• by Bradley Scott, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • February 2015 •

Dr. Bradley ScottAlmost 400 African American and Latino parents and community members gathered in Little Rock at the Second Annual Summit for Parents. This unique event, “Pushing Beyond the Breaks,” brought together African American and Latino families to explore together many issues, barriers and conditions in public education that lead to persistently poor outcomes for their children. Hosted by the Little Rock Parent Education Project, the summit was sponsored by the Arkansas Cradle to Prison Pipeline Initiative with support from the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity.

The conference was held bilingually in English and Spanish, with the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity also providing concurrent sessions entirely in Spanish for those families for whom that language was the primary or sole language.

The “breaks” focused on during the conference are those low outcomes that repeatedly show up for African American and Latino students juxtaposed with the highly successful outcomes that are experienced to a significant degree by non-Latino and non-African American students in the schools of the Little Rock metropolitan area. The summit provided dynamic sessions focused on these breaks and ways parents can respond as advocates for their children.

The breaks include other people’s beliefs about minority children, such as the beliefs that these children cannot learn, don’t want to learn, or somehow are too pitiful to learn; that certain children do not have dreams and aspirations for a better life; that Black boys and Brown boys deserve to be pushed out of schools and into juvenile justice systems and prisons; that young minority girls only aspire to be pregnant and become young teen mothers; that Black parents and Brown parents do not care about their children and are not interested in being involved in their school’s success; that minority children will drop out of school, will not go to college, will not graduate from college and will not be successful in life; and that some children do not deserve to reap benefits of good schooling and education.

There are other breaks stemming from prejudice by race, class and language that say the children of these parents cannot do better, be better, and get better in academic and other outcomes with the right supports. These breaks arise from the habit some have of writing off certain types of children because they do not see in them the magnificence of who they are and to whom they are and have been connected.

There also are institutional “breaks,” such as suspension and expulsion processes; high school dropout rates; inappropriate responses to teen pregnancy; the inadequate juvenile justice system and processes; prison; no or low college going rates; course failures, lack of access to college prep courses, higher-level courses, dual credit courses; profiling; violence, brutality and killing of our boys and men of color; and disenfranchisement, political powerlessness, and economic hegemony and poverty.

Even in the midst of these breaks, we must develop a new way of seeing what is possible. I was pleased to provide the opening keynote for the summit. A portion of my remarks follows.

“There is a brave new world of which your children should be a part. This brave new world is made up of all kinds of people. They are people from all over the world. Your children will compete with them for 21st century jobs, salaries, good lives, and other opportunities for success.

“Your schools in Arkansas, in Pulaski County, and in the Little Rock metropolitan area need a new narrative for this brave new world. We cannot continue the narratives of the 20th century. This narrative is not just about educational excellence for Black learners and White learners. It is about preparation for life success for all learners regardless of their race, color, language, economic status, gender, and/or any other characteristic that makes learners different.

“They all deserve and have a right to a quality education taught by highly qualified, effective teachers, administrators and leaders in great schools no matter where these learners live and no matter to whom they are connected.”

Participants discussed their advocacy for their children and ways in which they could fight the prison pipeline that exists in Arkansas for boys of color. They discussed how to ask the right questions regarding activities that impact their children in schools, how to advocate and even protest persistent mistreatment or discriminatory practices that deny benefit to their sons and daughters, and how to use their own voices and power of engagement to change systems, structures and practices that fail to assure equitable opportunity, treatment and benefit to their children in public schools.

Finally, parents at the summit committed to take action to push back and break down the barriers to their children’s success. The Little Rock Parent Project, the Arkansas Cradle to Prison Pipeline Initiative, the Regional Children Defense Fund, and the City of Little Rock Community Programs have committed resources to support parents acting to push beyond the breaks and make a difference for their children in the public schools of the Little Rock metropolitan area.

In fact, the City of Little Rock Community Programs is making available grants of $75,000 each to organizations, community groups, and other civic entities that are committed to supporting parents as they take action to improve education for their children. Three of these $75,000 grants have specifically been set aside for organizations supporting Latino families to take action. Having this kind and level of recognition is entirely unique in the Little Rock historical context and speaks to the changing demographics in the local and statewide Arkansan landscape.

The IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity has made a commitment to the state department of education, targeted public schools across to the state, and community organizations that have expressed an interest to engage African American and Latino families in determined action in their children’s schools to break through the persistent barriers to equity and excellence for their children. This year of focus in the state had a wonderful and exciting start during the Second Annual Parent Conference. Future reports of activities that will be underway will be reported in subsequent updates.

Bradley Scott, Ph.D., is director of the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity and leads IDRA’s Department of Education Transformation and Innovation. Comments and questions may be directed to him via email at bradley.scott@idra.org.

[©2015, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the February 2015 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]