Unable to Serve

I recently received an email that caused me to look at the education system from a different perspective. As a country we are failing to give our students the education that they need and deserve to stay competitive in the world.

There are three main expectations that the military has for someone to join. To be educated, physically fit, and have no criminal history. The first is one of the biggest reasons as to why people are unable to serve in the military. One out of four Americans do not have a high school diploma and even with a high school diploma some still lack the academic skills needed to join the military. The solution is for students to start receiving quality education as early as possible. They must be empowered with good information and have access to opportunities that provides them with competitive skills. Prekindergarten is a very important place to begin strengthening children’s cognitive skills. Studies show that students that start with a quality Pre K education have higher rates of high school graduation and lower rates of crime. I understand that children need hands on experiences early on in their education to engage them and keep them on track. C-STEM provides programs and activities that are hands-on, require critical thinking, problem-solving, and application of knowledge and skills as early as Pre K. We need to focus on what is best for our children as early as possible to prepare them to successfully navigate the maze of life’s journey. To be quite honest, we cannot start to early with educating our children, which means neonatal education is the best place to begin with ensuring that a child’s future is bright and full of promise.

The Reach for Higher Education

The great equalizer is ‘higher education’. It is well known that not everyone will obtain a college degree. Today, higher education whether a degree or certificate program, is required to take advantage of the tremendous work opportunities that currently exist or that are projected to be available in the not so distant future. C-STEM emphasizes the importance of education because it helps students develop critical thinking skills, unleash their creativity, and figure out what they are passionate about in life. It is important for educators to encourage students to embrace the journey of knowledge expansion. More than ever before, I am witnessing low skills jobs requiring increased technology, communication, and literacy skills which in some cases are not cultivated sufficiently during high school thus requiring post high school training. Studies show that the median income of a recent college graduate is $17,000 more than the median income of a high school graduate. Unfortunately, the gap continues to grow larger and is the reason First Lady Michelle Obama is pushing her new campaign “Reach Higher.” Her new movement emphasizes on getting more people to pursue an education past high school, whether it be professional training, community college, or a four-year university degree. The First Lady’s initiative combined with many others such as the work UNCF and C-STEM is doing, will increase the number of students considering and seizing opportunities that are available post high school through higher education.

Flipped Instruction 3.0

For many years C-STEM teachers have been utilizing online courses and resources to enrich STEM learning in their classrooms. Many have adopted this format to maximize classroom time with students and have provided students the framework and platform to maximize their out of class time to remain on track with school work and to get ahead with course work. I have found as well as many of the teachers I work with, that online courses supports the integration of relevant material to connect classroom learning to the real world. A relatively new find for me are the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) list that are free through different websites. Colleges and universities share their classes with these websites, and that is how the information of the courses are shared. An example of a course that is provided through the MOOC list is a Calculus course offered by the University of Michigan that is offered at no charge through Coursera (one of the websites that offer this courses). The online course allows teachers to have their students establish accounts and follow the curriculum throughout the semester. This is a great opportunity for educators to become more creative in the classroom because of the extra time they can build into the instructional day to reinforce concepts, engage students in project based learning to support application of their knowledge and skills as well as assess student proficiency beyond paper tests and quizzes. I have also found that MOOC lists are great for parents and mentors who are working on improving their child/children skill-sets in literacy and STEM content areas.

In the UK, the Department of Education published a report in June on how they could implement this type of medium into their classrooms. The study suggests that in the future, MOOC’s will not replace classroom teachers; however, they will become a staple used in classrooms around the world.

A Right to an Education

This year the Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to receive an education.”

Every year the Nobel Peace Prize is given to the person who has done the most for betterment of peace between nations, reduction or abolition of armies, and for holding and promoting peace congresses.

Yousafzai, 17, was shot when she was only 15 by Taliban militants. She sought education but because she was a girl it went against their beliefs and they shot her. Yousafzai traumatic experience did not cause her to waiver from her beliefs towards promoting rights to education for children and woman around the world. After receiving the award she becomes the youngest Nobel laureate ever.

Satyarthi, 60, is an activist against the exploitation of children around the world. He has helped millions of children by mounting raids on factories that forced children into labor as well as freeing and rehabilitating them.

“It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected,” said Satyarthi It will allow for children to learn that education will open doors and will affect generation to come.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/10/nobel-peace-prize_n_5963634.html?ir=World&utm_campaign=101014&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-world&utm_content=FullStory
Source: http://nobelpeaceprize.org/en_GB/laureates/laureates-2014/announce-2014/

STEM skills are in demand

Students in the state of Texas are not receiving the skills they need to stay competitive when it comes to finding a STEM related job. The students that lack the most proficiency in math and science are minorities. In 2013, 53% of Caucasian students in Texas that were in the 8th grade had proficiency in math compared to 21% by African American students and 29% by Hispanic students. By providing a strong foundation in math and science we can ensure that they are ready for college-level courses so that they can be successful in STEM related fields.  STEM jobs in Texas have continued to be in high demand.

Capture

Source: http://vitalsigns.changetheequation.org/#tx-Texas-Overview

2012 Commencement Speech: East Side High School

Class of 2012

When I look out at you, I am looking at me.

As I once sat where you sit today without knowing that this day would come, providing me an opportunity to speak with you on your graduation day.

My mind is flooded with memories of what my day was like when I graduated from East Side High School in 1989 and I sat where you sit today full of emotion and tears because I had worked so hard to cross that finish line.

And I have tried desperately to recall who my commencement speaker was and the speech that was delivered to my class, and I have no recollection, no memory.

So today, I have decided that I would not deliver a speech, that I would deliver a message

Because when I look out at you, I am looking at me.

And, I wonder would I have remembered my class commencement speaker had he or she shared something that I needed to here to addressed what was going on in my mind and my heart when I sat where you sit today.

In my message to you all, I hope to reassure you, inspire you, encourage you, challenge you, and tell you something that you need to hear from someone else to confirm for yourself that you are on the right track.

Some of you are afraid of the unknown. I am here to tell you that your fear is normal.  Don’t let it cripple or hinder you.  You will be okay.  Take the next step

Some of you do not have family to support you through college. Don’t let the lack of money or understanding stop you.  You will figure it out.  You will make it through.

Some of you are in doubt.  Know that within you are the skills and work ethic that is required to move forward towards your destiny. You are ready.

Some of you are worried about being successful.   The journey to reaching your goals will not be easy.  You will fail at some things, but don’t worry; you will rise and continue towards the finish line.

Some of you will be moving to a new city with no friends or family.  Your Faith in God will carry you through.

Some of you wonder if your life has purpose.  It does.  Everything happens in your life for a reason, season, or a lifetime.  You will honor each day and make the most of every opportunity.

Some of you have not decided what is next for you after this glorious day, might I suggest that you make a decision to take charge of your life by either applying to a college, the military, trade school, or for a job, and if you have not registered to vote, do so.

The bottom line in my message to you is to do something meaningful with your life.

I stand before you, having beat the odds. I grew up poor.  From Sunset Village to East Gate. I failed the second grade, I made it to the fifth grade without knowing my multiplication tables, I have been homeless, I finished high school in three years, I am the first to graduate high school and college in my immediate family, I earned my Ph.D., I am the CEO of my own company, I have authored two books, I have a wonderful husband, I have a beautiful church home, I am running for public office, and I have impacted the lives of more than 50,000 children.

I stand before you because I had teachers, who cared, inspired, encouraged, challenged, and held me accountable.

I stand before you as a living example that you can achieve with your life more than you ever dreamed for yourself.

I stand before you as a living example that others will invest in you to help you accomplish your dreams if you demonstrate through your efforts your commitment to achieving your goals in life.

I work on my legacy daily.

Doing nothing is not an option; too many have endured so much to afford us the opportunities we have today.

And so many coming behind you are counting on you in order that they too have a chance at success.

In this world in which we live today, you have no reasons or excuses for not being the best you can be.

I am a living example, as are many others across the globe.

As I bring this message to a close, I want to leave you with the 3 D’s,

Do, Delegate, and Delete…

Do, what is required,

Delegate, what others can do for you,

And Delete, what hinders you from accomplishing your goals,

You are finishing yet one chapter of your life story today, keep writing your story and create your legacy.

Remember the 3 D’s…Do, Delegate, and Delete,

Be the Change you want to see.  Because you can…

Congratulations Class of 2012, Job well done…

Early STEM Program Still Going Strong

Originally article by Jason Koebler posted in www.usnews.com

Early STEM Program Still Going Strong

 

With the onset of the great recession and a skyrocketing unemployment rate, improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) achievement has everyone’s attention. But it’s not a new problem, according to Reagan Flowers, the founder of one of the country’s first STEM programs.

For nearly 10 years, her organization, C-STEM (the C stands for communication) has been helping engage at-risk students in math, science, and English—long before many corporations began donating money to organizations like hers.

“Being an early innovator, a front-runner—we haven’t benefited so much in terms of the funding,” Flowers says. “When I started there was no research, I couldn’t find anything to back up my thinking. I almost doubted it in a sense.”

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Why Disparities Continue with No Child Left Behind

The “No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act” of 2001 was created to implement standardized tests to measure student success and teacher performance (accountability). Ten years later, the education system is still experiencing educational disparities due to the lack of well-prepared and qualified teachers in critical areas such as math, science and literacy. American students will continue to lack skills to compete in a global market regardless of demographic and racial backgrounds without the proper resources mentioned.

Why Disparities Continue with NCLB:

The provisions of NCLB did not promote innovation or high expectations nor did it encourage the development of 21st century skills in public schools.  NCLB has further created a national obsession with standardized tests that do not measure depth, application, nor provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate what they have learned. Education acts, such as NCLB, that lack adequate funding to all states and school districts and shared responsibility of parents, communities, educators, and policymakers,  do not provide all children an opportunity for a great public school education.  The pitfall of NCLB is that it was neither specifically designed to close the achievement gap nor increase student achievement. Rather, it simply set an achievement benchmark and passed it on as a federal mandate for all public schools to achieve.

NCLB Overlooked Significant Factors to Creating Effective Educational Programs:

To ensure that educational programs are effective in increasing student achievement, educational leaders must be held accountable to create programs guided by a concise understanding of the school community and socio-cultural dynamics; particularly, within schools serving greater numbers of low income and minority populations. Program administrators and developers of educational offerings should create procedures that ensure programs are implemented as they are designed, with built-in accommodations to support and supplement broken and absent systems.  Leaders in education should understand that what works in one community will not necessarily work in another and there is no one size fits all solution to creating effective educational programs.  The reality is that successful education programs accommodate systemic needs of the school community, for example:

Scenario 1

To create effective educational programs that focus on the development of teacher content knowledge, teacher training should be accompanied with supporting workshops, adequate in-class tools and resources, instructional observations, and product evaluation (i.e. student-created product(s), presentation(s), and exams.)  The aforementioned holistic approach allows educators to truly gauge area(s) where children are gifted to help students visualize academic success, and holds teachers accountable for results-oriented implementation at an acceptable level.  The end result being, the educational program is more likely to be effective in closing the achievement gap and increasing student achievement.

 

Scenario 2

Creating effective educational programs becomes more challenging in schools serving high percentages of low-income students as they usually do not have the financial support of a PTO/PTA or community businesses.  Ensuring program implementation is effective requires integrating fund-raising activities and mentors. This extra step accounts for the inadequate social-emotional and economic support at home or the lack of exposure to opportunities beyond their immediate environment.

Necessary Changes:

The nation continues to respond to the education crisis by amending previous federal mandates, such as the reauthorization of NCLB to the America Competes Act, to meet our current education needs.  With every revision, government and federally aligned organizations continue to implement the same systems within the same structures.  Appointed officials and organization leaders, who failed the first time, are given an opportunity to re-invent themselves; yet, they choose to continue to work within the same structure.  As a result, we continue to get more of the same; an ever-widening achievement gap, disparities in education, and the potential of a lost generation of children unable to compete academically on a global stage. The government structures and federally funded organizations created to carry out education agendas, in large part, are not designed to engage at the school level or with grassroots organizations that have a pulse on what yields proven results in addressing the needs of their school and community. For a moment, just consider the numerous effective programs we have watched go unfunded and under supported while new programs are adopted, yet prove ineffective once they have run their course.  It causes you to wonder, are we really committed to delivering a quality education to all children or are we simply searching for the next new thing?

How to Create Educational Effectiveness:

Educational effectiveness begins with good leadership at the school level with administrators and teachers. For teachers to be effective and innovative in their profession, they need the support of principals to create a school culture that provides an instructional balance between implementing federal education mandates and state-approved curriculum. Achieving success in the classroom requires adequate teacher training using proven professional development models coupled with the right resources; this translates into practical learning exercises that foster depth, rigor, and relevance, contributing to the overall success of students.  Other areas that support creating educational effectiveness include opening lines of communication at all levels, testing, teacher mentoring models, budgeting priorities, alignment of student achievement initiatives, policy makers, and with teacher accountability systems.  Lastly, for this to have its desired effects, we must shift the focus to the students and how we best educate them, based on how they learn.  We must customize the educational experience to the needs of the children, and that approach must include hands-on and project-based learning.