KANSAS CITY, MO - Students, educators, and activists joined Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Oliver Brown, plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education, and founding president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, for an in-depth look at how public education is serving Black students, including how much, and how little, has changed since the 1954 Supreme Court decision.
Before and After Brown served as a reflection period on the struggles that brought the Supreme Court to reject a system that kept students of color locked into a separate, broken education system. More than 60 years after Brown, many communities in the US are still struggling with a persistent opportunity gap: Black students, on average, are still performing at roughly two grade levels lower than white students within the same district. Where district public schools aren't meeting the needs of the Black community, the panelists and students explored what can be done together to ensure continued quality, public school options.
Charter public schools, which are tuition free, open to the public, and held accountable to the same state and local standards and district-run schools, have emerged as a bright spot in the pursuit of high-quality education options for children of color.
My fathers legacy, and the mission which drives my work today, is that neither skin color, socioeconomic status, nor geography should determine the quality of education a child receives. It is up to us to ensure that this mission, cemented into law by the Supreme Court, is a reality in communities across the US, said Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Oliver Brown, plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education, and founding president and CEO of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research. We know that students are hungry to learn and rise to meet the expectations set for them. When we believe in students, they deliver. Lets work together to make sure that families have access to high-quality public school options in their communities.
The panel discussion took place at Kansas City's University Academy high school and was moderated by University Academy junior Tateanna Gravely-Moss. Other panelists included Charnissa Holliday-Scott, Kansas City attorney, Missouri Charter Public School Association board member, and former educator; Dr. Clem Ukaoma,University Academy principal and educator with over thirty years experience; and Jordan Sanders,University Academy student, senior class president, vice-chair of the mayors youth council, and gubernatorial campaign volunteer.
University Academy is one of 6,800 charter public schools serving nearly three million students in 43 states. In 2016, University Academy had the highest standardized state test scores in Missouri, including 100 percent advanced/proficient on the Algebra I exam.
The discussion highlighted the benefits that school choice can bring for Black families, many of whom have not had quality public school options in decades. Black parents have been one of the strongest proponents of charter schools, with 700,000 Black students attending charter schools nationwide.
A 2015 Stanford University study shows that low-income Black students in charter schools gain the equivalent of 29 extra days of learning in reading and 36 extra days of learning in math per year compared with their Black peers in traditional district schools.
I wish that instead of fighting against charter schools, leaders and those in power would come here and see what my school experience looks like every day, said Tateanna Gravely-Moss, a University Academy student and moderator of the panel.
My classmates and I don't care about labels like district or charter what we care about is that our school challenges us, supports us, and gives us clear direction for the future. In my neighborhood, University Academy does that, and more, said Jordan Sanders, a University Academy senior.
About the Black Alliance for Educational Options
The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) is a national non-profit education advocacy organization founded in 2000 by prominent Black educators, elected officials and civil rights activists. BAEOs mission is to increase access to high-quality educational options for Black children by actively supporting transformational education reform initiatives and parental choice policies that empower low-income and working-class Black families. For more information on BAEO visit http://www.baeo.org.
About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter movement. For more information, please visit www.publiccharters.org.
About the Missouri Charter Public School Association
The Missouri Charter Public School Association (MCPSA) exists to improve student performance and eliminate the achievement gap by ensuring access to quality charter public education options throughout the State of Missouri. As the respected voice of the public charter school sector, MCPSA advocates for supportive public policy, provides a free-flow of information via public relation strategies and encourages public engagement to ultimately reach a future where all children receive an equal education and are provided the tools they need to build bright futures.