What part of this excerpt from a newspaper article, do the affected parents and politicians not understand?

“The number of students taking the test for District 23 kindergarten classes, which includes schools in Brownsville, Brooklyn, increased from 78 last year to 94 this year. But as in previous years, too few kids qualified to open a single gifted class in four of the city’s 32 school districts, including Districts 7 and 12 in the Bronx and Districts 16 and 23 in Brooklyn.”

I wonder if Black and Latino parents (and their elected representatives) fully comprehend the implications of the above statement? How about this: Open the same amount of G & T classes in all 32 school districts? I can hear it: “it can’t be done”. But, between 2000-2003 we opened our own district funded G&T classes in CSD 29! And for those who say there are not enough G & T children* In places like Districts 7, 12, 16 and 23; well I found plenty as a high school principal!

*Really not sure what that means, since all children are gifted and talented in some way or another. The only question then is the modality (how it is expressed), the degree of discovery and development. In any event in the case of “G & T” kindergarten entrance evaluations; we are in fact testing the parent’s level of education, english language mastery, “pushiness”, awareness of how the system works, and their access to information and financial resources!

NY Daily News; 5/27/2015. “Public school students will learn this week if they were picked for coveted gifted programs”… http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/city-reveal-students-chosen-coveted-gift-programs-article-1.2238023?fb_action_ids=10205007427440519&fb_action_types=og.shares

Things I never stopped learning because of high school

You probably have seen the: “Things I never learned in high school” posting; it list several items that one allegedly did not learn in high school like “doing my taxes”; and ends with: “But thank my luck stars I can tell you all about the Pythagorean theorems” A skill a true star searcher (astrophysicist) might appreciate; but let me not get ahead of myself.

I have seen this item float around on social media for a while; but I think that the fact it is posted by people who are very smart, points to its importance as a measure of something very serious, and very deep. I actually think that the underlying theme here is anti-education, and anti-professional educator (but I will leave that alone for now). I would actually like to challenge these detractors to divide the USA into people who know (or who are even vaguely aware of) the Pythagorean theory, and those who never heard of it; and let us see the relative difference in the GNP of the two groups. This is the other reason I am concerned about certain groups adopting this belief system (even as a joke), for we know in education that algebra is the serious gate-keeper for advance STEM learning and careers.

It also points to a lack of understanding on the part of segments of our society as to the sequential and prerequisite building nature of concepts and skills that exist in formal education; and further how we construct knowledge in our brains. We didn’t learn calculus in the 3rd grade, but the mathematical algorithms and concepts that allow us to do calculus were necessarily learned there (that is why we often struggled with students doing high school math because of the many “holes” in their k-8 learning experience.) And needless to say, if you are struggling with inadequate elementary reading skills; every high school subject is a problem.

We could probably name thousands of things we did not learn in a finite high school (what kind of lousy school could teach you everything you ever needed to know in life!); in fact I am still learning things that I did not learn in high school; because I learned the requisite skills that allow me to learn; and (most important) I also learned how to be a learner. I for one am forever grateful for my teachers and k-12 education; everything I enjoy, what I am able to do, the way I live, the fact that I have been able to help others is a blessing of my K-12 education.

And so now (one of my hobbies), I am planting trees; but then I never learned to plant trees in high school; but I can read the instructions from the state agriculture department, and I did take biology, and so I understand the parts of the tree, I did take chemistry and so I understand all of the pH soil testing stuff; and I can read a calendar, count and measure, and so I can get that planting time-table-watering part right. Oh, I almost forgot I bought the tree and the land to plant it on, because I attended high school, which allowed me to go to college, and then to get a job. Man, am I glad I went to high school!

In public education, I would like to see more action and less talk from parents…

In NYC, there are legitimate calls for greater parent input, and representation on public education decision making councils.

These advocates are not wrong; and I would be the last to argue against parents having a greater voice in how our public schools engage with their children. For sure, they are making the largest commitment to a hope that the system succeeds! They also stand to lose the most of all stakeholders (their children’s future), if the system fails their child. My experience in public education has taught me that the best chance you have of convincing a stakeholder group to accept radical-progressive change, are the parents of the children for whom you are seeking that change! And so yes, I trust them above everyone else!

But parent political engagement with the public education system would probably not be at the top of my: “Things we need to do list”, when it comes to parent engagement. If we want to get the quickest, most effective, and most long lasting positive parent influence on the level of academic achievement by children. I would go big and audacious, by moving to close the little mentioned, and greatly understated: Parent Resource and Information Gap. Now, that would be a serious politically parent empowering act of the first order!

We need to help all parents to understand that an important part of a child’s academic success, and parallel to the public education system, is the informal education system. For those NYC parents who are in the know when it comes to informal education (IE), the advantage starts before the child starts school. These fortunate children are exposed to books (being read to), educational materials, toys and games; a nutritious diet, and the rich resources of the city’s many venues for learning. This turning the city into a large classroom continues up to and throughout pre-elementary and middle school years. Recently while reading an unrelated to education article in the New Yorker, I was struck by this paragraph:

“One recent morning on the Upper East Side, a troupe of two-year-olds, strapped into their strollers, sat around the grand entrance to the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Their nannies chatted in many languages—Spanish, Urdu, English. “This is my first time coming here,” one woman said. “Art class,” she added, nodding at her charge.”

This, I thought is the real meaning of a head-start! Some children in NYC are rapidly expanding their knowledge base, being intellectually stimulated and educationally accelerated through this IE system. Those pre-early-elementary school children who visit museums, cultural performing and graphic arts centers; engaging in art, dance and music programs and lessons, build up a wealth of knowledge, vocabulary, inquisitiveness, creativity and intellectual capital. Schools will then only serve to enhance and accelerated those IE learning gifts. And the longer those students remain in school the wider the gap grows. For those students on the positive side of the IE gap, they will start to out-perform (actually out-parent-pushing) their less fortunate peers in Pre-K. And of course those parents who are most aware of the power of IE will also pick the “right” school programs, or schools that will further nurture those IE accelerated talents. Further, these students are probably better able to escape a school environment that consist of a culture of: all-test-prep-all-the-time. This means they have a better chance of being exposed to an enriched, creative, thought provoking and exciting curriculum; which further widens the gap between them, and students who are not exposed to IE.

We need to fairly provide all parents with the real “rule book” for how to make their child academically successful; not the false rule book that says all learning takes place inside of a school. Let’s start early: Based on economic need, some parents, as part of prenatal education, and when leaving the hospital to take their new born babies home, should receive a “parent education resource manual”, and a package of books to later read to their child. Parental educational materials and classes should be made available through the child’s first year; and should parallel the attention given to the child’s physical health by pediatricians. We should share with parents the unwritten: “What children really need to know before starting school” list. Let’s be honest, pre-K—Kindergarten children are “sorted” (not necessarily for reasons of tracking, but for teaching purposes) by a rubric consisting of: Vocabulary (the size and quality of it), knowledge of colors, letters, numbers, language-concepts mastery, word recognition and writing skills. But in reality, in almost every case we are really measuring the amount of exposure, and “teaching” provided by the parent.

But schools also can’t wait while parents are being made aware of the importance of our IE system. Schools must be provided with the resources and personnel to essentially step in and serve as providers of a systemically planed IE program; especially in places where the parents are unable or unwilling for whatever reasons to engage in these activities. To start: art, music, dance, drama, museum study, performing arts exposure, access to technology (not just for test-prep), creative writing, science project learning, foreign language and library (and live full-time librarians) programs, must be established, enriched and expanded in every school. Establish K-8 applied STEM labs (with a dedicated science teacher). Schools can organize family trips to museums (In CSD 29 we sponsored evenings at the museums.) Joint parent-student STEM projects. After-school and summer programs could be a wonderful mix of academic with creative, performance and inspirational work.

In my particular area of educational interest, I would like to see high school parents act less “friendly” and more “parently” with their children. These young people are developing, and are not fully developed emotionally. They need guidance, standards, and accountability. Parents must insist their children get to school every day, and to get there on time. They must insist that their children behave themselves, and rigorously invest in their own learning (set up an entire family reading-study 2-3 undisturbed hours an evening). Further, I would like parents to intensify their involvement with their child’s education, rather than “slack off” as they move up, and into the high school. Finally, parents must ensure that students are studying hard (not just doing homework) and seriously investing in their own future by applying themselves to their school work. Help the young people to understand that they are in a global competition for achieving a meaningful and productive adult life in this world; school is not a fun-pleasure boat, it is a life raft! A parent can choose to negatively enable their child, if it is the parent’s plan to take care of that child for life!

While we “wait” for schools to improve (reform after reform); young lives can’t wait; students should perform at their best no matter what school they attend. Parenting necessarily begins at home; and if we don’t help parents to perform effectively in their primary job of educational parenting, where they serve as the first, most direct and consistent teacher; then they can attend a 1,000 meetings a year, but their children will suffer, and fail academically.


My trip to Canada—Crystal Schloss-Allen

I just wanted to say thank you so much for the traveling prayers. We made it there and back safely.
The difference began at the border. The crossing was uneventful and boring- the Canadian guard was pleasant, didn’t do a thorough check of our vehicle or ask any strange questions. Even driving throughout Canada that first day, it didn’t seem strange or scary, though we were nervous for a while about being pulled over. We actually didn’t see any cops other than at the scene of an accident. Eventually what calmed our fears was seeing family and our experience with the teens there.

Our first stop was Newmarket, ON- small town outside of Toronto. Using NYC as a reference, it is similar to the towns of Nassau County. My husband’s family lives in a middle class neighborhood, three young and hilarious teenage boys lived there and they were something different from NYC teens of the same age- they were still kids. Unlike Black American teens of that age, they were honestly just kids- the way kids are supposed to be. They had no fear. They were aware of race and racism but they were not beaten down or beaten back by it.

Our second stop was in Mississauga- it is also considered a suburb but again using NYC as a reference, it is more like Queens or even the downtown Brooklyn area than anything else. It is quite urban but not quite the metropolis of Toronto. I got to hang out with my handsome little cousins age 14 at the towering height of 6′ 6″ and age 12 and average height. This big towering teen, like the other teen boys, though tall was just a super-sized child. Still a teen in attitude and not beaten down by life. Teens of that stature in NYC I would be so afraid for but in Canada he is allowed something that Black American teens are not, to be a child and enjoy it. After I went to church with my cousins we went to a birthday party/BBQ and two of the most amazing things happened.

First, all of these teens (about 8 of them) after eating went for a walk by themselves to the park- all of the parents agreed and none were worried. It amazed me when the mom of the birthday boy excused herself to go see what the boys were up to and all of the other moms said- “oh leave them, you don’t want to be the weird mom.” Can you imagine that happening in the states? The image of 8 very tall teenage black boys walking to the park and not one black mother worried.

The second and equally amazing thing that happened was I met an off duty officer/ basketball coach. Now I didn’t know he was a cop at all, he didn’t have any of the tell-tale American signs. Now not saying all cops do this but they show the signs typically one way or the other regardless of race- carrying a weapon or badge, looking around or on edge. I have friends who are cops and they can’t turn it off. Now here is what had me floored, he asked the lady of the house if he had to move his car into her driveway because he didn’t want to get a ticket. Now in most of the residential neighborhoods we went to in Canada, after a certain time of night your car should be in or in front of your driveway. Not sure why but that’s what I was told. But the fact that a police officer was worried about a ticket in the neighborhood he works in had me amazed. Not saying all officers do not follow and uphold the laws they protect but some of the ones I know and have known, don’t always do. They know that the sticker on their dash will protect them so they bend and break some of those rules and they have never worried about a ticket.

There is a stark difference between the police and the minority community in Canada, than there is here in the US. I asked about police brutality, everyone I talked to said, it could never happen here. They did tell me about racial profiling that may happen to people who are black and drive nice cars but it typically happened in Toronto so now they are starting a body camera pilot program. I had to look up more on the cases in that area and there were so few in comparison to the US. So few in Toronto compared to NYC that it makes me want to move there. It seems as if Canada is still a sanctuary to this day. There is something to be said when a place fills you with hope instead of fear in just a few days. I plan on going back later in the summer for vacation because I enjoyed my time there so much.

Well, who knew? I think that once you pray; God takes the prayer, and the prayer no longer belongs to you (Now, that’s a good reason to let all fear go!) We can never predict the message, or the messenger!

Lord, I Prayed A Crazy Prayer This Morning…

What kind of crazy world is this where I can without any pre-thought or planning, during the course of my morning prayers, pray that a former student and her husband don’t get pulled over by the police. He is a Marine veteran, and she is a college administrator; and to my knowledge they don’t engage in anything that even comes close to criminality. And yet I fear that they could be stopped on their holiday trip by police and I am afraid for them… Although always very polite and respectful, this is a young lady who did not hesitate to tell her principal what she thought (whether he wanted to hear it or not! :-) And so, would she feel she had that same amount of rights, respect and freedom with a police officer? I wondered and worried… “Please, don’t go near the speed limit”, I texted her…What I did not text: “And if you are pulled over by the police keep that brilliant mouth of yours closed!” Oh, my life (thinking of Ralph Ellison), as an “Invisible Man”, and our lives as Invisible people!
I thought that they could be stopped, not because of the content of their very good characters, but rather because of the color of their skin. In the end it is our skin color (linguistically speaking, an odd source of invisibility); that which we cannot change or hide, which first announces our presence, before we get a chance to speak, or reveal who we are under that skin. It is our skin color that will mark us for possible ill-treatment and/or death, and confine us to very little hope and expectation for receiving justice, even if the agents of the law act improperly in killing us.
Why am I, an American, praying such a prayer for other Americans?
Martin Luther King once said that: “Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in this nation”. Well, perhaps Sunday morning waking up prayer time, is the hour when God must hear the most segregated prayers of the day. For He must hear people like me who have included: “Black friends, family members or former students, not stopped by the police”, as part of their “traveling mercies” plea.
Yesterday’s legal lynching in Ohio surely confirms the necessity for such a prayer. Two unarmed Black men were bullet-lynched by police officers who have sworn to serve and protect the white citizenry from the enemy Black community. The judge (a solid member of said White citizenry); did his own version of serving and protecting his own; he enthusiastically proclaimed that you can print all of the T-shirts you want with the words: “Black Lives Matter!”, but I get the chance to rule in my court, that Black lives don’t really matter. It seems that the only chance a police-murdered Black man has to receive a chance at justice is to be killed in Baltimore, and therefore have a state’s attorney (Marilyn Mosby) who is actually going to challenge police criminality (and even she is under serious attack from both the liberal-center-conservative “objective” news media.) But it is impossible for every Black person in America to arrange to be mistreated and/or murdered by the Baltimore police; and so where does that leave us? With a list of terrible choices:
Death comes if you run,
Or if you don’t run;
hands up shot, hands down shot,
in the back, or in the front,
inside a car, or outside of a car,
you will be harmed, armed or unarmed.
And so, (you can pick more than three, but you must pick at least three!)
Pick your preferred mode(s) of death and injustice. (Pick 1 is mandatory)
Pick 1: “Choke hold”, 137 bullets or a seat-beltless “rough ride”.
Pick 2: The investigations that don’t have any serious intention of really investigating.
Pick 3: the not so grand juries who “ham it up”, (deliberate for appearance purposes only.)
Pick 4: the grand jury ham/sham show conducted and led by an indifferent and/or less than enthusiastic prosecutor who does not see you as the public he is charged to defend.
Pick 5: An “objective” news media; task with turning the victim into a familyless-friendless villain, a nonperson, hinting that they are worthy of their death, and not worth the effort of a real investigation. And of course they must turn the murderous event into an act of valor; humanizing the police officers.
Pick 6: A jury of the murdering police officer’s peers and prayers, upholding their sworn oath to prejudice and subjectivity.
Pick 7: A hanging judge in a hoodless white robe dyed black, (for appearance purposes only.)
Pick 8: The obligatory DOJ investigation; but in the end there is no hope of Union Troops being sent to protect the Black citizenry.
This is when a choice is no choice,
a chance is no chance,
it is when the hope of justice is without hope.
When all we have are expanded traveling mercy prayers and protest,
but not a hint of the protection of the law.
Who will protect you from the law makers acting as law breakers?
Perhaps the NAACP should start hanging those banners again:
“A Man Was Lynched Yesterday”;
only add: “Alleged to be an American”

The Real Head Start!

This article (http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-museum-of-unnatural-history?intcid=mod-latest) is on a completely different topic. But my “informal-education learning gap” sounded an alarm when I read this paragraph:

“One recent morning on the Upper East Side, a troupe of two-year-olds, strapped into their strollers, sat around the grand entrance to the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Their nannies chatted in many languages—Spanish, Urdu, English. “This is my first time coming here,” one woman said. “Art class,” she added, nodding at her charge.”

Two-year-olds being exposed to museums and museum classes on a regular basis. With this wonderful head start, I wonder how children with much less exposure will be able to compete with them? And what of the children of the “nannies”, who is taking them to the Museum? This, I think is the real head-start in life.



Full disclosure, so as to not get in trouble with my former counseling colleagues. I spent years as a “mandated reporter”; I don’t endorse (and never used) corporal punishment. I truly believe that the best way to get a young person to fully understand a bad decision, is through a thoughtful dialogue; so that they can see and understand, the error of their ways. Your objective with this approach is to have the young person make a better decision, the next time, particularly when you are not around to stop or correct them. This in many ways is the big learning objective in high schools; and can in no way be taught through the use of physical force. And so after spending years of having discussions with young people about good decision-making, making sensible and safe choices, and giving them techniques for metacognitive practices (to think about their own thinking process). Helping them to comprehend the “after factor”; after you do this, then what can happen? Yes, as the song goes, young people are our future, but one of the hardest things to teach them is how a present decision can positively or negatively affect their future. But with all of my formal training, experience, certifications and knowledge of developmental psychology, etc.; I still can’t bring myself to condemn that Baltimore mom.
Several people are highly critical of her because she demonstrably removed her child from those dangerous Baltimore streets. And many of those same people, and the news media, conveniently missed the concept that motivated her actions: “I did not want him to become another Freddie Gray“. For sure, some of the concerns raised as to her technique are not without some merit. And then there is the issue of the national media exploiting this mother’s fears and public actions for their own twisted marketing purposes. Like the lack of concern shown for Mr. Gray and his family; let’s be clear, the national media care nothing about this mom and her son; except to make them tragic, dysfunctional cartoon figures on national display.


The ideal of course is that we elder men would be in charge of those young men; and they would move and act only on our direction and authority; and I hesitate to judge her from a distance because I don’t know if she saw herself as the only option in that particular moment. Parenting can’t always be planned out as a PR perfect event. I do believe (based on her comments) that she clearly did not feel that she could approach the police to help her. A reality that has gone undiscussed by the giddy talking news heads; where were her citizen’s: “serve and protect” options?
After ten years as an urban principal, I have learned to be less judgmental of parents who must take on the awesome task of parenting, while at the same time struggle with many difficult challenges in their own lives. But further, I am also careful in my criticism, due to the “hypocrisy factor”; because quite frankly I got my behind whipped in my youth. And with no cell phones invented then to record what took place in my house; my mother’s disciplinary actions went unnoticed, except for my publically improved behavior. Now, I did not like whippings as a child; and learned quickly, and early, unlike my brother, to avoid them by doing the right thing. But I find it very hard to believe that all of the many critics of this mom led a whipping free life!
Many can criticize this mom, because of social media, and the fact that she did not wait to get home. But looking at the video, to be honest; I would have been happy to trade one of my classic whippings for those few “glancing licks” that young gentleman was fortunate to receive. I got real Caribbean whippings; and so there were no misses (you made it worse if you moved, or engaged in “rope a dope” techniques); and no glancing off target licks. (Your behind, and not your head was the target; so that nothing would affect your getting good grades in school!)
But I can understand why this Baltimore mom is an easy target; after all maybe she did not take the course on Parent Effectiveness Training (PET) and therefore did not learn the techniques of correction through conversation; or maybe she was not exposed to the latest theories of dialogical discipline. I saw a mother (using her hands) who was passionately trying to save her son; from himself, and from a cruel racist world that is designed to destroy him and her. It’s nice that the young man saw himself as a type of political actor. But in these types of situation (and he lacking all of the necessary information as to what can happen) I think and trust that his mother should be the one to make the decision as to how he can safely engage in non-dangerous protest. We must all keep in mind that he is her minor child; and she (correctly and sensibly in my view) made a determination that his actions would put him in danger. Folks are cheering on somebody else’s child to go out into the street, throw rocks and engage the police in a highly volatile and dangerous situation. I guess it is very easy to be so sacrificing when it is not your child!


This mom is doing her best; with what she knows, to save her child, and if we want to see better, than we should all do a better job as a village, to collectively take on the task of helping her, and her child to move to a more empowering place of child rearing.
Working in education has taught me that there is nothing magical about parenting. Over the years I have found that most parents are struggling to do their best, in the best way they know how; and that most parents really do a better job than they think they are doing.
One of my mother’s favorite sayings comes to mind: “I don’t care what other parents are allowing their children to have and/or to do; you will learn to live with what you have, and you will definitely do as I tell you to do”. Those lessons of delayed gratification, respect for authority, and discipline, have served me well as an adult; and for that I am forever grateful. I think there is some sense making to have an adult guide a child through the developmental (and often conflicting-confusing) stages of childhood; or why are we not a fully independent acting species at birth?
I don’t like, but I really don’t care about the news media’s negative spin on this mom’s actions. And to be honest I really don’t care much about the young man’s hurt feelings. As a Blackman living in Baltimore (America for that matter) he faces many more serious and deadly dangers then being embarrassed by his mother. My fear is for those children in Baltimore who did not have any parent come out to look for them; or maybe the parent didn’t even know where they were, and perhaps maybe didn’t care. My concern is for the young people I saw as a principal, who showed up on Parent-Teacher conference day alone, to pick up their report cards; because as one young man told me: “Mr. Johnson, I am here, because nobody is going to come to the school”. The young people who I took to dinner after their high school graduation because no one from their family showed up. Yes, we should work with that Baltimore mom; but at least she showed up!