ATLANTA – There’s a growing movement of black parents homeschooling their children, and it’s driven largely by concerns about racism and a lack of opportunity in public schools that serve predominantly minority kids.
The Christian Science Monitor detailed the movement in a lengthy profile featuring an Atlanta co-op where black parents are banding together to provide their children with a better education than what the local school district can provide.
Former teacher Nikita Bush leads the group in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood, where traditional public schools with an “absence of a moral binding” contribute to low expectations and lower academic achievement for black students, she said.
“People are starting to realize that public education in America was designed for the masses of poor, and its intent has been to trap poor people into being workers and servants,” Bush said. “If you don’t want that for your children, then you look for something else.”
And a lot of black parents have found that something else with homeschooling, as the number of black school aged children receiving their education at home has doubled in just over a decade, from roughly 103,000 in 2003 to 220,000 now, according to statistics from the National Home Research Institute.
“Moms and dads are saying, ‘We just want what’s best for our children,’” Brian Ray, founder of NHERI, told the Monitor. “They’ve been told for 20, 30, 40 years that public schools will get better, they’ll get better for black kids, but … black kids are still at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of academic achievement … and black families know it.”
Public schools have repeatedly tried and failed, for instance, to close the achievement gap between white and minority students. The most recent efforts come in the form of a “restorative justice,” race-based approach to school discipline designed to reduce the suspensions of minority students and keep them in school, though data from schools in places like St. Paul, Minnesota show it’s done nothing to improve learning for black students, EAGnews reports.
Regardless, the Obama administration and others who subscribe to the “white privilege” perspective on society are plowing forward with the ineffective approach some believe is driving chaos in the classroom and lower expectations for minority students.
The Monitor reports:
The reasons black parents cite for home-schooling their children cover a wide range. Some sound similar to the homeschooling movement as a whole: religious beliefs, a desire to shelter children from an increasingly crass or materialistic society, a conviction that they are best-suited to teach their kids the values they need to live a fulfilling life.
But other parents cite incidents of racial bullying, studies showing that black students are less likely to be recommended for gifted and advanced classes, and multiple studies showing that African-American children – especially boys – are disproportionately likely to be suspended or arrested.
Ray told the news site NHERI studies suggest black parents who pull their children out of public schools are doing them a favor academically.
An NHERI study found that home-schooled students score between 23 and 42 percentage points higher than traditional public school students in critical subjects of math, reading, and English, though Ray acknowledged the study only involved 81 home-schooled students, a very small sample size.
Those home-schooled students also scored well above average “on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development,” he said.
In Atlanta, black parents who couldn’t normally afford to take time off of work to home school their children are banding together with other parents to educate students in a co-op through rotating teaching shifts that allows the parent educators to focus on their strengths, said Cheryl Fields-Smith, an education professor at the University of Georgia.
“Some of the most amazing inventions come forward out of need,” Queen Taese, a Lithonia mother who homeschooled her seven children, told the Monitor. “And the way public education in going, there was an inevitable need, especially for the black community, because less funds go to our schools and there are a lot less opportunities unless our children go outside our community.”
The home-schooling advocates pointed out that the alternative to public education not only allows parents to help their children excel much quicker than public schools, it also gives them the freedom to shape their curriculum around the values they find most important, including more in-depth study of history and the civil rights movement, according to the news site.