As you may know, Asheville City Schools (ACS) has a deplorable academic achievement gap. (Visit the State of Black Asheville site for some frightening statistics. I can’t put my finger on a link to stats for Latinos, but they are similarly disturbing.) Some good news is that last Thursday I attended an event hosted by the Asheville City Schools Foundation (ACSF) and the ACS Parent U where reports were given on efforts that are underway “to break down the barriers that keep us from having courageous conversations around race,” and programs to improve the educational experience for minority students. There were about 100 people in attendance.
As ACS reported on their Facebook page, “Racial equity teams from Dickson, Claxton and Hall Fletcher Elementary Schools and Asheville Middle School presented highlights of their current efforts to break down barriers through racial equity grants from the Foundation. ‘This one is on us,’ said Asheville Middle School literacy coach Melissa Hedt, referring to the sincere desire of school staff to reshape the way curriculum is presented. The milestone meeting concluded with the division of attendees into four focus groups around the following four issues: school relationships with families; inequitable discipline; PTO inclusivity, and testing. That input will be shared widely with attendees and others. The event was described as the beginning of a renewed effort to create and share a vision of excellence with equity with the Asheville City Schools family.”
I was truly moved by the reports. One teacher said that in her 16 years in the city schools, this is the first time that issues related to race were being addressed directly. While the challenges are daunting, the fact that real action is being taken to address the significant inequities in the ACS gives me hope.
Community members can support this positive movement by letting ACS know that their work addressing disparities is important to us. As Tiece Ruffin stated in a recent Citizen-Times op-ed on the importance of parent advocacy around the academic achievement gap, “The continuous production of an underclass of people by the education system is a threat to the creation of a strong and prosperous country and an indictment to our collective consciousness as a caring society. As Marian Wright Edelman reminds us, ‘If we think we have ours and don’t owe any time or money or effort to help those left behind, then we are a part of the problem rather than the solution to the fraying social fabric that threatens all Americans.'”
As part of this initiative, Hall Fletcher Elementary is offering racial equity trainings for their families and the community. There is a training this Thursday, January 29 at Hillcrest Community Center. Dinner will be served at 5 pm, the training will be held from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Childcare and Spanish translation will be available. Transportation can be arranged by calling 350-6400. It is open to the public, and a great opportunity if you have never attended such a training.