October 24, 2018

It’s Time to Demand Change for Our Children. Here’s How.

By Kay Comeaux

Last week, we got more confirmation that Minnesota schools are not serving all children well—and that too many people don’t care. While article after article celebrated Minnesota’s ACT scores, no one mentioned the fact that, for Minnesota’s students of color, the ACT results are not worth celebrating. We’ve also grown used to seeing gaps in MCA results: In 2018, 29 percent of black students across the state were proficient in math, compared to 67 percent of white students; in reading, 35 percent of black students were proficient, compared to 69 percent of white students. Sadly, these disparities exist for other student groups, too. For example, just 36 percent of American Indian students were proficient in reading, while 29 percent were proficient in math.

These results are astounding. They should shock each of us to our core and motivate us to act. But given how our schools were never built for communities of color, these results are also not surprising. But what is surprising is the growing complacency I see among many families of color. I know that changing an education system that’s stacked against us and our children will be hard, but we cannot give up. For all parents, and especially parents of color, here are a few steps you can take to stop normalizing these gaps and to stand up and demand more for your child and all our children.

DON’T DO IT ALONE

If you feel overwhelmed or don’t know how to get started in advocating for your child, the most important step you can take is remember that you are not alone. Especially if you live in Minneapolis, there is a growing community of family advocates—myself included—who are here to help you. Whether you’re struggling to find out how your child is doing in school, looking for moral support at your next meeting with school staff, trying to understand your rights and options as a parent, and much more, reach out to me directly or contact a team of family advocates.

GET THE FACTS

You can’t be an effective advocate for your child without taking inventory of their current educational status. You need to know if your child is not proficient in core subject areas, something that their individual MCA results can tell you. You need to know if your child is attending a low-performing school. If you’re in Minneapolis, try the Minneapolis School Finder. If you don’t live in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Department of Education “report card” is a good place to start, but can be hard to navigate. If you need help, contact the email address above.

GET INVOLVED

Once you have basic information on your child’s school, the next step is to do something with it. If your child is not proficient, talk to their teachers. Make it clear that you expect your child to be on a rigorous learning trajectory that sets them up to learn and prosper academically. If you find that your school is low-performing, ask questions. What are school leaders doing about it? What is their plan to better serve their students? How can you, and other families, be involved in the improvement process?

DO WHAT’S BEST FOR YOUR CHILD

I’ve yet to meet a parent that doesn’t want a great education for their child. As a parent, it’s your responsibility—and your right—to get your child into the best school for them. You don’t just have to sit back and send them to a school that, year after year, is not working for them. You have agency and you have options. You owe it to your child to exercise your power to develop your student’s pathway to a rigorous educational experience.

BUILD YOUR TOOLKIT

Want to jumpstart your advocacy for your child and connect with other parents who are ready for real change? A group of advocates like me hosts a new workshop series to help parents learn about the status of their child’s school, opportunities to help their school improve, or, when necessary, understand other options for their child. Our goal is to educate, empower, and connect parents, and we can even offer one-on-one support to help you navigate your child’s ongoing school needs. For information on upcoming workshop dates and locations, email me at kay4education@gmail or contact other family advocates at familyadvocates@minneapolisschoolfinder.org.

EdAllies seeks to elevate diverse voices and foster a candid dialogue about education. While we provide our blog as a platform for EdVoices and other guest contributors, the views and opinions they express are solely their own.