As educators, we are prone to reflect on the western proverb “How are the children?” Currently, the response that you may hear across the country is “The children are not well.” We must advocate for and encourage leaders to create policies essential to the moral, social and academic welfare of African American learners. Two policy recommendations, Equity of Access and Social Emotional Learning (SEL), should work in tandem to prepare African American learners for college, career and life readiness through the type of learning environment that meets the needs of the whole child.
What should African American learners know and be able to do?
Equity of Access (eliminating opportunity gaps; removing barriers to academic achievement, etc.) and Social-Emotional Learning (framework providing joyful and thriving learning experiences, etc.) will ensure what African American learners should know and be able to do.
- Meet high standards: academic and behavioral
- Be proficient in the basic language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening
- Successful completion of complex academic tasks (e.g. problem solving, use higher order thinking skills, read complex texts—increase academic vocabulary, engage in productive learner struggle)
- Set goals (academic, personal, etc.) and monitor progress towards those goals
- Develop and increase technology skills, demonstrate proficiency in digital literacy
- Develop and build cultural competence
- Skilled in critical thinking and problem solving
What should success look like for African American learners?
- Increased academic achievement and social-emotional growth as a result of consistent and data-driven instruction in the learning environment daily
- Participating in and benefitting from a multi-tiered system of support, academically and behaviorally
- Developmentally appropriate growth for the whole child: cognitive, affective, social and emotional
- The ability to understand and demonstrate cultural competence (personal view) through communication, effective interaction and meaningful relationships with people of different cultures
- Equitable access to researched and evidence-based curriculum that is culturally relevant with real world experiences; high quality instruction from high quality instructors; programming (during/after school hours); with an inviting/positive learning environment
- Access to adults who will build student capacity in understanding their self-management (managing emotions, making responsible decisions), social and cultural awareness and relationship skills (feel and show empathy for others)
- Parents/Caregivers/Influential Family supporters not accepting just involvement (one-way communication from school), but engagement (two-way exchange of ideas, etc.)
Dr. William Blake – Director, Social Emotional Learning
Washington D. C. Public Schools
Mr. Jacky C. Brown, Sr. – Principal Leader/Coach—Turnaround
Cleveland (OH) Metropolitan School District