Infuse African-American heritage in all classrooms

Statement to Curriculum Committee, SFUSD Jan. 20, 2010

As we look forward to new directions in public education as the President mentioned today, we must turn to the research-based strategies to advance the far below basic students to high levels of proficiency.
I had the opportunity to host a symposium that featured the most advanced instructional technology geared to address the culturally responsive needs of that population on the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. The staff did not see fit to attend so I’d like to bring the board into an awareness of how to truly improve student outcomes, even in an environment of declining resources.
We should start with the basic. SFUSD does not include Black History Month on its academic calendar, despite bragging about having 19 language immersion programs.
It has never in my 20 years of dealing with the district, ever observed Black American Day as required by the Education Code:
37221. Unless closed by the governing board pursuant to paragraph
(13) of subdivision (a) of Section 37220, the public schools shall
remain open on, but shall celebrate with appropriate commemorative
exercises, the following holidays:
(d) March 5, the anniversary of the death of Crispus Attucks, the
first black American martyr of the Boston Massacre, known as “Black
American Day” on which day schools shall include exercises and
instruction on the development of black people in the United States.
To make the maximum use of these opportunities, a comprehsnive infusion policy is suggested by the research.
In 2008, I conducted a study entitled Black Heritage as Gap Closer: Educator Capacity to Provide Culturally Responsive Instruction in Social Studies as the keynote for the California Council for the Social Studies.
We found that only ten percent of California teachers could correctly provide culturally-responsive instruction.
If standards-based education is seen as the most effective way to achieve accountability, then we must bring it to the skills which most directly affect the students who need good teaching and materials the most.
I urge you to review and take action to assure that equal opportunity is provided, particularly using federal and state resources.
You may have heard that the oldest black book store in the country is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2010. Yet most schools in San Francisco Unified are not buying culturally responsive materials there, despite having the premiere resource in the country in its backyard.
The President and Office of Management and Budget have prioritized using stimulus funding to create jobs and improve business in depressed communities. The Washington Post reported yesterday that only 2.5 percent is being spent with black-owned businesses like Marcus Books. The National Black Chamber of Commerce has filed a complaint against the state of California for spending less than one percent with black-owned businesses. We can meet the educational and the economic goals by doing the right thing, particularly in a district which was founded by an African-American entrepreneur, William Alexander Leidesdorff in 1848.