Commentary on tension in the Madison Schools over “One Size Fits All” vs. “Increased Rigor”

Maggie Ginsberg interviews Brandi Grayson:

Can you give an example of what you’ve described as “intent versus impact?”

The Behavior Education Plan that the [Madison Metropolitan] school district came up with. The impact is effed up, in so many words, and that’s because the voices that are most affected weren’t considered. It’s like standing outside of a situation and then coming in and telling people what they ought to do and should be doing, according to your experience and perspective, which is totally disconnected from the people you’re talking to and talking at. In order to come up with solutions that are effective, they have to come from the people who are living in it. When I first heard about this Behavior Education Plan, I immediately knew that it was going to affect our kids negatively. But people sitting on that board thought it was an amazing idea; we’ll stop suspensions, we’ll stop expulsions, we’ll fix the school-to-prison pipeline, which is all bullcrap, because now what’s happening is the impact; the school is putting all these children with emotional and behavioral issues in the same classroom. And because of the lawsuit with all the parents suing for advanced placement classes and resources not being added, they’ve taken all the introduction classes away. They can’t afford it. So then our students who may need general science or pre-algebra no longer have that. So then they take all these students who aren’t prepared for these classes and throw them in algebra, throw them in biology and all together in the same class. And you know it’s very intentional because if you have a population of two percent Blacks at a school of two thousand and all the Black kids are in the same class, that is not something that happens by random. And then you have kids like my daughter, who is prepared for school and can do well in algebra, but she’s distracted because she’s placed in a class with all these kids with IEP issues who, based on the Behavior Education Plan, cannot be removed from the classroom. So what does that do? It adds to the gap.

Speaking of education, you’ve mentioned the critical need to educate young Black kids on their own history.

Our children don’t know what’s happening to them in school, when they are interacting in these systems. Whether it’s the system of education, the justice system, the human services system, the system within their own families—that’s programming them to think they’re inferior. We have to educate our kids so they know what they’re dealing with. In Western history, we’re only taught that our relevance and our being started with slavery, but we know as we look back that that’s a lie. That we are filled with greatness and magnificence and if our children can connect the link between who they are and where they’ve come, then they can discover where they’re going. But with that disconnection, they feel hopeless. They feel despair. They feel like this is all life has to offer them and it’s their fault and there’s no way out. We have to begin to reprogram that narrative at kindergarten on up. We have to teach our children the importance of reading and knowledge and educating yourself and not depending on the education of the system because it’s already biased, based on the very nature of our culture.

Related: Brandi Grayson.

Talented and gifted lawsuit

English 10

High School Redesign

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results. This is the core issue, one that has simmered for decades despite Madison spending double the national average per student.

Ironically, the April, 2015 Madison schools tax increase referendum includes a plan to expand two of the least economically diverse schools:

Van Hise Elementary / Hamilton Middle

Problem: With enrollment numbers on the rise, this combination elementary/middle school exceeded capacity in 2013 and 2014. Because the building is designed for a smaller student enrollment, simply adding classroom space is not a solution.

Proposed Solution: Relocating the library to the center of the building and dividing it into elementary and middle school spaces will free up seven classroom-sized spaces currently used for library activities. Est. Cost: $3,151,730 – View Plan Details.