RPL pilot program at EnCompass completed it and the attendance rate was 86%, or an average of 43 hours completed in the 50-hour program.

Students advanced by almost 50% of a school year to grade level. Students grew on all three components of the Sylvan Outlook Survey, indicating a 25% increase in their engagement with school, improvement in their academic perseverance, and their confidence in reading.

All of the parents surveyed indicated that the program was beneficial, that it helped their child read better, their child enjoyed the program, and their confidence in reading improved.

As the parent of one of our students put it, “If you believe in it, you can do it!”

The EnCompass Summer School Pilot proved to be a successful partnership between Right Path to Learning, Sylvan Learning, and the families and staff of EnCompass Academy.

The school staff was thrilled with the overall academic improvements and is eager to partner again next spring. Based on the success last summer, Right Path to Learning will provide additional services to the Oakland Unified School District students in the advancement of its goal of ensuring that 2,000 under-resourced students reach literacy by the end of 3rd grade.

“Our children made substantial progress in confidence and in reading growth. Because of that, a student shared that she is now spending two hours at the library because she is able to read better,” said Minh-Tram Nguyen, principal at OUSD’s EnCompass Academy. “That’s a powerful testimony to the program’s success, and we are looking forward to continuing our relationship with Right Path to Learning,” she continued.

Right Path to Learning program will move from a Summer School program to an After School program starting January 2022.

In 10 years, these third graders will be 18-year-old adult members of our community, on their way to productive lives and life-long learning.

For more information, visit www.RightPathtoLearning.

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Black History

IN MEMORIAM: Referee Jim Burch Got the Final Whistle in The Game

Jim Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019). To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

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jim burch
Jim Burch

By Tamara Shiloh

Created in 1953, the Atlantic Coast Conference, an athletic conference headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., quickly rose to prominence. Within 13 years, the university and college teams in its membership had a number of victories to its credit. North Carolina State University won the first three championships, and the conference was getting heavy exposure outside of the region. Several ACC teams went to the Final Four of the NCAA’s basketball championships. In North Carolina, Duke University took four titles, Wake Forest University took two and University of North Carolina had one victory as did the University of Maryland.

Life inside the ACC could not have been better, except for one minor but not overlooked detail: there were no Black players or officials.

But Jim Burch (1926–2019), who began his officiating career with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1959, would become the first, signing on with the ACC in 1969. His debut, however, was delayed for a season because “he reportedly refused to cut his hair and sideburns.”

A Raleigh, N.C., native raised in Larchmont, N.Y., Burch was a 1949 graduate of North Carolina’s Fayetteville State University. There he was a two-sport athlete – football and baseball – having large dreams.

Burch “talked about sitting in the ‘colored’ section of Reynolds Coliseum watching games, telling his friends that he was going to be on that court someday,” ACC referee Jamie Luckie told ESPN in 2019 referring to the sports complex in Raleigh, N.C. “They said he was crazy, and sure enough, he was on that court one day.”

Burch never made a big deal out of the historic mark, although many would benefit from his humility. He would train and mentor hundreds of officials over the years. In fact, it was Burch who gave Luckie his start in refereeing.

Throughout his 60-year career, Burch officiated in the CIAA, ACC, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and Southern Conference. He also worked 14 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments and was an educator and administrator within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District.

Working as an educator made Burch “an unbelievable teacher of the game in terms of what he wanted us to do on the floor, how he wanted us to deal with coaches, how he wanted us to communicate, and just his delivery and style was one where he could get it across to you, but he was a teacher. That never stopped,” Luckie said.

Burch continued to make monumental achievements as well as give back.

Many of those he trained moved into CIAA, ACC, Southern Conference, and NCAA championship careers. He was twice featured in the NCAA Champions Magazine, served on numerous civic boards, and was the first African American to serve on the Charlotte Housing Authority board.

Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019).

To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

Before retiring in 2018, he served as the head coordinator of officials for the South Atlantic Conference and the CIAA.

Burch died at his home in North Carolina in 2019 at the age of 91.

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Bay Area

Skyline High Girls Volleyball Team Makes History

The team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match.

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The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team
The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team.

As the season comes to a close for the Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team, the members are celebrating that they went farther than any Skyline or OUSD/OAL volleyball team ever has. On the final day, November 19, the team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match. Skyline fell short 3 games to 1, coming in as runner-up. The photo above shows the team posing with their trophy after the match.

 

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