Race relations class

<p>My younger daughter attends a inner city high school that is fairly diverse- 43% are white-and 33%are african american.
It is a wonderful school- full of opportunities for students and has by far one of the highest rate of graduation and college entrance of any school in the district ( for all groups)
However often the perception in the larger community is that of a school divided. While students are encouraged and supported to take challenging classes, not all students do, partly because some aren't interested in the level of work, and partly because some haven't been supported in earlier grades to be at the level where going to college or even taking a challenging course is on their wavelenght I suspect.
In the media it is often painted as having white kids on 3rd floor- asian kids on 2nd floor- AA kids on 1st floor. Adding to the idea that it is segregated.( my daughter who is white & her 4 best friends who are not have classes all over the school)
However you ask the kids and they will disagree- much of the problems have come from adults- who remember what the school was like when they attended 50 years ago, or from adults who seem to be afraid of their children succeeding and so train them to think that they can't.
As part of a concerted effort to engage students in dialog re: race & history, the chair of the history dept introduced a race relations class that has been well received by the students ( but not so well by district as the subjects coverd aren't needed on the WASL)- it is an honors level class and the teacher is fighting to keep it so, because he wants students who take the class seriously .
A very vocal minority of community members( mostly not from the school community)- are arguing because the class is honors and because students are expected to do more work than in a minimum level class, that it is racist and should be ended unless anyone with any GPA can participate.</p>

<p>I disagree and find it very ironic that the africian american community members who are arguing that the class is * too tough* for black kids- often have Ph.ds themselves- received in a time when it was much tougher for AA students to succeed.
I feel that if the teacher feels that the honors designation needs to stay- then it should- the class has inspired others to particpate more fully in their other classes so they can participate in racerelations.
I work with many of these kids, I know they can do the work, I have a feeling that these older gentlemen who are arguing that it is too tough, are blinded by their prejudice regarding how these young men dress. Anyone who wears pant 20x too big can't possibly have a brain in their body!
I have been very frustrated however recently as upon being alerted that the closure of the class was on the table that these older members of the community overran the PTA meeting, allowing very few others to speak ( including the principal who is black) and lectured on Brown vs board/lynching/slavery etc, and refused to wrap up or give specific questions/suggestions when asked by PTA chair.
I came home and just cried- I was so frustrated- additionally students who came to the parent meeting in support of the class- were not allowed to speak and were in shock as they had never seen such anger directed at ( mostly white parents) ..
I want to keep the lines of dialog open, but how do you deal with bullies?
These men are very articulate ( even though they don't get to the point) and cry racisim every time they were asked to finish up.
personally I don't think community members if they haven't been asked to participate should over run the parent group meetings.
Unfortunately there apparently isn't a precedent to limit their time-and while I have been asked to be on the board next year- I am afraid that I will allow them to push my buttons as I don't have patience to wait until they decide we can get back to the agenda.
any suggestions? thoughts? should it be canceled because it doesn't "teach to the test"? because it is above basic requirements?</p>


<p>There are different issues here. One is procedure for speaking at the PTA, the other is the class itself.</p>

<p>For speaking at public meetings of our school board, when it is clear that many members of the public are interested in speaking, the secretary is asked to keep a sign up sheet; speakers are allowed to speak for only 3 minutes. The rule is ruthlessly enforced. In the past, it has worked quite well.</p>

<p>Our school offers a class that deals with the same themes, but it is a college class available to 12th graders. The instructor comes to the school but is a prof at our state uni.</p>

<p>I think the class should be an elective, so that those who are concerned about passing state tests can have the option of either taking it or not. It should be an honors class to attract the more thoughtful members of all communities. Only this way can real, thoughtful dialogue happen.</p>

<p>our school district board meetings do limit those testifying to three minutes- and no response is given from board- you just say your piece and you are cut off- sometimes folks go on longer but they don't usually have to be yanked out of there.
THis was a pta meeting- and the president ( who isn't white) is very soft spoken and has a quiet calm demeanor-. She did try and get several people to finish up after they had gone on too long- but was called racist-
I think that what they need to do- is have notices out side where the meeting is going to be held that remind community members that it is a school meeting for parents and teachers and while they are welcome- they need to wait until after the agenda is discussed/or when invited to speak.
I think everyone- also needs to be limited to a few minutes to express their opinion, and that we should let everyone who wants to contribute participate before those who have already given their $.02- speak again ( and again)
This is my first year at the school and I suspect that the previous chair was a little more forceful in leading the meeting- she was not in attendance the other night however- and that might have contributed to those taking advantage of the current chairs personality</p>

<p>I agree that the class should remain honors- there are so many ways that graduation requirements have been dumbed down, that I think it is a real insult to the intelligence of our young people to assume that , that is what they need, or that they benefit
It is listed as an elective for juniors or seniors and a B from a previous class is required.
thanks for your thoughts</p>


<p>Marite's suggestion sounds like it would work. Nobody can cry racism if the rules of order are published for all to see, prior to the start of any meeting. These rules should apply to ALL meetings. How formal are you meetings? Do you follow Robert's Rules? I like using Robert's Rules because it forces participants to surface their issues quickly.....call for a motion......brief discussion.....either the motion carries or it doesn't, and you move on. If there is a heated issue that requires further detailed discussion, a committee should be formed and a separate meeting should be scheduled. There is no place for bullying in a meeting and your president shouldn't feel pressured into listening to tireless rants. Call for the motion......call for the question....and move on! Buy your new President a gavel and teach her to use it without restraint. </p>

<p>Re: the class. Why does the class have to be honors level? Maybe you explained that and I missed it. If so, I'm sorry. But, IMHO, if a class is teaching something as critical as race relations AND the desired outcome is to better integrate your school while also giving AfAm students a betetr sense of their abilities to achieve, you might better serve this group by allowing all children to enroll in the class. I would imagine that the AfAms who are taking honors level classes have already realized their own abilities....or are making strides in that direction. It would seem that the audience you most need to target would be those who have never touched an honors level class and don't feel that they are worth of such classes. </p>

<p>I can guess that one might argue that if they're really interested in the Race Relations class, they'll enroll (although it is Honors) and keep up. In the end, they might just do well in the class, which will given them the confidence needed to pursue additional Honors level classes. I can really see this side of it. If I were in attendance at your Board meeting, I would have said "the idea is to ATTRACT AfAm kids to the Honors program by creating classes that are of particular interest to them.....helping them to do wel in the class....and then encouraging them to take additional Honors Level classes". </p>

<p>The parents may argue that Race Relations is important enough to have in it's own right, not as a draw to the Honors program. </p>

<p>Frankly, I think ANYONE should be able to keep up in a Race Relations class. It's not Math or Science, which require some sort of foundation. You pay attention, you read and you do the homework......how hard can that be? </p>

<p>It might have been a good idea to have the teacher of this class introduce the class via an "All Student" workshop......just to wet their whistle on the topics to be covered. Then, any student who wants to continue with the class can enroll for it at the Honors Level. This way, everyone gets the benefit of the workshop.....and those who want to take it to the next level can do so. </p>

<p>Did anyone black stand up the to people with the hatred and issues? That probably would have been very helpful. Do you have a Multicultural parents group? If not, you need one. Things can be introduced to this group first. Then, this group can "sponsor" you to the larger AfAm community with an endoresement of the proposal. And, if things still get heated, it's better to have another AfAm parent to thell these guys to sit down and shut up. :)</p>

<p>"It is listed as an elective for juniors or seniors and a B from a previous class is required."</p>

<p>Oh, so it's not as easy as just "signing up" for the Honors class. There's a prerequisite? Hmmmm.....that does change my opinion. Kind of like preaching to the choir, isn't it?</p>

<p>What % of the AfAm kids in your school are currently qualified to take this class?</p>

<p>thanks for your responses momsdream they are very helpful
We do have PAASE ( parents for african american student excellence)which is a parents group that have the interests and goals of AA students as their focus- some of them were in attendance- but they are viewed by some in the larger community to be "elitist" and so they aren't listened to any more than the white parents.
It would be funny if it wasn't so sad- but even though several teachers who stood up with their department were AA- even though the principal and the main vice principal are both AA- one older woman was angry that the adults in the building weren't black....</p>

<p>It is a good idea to have more communication from the PAASE parents- we need to work together more- I will brainstorm how we can improve communication
good suggestions thank you</p>

<p>I don't know what the numbers are for a previous B in a history class- I suspect it depends on the teacher-
That is a good question-I know my daughter is getting Bs in history and a couple other of her classes-( she had straight A's last semester)
Since she has been in special ed for 6 years (and isn't this year) and also never seems to have any homework- I think it is probably easier to get above a C than it should be.
I think for her teacher anyway- as long as you attend class and don't have a snarky attitude you get a good grade-</p>


<p>I'm surprised nobody asked how many AfAm students qualified for the class. That would be the foremost question in my mind. Goes to show, these people who have so much anger about this don't seem to have put much thought into it. What if MOST of the AfAm students qualify....</p>

<p>We have a similar class at our high school. And it does carry an honors weight AND a non-honors weight. The weight designation is determined by the amount of additional papers, oral presentations, group leader designations, additional essay questions answered on exams and so forth. The same procedure is followed for physics vs. honors physics, spanish iv vs. AP Spanish... Classes are taught at the high school level on the 4x4 block so some classes have been blended with regards to time and space constraints. But the constraints have allowed a mixture of honors with non-honors students which when the end-of-the-course and end-of-the-year testing indicated (last year) scores rose as a whole for each and every blended class.</p>

<p>Of course, many of those non-designated honors students went on this year to take one or more honors courses, something they might not have attempted in the past. While offering a potential "hot issue" class, it has truly benefitted all those involved. And it has been supported by a very diverse community in a small, rural southern town. The local hs here is about 45% African-American, 53% White and 2% other (that is how hispanic, asian, native american...are designated by the district here). Now that was an eye opener for us!</p>

<p>Rather than the class being offered by the social studies department, it is taught by one of the most loved and respected English Lit teachers. The kids have waitlists for the class, so it is being favorably responded to.</p>

<p>I think a time limit at the PTA meetings for comments and agenda issues would be in order.</p>


<p>I will find out- I was really at the meeting to advocate for another program that is percieved as being elitist
an environmental studies class- that doesn't really fit into a category
Some of the work they do is field research but in the classroom it involves planning the training and trips so it is more occupational- so doesn't neatly fit into category- and the district likes categories!</p>

<p>They have a good participation of AA students- about half are AA as they work with the african american scholars program.
My daughter isn't participating, but an outdoor ed program helped her turn the corner in involvement in school & I want to see the program continue and expand rather than be relegated to after school- when some students who could really benefit may be working or in tutoring.
My daughter saw herself as a failure- but by learning to take controlled risks through outdoor ed, she learned that it was ok to make mistakes and that if she kept focused she would succeed.
I think something that teaches kids success away from deskwork, that they can then bring those skills back to the classroom, is invaluable- even if it isn't taught on the WASL.
THat is why I was so frustrated- it wasn't just that I had to listen to a diatribe about Brown vs Board, but that I didn't get to share my daughters experience, until most of the people had already left.
Oh well- I keep trying :)</p>

<p>I think for the RaceRelations class which does have enough students registered to offer two sections ( it is being cut because it doesn't address the state standardized testing- not apparently because not enough AA take the class)
could be modified for a regular grade and an honors grade- but that it is very clear that even if you are not going to do the extra work of honors that you can't disrupt the class.
Some schools have all their honors classes run that way- and I wonder if that is what the district is aiming at?</p>

<p>""It is listed as an elective for juniors or seniors and a B from a previous class is required."</p>

<p>Hmmm. While I understand the point of the white parents who want the class to be honors and weighted, I do see why the black parents are upset.</p>

<p>The problem is that probably very few black students are taking honors courses and many would not qualify for that particular class.</p>

<p>If you were to find out the average gpas of black students at the high school, your jaw would probably drop because the gpas are so low. The same would go for the numbers of black students taking honors classes. The numbers of such black students who are getting "B"s or higher in honors courses also would be shockingly low.</p>

<p>For instance, S is in an overwhelmingly black h.s. and is the only black male in his entire class to qualify for NHS! I think that only about 10 black males out of about 500 students qualify for NHS, which is virtually a given for college-bound white and Asian students (and most of the white and Asian students at the school are college-bound).</p>

<p>My advice would be to get a committee together of people on both sides of the issue. Have a discussion facilitated by a professional who is familiar with race relations. Give everyone a chance to speak. Give everyone a chance to listen. Allow the time -- weeks even a couple of months -- to make a decision.</p>

<p>I would bet money that there's a solution that can be found that would meet the needs of people on both sides. Perhaps, for instance, the class can be offered as honors -- with extra work required for the honors students -- or as a regular elective.</p>

<p>But do keep an open mind. I don't think that either side is wrong or racist for advocating their viewpoints.</p>

<p>I also am very impressed that your school district has been offering such a valuable course on an issue that so many people refuse to discuss at all. That may be the common ground that the discussion can start from.</p>

<p>The interesting thing about the blended honors and non-honors classes is the student can change their minds early in the term. So maybe student originally signed up as a non-honors but has come to realize they can do the work and are up to the challenge. And many of the students do change from non to honors in this class. It is an elective class open to any and all. The prereq recommended in English 9,since there is a great deal of writing.</p>

<p>A class which has lot of writing, lots of reading, much discussion and waitlists with kiddos of all abilities....a teacher's dream come true. Now if they could get this "contagious learning" to filter over to the physics and chem, there would be a lot of happy campers in our neck of the woods!</p>


<p>I think things have been misunderstood
It isn't the district that is offereing the class
the history teacher designed it a few years ago and the district is canceling it
It isn't the parents that are upset- it is community members from outside the building who read articles in teh paper that say the school is segregated. LIke many issues the loudest voice gets the most press- and reporters seem to be parroting what they hear at Starbucks- not what they know from interviewing students and parents.</p>

<p>I don't think the parents are racist if what they want is for their students who have a lower GPA to take the class.
Who I thought is racist are the community members who have advanced degrees but don't think that black students can live up to those standards
and I think it is racist for a black retired professor to call me racist when they don't know anything about me other than that I am white-
They also called the environmental ed teacher racist- when she expanded the program to include anyone who wanted to particpate- when she linked up with AA scholars program and supported the students in fundraising so that no one was turned down for lack of funds to participate.
( just checking on data the principal sent me)
the AA attendance rate is 93%
The cumulative grade for AA students across all grades is 2.6( hmm- but is this lower or higher than other schools- cause this is all AA students even the ones who don't attend class)
for Asian ( and this includes lots of ESL)3.5
Caucasian 3.5
Amer Indian 3.3
Latino 3.2
For spring semester last year
% of grades given
14.1% of African Am students received As( 591)
32.6% received B's ( 698)
50.6% received C's ( 642)
53.8% received incomplete(21) ( this doesn't seem right- how can it be 53.8 % if only 21 students received an incomplete?)
( I am going to have to go back and ask some questions)</p>


<p>Just my opinion, of course....</p>

<p>But, I wonder what the benefit is of having a Race Relations class for which the vast majority of AfAm kids won't qualify? Are the grades above (in your post) in History or are they grades in general? Did 32.6% of the AfAm kids receive Bs in History? If so, only 32.6% qualify for the class. However, if that % reflects ALL Bs given, the # of Bs for History can be much lower. </p>

<p>I just don't see how filling a Race Relations class with a room full of white students is productive.....especially when you have a large black population that has been shut out of the class, by design. You're further segregating the school. (Not YOU - EK, but the collective YOU - everyone who supports it).</p>

<p>Interesting point, momsdream. I was approaching the issue from the other perspective: how to attract non-African-Americans to the class so that it is not perceived as designed to give struggling AA students an easy way to earn high grades and so that a meaningful conversation can take place.<br>
The trick is how to have students from all different groups in the same classroom. I confess I don't know the answer. A school-wide forum that is not open to the public at large might be a way to explore this issue. No grandstanding, no accusatory speeches. Can it be done?</p>

<p>I understand - MD- I think I am going to advocate at the district level to retain the class if the class could be at an optional honors level to broaden participation.
The grades are for all students across grade levels and all classes.
I dont' really read statistics- they have about 1650 students
and most kids take 6 courses. so I guess if 591 As were given but that was jsut 14% of the grades given to Aa students then it could be jsut a hundred or so AA students that were getting straight A's?
This is also ( I just checked) for the 2003-2004 year- I would love to see how the kids are doing this year. They have a new principal- but he is working hard to hold everyone accountable-including himself- the former principal has some great ideas- but she was south african and I think had difficulty getting along with critical groups of parents</p>