Monday, December 13, 2010

First Ever Atlanta Neighborhood Math Competition!

The Atlanta Neighborhood Math Competition Fall 2010 took place on December 8, 2010 at Adamsville Recreation Center. Students in grades 3-8 demonstrated the many math skills and concepts they have learned in school and during five weeks of coaching in preparation for this event.

The competition was divided into oral quiz and written quiz portions. Students in grades 3-5 participated in the competitional portion of the event while students in grades 6-8 from Streetsmart took the noncompetition written quizzes only. Below are the results. For each round, two teams from different recreation centers went against each other.

Oral Quiz
3rd grade: Adamsville
4th grade Dunbar
5th grade:Adamsville

Written quiz
3rd grade Adamsville
4th grade Morningside

The most enjoyable aspect of putting this competition together was by far working with students in the preparation phase. I believe Megan Cream, another math coach who is also a Ph.D student at Emory, will agree with this sentiment. Coaching students was both fun and fulfilling; Seeing a student gain proficiency in a skill such as long division, and be able to successfully apply what they learned is really what this event is all about. The core mission behind the competition is to help develop a love of math, an appreciation for healthy competition, and pride in where students are from. Above all, the event was created to help create a CULTURE of education in communities. After the results were announced, Adamsville students showed their pride with the chant "A-D-V! A-D-V!" Teachers and rec center staff members all agreed that the students thoroughly enjoyed themselves and are looking forward to the next competition. I can definitely say the same.

What could have been better
We could have benefitted a great deal from more volunteer math coaches to deploy to the other newly-opened recreation centers. Also, because of lack of funds and time there were no prizes. While the students did not seem to mind, I would like for participants to be able to take home a reminder of their hardwork. In the meantime I am applying for grants for the upcoming competition, but would love to be in touch with anyone who is interested in supporting this event through donations of funds, prizes for students, or time as a volunteer.

Thanks to all who helped make this happen. Special thanks to the City of Atlanta for giving me the opportunity to make an idea become reality. More thanks to the students who did their part--the most important part!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Give the Gift of Competitiveness through Education: Essential2Life Education Culture Scholars Project

As you may have heard, I am working with Atlanta Tutors and Essential2Life Urban Youth Solutions to provide inner-city students with quality one-on-one SAT prep and foreign language tutoring. Select students--all of whom are juniors at Douglass High School in Atlanta--have been hand-picked to receive supplemental education so as to enhance their student profiles and competitiveness in the college application process.

The reality is that these students need one-on-one tutoring to score in a competitive ran
ge when they take the SAT next year. High quality tutoring is expensive, but often less expensive than SAT prep courses. Atlanta Tutors, a local tutor
ing service that is known for superior quality in teaching and raising scores, has been generous enough to offer their services at a discount for these select Douglass students. Today I am challenging each of my family members and friends to buy at least one hour of SAT or foreign language tutorials for these high school students. Tutorials with some of the most qualified, experienced, and effective tutors in Atlanta are $50/hour. The goal for each student is to have ten weeks of classes, two hours per week. That's $1000 for 20 hours, but compare that with $2599 for the same amount of time with Kaplan or $2400 with Princeton Review. If you are going to give this holiday season, please give to the effort to not only help close the achievement gap by producing competitive college applicants, but to also develop a class of nationally competitive juniors among Atlanta's own.

How you can help
You can help these students improve their chances of getting into college with the purchase of an hour or more of tutoring on the Atlanta Tutors website. Please put "Eseential2Life" in the student name field so that the credit will be applied to this project. You can also send a check to
Atlanta Tutors - P.O. Box 450442 Atlanta, GA 31145-9998 - 678.412.5457. Per request of the donor, student progress reports will be provided to show how together, we can ensure that our students achieve.

Also, if you have any new or used SAT books or foreign language (Spanish or French) learning materials, please notify me at

The organization seeks to achieve its vision by continually and responsibly stewarding their mission "to create life-change for urban youth through mentoring and educational/career opportunity programs."
Essential2Life works directly with families in the public housing communities of Atlanta-a city that comprises a disproportionate 43% of the region's poor. Since its inception, E2L has created mentoring and educational opportunities for over 10,000 youth. It is E2L's goal to help at-risk youth "be more".
Through "15" a leadership program, students are offered a 3 year opportunity to be taught that leadership skills, so they can be a positive voice for their peers and pursue a life of purpose and distinction.

Stay tuned for this project's progress!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We have the right to remain behind: The implication for blaming culture, not money, for the racial achievement gap

Yesterday's NYT's article "Proficiency of Black Students is Found to be Far Lower Than Expected" highlighted a very important fact concerning the racial achievement gap: Money does not matter as much as we have always figured (Although it still matters a great deal). While there are real equity, noncultural issues such as school choice, the article pointed to parental practice and hinted at general culture as explanations for the 26 percentage points difference between reading proficiency rates of Black and White fourth-grade males. Reading this article and its reference to the cultural variable, while causing great alarm, inspires hope that people will begin to see the academic achievement gap not just as a money, political, or school issue, but also as an issue of culture. It shows that if we acknowledge a cultural shortcoming as a real factor alongside other factors like monies for school choice, we actually stand a chance of closing the achievement gap.

So with this "novel" idea, what can the government really do that it already has not? Policy makers are befuddled because culture--a questionable frontier for the realm of education policy-- is at the heart of the problem and the solution. Not only does pointing the finger at culture sound a lot like putting the blame on those most adversely affected, it is much easier to say to the American people that it is only a matter of streaming money into districts, schools and households than it is to point to cultural issues as a key variable. The former has no immediate promising soundbite solution to hold people off for a while before things fall back to a subpar equilibrium. In short, examining the cultural factor is often viewed as a politically incorrect move. How much can Washington, State, or City policy change our culture--our collective paradigm of education, the way we relate to each other concerning academic achievement, the way we spend our household disposable income, among other choices of prioritization? Furthermore, it is often the extent to which a policy is able to hold folks accountable that determines the degree of effectiveness. If there is an education-culture policy, what teeth will it have to keep it from being mere suggestion and propaganda of a loud yet ineffective public service campaign? How can education policy effectively confront various subcultures that are at odds with academic achievement?

A professor once said to me, "You can't make people change their culture with policies." She was pretty sure that policy and culture in that context were oil and water because of the legal implications and what it would look like to most people. Also, the American people are quick to attempt to defang that which denies us the ability to determine who we are or how we prioritize and allocate resources. Look at the American Revolution, the Civil War, or the formation of the Tea Party.

The thing is, I don't believe any of us truly want to be what we are becoming. Ostensibly it seems un-American for the government to become too involved in the private affairs of a household. But what if those private affairs work to the detriment of America as a whole? Is that not un-American? Is it still pro-American when we are self-determined to be slackers lagging behind in school, on the job, and in the world economy? While running the risk of sounding like I support authoritarianism in America, the goal is to point out that if we want to close the academic achievement gap we must pay close attention to those cultural variables that take effect behind closed doors. Whether or not there is a truly viable way for the government to do that remains to be seen. As this point we, individual community members, must take action to ensure that we put the necessary pressure on ourselves and others in our community to close this gap. We must assume our individual and collective responsibilities.

What is the solution?

Perhaps my professor was correct in suggesting that policies and culture just don't mix. Perhaps we must go through the back door so that, when achievement gap money is available we can maximize the efficiency of its use. While it is true that the problem of racial academic achievement disparity is quite complex, people fail to realize that the solution begins with one simple decision. Even though there are various factors contributing to the academic achievement gap, including SES, we--all Americans, but especially minorities who are most adversely affected by the academic achievement gap--must have zero tolerance for failure. Zero. We must throw fits, refocus, and show not only others, but ourselves, that it's all or nothing. Once we get that in our minds, in the minds of our next door neighbors, in the minds of students in failing schools and also failing homes, the academic achievement gap stands a greater chance of being closed. In short, we must have an American education cultural revolution of sorts.

If you are in the Atlanta area and have 2 hours of free time per week, please sign up to volunteer for the first Atlanta Neighborhood Math Competition. Email

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Atlanta Neighborhood Math Competitions

As mentioned before, the mission behind this blog is to help create a culture of education in homes and communities. Students are naturally competitive in groups, they love to win, and love to represent where they are from. Why not channel all of that into building and reinforcing math skills and starting a community tradition?

The City of Atlanta has agreed to put on the first ever Atlanta Neighborhood Math Bowls. Elementary and Middle School students will be coached in math concepts by volunteers, and different urban areas will be represented, so get excited.

We are still looking for more math coach volunteers to go out to the different Centers of Hope during the week to help students prepare. Prep sessions last from 45 minutes to a full hour between the hours of 4-5:30pm at any of the recreation centers, which are listed below. Saturday math coaching also takes place any time between 10am-4pm (start time determined by volunteer). If interested in participating as a volunteer, please email with the following information:
  1. Name
  2. School/Company
  3. School/Company position
  4. Contact Number
  5. Contact Email
  6. Location Preference 1
  7. Location Preference 2
  8. Mon-Friday day availability (one 45 min session between 4-5:30pm)
  9. Sat availability (please select and include time preference) 10/23, 10/30, 11/6, 11/13, 11/20
Centers of Hope Locations

Adamsville Recreation Center
3201 M.L. King Drive, SW 30331
Peyton Forrest, Adamsville, L.P. Miles, Margaret Fain, G.A. Townes, Harper - Archer

Ben Hill Recreation Center
2405 Fairburn Rd, SW 30311
Fickett , A.P. Randolph, Deerwood, Sandtown

Bessie Branham Recreation Center
2051 Delano Dr, NE 30317
Whiteford, East Lake, Burgess-Peterson Academy, Drew, Toomer

Grove Park Recreation Center
750 Frances Place, NW 30318
Grove Park, Atlanta Preparatory Academy

Morningside Recreation Center
1053 Rock Spring Rd, NE 30315
Morningside Elementary

Oakland City (Adams Park) Recreation Center
1305 Oakland Rd, SW 30310
Bunch, Cascade, Finch, Hutchinson, Continental Colony, Hamilton E. Holmes, M. Agnes Jones, Price, L. O. Kimberly

Peachtree Hills Recreation Center
308 Peachtree Hills Ave, NE 30305
E. Rivers, Garden Hills, Warren T. Jackson

Pittman Recreation Center
950 Garibaldi St, SW 30310
Gideons Elementary

Rosel Fann Recreation Center
365 Cleveland Ave, SE 30354
Cleveland Avenue, J.W. Dobbs, Heritage Academy, Humphries, Hutchinson, Crawford Long, Price, Sylvan Hills, Kipp Ways Academy, Thomasville

Monday, October 4, 2010

Aligned Missions: Bill Gates' Get Schooled Campaign

As a junior in college I and many others felt strongly that we needed a national campaign to correct the destructive paradigms which harm our ability to advance academically. Today, over two and a half years later, this vision is beginning to manifest!

Get Schooled is a national campaign funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is a resource for teachers, students, parents, EVERYONE and seeks to motivate with its national tour. Celebrities will entertain crowds of students and inspire them to be better at doing their part in this education revolution. But will they inspire lasting change? A different culture? A different set of household priorities? Different parental attitudes? I don't think they're entirely off the mark, but it definitely remains to be seen. While we can all be optimistic about anything from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation due to their long-term commitment to education equality, inculcating education culture may require something deeper.

But The Get Schooled movement, as Gates' money would allow, is so extensive, and if there is an external organization that could help spur a new education culture, perhaps this is the one. The website and tour events provide information and resources to students, parents, and nonparent stakeholders. Need money for college? Get schooled. Need inspiration from your favorite celebrities? Get Schooled. Need funding for an initiative? Get Schooled again. I just hope this doesn't fizzle out, and that a truly new culture is being developed in the process.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cultural Revolution

Maybe you've seen the signs posted around the city. Maybe you're a facebook friend. Or maybe you post frequently on an education blog and followed the link to this site. One thing is for sure is that the terms "culture of education", "cultural revolution" or "parental accountability" peaked your interest. The purpose of this blog, in a simple phrase, is to help inspire an education cultural revolution. Achievement in communities is determined by a culture, a way of doing things. If we can change our culture, we can change our lives.

But how? How do we collectively inspire a cultural revolution? How can we make it so that if governments, teachers, and schools do their part, parents and students do theirs? How do we make it so that the collective mentality is focused on high achievement, and that there is a zero-tolerance paradigm concerning failure? The movement to reform education in America must not just be a series of federal and state directives. It must also be grassroots and created by the same people who will benefit from it. Such a movement also must involve people from all walks of life including young and senior professionals, small business owners, politicians (but minimum politics!) and of course teachers and schools. Below are some general suggestions on how to help inspire cultural paradigms of education. It is divided into suggestions for the nonparent, the parent, and the student.

For the non-parent, non-student stake-holder
Reach out to every young person you know in school and/or every parent you know.Talk with them, and support and encourage them. Hold conversations with people about what is at stake in terms of local and national viability, and offer your moral support.

Be a mentor!

Stay tuned to this blog, which will announce local education culture events that demonstrate the gravity of passionate numbers.

Research movements and initiatives such as the Harlem Children Zone ( and the SEED boarding school movement (, and write to your community, city, and state leaders expressing your desire to see replicates or variations of such transformations. Get involved in the movement to bring these innovative initiatives to your local area.

Support local education initiatives which seek to improve communities and schools. Volunteer or support them financially, especially in these challenging economic times. Visit

For parents
Turn the television off- Less television gives more time to focus on homework and classes. Television is a waste of time. Time wasted can never be recovered.

Make sure your children have a balanced, healthy diet. Junk foods with too much sugar and salt are not helpful in allowing your child to think clearly. Remember that raw foods make great snacks.

Tutors and books over clothes and video games—The most important thing for your child’s chances in life is their education. The brand name of their shoes will not get them into college or find them a good job and can very well be a distraction. It is important for you to dedicate as much of your resources as possible for not only what is required for school (supplies, etc), but making sure your child possesses and retains the instruction they receive in school. That includes tutors, summer programs, exam fees, etc. Shop at discount or second-hand stores, use coupons, or look for other ways to save money. If you haven’t already done so and even if your child is already in high school, try to open up a savings for your child’s college education.

Independent study—Challenge your child to learn more than what they are taught at school. Assign them projects and book reports to make them more competitive.

No tolerance – Adopt a no tolerance policy toward your child regarding low grades. Chances are your child is fully capable of learning and excelling. There is no acceptable reason for low achievement if your child is not mentally challenged or has a learning disability. If you suspect your child has a learning disability, get it check out! Be involved about your kid.

Reward your child for excellence

Environment—try to make sure your home is a quiet, safe place for your child to study. If that is not possible, find a community center or afterschool program where your child can work.

Get involved—meet your child’s teachers and learn about what your child is doing everyday at school. Keep track of your child’s progress. Check your child’s homework. Meet the counselor. Ask parents of high-achieving students about what they do on a daily basis and how you can improve.

De-stress yourself---find a way to de-stress, whether it is through exercise, meditation, prayer, etc. The more calm and centered you are, the more effective of a parent you will be.

For students

Dream Big—Envision yourself in ten years as a successful individual. Write down your dreams, believe in them, picture them everyday, and work toward them first with academic excellence.

Strive for your very best—Why get a B when you can get an A? I promise it will pay off. Challenge yourself and test your limits. You will probably surprise yourself with what you are capable of. Strive to be number one or the best you can be.

Get organized—keep separate binders for your different subjects and keep track of everything that you do in school. Make sure you have enough school supplies everyday.

Go to bed on time!---your body needs its rest in order to function properly. No matter how talented you are, a tired body and mind will limit your progress greatly.

Find a mentor---find someone that you admire to be your mentor. They can teach you about a certain career you are interested in or just be a friend.

Need help? Get a tutor--- If you are having trouble with a subject and need help don’t struggle with it alone. There are many people waiting to help you. Ask your teacher or call

Stay fit---Body and mind are one. Take care of one to take care of the other. Join fitness or dance classes at your local recreation centers.

Reach out to the people who can help you---Your counselor, your mayor, city councilperson, even your own president! They all want you to succeed. Write them letters, ask them questions, make them hear your voice.

Manage your time---Write down what you have to do each day and try to set a time for it. Make a weekly, daily, and hourly schedule.

Be well-rounded---High achievement is a must, no exceptions, but it is also important to be a balanced person. Join a sports team, participate in the arts, take up a creative activity. Express yourself!

Help a Friend---pass the word on to a friend. Success for one person in your community is a success for all.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Center for Education Culture Reform

This blog is long overdue...and I am surprised that I have not come across any others with this mission. Direct and to the point: The author of this blog is of the conviction that we need to focus on the cultural factors that play into student achievement. This applies specifically to the areas and communities that in the most critical state, namely those areas that are black and Hispanic. While student do benefit from better teachers and schools with better technology, we should also understand that changes in cultural have just as great of an impact--if not more of an impact--on the status of the acihevement gap. In conjunction with good, equitable policy, communities must develop a grassroots approach to instilling a culture which venerates education, and to eliminate those aspects of subcultures which tear down this paradigm.

So many netizens (a majority of whom are frustrated teachers) maintain that parental involvement is the missing factor. Yet parental accountability is pitched to education power brokers, there is an outcry of injustice and insensitivity to a very complex issue in our communities and schools. While the issue is complex, it is not hard to understand why culture is so important. Brilliant policies have already demonstrated the importance of culture. Take school choice for example. The reason why school choice helps so many students is because students are placed into a new culture where new messages about the value of education are being promoted.
What people fail to realize is that we have essentially set up a catch-22 which sabotages our well intended efforts to improve the state of education in America: We obscure the true value of education, we generally lack high expectations and do not possess the cultural template which require parents to play the roles that are necessary in student achievement (all the while ignoring the fact that parental roles and the home are most influential). We do not object to the cultural values which obscure the natural incentive to obtain an education. Then we expect our dollars to magically produce results when the real issue has never been addressed. The point of this blog is to discuss ways in which we can create a culture of education in communities and establish parental accountability in a sensitive, fair, and progressive way.

What is a culture of education, you may ask?
Culture was defined in my third grade social studies book as a way of life. Such would be the totality of habits, world-views, priorities, and ways of relating to others in our relationships, homes, and communities. If we can tackle each of these aspects and inculcate a serious veneration for education, perhaps we wouldn't need as much money for school reform. Of course, it is much easier to stream millions of dollars in schools than to transform communities. Transforming communities, as Geoffery Canada has showed us, takes work and time.

Now is the time to put away the excuses. Let's remember struggle as a means of survival. Let's declare a cultural revolution.