Are evangelical Christians abandoning public schools?

By: Marilyn Anderson Rhames, executive director, KuriosEd; founder,Teachers Who Pray; and author, The Master Teacher: 12 Spiritual Lessons That Can Transform Schools and Revolutionize Public Education. She is also an Albany State University Center for Educational Opportunity research grant recipient.

An analysis of PDK poll data shows that evangelicals and non-evangelicals are not so far apart in their opinions about religion in their local schools — except when race and ideology get involved.

For the last 60 years, evangelical Christians have had a turbulent relationship with public education. Beginning in the late 20th century, they began seeing their influence on public schools diminish on multiple fronts. For example, after fighting long and hard to keep prayer and Bible readings in American classrooms, they saw the U.S. Supreme Court ban such practices in the early 1960s. This decision remained potent for decades, so much so that when Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1984, he “played to the sensibilities of Evangelical voters when he condemned ‘God’s expulsion’ from public schools” (Laats, 2012). In the late 1960s, much to evangelicals’ chagrin, the U.S. Supreme Court also struck down prohibitions on teaching evolution in science class. And by the 1970s, school districts across the country had adopted comprehensive sex education curricula that promoted condom use as an alternative to abstinence.

Visit Phi Delta Kappan for full article

Not So Fast: K-12 Schools Should Slow Pace Towards Online Learning

By Erica DeCuir, Ph.D.; Associate Professor; Albany State University School of Education

The COVID effect on K-12 schools intensified a troubling shift towards online teaching and learning for both students attending class in person and those who are still distance learning. Online learning is favorable as a form of instructional technology to better engage 21st century learners. In synchronous online instruction, students participate in a livestreamed class lecture and complete assigned tasks in an online learning platform. In asynchronous online instruction, students watch pre-recorded lectures and instructional videos. They complete lessons individually, often at a self-directed pace, and submit assigned tasks to an online learning platform. In both formats, nearly all instructional delivery occurs behind a computer screen. Teachers talk. Students sit, watch, and listen. 

Online learning is trending in all schools post-COVID, whether traditional, virtual, or hybrid. According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, 80% of households with school-age children were using online resources for student learning. High-income households reported higher rates of online learning (85.8%) compared to low-income households (65.8%). This disparity is fueling a “digital divide” debate in policy circles, in which low-income children and Black and Hispanic children are more likely to lack access to computer devices or internet services just as more schools shift to online learning. What makes this debate so appealing to policy advocates is the guise of equitable access to high-quality learning through equitable access to technology for online learning. 

But a computer is only a tool for teaching, not an actual teacher. It can provide access to information and global connectivity, but it cannot teach a child to read or write. Certainly, basic skills can be practiced or reinforced online, but learning to read and write well requires a gifted teacher. Popular learning theories indicate that we learn new knowledge by relating it to previous knowledge. And to retain the new knowledge, we must experience it in a real-life context that has meaning to us. Teachers do this by making curriculum relevant to their students and by creating instructional activities that offer real, tangible experiences for students to apply their knowledge in a meaningful way. Learning is a social activity; learning and language are interconnected. 

Online learning formats devalue the socialization of learning, leaving many students struggling to figure it out on their own. A recent study comparing student achievement in online versus traditional charter schools found students “experienced large, negative effects on mathematics and English/language arts achievement that persisted over time and that these effects could not be explained by observed teacher or classroom characteristics.” Middle and high-income families are able to minimize negative effects of online learning through tutors or learning pods that provide supplemental instruction with an actual teacher. For poorer students, the financial burden of hiring a tutor or losing parental income to a participate in a learning pod is too much to bear. In a 2020 study of Zearn, a math application used for online instruction, researchers found that low-income students showed large decreasing gains in math achievement on the software as COVID forced all schools in virtual education. High-income students saw small decreasing gains in math, but for low-income students the decrease was astronomical in many states across the country. Clearly, mere access to computer technology is only one battle in the fight for educational equity. 

Online learning should be viewed as a short-term solution to closed campuses in the wake of the COVID pandemic. It provides the benefit of convenient, accessible instruction regardless of time and location. It can track student performance efficiently, and expand the volume of instructional resources for student support. But, it should not replace actual teaching and learning in a post-COVID classroom context, when most students will return to physical buildings for classroom instruction. Learning occurs through language and real, tangible social connections to curriculum. This is where online learning falls short. 

1 US Census Study

2 Study on Digital Divide

3 Constructivism

4 Charter school Study

Labyrinth of Classroom to Prison Pipeline Leading to Social Injustice

By: Felicia Mayfield, Ed.D.; Department Chairman and Associate Professor, Clark Atlanta University School of Education

                                             Disproportionality in classroom suspensions for students of color ↙

                                 High dropout rate for students for color↙

         Disproportionate rates of incarceration↙

Disproportionate number of felons dismissed from voter rolls

Social injustice is a complex problem. But, we have taken it on. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a diagram can explain the more complicated components of social injustice. There is research to connect each of the constructs at the nexus to the next (Novak, 2019). The diagram depicts the layers of the interconnected systemic path and social processes to disenfranchise males of color. This painful labyrinth has its genesis in the P-12 classroom with disproportionality. That is, the disproportionate referrals of discipline involving males of color. If this is the basis or trigger for the path to social injustice, then let’s examine what is happening at the beginning

What can be done to disrupt the classroom-to-prison pipeline? Enters stage left…The Males of Color in the Teacher Pipeline Initiatives is a means of mitigating these social structures of inertia with males literally and figuratively falling. 

So, if one thing could be done–though we can’t do just one thing… But, if one thing had to be done to interrupt the pattern presented in the Labyrinth of Classroom to Prison Pipeline Leading to Social Injustice, it would be to increase the number of male teachers of color since discipline referrals decrease as much at 50% with a male teacher of color (Wright, 2015)!

Enter stage right–research on the motivating factors to encourage the preparation of male teachers of color. At Clark Atlanta University, we identified four elements that make a difference in teacher preparation of males of color: communication, exposure, resources (especially with testing), and support with student teaching. Clark Atlanta University is an HBCU with a history of preparing educators of color since the 1940s. So, the depth and breadth were present for this study to be meaningful since the percentage of males of color in the pipeline in the School of Education at about 20% were juxtaposed with the national average in this category at less than 2%. The higher percentage for the School of Education makes CAU a statistical outlier—we know that outliers make for an exciting investigation. The Center of Educational Opportunity at Albany State University agreed and funded the implementation of a grant to be intentional in immersing the future male teachers in the four mitigating strategies.

Under a fresh IRB, the CAU Males of Color Initiative offered rich experiences in the four categories. The perceptions of the males of color were measured, revealing promising information worthy of generalization. This research is significant in that it supports the fulcrum to leverage change. Therefore, we conclude with a solution in a picture worth more than a thousand lives:


AACTE (2019) February 2019, AACTE released its report on how to increase and support the number of Black and Hispanic/Latino male candidates in teacher preparation programs.

Department of Education. (2016). The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce.

Linsey and Hart, 2017 Males of color as teachers  saw a 12% decrease with students of color 

Lindsay, C., & Hart, C. (2017). Exposure to Same-Race Teachers and Student Disciplinary Outcomes for Black Students in North Carolina. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 39(3), 485-510. Retrieved June 19, 2021, from

Johns Hopkins University. (2017, April 5). With just one Black teacher, Black students more likely to graduate [Press Release].

 National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). National Teacher and Principal Survey, Public School Teacher and Private School Teacher Data Files, 2017-18.  U. S. Department of Education.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). Race and Ethnicity of Public School Teachers and Their Students NCES 2020-103). US Department of Education.

“youth who are suspended by age 12 are more likely to report justice system involvement at age 18 (Novak, 2019)” Article Information SAGE Journal

 Novak, Abigail. Article first published online: May 14, 2019; Issue published: August 1, 2019

University of Florida Abigail Novak, Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law, 

Volume: 46 issue: 8, page(s): 1165-1180

Wright (2015). Males of Color as teachers decrease discipline referral that lead to suspension and expulsion states that classroom discipline is cut in half with male teachers 

Identifying Strategies from Education-Related Activities to Provide Improved Academic Access for LGBTQIAP Students of Color

By: Sheila Gregory, PhD; Professor, Educational Leadership and Higher Education, Clark Atlanta University

Clark Atlanta University professor, Sheila T. Gregory, Ph.D. is the principal investigator for the grant entitled, Identifying Strategies from Education-Related Activities to Provide Improved Academic Access for LGBTQIAP Students of Color. This 18-month grant, beginning in the summer of 2020 and concluding December 31, 2021, provides numerous services for LGBTQ+ students of color, as well as training for those who work directly with this student population. 

In late fall 2020, nearly 50 of these public school teachers, counselors, social workers, and staff received 2.5 hours of interactive professional development training with topics that covered: 1) basic LGBTQ+ terminology; 2) intersectionality; 3) the status of Black, Latinx and Asian LGBTQ+ youth; 4) student rights, laws and constitutional protections; 5) how to support LGBTQ+ youth of color; 6) cultural competency; 7) empowering inclusive schools, families and communities; and 8) Where to begin? and; additional Q&A. 

In this interactive professional development training session, numerous resources were discussed and shared, including the following that we would like to share:

The remaining initiatives for the grant include a series of Journal Writing Retreats for middle and high school students, Comprehensive Online Course Modules to provide training for school staff and a website for complete access to all completed activities of this grant.

Initial Findings from a Study of Rural Black Homeschooling

By: Cheryl Fields-Smith, Ph.D., Associate Professor; College of Education University of Georgia and Brandon Isome, Doctoral Student; College of Education University of Georgia

Homeschooling among Black families surged five-fold during the Coronavirus pandemic from 3.4% to 16.1% (Eggleston & Fields, 2021). Even prior to the pandemic, trends indicated that Black families increasingly choose homeschooling for their children (Anderson, 2018; Ray, 2015). Research has identified many motivations for Black homeschooling including racial protectionism (Mazama & Musumunu, 2015) and anti-Black racism (Fields-Smith & Wells Kisura, 2013) in the form of discipline disproportionality, barriers to gifted education, and other prejudices. Dumas (2014) characterized these maladies as suffering given the impact on Black children’s self-identity, psychological trauma, and hopelessness, both collectively and individually. 

 However, research on Black homeschooling has focused on urban areas with large, Black, educated populations and many supportive resources.  Less is known about homeschooling among Black families in rural areas, which face numerous challenges including limited job opportunities and digital deserts. Therefore, this pilot study explored the lived experiences of rural Black families through a phenomenological lens of educational research. The study is guided by the following questions:

1. What unique motivations and challenges to homeschool exist among Black parents residing in rural communities?

2. What types of community-based and cultural resources do Black parents living in rural communities rely on for their homeschool practices? 

Conceptual Framework

In this study, homeschooling among Black parents has been conceptualized as a form of resistance to overcoming anti-Black policy and practices within and outside of traditional schools. Further, contemporary Black homeschooling represents a reprioritizing of “homeplace”, which is bell hooks’ concept to capture Black mothers’ actions to empower and edify their children against the oppression of the  Jim Crow Era. Similarly, by re-prioritizing homeplace in current times through homeschooling, Black home educators promote their children’s positive cultural self-identities and enable their children to reach their full potential (Fields-Smith & Wells Kisura, 2013; Fields-Smith, 2020). 


A culturally responsive phenomenological study was designed to document the perspectives and experiences of 12 rural Black homeschool mothers. Of those 12 participants, 11 geographically resided in southern states (e.g., Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, and Louisiana), and one lived in California. Two of the mothers were single parents and 10 of the mothers were married. All the women have a post-secondary education. 

In individual, online interviews, Black homeschool educators shared their experiences, perceptions, and approaches to rural homeschooling, which varied one from the other. Nine of the 12 mothers participated in one of three Sister Circles (culturally responsive focus group sessions). Initial data analysis consisted of creating matrices to identify initial codes around predetermined themes such as advantages and challenges of homeschooling in rural communities and spirituality. 

Initial Findings

While analysis continues, preliminary results signal tremendous variance in how Black homeschool mothers defined “rural” beyond the typical markers of farming and fields of crops. Rural communities represented in this study consisted of coastal areas, contained residential subdivisions, and existed in relatively close proximity to large cities or far away from them. The pilot study also revealed three forms of isolation expressed by rural Black home educators including geographic isolation, political isolation, and sociocultural isolation. Indeed, none of the participating home educators were able to refer other Black homeschool family participants from their own communities, which will challenge attempts to scale up this study. 


Anderson, M. D. (May 17, 2018). The radical self-reliance of Black homeschooling. The Atlantic

Dumas, M. J. (2014). ‘Losing an arm’: Schooling as a site of black suffering. Race Ethnicity and 

Education, (17)1, 1-29. 

Eggleston, C. & Fields, J. (March 22, 2021). Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey shows significant 

increase in homeschooling rates in Fall 2020. United States Census Bureau.

Fields-Smith, C. (2020). Exploring single Black mothers’ resistance through homeschooling

New York: Palgrave MacMillan. 

Fields-Smith, C. and Wells Kisura, M. (2013). Resisting the Status Quo: The narratives of Black 

homeschoolers in Metro-Atlanta and Metro-DC. The Peabody Journal of Education, (88)3, 265-283.

Mazama, A. and Musumunu, G. (2015). African Americans and Homeschooling. New York: 


Ray, B. (2015). African American homeschool parents’ motivations for homeschooling and their Black 

children’s academic achievement. Journal of School Choice, 9: 71-96.