Education

Configuring 6th-grade students may not be a good idea

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Published 12/09/2019 | Reading Time 2 min 19 sec 

By Nehemiah D. Frank, founder, director and executive editor  

No child should be placed into an environment that they are not mature and prepared to handle. If studies attest that configuring the 6th-grade from elementary to junior high status is more harmful to students, both psychologically and academically, why is the superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) recommending it? 

Now, I highly doubt that Deborah Gist or any school administrator within TPS wants to make these difficult changes. And because some Oklahoma congressional leaders do not care about equitably funding education for the low- and middle-class, our local educational leaders are forced to make difficult decisions that may adversely affect the outcome for our kids.  

TPS faces a $20 million budget shortfall two years after teachers and school administrators hastily marched — with other school districts and the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) — from Tulsa to the state capital, all 106 miles, through inclement weather only to walk away with not ensuring that all students can become successful. 

I am still disappointed in OEA’s president, Alicia Priest, for using her position as president of Oklahoma’s most influential teacher union to end the 2018 Oklahoma teachers’ strike without full demands met because today, our schools still do not have what they need to practice equity. 

Let me remind everyone that 64 years ago, Rosa Parks courageously sat in the Whites Only section on a bus in the south, was jailed for four days and then convicted of disorderly conduct. According to the city of Montgomery, Alabama, Parks was a criminal. 

Montgomery’s Blacks in unison boycotted their city’s transportation system for a whopping 361 days until the city decided to treat its Black public transportation-riding citizens equally and equitably — as human beings.

I am confident that Montgomery’s transportation corporation felt the sting and every pinch of Black dollars that were not collected that year. It took the city of Montgomery 361 days to realize that Black dollars matter. 

Hence, it takes radicalism, uncompromising determination coupled with organized people to shock a system into submission, that system being the Oklahoma state legislature. 

I would love to see educators, school administrators, and advocates from across the state organize, march, and demand adequate school funding, so districts throughout Oklahoma can receive the resources needed to implement best practices based on data.  

A Duke University and the University of California study show that “sixth-graders placed in middle schools have more discipline problems and lower test scores than their peers who attend elementary schools.” 

With the Black student suspension rates as high as 1 in 7 in recent years and Black students performing academically far inferior when compared to their White peers in school districts, then configuring 6th-grade students at majority Black attending schools shouldn’t be up for discussion.

Throughout American history, Blacks have always been forced to take the shorter end of any deal. In the case of the 2018 teachers’ walkout, OEA compromised, and low- and middle-income students, attending public charters and traditional public schools were left without the funding needed to close racial academic performance gaps and address ACEs, so teachers can do more teaching and less behavioral management. 

With Oklahoma ranking 45th in the nation for education, 50th in ACEs, and 1st for mass-incarceration, there is only one solution: Civil disobedience on a mass scale at the state capital until legislators decide to give schools the resources to ensure that all Oklahoma children can be academically and psychologically nurtured to their full and best potential. 


Upcoming TPS meetings regarding closings and configurations

  • Monday, Dec. 9: McLain High School fieldhouse, 4929 N. Peoria Ave. — 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 10: Memorial High School gymnasium, 5840 S. Hudson Ave. — 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 11: East Central High School gymnasium, 12150 E. 11th St. — 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 12: Webster High School Allen Fieldhouse, 1919 W. 40th St. — 5:30-7 p.m.

Nehemiah Frank

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder, executive editor, and director of The Black Wall Street Times, a digital news media company that believes access is the new civil right. He graduated with a general studies degree from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and a political science degree from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and was a member and chapter president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. Today, he is a blogger for Education Post, based in Chicago, IL, and a board member for the Tulsa World, Tulsa Press Club, and Tulsa’s Table. He is also a public school educator at a local community-led charter school and is a member of Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s Education Task Force for Equity and Inclusion. In 2017, Frank became a Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, a 2018 Black Educators Fellow and gave a TED Talk at the University of Tulsa. 

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