News Articles AFAM 311

N1 – News Articles # 1

News articles that are about an issue (e.g., housing, employment, education, poverty, language, laws, etc) being experienced by one entire specific racial or ethnic group, who are residents of the United States, and published within the past 4-weeks. Students are to post a (a) copy of the news article, (b) brief summary of the news article identifying the one specific racial/ethnic group reported about, (c) the specific issue faced by the group reported on in the news article, (d) identify and name a theory from chapter 2 of text that could explain the event, (e) state how the theory explains the event and (f) state two constructive, meaningful, and critical thought provoking questions that remain unanswered (to create on-going course discussion) after student’s reading of the news article, to the Discussion Forum.


A) 25 years later, city schools facing similar problems from the past

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette logo


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

9:47 PM

APR 29, 2017

On a warm, late summer evening in 1992, a requiem of sorts played out at the Pittsburgh Public Schools offices in Oakland.

A group of parents and educators, called the Advocates for African American Students, held a mock funeral along Bellefield Avenue — casket, visitor guest book and all— and circled the administration building in protest of the newly named superintendent Louise Brennen. Then-school board member Jean Fink, who voted for Ms. Brennen, recalled whizzing by the scene on the back of her husband’s Harley. “I just went by on a motorcycle and didn’t stop.”

The elegy, said Wanda Henderson, then the group’s co-chair, “symbolized the end of multicultural education, access to educational opportunities for black students and strong effective leadership.”

She and other Advocates took formal action, too, filing a racial discrimination complaint that year with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission against Pittsburgh Public. They cited inequities between white and black students from academic achievement to discipline to resources, capped by the selection of Ms. Brennen over who they said was a more qualified black candidate.

A quarter-century later, the district is faced with some of the same challenges. A report this year revealed that “the weight of the district’s disciplinary actions appears to fall disproportionately on students of color.”

“We’ve been saying the same stuff for 25 years,” Ms. Henderson said, “but now it seems like other people are acknowledging the situation. Some may look at that as progress, but I look as it as we’ve been doing this 25 years, so we have lost almost a generation of kids.”

A complaint is filed

In 1992, the board of the Pittsburgh Public Schools named the three finalists it was considering to replace retiring superintendent Richard C. Wallace. The Advocates — organized by the late Barbara A. Sizemore, distinguished professor at Duquesne University’s School of Education — backed Loretta C. Webb, who is black. But the board selected Ms. Brennen, who is white.

The complaint filed with the human relations commission contended that Ms. Webb, with a doctorate and five years as deputy superintendent, was more qualified than Ms. Brennen, with a master’s and two years in that same role. Board president Barbara Burns at the time denied that race was a factor in the board’s selection, and for her part, Ms. Webb said then, “It’s too bad this has to turn into a white-black thing.”

But the filing also sought to prove a pattern of discrimination in the school system, one the Advocates said went beyond the board passing over Ms. Webb.

“It was very apparent the systemic racism that existed within the district and inequity that our students were faced with,” said Tamanika Howze, one of the original Advocates and a current member of the district’s equity advisory panel.

Ms. Fink said her vote for Ms. Brennen had nothing to do with Ms. Webb’s race. But she acknowledged that some kids were falling through the cracks. “Some teachers didn’t make an effort to reach” some black children, she said. “I saw that just from volunteering in my own kids’ schools.”

In the complaint, the Advocates claimed that besides CAPA 6-12, no high school saw black student performance as a group “approach the national norm” — and nearly three-quarters of black children at certain middle schools failed to reach the national norms in reading and math.

According to 1992 district data cited in the Advocates’ filing, black male students accounted for 72 percent of the 19,093 total suspensions. A third of black boys and 18 percent of black girls were suspended at least once during the school year, compared to 15 percent of all other boys and 7 percent of all other girls. The student group with the highest incidents of suspension were middle-school black boys: 46 percent were suspended at least once during the school year.

If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because it is: One analysis commissioned by the district this school year found that black students are falling behind academically in PPS, regardless of their economic status.

Then a study from the Council of the Great City Schools, a consortium of the nation’s 70 largest urban school districts, revealed that student achievement trends showed little to no improvement in the last decade. Further, its executive director Michael Casserly noted an “extraordinarily high” suspension rate compared with other cities — and disciplinary actions that disproportionately affect students of color.

Superintendent Anthony Hamlet discovered such inequities during weekly reviews of suspension data this year. “This kid did the same thing as this kid. This kid is black and he got 10 days, this kid is white and he got 5 days. What’s the difference? It’s not acceptable,” he said.

The district totaled more than 8,200 out-of-school suspensions in the 2015-16 school year, according to district data presented earlier this year by the Education Rights Network. Seventeen percent of students were suspended at least once, excluding Pre-K. Black students between kindergarten and fifth grade were suspended four times more than white students. Black students made up 54 percent of total K-5 enrollment but 79 percent of all students suspended at least once in that group.

Setting terms

The school board appealed the Advocates’ complaint. The human relations commission found evidence to support the group’s charges, but the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court dismissed the complaint relating to Ms. Brennen in 1996, agreeing with the district that only Ms. Webb, the candidate they passed over, had the legal standing to file such a claim.

The case was idle for years. Some Advocates moved on as their children aged out of the system. “They were just waiting for us to die off so there wouldn’t be a complaint,” Ms. Henderson said.

But in 2005, the school board voted to settle the case, and an agreement was finalized the next year. The district admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to more than 70 terms, including hiring a coordinator for the district’s equity initiatives, creating an equity advisory panel to monitor compliance and putting experienced teachers in predominately minority schools. The district said it has already incorporated many of the steps into superintendent Mark Roosevelt “Excellence for All” achievement plan.

Time ran out twice on the pact. In 2012, the commission said the district made gains but “is not prepared to conclude that the district has achieved sufficient progress with respect to elimination of the academic achievement gap and other measures outlined in the agreement to justify termination of the agreement.”

In October 2015, the board again approved extending it until August 2020.

Ms. Henderson said the creation of the district’s equity office, equity policy and the We Promise program, which aims to help black males to boost their grades and attendance so they can be eligible for Pittsburgh Promise scholarships, constitutes progress. The district also is nearing the end of a two-year pilot program for “restorative practices,” an approach that aims to reduce suspensions by getting to the root cause of problems and helping students find ways to make things right while staying in school.

New office, new hope

District leaders are confident that the creation of a new Office of Transformation will be a major effort in addressing racial disparities in the final years of the agreement. The office will monitor and give academic support to 16 of the district’s low-performing schools, essentially reopening the school improvement office that closed in the early 1990s amid budget cuts, said school board president Regina Holley.

She noted that the suspensions rates are high in other urban school districts too. “And they’re higher for children of color. People are just now starting to say, ‘Stop. What can we do in order to support all of our learners?’ ”

Mr. Hamlet said he hasn’t named a leader of the transformation office or developed its budget yet. But he noted that that the district failing schools currently get no direct support beyond federal School Improvement Grant dollars.

The school board also is expected to vote soon on a revised student conduct code that likely will eliminate suspensions for kids in grades K-2.

Viola Burgess, the first director of the equity office who retired in 2015, couldn’t be reached for this story, but emphasized in an earlier interview that the topic is not a standalone issue for that team. “Every department has to look at inequities.”

Angela Allie, the district’s currently director of equity, agrees and said she’ll focus on working closely with other offices within the district, such as the one focusing on curriculum and instruction to ensure it’s adopting culturally responsive teaching materials. PPS also is designing its own “professional learning module” to help teachers learn how to teach such content.

Celeta R. Hickman, a teaching artist and member of the equity advisory panel, said she would especially like to see “strident culturally responsive” teaching across all schools, in the spirit of the one Ms. Sizemore implemented at the now-closed Beltzhoover Elementary.

The human relations commission, the equity panel and the district are working together to determine what counts as substantial progress toward the agreement, Ms. Allie said. (Ms. Hickman said the Advocates developed a “report card” of sorts.)

Racial disparities “are a source of shame” in education, including at PPS, Ms. Allie continued. The 2020 agreement deadline “should be daunting. I think to some extent, it can motivate people to get the work done. It requires outputs and not just a shift in thinking.”

Now one of the last original members of the Advocates, Ms. Henderson said she’s hopeful for change.

“This is quarter of a century I’ve spent on this. I’m not happy every day [but] I’m optimistic because the conversation is in the forefront.”

Molly Born: or 412-263-1944.


B)This Article is based on the idea that African american students are at a disadvantage because they are not being advocated for in the education system. The article opens with a discussion about about the disadvantage of the education system in the Pittsburgh education board. This issue arose with the replacement of a superintendent for the school district. the election ran down to two candidates, one being a Caucasian and the other being African American, both female. The African American woman was more qualified for the position and was still beat out by the Caucasian Candidate. the discussion continued into the differences seen in the school system of the minority groups “colored” being more likely to fall behind due to suspensions and lack of teaching etiquette for the African American students who are being unfairly punished. There is also mention of a promise scholarship which will be aimed at “Black Males” to help improve grades and slow the progress of the racial disparities in the school system in Pittsburgh.

C) The specific issue being raised in the disparity for African American children in the Pittsburgh school system being unfairly punished for behavior leading to suspension, that will ultimately lead to days away from school and further fallback of the education of the minority group in the educational platform.

D)I believe that this article can be directed towards the Power-Conflict theory, subcategory -systemic racism.

E) This theory brings to the forefront the ideas of discriminatory practices, stereotypes, and white prejudice as well as institutional exploitation of colored American minorities. The section on the mechanisms of oppression stand out the most with this article, where even though it may not be intentional, hierarchies are being practiced within the school system with matched actions by students leading to longer suspension times for African American students then the white student. This leads to time away from school and leading the child into falling behind in school work, and education. Thus the dominant group, whites, are being exploitative of their power in judging the colored students and administrators based solely on the color of their skin and not by their actions or abilities.

F) What other actions need to be addressed in the school systems in our communities that affect the minority groups

How can we change the American school system to include more programs aimed at minority groups to close the gap in educational deficits?