Month: June 2016

Rooney Rule to Promote Equity and Diversity in School Leadership by: Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr.

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Most people “flat out” feel uncomfortable when conversing about race in sports, politics, education, media, law enforcement, etc.  In just about every facet of our lives, there are elements of race and social injustice that exist in our country.

To turn a blind eye to it, or to think that it is simply going to go away is insulting to those that have faced and continue to face racism in this country. Race issues exist, and permeate throughout American society, and they will continue to do so, until we come from behind the proverbial “steel curtain” (awesome foreshadow), and have candid conversations about the importance of racial diversity Educational Leadership.

The Rooney Rule requires that an NFL team with a head-coaching vacancy must interview one or more minority candidates for the position; given the NFL’s woeful history of considering and hiring minority candidates to fill head-coaching slots until the implementation of the Rooney Rule, the question can be reasonably asked as to whether Pittsburgh would have even considered Mike Tomlin as a candidate for the Steeler head job without the Rooney Rule (Proxmire, 2008).

Moreover, what about a Rooney Rule in public education?  I mean– real, organic, purposeful conversations centered on school leadership in areas that serve high poverty families of color.  Urban school districts would benefit greatly from having more minority male candidates as teachers, leaders, superintendents etc.

Recently, NYC has acknowledged the need for more African-American, Asian, and Latino male teachers, and they have pulled out the think tank in order to make this a reality.

What are all of the other school districts in the country waiting for?  This is a common sense move.

Diversifying the field of teaching will take a high level of commitment from Districts.  NYCDOE should be commended for taking the initiative to create and promote high levels of diversity in its teachers.  The success of this venture will be measured on NYC’s ability to retain these male teachers. I’d certainly be interested in interviewing a group of these teachers after several years on the job, to assess the levels of additional support offered to them by NYC. 

I hope that they will make the same commitment to recruiting, retaining, and supporting school leaders of color as well.

What if for every principal and school superintendent vacancy, urban school districts had to (in good faith) interview a qualified minority candidate? The action alone would mean the world to minority families that have lost faith in the system.

The Rooney Rule casts a spotlight on several critical workplace diversity issues, including the importance of having managerial leadership reflect the diversity of a workforce, strategies for ensuring that the best people for the job are considered, and tools for combating unconscious bias in hiring and promotion decisions (Proxmire, 2008).

If we can do this in a sport, why can’t we do this in education?  Why can’t a school’s staff mimic the population of its students?

Works Cited: Proxmire, D. (2008). Coaching diversity: The rooney rule, its application and ideas for expansion. American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, 1-9.




Relationship Building w/ Parents of Color By: Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr.

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When I first met Master Joseph Parker in 2008, I knew there was something special about this young man.  He had that “it” factor.  It took us a while to figure out what “it” was, but he remained steadfast and enthused about learning.  He was one of those students that was very forthcoming about what he didn’t know.  He was also a self-advocator.  One of those students who would tell you the truth about your teaching and how you should teach him.

When Joseph came into 5th grade he was not on grade level.  He struggled with basic comprehension which led to immense struggles in both Math and ELA.  A confident young lad like most people, he became frustrated with failure.  The teachers didn’t have any answers.  The school leader at the time, Ms. Laurie Werner suggested that Joseph be referred to a child study team to conduct a battery of tests to determine what issues may or may not exist.
Insert Gennifer Parker (Jennifer with a G), Joseph’s mother and number one advocate.  I remember her pulling me to the side and saying, “Ankrum, hell no, they aren’t referring my kid to no God dang special education”.  
For those that don’t know; The label “special education” has been a stigma in the Black community for decades.  Research has stated that special education was used to marginalize students of color.  Labeling students “special education” was seen as the easy way out.  This is particularly true when educators didn’t want to do the necessary legwork to find out what was really stopping Black and Latino students from learning.  They’d just categorize them.
I remember pulling Ms. Parker to the side and having an in-depth conversation with her about the special education process and the benefits of testing her son to see if he qualified for services.  I explained that today’s mainstream special education services were nothing like the services that once haunted communities of color.  She trusted me. Ms. Parker permitted her son to go through the process of testing.  He was found to have difficulties and was issued an individualized education program (IEP).
Initially, Master Joseph was bothered by the findings.  He wasn’t his normal, jovial self. He wanted to learn and be like everyone else.  I remember giving him pep talks, reminding him that he wasn’t like everyone else.  In my opinion he was better than everyone else.  I Was honored to become his mentor.
After I left the school in 2011 we kept in touch.  He would fly down to Baltimore to visit my family and became a part of my family.  We would regularly touch base on his progress, struggles, etc. Whenever he messed up in school “Jennifer with a G” would call me and say, “call Parker”, or “please call your boy”.  I would oblige of course because Joseph had grown on me like he was my own flesh and blood.
As Master Joseph was going through his struggles, his mother became a parent advocate for parents who had students with disabilities.  Amazingly this woman who was once opposed to the process was now walking parents through what services they should ask for.  This is an example of what building a connection with a parent can do for the lives of students and families.
Did I mention “Jennifer with a G” dropped out of college to raise Joseph.  In order to show her son he can accomplish anything if he sets his mind to it, she went back and finished college.
Fast forward to last night, 6/23/16.  Master Joseph Parker walked across the Harlem Village Academy high school.  True to form, he did his “prayer dance”.  It was super authentic, “reverend like”, but typical Joseph.  Last night I was beaming with pride.
This summer Joseph is attending a Morehouse summer program With hopes of being fully admitted as a freshman in the fall.  In 2008, I made the following promise to Ms. Parker, “if he makes it into Morehouse, I’ll purchase his books for the first semester”… Boy am I glad you can now rent books…  Congratulations Master Joseph Parker on your accomplishment.   This is only the beginning.  With the grace of God, you can conquer anything…
I share this story to highlight the importance of building relationships with students and families.  If we truly desire students to go out and change the world, we have to be transparent and actionable in how we interact with students.  

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) By: Keisha Crawford 

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I’m honored to introduce Ms. Crawford, who has so graciously accepted the challenge to guest blog in her area of expertise PBIS.  I am humbly grateful to have the opportunity to learn from Ms. Crawford.

Confessions of a PBIS Coach

By: Keisha Crawford

Twitter: @KeishaMcCray77


I am a professional middle school counseling director at a rural Title 1 school in South Carolina.  This is my first year at this school, however I have worked in the educational field for 16 years. My previous experience was in middle school(s) in Charleston,  South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia .  My other interests include grant writing, diversity training and mentoring young ladies. I am very passionate about working with young people and teaching them how to advocate for themselves and problem solve.  I have been involved with PBIS for the past 4 years and this year I lead a team to implement PBIS in my school.  I am very passionate about PBIS because it is designed to recognize and reward good behavior and to spend more time giving attention to students that are making good choices with their behavior.


PBIS – Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support   PBIS is a school wide behavioral system that establishes clear behavior expectations to support and protect the instructional settings for all students.  Students are recognized for positive behavior and awarded points.  The idea is that 80% of students are behaving and following the expectations set by the school.  In this system, students are taught the expected behaviors, just as they are taught to read, do math or play a sport.


There are several methods to manage PBIS.  We manage PBIS using a point system much like a grading scale.  The goal is for the student to maintain as many points as possible to be in the “green zone”.  85-100 points is the “green zone”, 70-84 points is the “yellow zone” and anything below 70 is the “red zone”.  Students are awarded points for behaviors based on the PRIDE matrix.  We refer to it as showing GRIFFIN PRIDE – Personal Responsibility, Respect, Individual Readiness, Demonstrated Learning and Expected Behaviors.  


Administrators must model the concepts and be vocally supportive of PBIS.  I am very fortunate that my administrative team has been very supportive and really embraced PBIS.  My principal saw immediate results with our PBIS system when we implemented voice levels in the hall and routes for the students to walk in the hall.  Another concept of PBIS is 4 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction with students.  My administrators are constantly modeling this with students and teachers.  They must also speak the “PBIS” language.  It is a universal system and the instructional leaders must model, support and promote PBIS.


There are thousands of  schools using  the PBIS model. It is a national phenomenon. There is definitely a PBIS movement happening across the United States.  The school district that I work in has decided to implement PBIS in all of the schools in our district.  PBIS has a website PBISworld with hundreds of interventions and the PBIS organization has national and regional conferences every year.   


Major referrals are those referrals that are managed by administration.  Individual schools determine what would be a “major” infraction based on their code of conduct.  Some schools may consider inappropriate language a major infraction while other schools may not.  Some major infractions may include inappropriate physical contact, skipping class or bullying.    Minor referrals are those managed by the teacher or teacher teams.  Minor incidents can include talking during class, cheating, electronic or phone violation.  Minor incidents can be managed by teachers and should be used as talking points with parents about behavior.  In the PBIS system, the goal is to “major in the minors”.  


Schools can create their own system of rewarding students in this model.  Some of the most common practices is to reward students with “bucks”, tickets or coupons that students can use to purchase things or use to get prizes.  At my school, students in the Green and Yellow zones get to participate in our monthly school wide celebrations.  Some of our celebrations for the year included a dance, pep rally, dodge ball game, faculty vs. staff basketball game, visit to USC for women’s basketball and an end of the year trip to Cariowinds amusement park.


Parental support for PBIS at the school has been a challenge this year, however, we have created some ideas to involve parents.  One idea is to create a “passport’ of some sort for parents that outline the PBIS school wide expectations. We are also going to give parents “PRIDE coupons” to give to students that they observe modeling good behavior.  Parents can support PBIS by speaking with their child about their behavior and reinforce the system that is in place at school.  We communicate to parents what zone their child is in by sending  an email to the parent and student.  Teachers also post the “green” zone list outside the classrooms.  We have a PRIDE matrix that outlines the expected behaviors and every student receives a copy so that parents can have a hard copy of the matrix as well.

Addressing Summer Learning Loss (All Summer ’16) By: Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr.

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Addressing Summer Learning Loss (All Summer ’16) 


The vast majority of low-income children find that when schools close for the summer, learning opportunities, healthy meals, and medical care are no longer available.  Deprived of healthy stimulation, these children lose a significant amount of the skills they learned during the school year.  Researchers call it summer learning loss and while it impacts students at all grade and income levels, its effect is strongest among low-income children (After School Alliance, 2010; Von Drehle,2010; The Wallace Foundation, 2010; Wongkee, 2010; National Summer Learning Association, 2009a; Miller, 2007). “


Studies dating back to 1906 have consistently found that most students receive lower scores on the same standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they earned at the beginning of summer ( After School Alliance, 2010; Wongkee, 2010; McLaughlin & Smink, 2009; National Summer Learning Association, 2009a ).  Studies have also found that the effect of summers without learning is cumulative and that low-income children fall further and further behind their peers who participate in summer learning opportunities every year (Children, Youth and Families Education and Research Network, 2010; Terzian et al., 2009). “


Alexander, Entwisle, and Olson’s (2007) study of summer learning loss used data from the Baltimore Beginning School Study.  Their sample included a representative random sample of 790 school children whose educational progress was monitored from first grade through age 22. The researchers analyzed data from reading comprehension tests administered to the same students twice yearly (fall and spring), enabling them to isolate gains made during the school year from those made during the summer. They found that when test scores reflected mostly school year learning, low-income students kept pace with their higher-income classmates.


Downey, von Hippel, and Broh (2004) used data from 20,000 children included in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort, to examine high- and low-income students’ learning rates during the school year and over the summer months.  Students’ reading and math test score gains were split into seasons so that differences between the school year and the summer months could be analyzed.  Results indicated that the achievement gap was already present before school began.


Research suggests that minority students with low socioeconomic status (working class poor) are at a distinct disadvantared to their more affluent peers (middle to upper class).  Based on responses from over 6,600 households to the National Survey of America’s Families, Terzian and colleagues (2009) reported that children living in non-poor households (200 percent or above the federal poverty line) were more likely than children from poor households (below 200 percent of the poverty line) to participate in summer programs (29 percent versus 18 percent).


While low income, low SES parents generally want the same kinds of enriching experiences for their children as do well-off parents, they often lack the means to provide them (e.g., Chin and Phillips 2004).  Below are some relatively inexpensive ways to keep your scholars engaged during the summer months.


Suggestions to Divert Summer Learning Loss:


1.  Contact your child’s school, ask specific questions about what books are “just right” for your child.  Your child’s school should be able to tell you exactly what reading level your child is on.  


2.  Based on this information, ask your child what he/she is interested in reading.  Take this information and buy or check out “just right” books for your child.  If you get books that are above your child’s reading level, these types of books do not help your child comprehend better.  Make sure the books that you select are on your child’s level.


3.  Contact your local library.  The libraries do an excellent job with creating summer readinglists in conjunction with the area schools.


4.  Do exciting things with your kids.  i.e. Family vacations, trips to historic sites, nature walks, vacation bible school, all activities to keep the academic juices flowing.


5.  Turn learning, and reading comprehension into a family activity.  Read the same books as your child, and have “book talks” with your children about the books that you read.  This helps the students to keep pace, and also allows for you to focus on important topics in your child’s reading, i.e. plot, theme, specific character outcomes, predictions, inference, etc.


6.  Going outside to play can be accompanied with a writing activity describing what your child did during playtime.


Parents, please don’t think because school isn’t in session, that your kids should not still be learning.


Works Cited:


Afterschool Alliance.  (2010).  Summer: A Season When Learning is Essential. Issue Brief No. 43. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED511990.


Alexander, K.L., Entwisle, D.R., & Olson, L.S. (2007). Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap.  American Sociological Review, 72(2), 167-180.


Chin, Tiffani and Meredith Phillips. 2004. “Social Reproduction and Child-Rearing Practices: Social Class, Children’s Agency, and the Summer Activity Gap.” Sociology of Education 77:185–210.


Children, Youth and Families Education and Research Network. (2010). Research Spotlight: Programs to Overcome the Summer Learning Gap. Retrieved from


Downey, D.B., von Hippel, P.T., & Broh, B. (2004). Are Schools the Great Equalizer? School and Non-School Sources of Inequality in Cognitive Skills. American Sociological Review, 69(5), 613-635.


McLaughlin, B., & Smink, J. (2009). Summer Learning: Moving from the Periphery to the Core. The Progress of Education Reform, 10(3). Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States. Retrieved from


Miller, B.M. (2007). The Learning Season: The Untapped Power of Summer to Advance Student Achievement.  Paper commissioned by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Retrieved from



National Summer Learning Association. (2009a). Doesn’t Every Child Deserve a Memorable Summer?  Retrieved from


Terzian, M., Moore, K.A., & Hamilton, K. (2009). Effective and Promising Summer Learning Programs and Approaches for Economically-Disadvantaged Children and Youth: A White Paper for the Wallace Foundation. Retrieved from


The Wallace Foundation. (2010). America After 3PM. Special Report on Summer: Missed Opportunities, Unmet Demand. Retrieved from


Von Drehle, D. (2010). The Case Against Summer Vacation. Time, August 2, 2010.


Wongkee, L. (2010). Summer Slide – Loss of Learning on Summer Break. The Truth About the Learning Gap- Do Kids Regress in the Summer? Retrieved from–loss-of-learning-in-the-summer-a218969.




School to Prison Pipeline by Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr.

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There’s s ton of literature on this subject. My goal is to cover it in a researched based quick write. A form of writing that’s research based, but written in a manner that you don’t have to be an “academic” to understand.


It starts with young, African-American and Latino males being identified as Special Education students. Many of these students were possibly undiagnosed ADHD, but 25 years ago (mid to late 90’s), people weren’t willing to go the extra mile to determine why students were being referred for special education services. It was easier to classify students as having an inability to be engaged in learning, than to do the legwork to determine why students lacked engagement. The learners in these Special Education classes were disproportionately students of color, 100% free and reduced lunch students, and the special education classes were isolated from the general population of student learners.  

Evidence is strong that students with special education disabilities are similarly targeted for school discipline problems and that racial disparity exists across special education student populations as well (Rivkin, 2010). Students of color have been found disproportionately in the diagnosis of certain special education categories, such as mental retardation and severe emotional disturbances (Harry & Klinger, 2006), thus causing some to conclude that referral bias from school personnel is a causal factor (Adams & Meiners, 2014).

Fast forward 25 years, and these same practices are occurring in schools today. Not just schools in Louisiana, but schools in your home states as well. Minority students are the students that are most affected by “Zero Tolerance” school disciplinary policies. The U.S. Department of Education identified in 2012 that in school districts with more than 50,000 students, African-American students represented 24%of enrollment but 35%of on-campus arrests, with lower, but still disparate rates for Hispanic students (McCurdy, 2014).


• New Orleans, LA, the Orleans Parish School Board’s expulsions under zero tolerance policies were 100% Black, with 67% of their school-related arrests being Black students. The RSD-Algiers Charter School Association had 75% of their expelled students without educational services black. Furthermore, 100% of their expulsions under zero tolerance policies and 100% of their school-related arrests were all Black students.

• In St. Louis, MO schools, the Normandy School District’s 98% Black student population drew in the following: 100% of all students who received more than one out-of-school suspension, 100% of those who were expelled without educational services and 100% of those who were referred to law enforcement. In Missouri’s Ritenour School District, 67% of Black students vs. 33% white students were referred to law enforcement.

Above are expanded statistics pulled from the Civil Rights Data Collection, with latest results from 2009.

Train Your Staff:

Effective professional development for teachers and administrators on improving classroom management and school climate has improved staff retention, student instructional time, and student engagement in learning (Browers & Tornic, 2000). Unfortunately, when school personnel lack training and resources, student academic achievement is lowered, inappropriate special education referrals are increased, and referrals for student disciplinary sanctions become significantly greater (Donavan & Cross, 2002).

Over the last few years studies have used improved research designs and found continued positive outcomes for restorative justice programming, although a majority of these reviews are still only descriptive, making this a promising and not evidence based course of practice (Minkos, Latham & Sugai, 2014). For example, over two academic school years, four high schools in the Chicago Public School system that had implemented varying degrees of restorative programming including mediation, peer juries, conferences, and peace circles found up to 80% reductions in student misconduct and arrests and improvements in attendance (Hereth, Kaba, Meiniers, & Wallace, 2012). 

Shout out to Ascend Charter School for being one of the first Charter Schools CMO’s in NY to be vocal in regards to addressing the concerns addressed regarding zero tolerance discipline in schools. Their blog addressing the issue:

For you Visual Learners:

Some people are visual learners, see video link:

Key Questions to ask folks that advocate for zero-tolerance school policies are as follows:

1. What exactly are these folks to do without an education?  

2. What are their options?

Works Cited:

Adams, D., & Meiners, E. (2014). Who wants to be special? Pathologization and the preparation of bodies for prison. In A. J. NocellaII, P. Parmar, & D. Stovall (Eds.), From education to incarceration: Dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline (pp. 145–164). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Browers, A., & Tornic, C. (2000). A longitudinal study of teacher burn-out and perceived self-efficacy in classroom management. Teaching and Teacher Education, 16(2), 239–253.

Donavan, M. S., & Cross, C. T. (2002). Minority students in special and gifted education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Harry, B., & Klinger, J. (2006). Why are so many minority students in special education: Understanding race and disability in schools. NewYork, NY: Teachers College Press.

Hereth, J., Kaba, M., Meiniers, E. R., & Wallace, L. (2012). Restorative justice is not enough. In S. Bahena, N. Cooc, R. Currie-Rubin, P. Kuttner, & M. Ng (Eds.), Disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline (pp. 240–264). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Educational Review.

McCurdy, J. (2014). Targets for arrest. In A. J. Nocella II, P. Parmar, &D. Stovall (Eds.), From education to incarceration: Dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline (pp. 86–101). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Minkos, M., Latham, S., & Sugai, G. (2014, October). Systematic Descriptive literature review of restorative justice practices. Poster session at the PBIS: Building Capacity and Partnerships to Enhance Educational Reform Leadership Forum, Rosemont, IL.

Rivkin, D. H. (2010). Decriminalizing students with disabilities. NewYork Law School Law Review, 54, 909–942.







Keeping Scholars Engaged in Teaching and Learning by Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr.

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1. Build authentic connections with students. Students learn from the people they know care about them. If you care, show your students by being tough on them. Be consistent with your students, and be present in their lives. Do not make assumptions about your students. Simply meet them where they are. “More recently, Dantas and Coleman’s (2010) study addressed the complexity of diverse families’ lives and also illustrated how miscommunication between teacher, school and families from all backgrounds can lead to teachers’ own reality and perceptions being influenced by their ‘uninformed assumptions’ (p. 170).”
2. Just because you are qualified to teach doesn’t mean that you are qualified to teach me. A four-year degree, and passing pedagogical tests do not qualify you to teach, at least in my opinion. It takes more. It takes a willingness to continuously improve, challenging yourself year in and year out. “In addition to the many challenges associated with educating students living in poverty, the teachers in these schools are generally less experienced and have much higher rates of attrition (Ingersoll, 2004).” Show your students you want to be there, and stay, “ride or die” with the students, in other words do not be afraid to overly commit to your students.

3. Find out what your students are interested in, and build your lessons around their interest. It takes very little time and/or creativity to change a word problem to reflect what’s happening in the lives of students. Students should be able to take learned skills from the classroom and make that learning adaptable to real life situations. “Instructional modifications that involve individual interest necessarily involve prior knowledge—learners are likely to have high prior knowledge about their interests (Renninger et al., 2002).”

4. Have frank and honest conversations with students about high expectations. Having high expectations for students should be a classroom normality. In urban areas, some of these students have been a part of cyclical generational poverty. That cycle can end by showing students the importance of education and instilling passion into student learning. “Culturally responsive teaching offers ways to best support diverse learners in an inclusive classroom as it approaches education by looking at the whole child where students are empowered intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes (Ladson-Billings, 2009).”

5. Lastly, make the parents apart of the learning process. Parents want to be involved in their students’ lives. “Teachers should think of parents as thought-partners in providing rigorous, meaningful education to students (Ankrum, 2016).” Make parents a part of the process. Make them feel welcomed in the school environment by creating trusting, long lasting partnerships. Parents are not the enemy.

Works Cited:

Ankrum, R. J. (2016). Socioeconomic Status and Its Effect on Teacher/Parental Communication in Schools. Journal of Education and Learning, 5(1), 167.

Dantas M and Coleman M (2010) Home visits: Learning from students and families.  In: Dantas M and Manyak P (eds) Home-School Connections in a Multi-Cultural Society: Learning from and with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families. New York: Routledge, pp. 156–176.

Ingersoll, R.M. (2004). Why do high-poverty schools have difficulty staffing their classrooms with qualified teachers? Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2009). The Dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African-American children. (2nd ed.) San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Renninger, K., Ewen, L., & Lasher, A. (2002). Individual interest as context in expository text and mathematical word problems. Learning and Instruction, 12, 467-490. Doi:10.1016/S0959-4752(01)00012-3