October 17, 2005
The Children's First Movement
CHILDREN 1st MOVEMENT
"Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today."
- Malcolm X
All children in this country have the right to an education that enables them to learn and achieve at the highest level possible. This is a Human Right. To actualize this right, and therefore each child's potential, specific opportunities and support mechanisms or "Common Characteristics" must be present. No one characteristic is more important than another. All are required to provide the structure for ultimate student achievement and success.
The Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) must increase the educational options for all students. Parents must be empowered to become advocates for their children. BCPSS must provide an education that enables all students to make successful transitions to adulthood and to become vital contributors to their communities and to the world community.
We, as concerned citizens in Baltimore, are totally dedicated to assuring that our children receive what is rightfully theirs.
In a report authored by Dr. Michelle A. Gambone several crucial elements necessary for student success were identified. BCPSS must embrace these elements, thus creating an environment in which students:
1. experience learning that is productive and linked to "Real World" activities;
2. are connected to adults, peers, and society's institutions;
3. can navigate through diverse settings, relationships, and the lure of risky behavior;
4. have relationships that are emotionally supportive with adults showing interests in youth's time and activities;
5. participate in decision-making in developmentally appropriate ways, relating to things they care about.
In order for BCPSS to achieve the elements described by Dr. Gambone, which are necessary for student success, the following Common Characteristics are necessary:
1. The Baltimore Public Schools (BCPSS) must be student-centered. To support the needs of each student, the educational process must be highly personalized. The District must embrace, as fundamental, the concept of educating "one student at a time." Students must have access to culturally relevant and rigorous curricula.
2. Smaller class size can produce improvement in student achievement, especially for minority and low-income students. The vision for BCPSS is to educate one student at a time and to encourage all students to pursue their interests and grow academically.
Each school must be small enough to allow teachers, administrators and students to work together as a unit for at least two years, thus developing and implementing meaningful long-term relationships and a safe, positive, inclusive community that fosters a culture of respect for each student.
Class size alone will not make the difference for improving student achievement. The quality of teaching must also be improved.
Class Sizes Must be legislated so they are no arbitrarily changed. This will also provide stability and a consistency for Quality Teachers. It indicates a Commitment to Excellence.
Guidelines for Class Size:
- Pre - K 20 students to 1 teacher w/aide
- Kindergarten 15 students to 1 teacher
- Grades 1 - 3 18 students to 1 teacher
- Grades 4 & 5 20 students to 1 teacher
- Grades 6 - 8 20 students to 1 teacher (25 Max.)
- Grades 9 - 12 20 students to 1 teacher (25 Max)
* Class size for math, science and English classes, grades 6 - 12 should be no more than 20 students to 1 teacher.
3. Developed curricula must be rigorous, culturally inclusive and prepare students to excel by community, local, state, international, higher education and workforce standards. In a school system that is over ninety percent African-American – there must me a strong Afro-centric curriculum. This helps build self-esteem which leads to student confidence and success.
4. Accountability for student performance must be owned/shared by teachers, administrators, parents and students. Aggressive performance goals should be
developed as well as consequences for results achieved. All of the stakeholders must participate in developing these performance goals.
5. The school district must maintain strong partnerships with area colleges, universities, community organizations and businesses to assure that
curricula are relevant, students are afforded the best technological preparation possible and encouragement/support is given frequently.
6. Highly qualified teachers and administrators must be in each school. Academic Coaches should be employed to support teachers, helping them to make connections
among themselves, their students, and their content area. Academic Coaches help to retain teachers. They focus on improving student achievement by improving
teacher effectiveness and competency. Academic Coaches lead specific activities focused on student achievement, work across grade and content levels,
plan and facilitate job-embedded professional development, and strengthen ties to
7. Parents/caretakers must become knowledgeable advocates for their children, thus enabling them to work effectively with teachers and administrators. Such partnerships will ensure establishment of the best possible learning environs for each child and will ensure that learning does not start and end at the doors to the school houses.
8. Comprehensive intervention processes, both instructional and social, must be available and utilized as necessary to ensure student success.
9. Schools must provide for "real world" learning such as internships, both paid and unpaid, and service learning experiences. Such experiences augment classroom endeavors and afford valuable opportunities to put theory into practice.
10. An uncompromising commitment to diversity and inclusion must be apparent at all levels within the school district, including within the North Avenue senior administration group. Reality must now match the rhetoric.
The Baltimore Public School System is a microcosm of society. It must be a bastion of ethical behavior, and a place where students can develop a personal ethics
code which will guide them throughout life.
Decisions are made within administrations which affect everyone, staff, students, and parents. These decisions must be models of ethical consideration for everyone and must serve as examples for the city and indeed, the state. BCPSS must examine the decisions being made daily and how these decisions impact the common characteristics necessary for student success. Honesty is an important trait. If the BCPSS promise the people a National Search for the most qualified leader – it must honor that commitment, otherwise the people will lack faith in the honesty of the leaders and the system will collapse. Morality is part of a complete and effective education.
To develop and institutionalize the Common Characteristics, robust initiatives must be established and implemented. Partnerships with strong representation from parents, administrators, teachers, students and community leaders must be created. Walls separating various factions must be removed, and we must begin to trust. The trust required for success will evolve if each of us personally commits to dealing with each other honestly and truthfully as we strive to reach our goals.
The Children 1st Movement solidly believes in the Frankenstein Theory – “Whatever we create we will eventually confront.” If we create brilliant, well educated, well prepared children of high self-esteem and confidence we will meet them in the businesses, hospitals as doctors and in the high political places of this country. If we fail to properly educate the youth – then we will confront the results of our creation - of bad education and miseducation in the streets of this and other cities. We will have created the hand that will be at our throats.
Remember, if we fail the children, we all are losers.
"I don't ever want you to forget that there are millions of God's children who will not, and cannot get a good education, and I don't want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are all that they ought to be. "
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
For more information about the Children's 1st Awards Banquet scheduled November 18th from 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. at Huber Memorial Church in Baltimore, MD, email email@example.com (Dr. Tyrone Powers)