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INSIDE THIS ISSUE: Personnel Development in Special Education Part II ................................... 1

Afro Economics .................................... 8

Vanishing Act........................................ 5

Asthma in Children.............................. 9

Universities STEM growth ................... 6

Ujima Legacy Fund ........................... 7 Fatherhood Initiative ....................... 7

Black Male Emergent Readers.........10 Ronnie Sidney ....................................11 Black Panther .....................................12

Personnel Development in Special Education - Part II Disproportionality and Principal Support of Teachers - (Second of a two-part article)

By Cassandra B. Willis Abstract - Society and Bias Turn on the local news and an African-American male is shown in a negative light. According to Correll and colleagues (2014), evidence supports the idea that stereotypes and bias guide interpretations of actions and events. Police officers tend to interpret actions by AfricanAmerican males as more violent than their white counterparts. Young African-American males are stereotyped as being dangerous and violent and are five times more likely than white males to be shot by police (DOJ, 2001). Study after study has shown that candidates who have more ‘black’ sounding names are less likely to get a call back for a job. Fashion industry executives fight the notion that dark-skinned women are not beautiful. George Washington University recently released a study that found that African-American teaching candidates were hired less than white candidates despite sometimes holding advanced degrees and while receiving lower scores on the online interview component (D’Amico et. Al, 2017). Bias, stereotypes, low expectations, judgment called by any other name still causes misunderstandings, hurt, and are rooted in ignorance and racism. Given such societal predilections, it is no surprise that we see these proclivities in the educational system, particularly relating to AfricanAmerican students and special education. This section seeks to explore biases and how those biases link to low expectations for students. ROOTS OF BIAS While the research is vague on any one idea being the sole reason for biases, a lack of cultural intelligence and exposure to diverse persons appears consistently in both researcher and practitioner focused literature. Implicit biases defined are the attitudes and stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious way. Implicit bias can be linked to race and assumptions one makes about other races and can also make an impact

on disproportionality (Staats, Capatosto, Wright, & Jackson, 2016). Biases can form due to lack of exposure to other cultures as many teachers in the workplace today may have attended segregated schools (G. SiegelHawley, personal communication, November 1, 2016) or are working in segregated environments. The Commonwealth Institute located in Virginia recently issued a report that found 4.3 million more students in the U.S. attended a racially and economically isolated schools in 2014-2015 than during the 2000-2001 academic year (Duncombe & Cassidy, 2016). Schools serving low-income and segregated neighborhoods have been shown to provide less challenging curricula than schools in more affluent communities that largely serve populations of white and Asian students (SiegelHawley, et al. 2013a). Steele (1997) researched bias and coined a term called “stereotype threat.” It is simply the fear that a negative stereotype of a person is the reason for the interaction. With stereotype threat, people fear the threat of others’ judgments or believe that their particular actions will be interpreted as being stereotypical. In classrooms, this plays out when Continued on page 2

VUU’s Center for the Study of the Urban Child was established in 2010 to serve as an essential resource hub and informational clearinghouse for researchers, practitioners, and community stakeholders who desire to improve the quality of life for urban youth through advocacy, education, prevention and intervention programming. By virtue of its mission, which is to translate research into actionable knowledge, the Center seeks to heighten awareness, sensitivity, and responsiveness regarding critical urban child issues in the academic, practitioner, and residential communities.

Center for the Study of the



Personnel Development in Special Education - Part 1 Continued from page 1

students’ behaviors are linked to demographics and characteristics of students such as race, socio-economic status, living arrangements or even the incarceration of a parent. Steele further explains that stereotypes end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy because of the emotional response it causes. Stereotype threats directly affect student performance.

by students participating in general education, further research needs to be conducted linking the same attitude and bias to African-American students with disabilities. While Gershenson and colleagues, (2015) reported low expectations in their findings, their study lacked the selfreporting feature of the students themselves contained in McKown and Weinstein (2008).

Students are certainly aware of teachers’ expectations and stereotype threats, and could easily recall specific situations when Rubie-Davies conducted her research (2010). Delpit (2012) also utilizes a term to classify the set of factors that plague people who are historically oppressed such as invisibility, devaluation, stigmatization, and stereotyping as the microaggression. They are most easily recognized by the oppressed as race-based patterns of behavior not necessarily seen among other races. Staats, et. al (2016) defines them as subtle forms of aggression that perpetuate negative racial messages and prevent a nurturing relationship from being formed.

Bias in Teacher Referrals Teacher referral is a crucial component of Special Education and certainly needs to be conducted free of biases. Researchers show that a range of 73-90% of students referred by classroom teachers for special education evaluations are found eligible for services (Harry & Klingner, 2006). Multiple research studies demonstrate that a child’s race and ethnicity are significantly related to the probability he or she will be inappropriately identified as disabled (Donovan & Cross, 2002) (Ahram &Noguera, 2011) (Harry & Klingner, 2006).

RACIAL MISMATCH When students of diverse backgrounds have specific needs, they may be misunderstood by staff members whose backgrounds are very different from theirs’, especially if they have no training in working with the diverse needs of students (NABE, 2002). Teachers must be versed in the culture, beliefs, values, and dialect of students and mindful of these cultural patterns while designing instruction (Donovan & Cross, 2002). McKown and Weinstein’s (2008) study found that when there is more diversity in the classroom, there is a higher level of perceived differential treatment (PDT) and more bias in teacher expectations. When analyzing the data, the researchers found classrooms where students reported high levels of differential teacher treatment, teacher expectations of European-American and Asian-American students were higher than teacher expectations of African-American and Latino students with similar records of achievement. This link cannot be overlooked. While this study was conducted

Teachers often form judgments about students and their ability based on interactions instead of a thorough analysis of their work (Ahram, et al., 2011). Each aspect of the journey through special education is teeming with subjectivity such as assumptions and beliefs about a student’s ability, even though it requires scientific practice and procedure (Ahram, et al., 2011). This subjectivity often allows for disparate outcomes for African-American students in special education. Black students have a greater likelihood to be misclassified as having a disability, to be put in a more restrictive placement, and as having sub-par services in the midst of the placement (Losen, 2003). EXPECTATION GAPS Low expectations are rooted in biases individuals have against a group of people. Delpit (2012) describes this as the expectation gap: a theory where responsibility for learning rests on the students with teachers having little to no expectations. Rubie-Davies (2010) agrees with this theory by saying that teacher expectations, not the students’, is the source of the problem. Two additional theories emerged from the expectation gap, entity view, and


incremental notion. In the entity view, teachers believe a child’s knowledge base is set, and no matter what the teacher does, it will have little impact on student learning. In the incremental notion, all students can learn given appropriate support and the opportunity to learn (RubieDavies, 2010). Due to this belief system, when children cannot show their knowledge in the way the teacher prefers, they may be seen as slow, defiant, or learning disabled (Ahram, et al., 2011). The expectation gap also continues when teachers provide better instruction when they have greater expectations of students (McKown and Weinsten, 2008). Researchers found teachers with low expectations of students utilized homogenous groupings within the classroom, utilized closed questioning and direct teaching models, gave directions frequently and reacted negatively to off-task behaviors (Rubie-Davies, 2010). Lower expectations lead to less favorable post-secondary outcomes for students participating in special education including less rigorous coursework and fewer recommendations for college. It can also mean students will receive services outside of the general education classroom in a more restricted setting (Harry & Klingner, 2006). Expectations that teachers hold for their class and individuals run tangential to this theory. Teachers who hold high expectations for the entire class have students working in mixed groups. They make students responsible for some of the learning, manage behavior positively and provide feedback to students. Students who were low and high performing students all increase their outcomes under the teacher with high expectations for all students (Rubie-Davies, 2010). Delpit (2012) asserts that white teachers teach black students differently based on expectations and her assertion is supported in Gershenson et al. (2016). In Losen’s (2003) work, black students were found far less likely than whites to receive a placement in a fully inclusive general education classroom and were twice as likely as whites to be educated in a segregated placement, defined

as a placement in which the student spends 60

little expectations and begin to reshape their

can be adapted at the local level and give the

to 100 % of each school day separate from their

academic identity (Steele, 1998). Administrators

principal an opportunity to intentionally monitor

peers. Teachers often cite various nonacademic

must model high expectations for all learners


reasons for learning difficulties including home

(Rubie-Davies, 2010) and address instances and

lives, culture, and financial circumstances. When

show examples to staff when high expectations

researchers reviewed the responses from school

are not in place.

Principals have to demonstrate to teachers

Relationship Building

forms of curriculum integration that expose

personnel after learning their school division had been cited for disproportionality, they found answers relating to students’ home life.

Relationship building is a fundamental

Reasons cited for learning difficulties included

component in a demographic mismatch. In a

a lack of books, language barriers, and in some families, a disregard for education. The responses clearly show how implicit biases have allowed the justification of disproportionality for a group of students as no teacher identified the quality of their teaching as a reason. Only one staff member reported that a lot of the disproportionality had to do directly with attitudes of race (Ahram, et al., 2011). Teachers’ biases influence every single component of the special education process.

study of 1,200 African American and Hispanic parents, parents believed that the more white teachers who are on staff, the less likely they were to trust that schools were trying to educate

Curriculum Tools

students to diverse populations (Blanchett, 2006). African-American students are presented with the curriculum that is not reflective of their culture, lacks challenge and is full of closed and basic questions (Rubie-Davies, 2010; Delpit, 2014; Harry & Klinger, 2006). Curriculum,

children. New Education Majority, 2017).

as well as assessments, lack content that

Relationship with communities is imperative.

engages students of color. (Johnson, 2003).

Principals must demonstrate how to establish

Many textbooks omit portions of Black history

meaningful relationships with students (Delpit,

and in some instances, include stereotypes of

2012) and significant relationships to ensure no

students, making students feel uncomfortable

child is missed.

with the text (Blanchett, 2006). Students must

Use of Data

have teachers trained in different styles of teaching to engage all learners and include their

The subjectivity of the process and limited

Data disaggregation is part of the fiber of

cultural intelligence allow biases to continue

schools in a standards-based environment. Data

to affect student outcomes. Teachers need

presents a unique opportunity to monitor for

to be both guided and supported so that

disproportionality. Teachers have to understand

understanding and accountability will assist

the practical use of data to guide and monitor

building administrators to lead teachers through

student gaps and needs (Harry and Klingner,

this process. While disproportionality is a

2014). This is a curriculum focus, however

use to teach reading to students and can be

systemic issue, there are numerous deliberate

other types of data including observations,

costly. As of 2014, 73.2% of elementary school

actions principals can embed into schools.

walk-throughs, and attendance plans can

use some core reading programs (Reutxel, Jones,

Principals must lead the learning in eradicating

assist administrators’ monitoring process. The

& Clark, 2014).

the disparities that disproportionality causes.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Administrators can employ four evidence-based

(2007) developed a disproportionality tool

practices to do this.

to check for disparities. The tools contain

Model High Expectations

useful information for every step of the special education process. By utilizing the checklists,

diverse backgrounds in planning. Some schools reported referring students to special education in spite of the school not having a core reading program (Ahram et al., 2011). Core reading programs are content programs school districts

Disproportionality has been institutionalized in our schools. It will take time to assist teachers in understanding the root causes of disparities. While we remain hopeful that we will continue to attract and retain teachers of color, we have

High expectations are critical for students of any

teachers’ ability to use subjective processes for

age. High expectations communicate to students

eligibility is minimized. The checklist forces

to also guide the work of the current workforce.

how teachers feel about them. Students are well

teachers to use evidence-based practices and

Principals have to commit to supporting

aware when teachers have low expectations, and

gives administrators the evidence for team

teachers by using effective evidence-based

it feeds the students perceptions of themselves

decisions and provides evidence that can be

practices and by addressing instances where

(McKown & Weinstein, 2008). Students tend to

monitored on a local, state, and national level for

teacher bias and expectations are quelling the

increase negative behavior when teachers have

each one of the schools in the state. These tools

desire for excellence in a child.


REFERENCES Ahram, R., Fergus, E., & Noguera, P. (2011). Addressing racial/ethnic disproportionality in special education: Case studies of suburban school districts. Teachers College Record, 113(10), 2233-2266. Artiles, A. J., Kozleski, E. B., Trent, S. C., Osher, D., & Ortiz, A. (2010). Justifying and explaining disproportionality, 1968–2008: A critique of underlying views of culture. Exceptional Children, 76(3), 279-299. Bates, L. A., & Glick, J. E. (2013). Does it matter if teachers and schools match the student? Racial and ethnic disparities in problem behaviors. Social science research, 42(5), 1180-1190. CAEP Evaluation Rubric for Visitor Teams. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2017, from Casey, L., Di Carlo, M., Bond, B., & Quintero, E. (2015, September). The state of teacher diversity in american education. Retrieved from http://www. Cortiella, C., & Horowitz, S. H. (2014). The state of learning disabilities: Facts, trends and emerging issues. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities. D’Amico,D.  Pawlewicz, R., Earley, P, & McGeehan, A.  (2017) Where are all the black teachers? Discrimination in the teacher labor market. Harvard Educational Review: 87(1), 26-49.

Reutxel, D.R., Child, A., Jones, C.D, Clark, S.K. (2014). Explicit instruction in core reading programs. The Elementary School Journal, (114), 3. Rubie-Davies, C. M. (2010). Teacher expectations and perceptions of student attributes: Is there a relationship?. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(1), 121-135. Siegel-Hawley, G. (2013a). Educational gerrymandering? Race and attendance boundaries in a demographically changing suburb. Harvard Educational Review, 83(4), 580-612. Siegel-Hawley, G. (2013b). Miles to Go: A report on school segregation in Virginia, 1989-2010. University of California in Los Angeles: Civil Rights Project. Siegel-Hawley, G. (personal communication, November 1, 2016) Staats, C., & Patton, C. (2016). State of the science: Implicit bias review 2014. Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. http:// kirwaninstitute. osu. edu/wpcontent/uploads/2016/03/2016-implicit-bias. pdf. Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist, 52(6), 613.

Delpit, L. D. (2006). Other people’s children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: New Press: Distributed for Perseus Distribution

Tefera, A., Frankenberg, E., Siegel-Hawley, G., & Chirichigno, G. (2011). Integrating suburban schools: how to benefit from growing diversity and avoid Segregation. University of California in Los Angeles: Civil Rights Project.

Delpit, L. D. (2012). Multiplication is for white people: raising expectations for other people’s children. New York: New Press: Perseus Distribution. Department of Justice. (2001). Policing and homicide, 1976–98: (NCJ180987). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Tefera, A., & Voulgarides, C. K. (2016). Is Educational Policy Alleviating or Perpetuating the Racialization of Disabilities? An Examination of” Big-P” and” Little-p” Policies. Teachers College Record, 118(14), n14.

Donovan, M. S., & Cross, C. T. (2002). Minority students in special and gifted education, committee on minority representation in special education. Washington, DC: National Academy of Education. Dunn, L. M. (1968). Special education for the mildly retarded: Is much of it justifiable? Exceptional Children, 35(1), 5-22. Gershenson, S., Holt, S. B., & Papageorge, N. W. (2016). Who believes in me? The effect of student–teacher demographic match on teacher expectations. Economics of Education Review, 52, 209-224. Gilliam, W. S., Maupin, A. N., Reyes, C. R., Accavitti, M., & Shic, F. (2016). Do early educators’ implicit biases regarding sex and race relate to behavior expectations and recommendations of preschool expulsions and suspensions? New Haven: Yale Child Study Center, 991-1013. Harry, B. & Klingner, J. K. (2014). Why are so many minority students in special education? Understanding race & disability in schools. New York: Teachers College Press. Herrnstein, R. J., & Murray, C. A. (1996). The bell curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life. New York: Simon & Schuster. Irvine J., & Armento, B. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching: Lesson planning for elementary and middle grades. Boston: McGraw-Hill Johnson, T. (2003). Introduction. Reporting on race, education, and no child left behind. (pp1-2). Oakland: Applied Research Center.Losen, D. (2003). Special education: Reporting on race, education, and no child left behind. Oakland: Applied Research Center. McKown, C. & Weinstein, R. S. (2008). Teacher expectations, classroom context, and the achievement gap. Journal of School Psychology, 46(3), 235-261. Remmers, V. (2017, March 27). School discipline pattern raises a red flag for the state. Richmond Times-Dispatch, pp. A1-A7. Retrieved March 03, 30, from article_7ae1e9d9-b649-5a56-b95a-815dd3ef5e7a.html


Center for the Study of the

U.S. Department of Education. (2002). Twenty-fourth annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Education. (2009). Children with disabilities receiving special education under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Office of Special Education Programs, Data Analysis Systems, OMB No. 1820-0043). Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (2014). Civil Rights data collection: Data snapshot school discipline. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Education. (2016a). To assure the free appropriate public education of allstudents with disabilities: thirty eighth annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Education. (2016b). A Multi-Year Disproportionality Analysis by State, Analysis Category, and Race/Ethnicity. Washington, DC: Author. Virginia Department of Education. (2013). Guidance on Evaluation and Eligibility for the Special Education Process. Division of Special Education and Student Services. State of Virginia: Author West, J., and Gamel-McCormick, M. (2016, November 21) Deconstructing the presidential election, results, policy implications, and disability advocacy in the new Trump era.

Cassandra B. Willis is a full-time doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University seeking a PhD. in Special Education under the Research to Policy Advocacy Program.

Vanishing Act: The Scramble to Find Teachers Some school divisions are scrambling to find teachers. Are policymakers waking up to the crisis?

Perhaps more educators, policymakers, and the rest of us would do well with some similar tossing and turning, because if current trends continue, the teaching shortage could well become a nightmare for everyone. “We know, and research shows, that the factor with the single greatest effect on student learning is the classroom teacher,” says Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. “And we now have a shortage of our most important resource.” The commonwealth’s public schools went into this school year with over 1,000 vacant teaching positions, leaving large numbers of our students to learn in classrooms run by long-term substitutes, teachers with provisional licenses, or teachers who are teaching outside their area of expertise. That kind of a situation is considerably more than an inconvenience, says Billy Cannady, former state superintendent and one-time member of the Virginia Board of Education. “Why is it important to have a highly-qualified teacher who cares in every classroom?” he asked during an October conference in Charlottesville about the teacher shortage. “Because our democracy is at stake. This is our community; these are our children.” They’re also our teachers, and we don’t have enough of them. One of the biggest

One more particularly disturbing aspect of our teacher shortage: Minority and low-income communities are often the most hard-hit. Petersburg, for instance, began the 2017 school year with 142 unfilled teaching positions—over one-third of the city’s teaching slots. “We have a migration away from our neediest students, which hinders our ability to serve them,” says Staples.

By Tom Allen

Steven Staples, Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, recently told an audience during a panel discussion that “the one thing that keeps me up at night” is the state’s teacher shortage.

less than their debt,” says Cannady, “let alone enough to cover the price of renting an apartment and other living expenses.” So, many choose to take their skills to more lucrative fields. Others who may have been thinking about a teaching career opt out even earlier— enrollment in teacher preparation programs is down a full 35 percent nationwide. Sadly, this is happening at a time when student populations are growing.

reasons that we don’t it that many teachers, both rookies and veterans, feel they don’t get the professional backing they need and deserve. “They don’t feel supported,” says VEA President Jim Livingston, “in their practice, in their classroom management, and even in their communities. We must address this.” New teachers often have a bumpy transition from college programs into having their own classrooms. “In a perfect world, new teachers would have a year-long internship, working with a master teacher— obviously, we don’t live in a perfect world,” says Livingston. “But we need to take a hard look at our mentoring programs. Many of them are not effective.” Thin Wallets And, while it’s not always listed as the top reason teachers leave the classroom, money is always part of the conversation. It’s no secret that teachers simply don’t get paid what they’re worth. “Money is not all of the answer, but money is part of the answer,” Anne Holton, a former Virginia Secretary of Education, said recently. “Our teachers deserve not to be on food stamps. They deserve not to have second jobs so that they can support a family. We need them to be able to be fully focused on helping educate the next generation.” Salaries are a particular stumbling block to fresh-out-of-college educators who often have the additional burden of small mountains of student debt. New teachers “are often looking at salaries that are far

The Road Ahead So, how can we reverse the momentum of this migration and encourage more of our best young minds to enter our public school classrooms? It’s not going to happen overnight, warns Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent. “There is no one strategy to fix this,” she says. “We’re going to need a variety of different solutions over a number of years.” In its preliminary report, issued in October, the Advisory Committee on Teacher Shortages, appointed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, offers some recommendations. A good starting point, says Cannady, who is co-chair, is to get students interested in the profession early. “Early is not in 11th grade,” he says. “We need to reach very young students, when they first begin to understand the connection between what they see in their teachers and their own natural desire to help others.” Outreach to prospective teachers can also include offering experiences tutoring younger students, starting and supporting chapters of organizations like Teachers for Tomorrow in high schools, and “Grow Your Own” programs, in which local school divisions encourage teaching careers and, sometimes, offer financial incentives for participating students to return to the division to teach after earning college degrees. Livingston, who served on the Advisory Committee and was a middle school math teacher in Prince William County before his election as VEA President, is an avid Grow Your Own supporter. “It really works,” he says. “I had two high school students who worked in my classroom, both very bright young people, and they both ended up back in the county as full-time teachers.” In addition, members of the Committee recommended state funding for retention bonuses and to provide extra money for teachers in particularly challenging schools. The Association Weighs In VEA has also been at work on the teacher shortage issue and has developed recommendations for making progress on our shortage, based in part on information Continued on page 6

Center for the Study of the


Continued from page 5 gathered at the Association’s Teachers of Color Summit earlier this year. Those recommendations include: • Increasing the use of teacher residency programs; • Creating smooth pathways to teaching for classroom paraprofessionals; • Reducing the number of new teachers assigned to hard-to-staff schools; • Raising teacher salaries; • Conducting a statewide survey of school climate, a major factor in teacher satisfaction; • Reforming student loan legislation and increasing loan forgiveness opportunities; and • Evaluating teacher preparation, with an eye toward moving from fiveyear to four-year degree programs.

Universities STEM growth in urban youth By Kimberly Fields For Hollee Freeman, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), have long driven the world’s economies. Such disciplines, starting with manufacturing, industrialization and even agriculture, have always been present, says the executive director of the Math Science Innovation Center in Richmond, Va. Thanks to the rise of the Internet and other technological advances, STEM is the new buzzword for traditional and expanding industries that require a qualified workforce. Freeman says that the Math Science center works hard to educate and provide students experiences in STEM programs so that, once they graduate from college, they can land careers in those fields. “Having a diverse workforce fuels creativity and innovation, the very skills and dispositions that we need in order to meet the needs of the 21stcentury,” says Freeman. “By providing opportunities for youth and students of color to explore STEM concepts and careers, we are also helping them to make better choices regarding K-12, higher education and career goals.”


Center for the Study of the

The work of the state’s Advisory Committee will continue, examining other issues and creating further recommendations. Teacher mentoring programs and training for principals are two areas slated for extra study, both areas are research-backed boosts to both student success and teacher retention. Gov. McAuliffe, appearing at the conference in Charlottesville, stressed the critical importance of solving the shortage problem, noting, “If we continue to have fewer teachers, we’re in a real crisis for being able to bring jobs here to the commonwealth. Our next governor has to make it a top priority.” Tom Allen is the editor of the Virginia Journal of Education. This article is reprinted courtesy of the Virginia Journal of Education.

By virtue of the male-dominated jobs that historically have been associated with STEM – including physicians, scientists, automobile mechanics – women and minorities have been underrepresented in such fields. A 2013 U.S. Census Bureau report, “Disparities in STEM Employment by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin,” noted that men are employed in STEM occupations at twice the rate of women, or 31 percent to 15 percent. The report also noted that, while 11 percent of the workforce is black, six percent of STEM workers are black. Hispanics make up 15 percent of the workforce, but only seven percent within STEM. Several historically black colleges and universities are on a mission to change such statistics. Carleitta Paige-Anderson, associate professor of biochemistry in the Department of Natural Science at Virginia Union University and the director of University’s Center for Undergraduate Research, agrees that minority youth and girls are underrepresented in the STEM discipline. She believes early exposure to STEM can benefit minorities and youth as it helps them build their self-confidence. While some may contend that STEM programs and fields are better suited for males, PaigeAnderson says that everyone has a natural inclination toward STEM. “Children are curious and those are inherent qualities that I think are innate in children,” says Paige-Anderson. “They are curious, they are probably not sure what they are asking, but they do want to know “why” and they touch and they feel and all of these things are essential to STEM and inquiry and learning and initially. I think that, over time, the education that minorities and girls receive either facilitates that inquiry process or redirects it in a different direction.”

Even if STEM redirects students to other disciplines, it doesn’t mean their career choice or course of study is inferior to STEM. PaigeAnderson believes that other areas of study do not take a backseat to STEM, nor do they compliment them. The disciplines are not interrelated as they should be. She says that as a scientist, she would suffer dramatically if she didn’t have the skills from the humanities and other interdisciplinary areas. “I think that the successful people who work in STEM careers are better scientists and engineers when they understand the humanities and the implications of their work,” says Paige-Anderson. Urban youth and minorities being fully represented in STEM would not only be representative of the population, it could also change the outlook of an urban family. Paige-Anderson says that STEM careers can often provide minority students the financial resources for a better quality of life. “I think that access and exposure to STEM has the potential for the youth in urban environments to pursue opportunities that could really change the trajectory of these communities in a way that other career options may not,” says Paige-Anderson. Virginia State University and Virginia Tech also offer STEM programs for prospective minority students. The programs include an undergraduate and pre-college summer institute at VSU, and a leadership program, TechGirls and a pre-college initiative at Virginia Tech. Both universities offer Kids Tech University, a program that provides children interactive sessions to get them excited about science and filling them with “why” questions. Kimberly Fields is a writer based in Raleigh, N.C.

Dortch is director of community innovation at the Robins Foundation. His friend, Reginald E. Gordon, is chief executive officer of the Greater Richmond Chapter of the American Red Cross. Another friend, Damon S. Jiggetts, is executive director of the Peter Paul Development Center in the East End. Six years ago, the men took their combined fundraising expertise to another level by creating the philanthropic group, the Ujima Legacy Fund. In its first year, the group of then 20 men raised $20,000. The funds went to Partnership for the Future, a program for youth education. The next year the men supported Art 180, which helps increase self-esteem among inner city youth through art. A year later, the Neighborhood Resource Center in Richmond’s Fulton community was the recipient of the group’s benevolence.

Mega Men’s Giving Mission By Bonnie Newman Davis

Robert L. Dortch Jr. and several of his friends are accustomed to raising money for a living.

Last year Ujima Legacy awarded $20,000 each to Higher Achievement and Mega Mentors. Higher Achievement closes the opportunity gap for underserved students through intensive after-school and summer programs that provide expanded learning, mentorship and opportunity. Scholars in Richmond and Henrico schools begin as rising 5th and 6th graders and remain in the program through 8th grade. Mega Mentors was created in 2009 when then Chesterfield County superintendent Marcus Newsome asked African-American community leaders to be role models for students in Chesterfield County. While intentional about working with African American students, the volunteer-run program is designed to improve academic performance, increase graduation rates and reduce disciplinary issues for all middle and high school students who are underserved or disenfranchised. “Higher Achievement and Mega Mentors represent exactly what the Ujima Legacy Fund is about –

building a community of support that believes in and invests in the potential of our young people,” said Immanuel Sutherland, leadership team member of Ujima Legacy Fund. “Even as we seek to enrich the lives of others through collective giving, we are equally enriched by the opportunity to learn about and contribute to the good work they are doing.” Since its creation, Ujima’s group of 30 to 40 AfricanAmerican males has donated nearly $170,000 to several nonprofit organizations in Richmond. Ujima’s members, who represent various careers and professions, include attorneys, educators and delivery drivers, says Dortch. Dortch says he was inspired by the late Thomas Cannon’s selfless acts of giving. Cannon, who was a Richmond postal worker, donated thousands of dollars to numerous Richmonders over several years after reading about their various good deeds and acts of kindness. Grant applications for Ujima Legacy funding are due each year in March. The top five or six finalists are required to make presentations and a final selection is determined after a group vote. “We think it’s important for our children to see that we support them and believe in education by making a tangible contribution, says Dortch. “It’s important for them to see and understand that not only do we give checks, but we also volunteer.” An example of Ujima’s volunteerism is partnering with Partnership for the Future to teach young men necktie etiquette. Establishing an endowment and determining a path to the organization’s long-term sustainability are among Ujima’s immediate goals, says Dortch. “It’s still an upward projectory.”

Henrico County Schools’ Fatherhood Initiative By Morgann Williams

Approximately 62.5 percent of children in the Richmond, Virginia area are born to single mothers, one of the highest rates in the country, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s nonmarital birth statistics. While the statistic is troubling, one Richmond-area school system is encouraging fathers to become more active in the lives of their children through the Henrico ManUp Fatherhood Initiative. The initiative works to “engage, enhance and educate” fathers and father figures who have children in the Henrico County Public Schools. Further, the initiative’s mission is “to actively engage men in order to enhance the well-being of students by increasing the number of children growing up with an involved, responsible, committed father/male figure, through proactive and educational programs.” I recently spoke by telephone with Darryl A. Williams, current chair of the initiative and Family and Community Engagement Coordinator for Henrico County Public Schools. Williams said that the program was founded in 2008 after its organizers received a grant from the National Fatherhood Initiative to help fund

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Continued from page 7 activities such as bowling game nights and monthly workshops exploring various topics for fathers. The program participated in a Back-ToSchool Kickoff last fall to celebrate the start of the school year in partnership with the Department of Family and Community Engagement. ManUp also has been involved in “Donuts with Dad,” an HCPS program hosted in local elementary schools where fathers and father figures come in and have donuts and conversation with the children. To create more of an impact, the program launched the HCPS Fatherhood Conference. Now in its second year, ManUp recently hosted its 2018 HCPS Fatherhood Conference on March 2. This year’s theme was “Men at Work: Building a Foundation to Save Families.” Williams hopes that the conference will become an annual event. In addition to the conference, Williams says there are plans to host a bowling game night this spring and to offer more events involving men and their families. To assist fathers and father figures seeking ways to be more involved in their child’s life, the initiative offers “12 Ways Men Can Be Involved At School,” with tips ranging from volunteering in the classroom, opening car doors in the morning as children arrive to school, or having lunch with their own child. A similar list is also provided to schools that want to engage men in their community, encouraging the schools to “Create a “father-friendly” environment at your school, especially in your front office” ( Although the organization’s main audience is Henrico County Public Schools’ students and their families, Williams stressed that the program provides support and guidance to the community at large, whether it’s a group of fathers meeting informally or showing support for other community groups and events. For more information on the ManUp Initiative, please visit Morgann Williams is a freelance writer based in Richmond, VA


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A Smart Start

The importance of teaching financial literacy to children and youth By J.B. Bryan My teenage daughter plays the cello and she started with the Suzuki books. The Suzuki style of teaching music encourages parents to even place the instruments in the crib with a child. Well I say - place books into the crib of the child, too - start early and make financial empowerment and knowledge a part of your child’s life.

Similarly, my book, AfroEconomics™ for Kids: Me, My Family, My Legacy, is an activity book to introduce young people to the 10 principles of AfroEconomics™ and to bring AfroEconomics™ for Kids into your family life and decisions as early as possible.

(materialism). Research shows that children do develop financial habits from their parents therefore we must all accept the task to reduce materialism and instead focus on positioning our finances to develop a legacy that could touch many generations.

Also, AfroEconomics™ for Kids: Me, My Family, My Legacy is about financial literacy, but my goal includes keeping their interest, too. The activity book does require help from the parents, but it also has a complete coloring book in the back that is just for fun!

It is my hope that this activity book can serve as motivation to build a generation that is able to achieve financial independence through developing a family financial plan and a system of accountability to stay on track so that they begin to move away from poverty. This book shows just how significant your family is to a child’s financial success. I believe in the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” and this book shows the impact of the village and how, together, you can create change.

In addition, AfroEconomics™ for Kids: Me, My Family, My Legacy focuses on the importance of family, and is an empowerment activity book for understanding and building our family unit. I believe that strong family support is vital to building financial knowledge and independence. As a child, I was taught that the key to financial success was academic success. I know now that a good education is needed, but it has not guaranteed us financial independence. My parents were married 60 years and worked in higher education their entire careers. For me to start a business was a big surprise to them. This book encourages young people to see that we all have different interests and goals and to have the nerve to get to know yourself and follow your dreams. My book does not discuss savings and investing, but it addresses the First Principle of AfroEconomics™, which is “legacy.” Legacy is understanding what impact you want to make on the world and how you can build and enhance your family for generations. Many children and young people are extremely focused on money—whether it’s their own or their parents’. Whether they have it or not. Where does this line of thinking come from and is it a positive or negative? I don’t think young people are taught to focus on money as much as they are being taught to focus on “things”

I am a strong believer that children learn the most about money from their parents. That’s why AfroEconomics™ for Kids: Me, My Family, My Legacy requires that parents work along with their children as they answer the questions and do the activities in the book. Financial empowerment is a process and a lifestyle - it takes time. That’s why I created the activity book - AfroEconomics™ for Kids: Me, My Family, My Legacy. JB Bryan is the creator and author of the powerful AfroEconomics™ Books, workbooks, and AfroEconomics™ for kids! AfroEconomics™, is a strategic financial management program developed for the advancement of Black wealth in America and Abroad. Ms. Bryan also is President and Chief Investment Officer of JB Bryan Financial Group, Inc.

Short-term increases in inhaled steroid doses do not prevent asthma flare-ups

daily). At the earliest signs of asthma flare-up, which some children

Courtesy of the National Institutes of Health

Though the children in the high-dose group had 14 percent more exposure to inhaled steroids than the low-dose group, they did not experience fewer severe flare-ups. The number of asthma symptoms, the length of time until the first severe flare-up, and the use of albuterol (a drug used as a rescue medication for asthma symptoms) were similar between the two groups.

Researchers have found that temporarily increasing the dosage of inhaled steroids when asthma symptoms begin to worsen does not effectively prevent severe flare-ups, and may be associated with slowing a child’s growth, challenging a common medical practice involving children with mild-to-moderate asthma. The study, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, is in the March 8, 2018 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and coincided with its presentation at a meeting of the 2018 Joint Congress of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) and the World Allergy Organization (WAO) in Orlando, Florida. Asthma flare-ups in children are common and costly, and to prevent them, many health professionals recommend increasing the doses of inhaled steroids from low to high at early signs of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Until now, researchers had not rigorously tested the safety and efficacy of this strategy in children with mild-to-moderate asthma. “These findings suggest that a short-term increase to high-dose inhaled steroids should not be routinely included in asthma treatment plans for children with mild-moderate asthma who are regularly using low-dose inhaled corticosteroids,” said study leader Daniel Jackson, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, and an expert on childhood asthma. “Lowdose inhaled steroids remain the cornerstone of daily treatment in affected children.” The research team studied 254 children 5 to 11 years of age with mildto-moderate asthma for nearly a year. All the children were treated with low-dose inhaled corticosteroids (two puffs from an inhaler twice

experienced multiple times throughout the year, the researchers continued giving low-dose inhaled steroids to half of the children and increased to high-dose inhaled steroids (five times the standard dose) in the other half, twice daily for seven days during each episode.

Unexpectedly, the investigators found that the rate of growth of children in the short-term high-dose strategy group was about 0.23 centimeters per year less than the rate for children in the low-dose strategy group, even though the high-dose treatments were given only about two weeks per year on average. While the growth difference was small, the finding echoes previous studies showing that children who take inhaled corticosteroids for asthma may experience a small negative impact on their growth rate. More frequent or prolonged high-dose steroid use in children might increase this adverse effect, the researchers caution. The study did not include children with asthma who do not take inhaled steroids regularly, nor did it include adults. “This study allows caregivers to make informed decisions about how to treat their young patients with asthma,” said James Kiley, Ph.D., director of the NHLBI’s Division of Lung Diseases. “Trials like this can be used in the development of treatment guidelines for children with asthma.” Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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Such books are instrumental in motivating young black males to read while also increasing their self-esteem, says Jenkins-Jones. Her own motivation for developing BMER is based on research by Alfred W. Tatum, dean of the College of Education and director of the Reading Clinic at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Tatum’s research shows that “enabling” texts and writing play a strong role in advancing literacy development among African-American adolescent males. Examples of enabling texts include “Notes of a Native Son,” by James Baldwin, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” by Alex Haley, “Invisible Man,” by Ralph Ellison and “Crossover” by Kwame Alexander.

Officer Jerry L. Scott Jr., Meldon Jenkins-Jones, Diane Wilmore.

One for the Books By Bonnie Newman Davis The Black Male Emergent Readers literacy program at the Richmond Public Library seeks to empower and inspire young men.

Meldon Jenkins-Jones’ grandson, now 19, struggled to read while growing up. He was “kept back a year in school despite being from a well-educated family,” says Jenkins-Jones, the law librarian for Richmond Public Law Library. While her grandson eventually received help and recently graduated from high school, that didn’t ease Jenkins-Jones’ worries about other minority male youths whose families are unable to help them overcome reading difficulties. Her concern led her to create the Black Male Emergent Readers (BMER) literacy program at the Richmond Public Library.

Such works foster healthy psyches among young black males, present an awareness of the real world and show the collective struggle of African-Americans, according to Tatum. The goal is to get youth to read more, communicate more effectively, and develop a better self-image and positive relationships. Jenkins-Jones took Tatum’s work a step further. After creating BMER, with input from librarians at Richmond’s nine public library branches, she developed BMER Book Kits for use by nonprofit and community organizations and businesses. The 12 kits (organized into portable backpacks) are available for library cardholders and contain empowering books, activities, and a list of resources that develop reading, writing, and critical thinking skills in content areas such as art, civics, dance, history, music and poetry. Diane Wilmore, community services manager for Richmond’s North Avenue Library, has been the impetus behind many BMER programs and activities, says Jenkins-Jones. In addition to hosting programs at the North Side branch, Wilmore has led field trips for BMER participants to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the former Virginia Aviation Museum. The number of BMER participants fluctuates, but typically about eight students come to the library once a week from the surrounding community and neighborhood school, says Wilmore. Reading programs generally last from six to eight weeks during the school year.

Reading disabilities contribute to many minority male youth failing to graduate from middle and high school, and Jenkins-Jones says that inadequate education and the inability to find employment means many of these young people wind up joining gangs, committing crimes or going to prison.

Arriving in Richmond from Cleveland, Ohio, in 2014, Wilmore says she was “all in” for introducing BMER at the North Avenue Library. Support from the Richmond Public Library Foundation has provided funding for some BMER programming, and BMER also has partnered with local organizations such as the YMCA, the Richmond Boys Club and ART 180.

During the 2012-13 school year, the national graduation rate was 59 percent for black males, 65 percent for Latino males, and 80 percent for white males, according to the Schott Foundation for Public Education, which supports equitable funding and policy changes to eliminate disparities in public education.

Richmond Police Officer Jerry L. Scott Jr. routinely facilitates BMER sessions covering critical thinking skills, life skills and how to avoid negative interactions with police. Scott says that when he questions young black males about their reactions when they see the police approaching, they frequently respond, “We run.”

Among the BMER program’s components to address the literacy gap are book clubs, empowerment workshops that use hip-hop culture as an education tool, and an initiative called Success for Teens, which focuses on critical-thinking skills and how to overcome obstacles and challenges.

“Often when kids interact with police, their emotions go from 1 to 50 in a matter of seconds,” says Scott. “I encourage them to take a deep breath and calm their emotions.”

A 2016 BMER conference featured several African-American male authors who live in Virginia. Also among the panelists was Richmonder Clarence McGill, a coach, mentor and former official with the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, who was among those profiled in David Marc’s “Leveling the Playing Field: The Story of the Syracuse 8.” McGill was one of eight black college football players who boycotted the 1970 football season at Syracuse University, seeking racial equality on and off the field. Their demands included access to the same academic tutoring made available to their white teammates and racial integration of the coaching staff, which had been all white since 1898.

Jenkins-Jones believes that, with more volunteers, BMER will continue to grow and become a model for other cities. “This program is transferable and will benefit the entire society — not only African-American males, but Latinos, Native Americans and boys in general.” In addition to serving as a columnist for Richmond Magazine, Bonnie Newman Davis is editor of The Advocate. Reprinted with Permission from Richmond Magazine’s Oct. 15, 2017 Online Edition

Ronnie Nelson Sidney’s storytelling explores differences By Morgann Williams

When Ronnie Nelson Sidney II talks to youngsters about how he overcame learning disabilities to become an entrepreneur and author of a three-book series, he makes sure that his sessions are interactive. During a two-hour program Feb. 24 at The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, Sidney invited some young people from the audience to read excerpts from each of his books as he discussed them. In sharing details about the book’s main character, Sidney debunked a few myths about learning disabilities, emphasizing that LD has nothing to do with a child being lazy or a lack of intelligence, and noting that some learning disabilities are genetic. After sharing his story, Sidney, who also is a licensed clinical social worker, showed a short video that highlighted the special relationship he shares with Ruth E. Tobey, one of his former teachers whom he says had a positive impact on his life and inspired his first book, “Nelson Beats The Odds.” The book was published in 2015 and was inspired by Sidney’s experiences with having a learning disability and being in special education classes.

Before ending his talk, Sidney answered questions from the audience about learning disabilities and explained how he uses the book in therapy sessions with patients to identify and connect with families. He says he plans to write a fourth book that will address school shootings. For more information on Nelson and his books, visit his website at Morgann Williams is a freelance writer based in Richmond, VA.

Growing up, Sidney attended schools in Essex County, Virginia, where he was an outgoing student, but struggled academically. He eventually was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and dysgraphia, a condition that presents issues with writing. Sidney says that he graduated from high school with a 1.8 grade point average. However, he did not let his weak grades stop him. He enrolled in J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and later transferred to Old Dominion University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human services in 2006. He later earned a master’s degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University. Nelson’s second book in the series, “Tameka’s New Dress” (2016), was influenced by his tenure as a social worker when he worked with children being raised by their grandparents and children who experienced abuse. His final book in the series, “Rest In Peace Rashawn Reloaded,” was inspired by the national anthem protests started by NFL player Colin Kaepernick and the shooting deaths of black men by police throughout the nation.

Photo by Morgann Williams

Center for the Study of the


“Black Panther” is directed by African-American Ryan Coogler and has a largely African-American cast. Many fans of the film have seen it multiple times. Celebrities such as Serena Williams, Kendrick Lamar and “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman rented entire theaters to treat inner-city youth to free screenings of the movie. To further the excitement and momentum surrounding the movie, public libraries throughout the country are offering comic book reading lists to satisfy fans – at least until the “Black Panther” sequel arrives. The following list is courtesy of The New York Public Library.

‘Black Panther’ Thrills Fans It’s safe to say that February 2018 was unlike any other Black History Month in recent memory. In addition to the dozens of lectures, televised documentaries, concerts and performances, the long-awaited movie “Black Panther” arrived in movie theaters everywhere. In its opening two weeks, the big-budget movie based on a Marvel Comics book delivered $786.3 million at the box office. “Black Panther” follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.

“Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet ” A three-book series by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The “Daredevil” series (The first Black Panther comic debuted in 1966, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and set him up against classic Marvel heroes—such as Daredevil and Captain America.)

Christopher Priest’s “Black Panther: The Complete Collection.”

“Black Panther” An illustrated history, released this year, has the complete chronology of the series.

Roxane Gay’s new comic, “Black Panther: World of Wakanda,” tells the original story of the Midnight Angels and the budding love story of Ayo and Aneka.

Center for the Study of the Urban Child Leadership Team Lisa T. Moon, Director Associate Professor Department of Psychology A Richmond native, Dr. Moon is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Virginia Union University and a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. For the past two decades, she has demonstrated her expertise in academic instruction & advisement, academic program development & coordination, clinical training, clinical practice and research. She has also served as a professional consultant and presenter on psychological topics related to urban children. Dr. Moon recognizes the importance of the theoretical aspects of psychology and the implementation of those theories in practice. Her research interests include impact of abuse/trauma on child development, perceptions of urban children, importance of parental involvement in child development, African American female psychological development. She earned her B.A. degree in Psychology from Spelman College and her Master’s and Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, Associate Professor & Chairperson Department of Education Dr. Davis is an Associate Professor & Chair in the Department of Teacher Education at Virginia Union University. Her career spans four decades, and she has served as a teacher, district gifted education coordinator, university level Research Grant coordinator, and an Executive Director/principal at a specialized high school for gifted learners in urban and rural areas in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Dr. Davis is a recognized expert in the area of Cultural Diversity & Gifted Education. Dr. Davis has worked as a State Specialist for Gifted Programs, K-12 in Virginia and is currently serving a 3-year term as an At-Large member of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Board of Directors. She previously served as Chair for the NAGC’s Diversity & Equity Committee.

Dr. Sandra K. Flynn Associate Professor Department of Social Work Dr. Sandra K. Flynn is an Associate Professor of Social Work at Virginia Union University. She has concentrated her career in academia. Her research interests include investigating the health issues that impact African Americans, the support needs of the aged, chronically ill, and caregivers. She teaches courses in Social Research Methods, Ethics, Social Welfare Policy, Social Work Practice and Field Placement. Prior to her current academic appointment, she maintained a career in law enforcement. A Southwest Virginia native, she earned her MSW from Radford University and her Ph.D. from the University of Alabama.

Dr. Davis is a reviewer and published author of several articles, book chapters, technical reports and an award-winning book ‘Bright, Talented & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners’. Her research and publications are focused on family/ community engagement, under-representation in gifted education, and the psychosocial needs of high achieving students from diverse backgrounds. Dr. Davis holds two graduate degrees from The College of William & Mary.

Newsletter Editor - Bonnie Newman Davis, Bonnie Newman Davis Media Consulting

The Advocate ISSUE NO 6: Spring 2018  

VUU’s Center for the Study of the Urban Child was established in 2010 to serve as an essential resource hub and informational clearinghouse...

The Advocate ISSUE NO 6: Spring 2018  

VUU’s Center for the Study of the Urban Child was established in 2010 to serve as an essential resource hub and informational clearinghouse...