Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's back to school, but not necessarily back to reality for Obama Administration

From Washington, Amina reflects on President Obama's back-to-school messaging:

There was lots of pep and encouragement for students in Obama’s address to the nation’s students. His “you can do it!” message is an odd overlay to the reality of education today, particularly for students of color. “This is a country that gives all its daughters and all its sons a fair chance. A chance to make the most of their lives. A chance to fulfill their God-given potential”, remarked the President. As the graduation rate for Black and Latino youth hovers around 50% (or lower!) the words sound hollow at best. The words are a direct contradiction to the schools many students will meet this fall. Yet, I guess there’s nothing peppy about telling students that we’ve simply failed many of them. There's no positive note to telling children that they’re entering schools with almost unbearable budget shortages. California school districts are shortening their school calendar year to save money. In Obama’s own Chicago schools they cut 200 school buses, giving students longer journeys to school. Although the President's address may not recognize it, many students returning to school can’t help but see the contradiction in his encouragement and their reality.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Justice Matters & Los Cenzontles Host Cultural Event: Home–Grown Solutions for National Education Reform

Justice Matters and Los Cenzontles will host a cultural event and community advocacy forum on Wednesday, September 8 at 4 PM at Los Cenzontles Mexican Art Center, 13108 San Pablo Avenue, San Pablo, CA  94805.

East Bay families and neighbors are invited watch a four-year-old dance troupe, get their hands dirty with arts projects and enjoy traditional food, all while sharing their vision for change in public schools. This unique forum celebrates art, while asking parents and the community to collaborate on priorities for education reform and share their experiences and opinions with policymakers.

This authentic gathering is part of a state-wide effort to build support for arts education and arts-integrated education as a solution to many of the challenges facing schools today.  The effort is led by a state-wide coalition of advocacy groups which includes Alameda County Office of Education’s Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership, Justice Matters and Los Cenzontles. Aligning with a national effort led by the Americans for the Arts Action Fund’s 50 State in 50 Days initiative the coalition seeks to build awareness of the important role of the arts in our communities.

"Community arts are a priority in our work towards racial justice in local schools and on a national level. Our art and story-telling projects are a relevant and tangible way to raise consciousness and empower students, families and teachers,” said Olivia Araiza, executive director of Justice Matters.

As part of The Time Is Now initiative, state-wide coalition partners are urging the U.S. Congress and State Legislature to support the following policies and priorities for education reform:
  • Strengthen schools through arts learning and arts-integrated education.
  • Develop balanced assessments that value individual student growth and account for the overall quality of the learning environment provided for each student.
  • Provide equitable funding and school improvement models that value innovation and quality.
  • Provide authentic, accessible opportunities for parent, student, and community engagement and input.
  • Support educator professional learning communities that continually strengthen teaching and learning.
Los Cenzontles is a grassroots artist-driven organization committed to amplifying the roots of Mexican culture through classes, events, media and performances. Founded in San Pablo, CA in 1994 by musician and educator Eugene Rodriguez, Los Cenzontles provides the local community with a family-friendly setting for traditional arts education and cultural events.