Two members of the Scotland County Board of Education returned from the North Carolina Caucus of Black School Board Members annual meeting last week charged to “change the course” of education for students of color.
“If you look across the board at statistics, the statistics as far as black males achieving are really low,” said board Chairman Charles Brown. “Sometimes the black male is out of school, he’s suspended, he’s not achieving - why are all of these things happening and what can we do to change this course that’s been in place for such a long time?”
Brown and board Vice-Chairman Terence Williams attended the meeting, held from Oct. 4-6 at N.C. A&T University in Greensboro. Williams serves as caucus president.
The meeting consisted of a series of panels and discussion sessions, with participants including school board members and superintendents from around the state and N.C. A&T professors.
Chief among the topics discussed were the role of STEM education on black students, as well as the assimilation of black history into school curricula, in keeping with the caucus’ mission.
“The overall purpose of the caucus is to highlight and bring to the fore the education of black students in our school systems and to make sure that we recognize the accomplishments of black people,” Brown said. “When you think about it, we have Black History Month in February and you highlight the accomplishments of a lot of blacks during that time, but during the course of the year, do the accomplishments of black intellectuals, teachers, professors, people that have done great things - is that an ongoing thing? How much in current textbooks are black accomplishments noted?”
The conference was themed “Rethinking African-American Education and Leadership in the 21st Century.” As such, exposure of minority students to intensive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs was also a hot topic.
“The number one thing that was emphasized this year was STEM, which is the biggest driving force in education all over our country, and how the STEM program is affecting black students and how many of them are being exposed to these higher standards of education and rigor,” said Brown. “We’re talking about applying the hard subjects that take a lot more study, a lot more time and application in not only classroom theory but in practical, hands-on kinds of things.”
Scotland County Schools Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Pamela Baldwin also participated as a panelist at the meeting, discussing the new Common Core curriculum and its implications for minority students.
“The concern that has been voiced is because of the increase in rigor, we are also concerned about there being an achievement gap that will either continue to widen or create other challenges for us as we try to narrow that gap,” said Baldwin.
The Common Core curriculum is being implemented this year nationwide. Rather than providing students with a brief overview of many different subjects, the Common Core focuses on incisive analysis of a more selective collection of topics.
In addition to monitoring student progress on an individual level and holding high expectations for all students, panelists agreed on the importance of presenting subjects that are relevant to students of all backgrounds.
“Our curriculum, even if it’s not Common Core, should be relevant to all students in that we bring in everyone’s historical facts, involving students from all areas in the conversation so that they feel some relevance and connection to the material,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin will brief the Scotland County Board of Education on the panel’s discussion and her own research on the topic at the board’s November meeting.
During the meeting, Brown and Williams were also able to visit the site of the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins, now the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.
“In Greensboro, there was a group of civil rights workers, and they sat in at the Woolworth’s store - it became a national thing,” Brown said. “That Woolworth’s store is now a museum, and we had the chance, because they were having a black expo at the museum on Friday, we attended after our conference was over. At that museum they have a lot of posters and stories and pictures of famous black people who have done well: Muhammad Ali, Althea Gibson, Dr. Ben Carson.”