This morning I spoke with Lydia Carlis, Ph.D., an education consultant who previously taught in elementary school. She’s committed to ameliorating educational inequity in our nation’s schools.
“My work is focused on ensuring that low-income children of color have access to the best quality education, because a high-quality education is as close to an equalizer as we’re going to get in our society,” Carlis says ruefully.
Training Teachers to Be More Effective
Carlis has opened a consultancy firm, eyemaginED, which, according to its website, works with sites, schools, districts, and nonprofits “to maximize child outcomes by leveraging investments in leaders and staff.”
Currently, Carlis is working with an elementary school in Washington, D.C., where she helps teachers utilize strategies in the classroom to effect particular student outcomes. When consulting in schools, Carlis takes a “train the trainer” tactic, working directly with the adults to increase her economy of scale. Then, she gradually transitions to being more of an observer or coach.
Additionally, Carlis works with a nonprofit think tank, which has received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to determine the commonalities between the high performing, high achieving Head Start programs across the country. (BE Smart, the education-focused initiative of BLACK ENTERPRISE, is also a Gates grantee.)
The Characteristics of a Good School
It’s summer now, but kids will be returning to school in the fall. So I asked Carlis what she considered to be the defining characteristics of a good school. No.1, she says, is culture.
“If a school only has white teachers, ask why. Then, listen for the answer,” Carlis says. The best schools value diversity, equity, and inclusion. If the teaching staff and leadership isn’t diverse, there needs to be a plan in place to address that void.
The next concern is behavior management. “Is it a punitive system, or is it one that encourages positive behavior?”
Carlis told me that too many schools penalize children for expecting them to behave in ways they haven’t been taught. “They need to be taught school behaviors, new norms—and tell them why. I look for schools that help kids understand why they need to do something, not just that they need to do it.” Such schools help to develop positive, thoughtful, questioning young people, who know how to question a peer—or a teacher.
A good school should also consistently produce good outcomes for all the children it serves, including those with special needs.
“Look at the data,” Carlis advises, informing me that, in addition to school district websites, the site for the nonprofit organization GreatSchools includes this data.
For more information about eyemaginED, visit its website.