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Separate, Unequal, and Dismal: Urban League Rekindles Leaders’ Commitments to Improve Public Schools

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “This report is a great rallying call for us. It’s important that we continue as an education community to come together and have honest conversations and dialogue,” said Dana Peterson, deputy superintendent of external affairs for the Recovery School District.

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“This report is a great rallying call for us. It’s important that we continue as an education community to come together and have honest conversations and dialogue,” said Dana Peterson, deputy superintendent of external affairs for the Recovery School District. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Candace J. Semien, Jozef Syndicate, The Drum Newspaper

The Urban League of Louisiana released an equity report examining the quality of Baton Rouge public schools and identifying gaps in outcomes, access, and excellence.

Calling the findings “dismal” and “concerning,” several education stakeholders were present at the McKinley Alumni Center for a press conference and panel discussion to present data from the Advancing Educational Equity for Public Schools in Baton Rouge report.

The findings are not new neither are the gaps. However, organizers said the report analyzes the data in a way that would rekindle conversations and actions around creating equity for students attending public schools within Baton Rouge.

“This report is a great rallying call for us. It’s important that we continue as an education community to come together and have honest conversations and dialogue,” said Dana Peterson, deputy superintendent of external affairs for the Recovery School District.

The report documents inequalities and an academic “opportunity gap” for historically disadvantaged students in the areas of student outcomes, school climate, school access, teacher quality, and discipline. It found great disparities in performance on state assessments by race and ethnicity. Also, less than 50% of Hispanic students earn any form of diploma or credential while 36.7% of white students earned a diploma with an Advanced credential, compared to 6.1% for Black students. (These findings were compiled from publicly available information at www.LouisianaBelieves.com)

According to Adam Smith, East Baton Rouge Schools’ associate superintendent of schools, the district has made “significant gains.” These gains include a 5% increase in student performance and an increase in the number of Black students taking Advanced Placement tests.

The report did not identify institutional or systemic barriers that have kept these results pervasive in the city and throughout Louisiana. However, the Louisiana Budget Project released a report in May identifying the impact of “highly segregated” schools.

“Louisiana and local school districts are putting themselves at a disadvantage by failing to properly address segregation in public schools,” wrote LBP.

Like LBP, the Urban League found that public schools with a majority white student population have much higher teacher retention rates, higher percentages of certified teachers, and are far more likely to be rated “A” or “B” than schools with high minority populations. Data shows that in Baton Rouge, more than half (52%) of Black students enrolled in public schools attend “D” or “F” rated schools.

“We will also be the first to admit that we are not where we want to be, but we are committed to the ongoing communication and collaboration with key partners that will be essential in moving our schools forward,” Smith said.

“The inequities that economically disadvantaged students and students of color are facing is concerning but we now have information analyzed in a way that allows us to begin addressing it,” said Judy Reese Morse, president and CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana. She encouraged Baton Rouge leaders to “use the findings to work toward building an education system that serves all students equitably.”

In a school district that is under a federal desegregation order, commitment and action towards academic equity are critical, especially as Baton Rouge faces more segregation. This report comes a week after secessionists voted to incorporate the city of St. George in an effort motivated mainly by the desire to form a separate, majority white school district.

“Louisiana and local school districts are putting themselves at a disadvantage by failing to properly address segregation in public schools,” wrote LBP. “It is time we have a genuine discussion about what it takes to ensure every child has access to quality education.”

Education reform leader Lisa Delpit, Ph.D., said inequality has also been the result of unequal funding, the lack of Black teachers, and ever-changing national policies that benefit white students and affluent students while harming others. As part of a panel that followed the news conference, Delpit challenged leaders to look closely at the findings at what has worked for Black students and replicate it.

“We must create new school models, programs, and an environment to foster innovation. I’m proud to know that we have plans in place to address these issues,” said Peterson.

These plans include having parents, educators, and school administrators assist in establishing strategies and solutions to ensure equality, said Dana Henry, vice president of education and youth development at the Urban League of Louisiana.

Although the report did not offer specific strategies or solutions, panelists did.

Delpit admonished the community at large to get involved. “Pay attention to education policies. Stand strong about redistributing funding…and those of us who can, need to support (the schools) as often as we can.”

Baton Rouge councilman LaMont Cole said panelists and organizations involved in the process—Urban League, EBR Schools, Baton Rouge Area Chamber, and New Schools—should pick a school and “get to work” giving it everything it need to be sustained.

Excellence is never an accident,” he said. “We have to choose excellence and be intentional.”

Cole, who has been a principal at several schools in the city, said equality is when administrators and teachers have what they need to reach individual students where they are, give the students exactly what they need to succeed, and then, sustain it. “Choose excellence and make it happen,” he repeated.

Chris Meyer, CEO, New Schools for Baton Rouge agreed. “We should expand schools that are working and intervene in schools that need it.”

“We must be strategically intentional. We must be deliberate in the breaking down of silos. As the city of Baton Rouge becomes more intentionally grounded in educational equity, we will reach our goals and will tear down silos while helping the students of Baton Rouge excel,” said Pamela Ravare-Jones, Ph.D., chief administrative officer who spoke on behalf of EBR Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.

Urban League of Louisiana officials said the organization will host followup community meetings. “This report is just a road map and we’re going to build from here,” Henry said. “We are not going anywhere; we’re going to be here.”

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Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.
The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D, NNPA Newswire Entertainment and Culture Editor

The documentary She Had A Dream by Tunisian filmmaker Raja Amari premieres on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange series tonight at 8 p.m. EST on WORLD CHANNEL. Season 14 of the acclaimed documentary series captures Black artists and activists shaping and reclaiming culture, advocating for change and mobilizing for brighter futures. She Had A Dream offers an intimate portrayal of one young Black Tunisian woman’s quest for political office and her fight against racism and oppression in a society that often seeks to overlook both.

The documentary follows Ghofrane, a 20-something Black woman from Tunisia as she walks the path of self-discovery of young adulthood while running for political office in a homeland where many still view her as an outsider.

Watch the trailer below:

A dedicated, charismatic activist and a modern, free-speaking woman, Ghofrane in many ways is the embodiment of contemporary Tunisian political hopes still alive years after the Arab Spring. She Had A Dream follows Ghofrane as she works to conquer her own self-doubts while attempting to persuade close friends and complete strangers to vote for her. As audiences follow her campaign, they also follow the dichotomies of her life as a woman striving for a role in politics in the Arab world and as a Black person in a country where racism is prevalent, yet often denied.

“The 14th season of AfroPoP shines a light on the collective power, strength and resilience of Black people and movements around the world,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, AfroPoP executive producer. “Viewers will see artists use their platforms to push for progress and human rights and see ‘ordinary’ people do the remarkable in the interest of justice.”

Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.

She Had A Dream airs on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange Monday, April 11 at 8 p.m. ET on WORLD Channel and begins streaming on worldchannel.org at the same time.

AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is presented by Black Public Media and WORLD Channel. For more information, visit worldchannel.org or blackpublicmedia.org.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena.
The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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BBC Africa is reporting Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is facing a water shortage because of changing weather patterns and aging water facilities. The article reports, “Residents in informal communities like Kibra pay private vendors for water, meaning they now control the supply and access to water in the community.” The privatization of water access has led to an increase in the exploitation of women and girls in exchange for water.

“Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena. Check out the 2018 ANEW documentary short below:

The water crisis and the sexual exploitation of girls and women as a result of the water crisis shows no signs of slowing down.

To read more about this crisis, visit BBC Africa‘s series of articles and videos on Kenya’s water crisis and the Water Integrity Network’s (WIN) study on sextortion.

This news brief was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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#WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright

THE AFRO — Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.
The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Maya Pottiger, Word in Black

It’s no surprise that we’re living through difficult times. After two years, we’re still in a global pandemic, which has predominantly impacted people of color. In addition, Book bans, attacks on critical race theory, and partisan political fights target everything from Black youths’ sexuality, to history, to health.

And we’re seeing the effects.

Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.

For a variety of reasons — ongoing stigma, lack of insurance, most accessible — Black students often rely on the mental health services offered at school.Outside of a mental health-specific practice, Black students were nearly 600 times as likely to get mental health help in an academic setting compared to other options, according to 2020 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In fact, mental health services in schools have been steadily gaining popularity among students since 2009, before dropping slightly in 2020 when the school year was interrupted, according to the SAMHSA report. As a result, the rate of students receiving mental health care through school decreased by 14 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.

So how are schools changing the way they address and prioritize mental health — and the specific needs of Black students — since 2020?

The Renewed Focus on Mental Health

For school-aged people, the majority of their time is spent in a school building — about eight hours per day, 10 months out of the year. To help address mental health during academic hours, schools are trying to focus on social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills. This includes teaching kids how to be in touch with their emotions and protect against adverse mental health outcomes.

But it’s been difficult.

Though there’s been more conversation, the implementation is challenging, says Dr. Kizzy Albritton, an associate professor of school psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. There was already a shortage of school-based mental health professionals before the pandemic, which has now been exacerbated, as have mental health issues. In addition, though schools clearly recognize the importance of mental health, they aren’t always provided adequate resources.

“Unless there are more resources funneled into the school system, we’re going to see a continued catch-up issue across the board,” Albritton says. “And, unfortunately, our Black students are going to continue to suffer the most.”

In a survey of high school principals and students, Education Week Research Center found discrepancies in how principals and students viewed a school’s mental health services. While 86 percent of the principals said their schools provided services, only about 66 percent of students agreed. The survey did point out it’s possible the school offers these services and students aren’t aware. The survey also found Black and Latinx students were less likely than their peers to say their schools offered services.

Dr. Celeste Malone, the president-elect of the National Association for School Psychologists and a Howard University associate professor, says she hasn’t previously seen this degree of attention to mental health in schools.

“I see that a lot in my role for a school psychology graduate program: the outreach and people contacting me with openings where they didn’t exist previously,” Malone says. “With this increased push in funding to hire more, that’s definitely a very, very positive movement.”

Mental Health Is Not One Size Fits All

Just like with many aspects of health, Black youths need different mental health support from their peers of other races. They need a counselor who understands their lived experiences, like microaggressions and other forms of discrimination or racism, without the student having to explain.

For example, in order to best address the specific mental health needs of Black students, districts need to provide information breaking down mental health stigmas; focus on hiring Black counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals; and fund anti-racist and trauma-informed mental health practices, according to the Center for American Progress.

While she hears a lot of talk, Albritton says she isn’t seeing widespread evidence of these solutions in practice.

“There needs to be a willingness, first of all, to understand that our Black students, their needs look a lot different,” Albritton says. School officials need to understand where Black students are coming from — that their families and households experience systemic and structural racism, which are known to trigger anxiety and depression. The effects of the racial wealth gap also play a role, from the neighborhood kids are living in, to the schools they can attend to the impacts on their health. Students might be bringing worries about these challenges to school, which could be reflected in their behavior. This is why, Albritton says, it’s crucial to also work with students’ families.

The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright appeared first on AFRO American Newspapers .

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