Early Childhood Education and Educational Offerings
As a parent, you remember the day your child was born. We do not hold our child for the first time and begin daydreaming about all the obstacles that could stop them from achieving their full potential. That is not who we are. We hold our kids for the first time and dream big. Early childhood education is the fuel that ignites those dreams. The education and services that we provide our kids beyond early childhood education are what continue to fuel those dreams and love of learning within our kids.
The research is clear. We must get our kids in early childhood education as soon as possible. Our family has seen the impact of this personally. We have watched the growth of our children who have been in quality early childhood education as early as the age of 3 months. But, let’s be real: most of our kids in Dallas do not have this opportunity. I sure didn’t. We don’t have to just let the chips fall how they may. Privilege, access or resources should never be a pre-requisite to our kids receiving quality early childhood education. We are frustrated with this denial of opportunity, but we are hopeful because we can solve this issue.
We should also expand proven educational programs and services; services such as Montessori programs, social and emotional support services, dual language, International Baccalaureate and other options. These opportunities are responsive to families in Dallas and provide opportunities for our kids in an ever-changing world.
For Students, For DISD: Research shows that quality early childhood education increases the likelihood that children will be successful students in school and citizens outside of the classroom. This investment has far-reaching positive impact for DISD, including increasing graduation rates.
For Opportunity: Our kids will have more opportunities because we have provided them with quality early childhood education that will broaden their possibilities. The expansion and continuation of programs and services will allow us to provide equitable opportunities to the diverse students of our city.
For Collaboration: We will need to collaborate with families, communities, early childhood education providers and the non-profit and private sector to develop, expand, fund and provide quality early childhood education for all of our students.
In 2012, a friend and I completed research that trustees used to show that only 3 out of 100 black boys that started in DISD in kindergarten would be college-ready at the end of high school. As I look at the STAAR data five years later the numbers are still very troubling. As recognized by DISD, our African-American kids and English language learners (especially boys) are still behind their peers. We are not providing them with the opportunity that they deserve. We must provide opportunity for all.
For Students, For DISD: An emphasis on racial equity has the potential to remove institutional biases that have plagued our district, impeding student progress and fracturing relationships across ethnic groups and feeder patterns. Inequities exist in both how we educate and discipline our children of color, and in many other aspects of DISD. We must be willing to implement and fund policies to combat these inequities. DISD must re-affirm that it is a safe, nurturing and positive place for all families and children.
For Opportunity: Most importantly, racial equity policies can give us the tools to finally close the gap for our children of color in DISD, especially our African-American kids and English language learners that DISD has already identified as having the largest achievement gaps.
For Collaboration: Like early childhood and any program/service, we will need to collaborate with families, communities and the non-profit and private sector to develop, expand and fund initiatives that ensure that DISD provides equitable and growing opportunities for all of our students. I believe we missed an opportunity by not allowing our citizens to vote on a Tax Ratification Election, so now more than ever, we need collaboration and we must choose hope over fear, and unity over division.
Educators as Professionals
Educators literally shape our world. We need to treat this like the most important profession in the world. We need to refine how we retain, support, reward and recruit teachers. Like other professions, we need to find ways to rely on teachers to determine what world-class teaching looks like.
For Students, For DISD: The most important factors in our schools are the quality of the person standing in front of our children and the quality of the educator leading the campus. Treating educators as the world-class professionals that they are will also increase our community’s faith in DISD because we will have demonstrated appreciation for those (our teachers) that have the most impact on our kids.
For Opportunity: DISD should create a world-class culture wherein teachers have the opportunity to be encouraged and inspired to thrive. We need to support, cultivate and appreciate our educators. We need to continue to develop a pipeline for new and diverse teachers while working to develop apprenticeship-type models that allow young teachers to learn under experienced and effective teachers.
For Collaboration: We should collaborate with our current teachers as we develop policies to treat our teachers as they should be treated. We should partner with local universities to develop initiatives to encourage college students to major in education and join DISD after graduation. We should look to recruit at all universities to develop a diverse group of world-class educators.
DISD must engage our community in solving the issues that impact our kids. The District must actually respond when that engagement comes, in any of its forms. We should constantly encourage our parents and community member’s engagement and remove the barriers that stand in their way. The power is truly in the people. We must live that out in DISD.
For DISD: As an educator, I know the value of closing the gap between the classroom and a student’s home. As a community member, this is why I have served in various capacities, including co-founding and chairing the District 9 Task Force with the primary goal of empowering various communities. DISD must strive to do the same. We should go to families and always provide them with an experience that is both welcoming and respectful.
For Opportunity: There are people from all communities in our city that deeply care about improving DISD. We should create opportunities for them to engage with our schools in increasing academic achievement. We should be responsive to people and entities who want to support or volunteer at our schools. We should responsibly make opportunities for all to engage as easy as possible.
For Collaboration: Community engagement should not be for special groups. That’s now what a community is. We must collaborate across our cliques. In the fierce urgency of now, we need to acknowledge our shared values and purpose. Choosing unity over division, we need to work together to move this district forward. For some, this means understanding that it is important to listen with humility and act with respect for neighborhoods they may not understand. For others, it means extending grace and giving folks the opportunity to affirm and act on their commitment to opportunity for all kids. For me, it means using the past to inform our decisions but not allowing it to dictate every decision. In regards to our kids, we are not just a business community, or just an east Dallas community or a South Dallas community, we are one community that must honor the potential and deliver on the promise of our kids. We must choose unity over division.