Black Homeschooling Is A Choice

By: Jamilah Hawkins

In some circles, homeschooling has been controversial in the black community due to the hardships African-Americans faced who fought for equal educational opportunities. Brown v. Board of Education was passed in 1954 to enforce the integration of public schools for Black and Brown students and their White counterparts. Many Black family members and education activists fought long and hard for those rights. However, nowadays there is a rise in the numbers of Black parents who are choosing to homeschool as a way to protect and do what they believe is best for their children.

Paula Penn-Nabrit, an African American scholar and writer who homeschooled her children in the 1990s, experienced this situation firsthand and addressed her reasonings for choosing homeschool. “A lot of people felt that because my family was intimately involved in the effort to integrate schools, that for me to pull my children out of schools was a betrayal of all that work,” she said. “But it really wasn’t. The case had nothing to do with what I, as a parent, decide I want for my child. That decision meant the state can’t decide to give me less than, but I can decide I want more than” (Huseman, 2015).

Since the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 until today in 2020, we are still experiencing racial disparities in education. Homeschooling has become an outlet for Black families to take a stand for their children and express their liberation and choice. For some families, homeschooling is a protest against the oppressive, marginalizing, and devaluing behavior that Black families have experienced in public school systems. Black neighborhood schools are disproportionately underfunded and curriculums overwhelmingly lack cultural and historical representation.

One of the hallmarks of Black homeschooling is that African American parents are implementing Afro-centric curriculums that teach their children about the historical contributions of Black people. This affirms them and helps to build a strong foundation that promotes confidence and self-esteem.

There are several ways that African-Americans enter the homeschooling space — either via homeschooling or unschooling. Homeschooling often refers to the act of making the decision to educate their children prior to attending public, private, or charter schools.  Unschooling is the act of taking their children out of an educational institution not meeting their child’s needs and having to rethink and redefine school on their own terms.  In addition, there are several strategies for conducting homeschooling – via co-ops or microschools.  Both co-ops and microschools value the importance of community and collaboration in which parents contribute their skills to providing lessons, classes, extracurricular services to the children and families involved.

In light of the inequities that were laid bare by COVID-19 school shutdowns, more and more Black families say that they intend to continue homeschooling. In fact, Dr. Cheryl Fields-Smith, co-founder of  Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars says she’s seen a dramatic increase in homeschooling inquiries due to COVID-19. 

In my opinion, it is simply time to stop fighting for the system, and we surely should not still be fighting with the system. This is not to say that those who advocated for integration of schools were wrong for fighting for inclusion, but if decades have gone by and racial injustices persist to the detriment of Black students, then it is time to go back to the drawing board and write a new game plan.

There should be no condemnation towards Black parents who choose to homeschool their children. Homeschooling may well be a way to put an end to the massive achievement gap and institutionalized discrimination and racism that festers in public education institutions. Yes, the fight continues to this day, but Black parents who choose to homeschool are winning this battle in their own way.

Jamilah Hawkins is an education major at Albany State University. She is a 2020 research intern at the Albany State University Center for Educational Opportunity.

Are The Good Times Really Rolling? New Orleans Public Schools Remain Disproportionately Affected By a Broken School System

By: Alanna Beasley

Public schooling in Louisiana has long been systematically and generationally impacted by the tradition of what “free” education is. The year 1863 marked the beginning of a long history of inequity regarding life, living, and public education of black children in the City of New Orleans – the year of emancipation of people of color. This year marked the establishment of the very first public school dedicated solely to the “spirituality” of black children. From the outset, black education in Louisiana disregarded the necessity of academics as a priority for black students.

In a report written in 1902 by Assistant Superintendent of New Orleans Public Schools Nicholas Bauer he writes “ …to teach the negro is a different problem. His natural ability is that of low character and it is possible to bring him to a certain level beyond which it is impossible to carry him.” Imagine being devalued before you are even afforded the opportunity to enter a classroom.  That spirit has festered. (Bauer Report, Dr. Raynard Sanders)

In 1917, the very first high school for Black Students (formally an all white, male school) was established in New Orleans by the name of McDonogh High School, and by the 1980-1981 school year, black students made up 84% of the public schools in New Orleans. By the 2004-2005 school year an astronomical 94% of the student population was black. Families with resources – both Black and White- sought alternative means of education, leaving public educational options to those who lacked those same resources.

After the initial integration of New Orleans schools on November 14, 1960, there was an extreme uproar f  rom white families. White families immediately began removing their children from the schools moving towards integration. Ultimately, white families either began moving out of the city entirely and into the suburbs or placing their children into private schools and taking their teachers and resources with them. (https://hechingerreport.org/how-new-orleans-leaders-built-a-segregated-city/)

Is it a coincidence that one of the lowest ranking public school systems in the nation houses a majority black student body? History may just be repeating itself, and, at this point, it is no secret that white schools and black schools in Louisiana were and still are separate and unequal, disproportionate in every way, from teacher participation to the quality of learning, and it is not looking too hopeful. Compound this reality with one of ongoing racial injustices and a nationwide pandemic of today and you have the manifestations of systemic racism that have so permeated institutions within these United States. (https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1854&context=gradschool_disstheses)

Systematically, we have seen no change in the narrative of public education in New Orleans. Time and time again there have been strategies to combat the lack of educational attainment by the students that have historically received subpar education. This is partially because of the inadequate funds for the large and intense projects that would be needed to cause a complete 180 degree change in the scope of New Orleans’ public education.

After Hurricane Katrina washed much of this beloved city away, repairing the school system was taken on by the Recovery School District (RSD) and The Orleans Parish School System. They created a project called the School Facilities Master Plan of New Orleans which was intended to address existing conditions, including the erection of school buildings that were “innovative” and “transformative.” In 2008, this promising project created a positive outlook on education for these students allowing them to have access to facilities that were meant for success. (https://www.louisianabelieves.com/schools/recovery-school-district/)

Fast forward to today and student achievement in New Orleans has still been stagnant since 2014. Why does New Orleans, out of the top ten districts, still have the highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students? How do we get to the root of the problem if we have developed initiatives for students to be successful, yet see no change? It seems that we persist in ignoring an important truth that children from disadvantaged families and children from affluent families have backgrounds that are very disproportionate. Those children who are disadvantaged are bound for a life of lower achievement, and they will have difficulty breaking free from this cyclical outcome. It is time to change the narrative of what it looks like for New Orleans students to have educational attainment and student achievement. (https://teachneworleans.net/nola-by-the-numbers/)

I am a firm believer that education is the foundation of everything we do. One thing students and families should never have to fight for is knowledge, but does knowledge really start with the condition of a school facility? As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared 50 years ago, inequity in schools must be addressed through reform, but food security, healthcare, and job security policies also must be implemented to take direct actions against poverty that will then provide the context within which education reform can succeed.

I am a direct product of the Louisiana school system. The conversations I have been able to have with my peers have shown me that broken systems create complacency. So many of my peers chose to be okay with the fact that they must settle because they were never given the resources for success. Many of these students were more worried about providing a steady income for their households and putting food on their tables for their younger siblings to eat rather than receiving their education. If the same issues were happening five decades ago when Dr. King advocated for equity, we should be evaluating what direct actions have taken place and how effective they have been. When we start to implement reform in areas surrounding poverty and education, that is when we will start to see student success in the public school system escalate.

Any genuine effort to reform schools must be holistic in scope. Children’s lives and their livelihoods for generations depend on it. It is time to move with purpose to provide adequate education to our youth.

Alanna Beasley is a senior, economics major, computer science minor at Spelman College. She attended Louisiana public schools in Lake Charles and is a 2020 summer research intern at Albany State University Center for Educational Opportunity.

Center for Educational Opportunity Welcomes Summer Interns to Virtual Research Internship Program

The Albany State University Center for Educational Opportunity (CEO) is proud to welcome its 2020 summer interns. As the COVID-19 global health crisis looms, the health, well being and education of our community remains our top priority. Consequently, the CEO is offering a fully-remote internship program.

We are pleased to provide internships to the following students (pictured left to right):

Alanna Beasley, Spelman College – Economics

Jamilah Hawkins; Albany State University – Education

Jasmine Prier; Albany State University – Computer Science

Kayla Kirkland-Johnson; Spelman College – Education

The eight-week virtual internship will run June 1–July 23, 2020,  and will allow students to engage in research activities that focus on K-12 educational opportunities in fragile communities and the economics of education.

Internship activities will include:

  • Exploring educational choice among families living in fragile communities
  • Exploring economic options available to families living in fragile communities
  • Writing op-eds
  • Developing a ‘working’ manuscript focusing on educational opportunities, access, models, and innovation
  • Participation in weekly virtual meetings on relevant topics
  • Attending professional learning sessions on research methods and writing
  • Working closely with faculty research mentors
  • Presentation of research findings at undergraduate symposia 

“We greatly value the fresh perspectives and problem-solving ability that undergraduate student researchers bring to the table,” said CEO Founding Director Dr. Kathaleena Edward Monds. “What’s more, an essential part of our mission is to help build and diversify the research pipeline through coaching and mentoring.”

Evidence shows that undergraduate research experiences enhance students’ confidence, inquiry and analysis, while also improving their graduate school and career prospects. 

The Center for Educational Opportunity was established on April 13, 2018. As a research center, our aim is to support outcomes-based, impact research with a focus on four pillars: educational opportunity, educational models, educational innovations and educational access and a mission to advance educational researcher in order to strengthen and empower fragile communities from the bottom up.