Kevin Chavous, board chair of Black Alliance for Educational Options and a former Washington, D.C., councilman, says “our educational house is on fire,” and that the traditional school system was not designed for success in this era. “Poverty, family challenges, technological advances, etc., have all helped to create far too much diversity of need and interest for a top-down approach,” he says. “The traditional school system as it is stifles creativity and innovation. It isn’t responsive to new practices and teaching modalities involving technology.”
Chavous, who helped oversee development of the charter school movement in the nation’s capital and pushes for strong charter school laws nationally, says “Power needs to be with parents. Parents need to be advocates for their children, and have a sense of their own empowerment.”
BAEO provides a range of parent advocacy workshops, one of which teaches parents to work with others to reduce the number of black boys between the ages of 10 and 14 who are routinely suspended more than children from other races for minor infractions such as cellphone use. “It’s important for parents to be trained and to train their peers,” he says. “There’s less reception to people who are parachuted in.”
Connecting the Dots
Bringing together business leaders, community members, dedicated educators, and administrators will go a long way toward fixing our schools. With 116 chapters worldwide, 100 Black Men has been one of the organizations that has served as a mobilizing force. Recent conferences have assembled these diverse groups to discuss charter school development, STEM training for teachers, school choice, and parental engagement. And it walks the walk by providing a range of student services nationwide such as scholarships, summer academies, and college prep programs, among others.
“The things that the 100 are doing are in total concert with the Obama administration’s education agenda,” says David Brand, also of 100 Black Men. He notes that, “Charter schools are very open to having relationships with businesses, as are other high-performing schools run by African American churches and Catholic churches.”
(Continued on next page)