DC VOICE Provides Data on DC Schools

DC Voice Promotes Conversation About Data on DC Public Schools
By Khadijah Ali-Coleman
(this article published in the Dec 2008 issue of East of the River newspaper)
“The question is, are we giving teachers the incentives to the jobs we want them to do,” DC Board Chairman Vincent Gray told a crowd of one hundred teachers, community members, parents and youth on Nov. 15. He was a special guest during DC VOICE’s second Green Eggs and Ham town hall meeting held at Ward Memorial AME Church, 241 42nd Street, NE .
This meeting was scheduled to provide a forum to those who lived east of the river and unable to attend the first meeting that was held in NW earlier in the week. The meeting engaged participants in an information session—sharing statistics—while polling participants that day on their thoughts regarding teacher incentives, classroom technology and student development. Statistics shared were gathered by research garnered from the DC VOICE Ready Schools Project – the district’s largest ever volunteer-led community audit of public (and charter) school quality where teams of residents volunteered to visit over 100 schools and interview principals about school needs and city support.
During this town hall meeting, DC VOICE facilitators were spread out across the room, at least one per table, and engaged participants in conversation discussing the data and the videos shown in intervals. One video showcased a school in another city that awarded teachers incentives such as help with home mortgages to encourage quality teachers to stay at schools they are commissioned to work.
“None of that was offered to me,” said one Ward 8 teacher at a discussion table. “I wasn’t offered anything extra to work. Help with a mortgage would be great.”
Another teacher agreed that incentives such as home mortgage assistance would be great if offered to teachers who agree to work in east of the river schools.
“One thing I notice is that the teachers aren’t from this neighborhood. So it’s hard to know where the kids are from or what they are going through if you don’t live where they live,” she shared. “I grew up in this neighborhood but I can no longer afford to live in this neighborhood. Making sure the people in those schools live in those communities will change how teachers and students relate, I think.”

How Obama’s Presidential Win Impacts Positive Youth Development

Tom Matzzie wrote an intriguing article for Huffington Post about what Obama’s win means for the United States in terms of lessons learned. On his list, he mentions how important the internet was in Obama’s success and how Obama made the political campaign “sexy”– a word I’m sure you no doubt have heard your young people use when speaking about each other, inanimate objects and just life’s happenings in general.

African-American adults will most likely mention that the election has illustrated the biggest lesson– that anything is possible if– in a country with a legacy of enslaving Black people– a Black man can eventually become head of state.

How can you as a youth worker use Barack Obama’s success as a springboard for programming that will promote positive youth development?

Here are some suggestions:

(1) If your youth program or classroom has jobs or duties that require an election for roles (i.e. Class President, Peer Leader, Snack Manager, etc), encourage your students to campaign for positions by developing a slogan that signifies what their candidacy is about. Obama’s campaign of HOPE and CHANGE have resonated even after his campaign ends.

(2) You most likely included discussion about the election in your group or classroom leading up to Obama’s win. But, it doesn’t have to end. You can keep the dialogue going by creating segments in the day called “Obama Updates”. Foster a continuous interest in politics by encouraging the youth to stay posted on decisions Obama is making from here on out. Who is he choosing for his cabinet? Why is he choosing this person over another? What is the first executive order he is overturning? What impact will this decision have on the industries affected? These discussions will foster political discourse which will hopefully spark a continued interest in political awareness and involvement.

(3) Create spaces in your group room/classroom that provoke personal reflection and dialogue that you may not necessarily moderate. Try ideas like a political corner with newspaper articles and magazine clippings for students to read at leisure or post weekly on a bulletin board questions that relate to both to a presidential decision that may impact the young person. Examples of questions can include: “If President Obama overturns the current executive order restriction on using stem cells for healing illness caused by cancer and birth defects, how will that impact my life when I’m an adult?”

For more suggestions, contact SOYA at soouryouthaspire@yahoo.com for a free consultation.