If we are ever going to fix systemic problems like the cycle of poverty and the racial wealth gap, then we must fix the schools. However, when we talk about better schools we have to talk about more than just fixing the buildings.
To get to where we want to be, we have to fix what is going on inside the classrooms. There is no way of denying that we need a new strategy and approach in Richmond Public Schools (RPS) because what is going on right now is failing our kids.
My administration will work with RPS to create a student-centered academic approach. This approach will be focused around the three pillars of literacy first, greater teacher autonomy, and high expectations for our students.
The most important building block to learning is strong reading skills. When a child is a strong reader, they can approach anything with confidence. It also allows for a lifetime of learning because every person now has most of human knowledge in the palm of their hand through the internet. If you can read and comprehend then you can figure anything out. For example, I was able to learn how to build my own campaign website by reading and learning from the internet. Many Richmonders are held back because even as adults they struggle to read and write.
To change that, our school system will emphasize literacy skills in all disciplines. In every class, from art to math, reading comprehension and reflective writing will be used. These cross-curricular lessons will serve to reinforce literacy and build critical thinking.
Right now in RPS the approach is to kill all teacher autonomy. It has gotten to the point where they are now introducing “scripted” curriculums. Scripted curriculums are standardized, prepackaged lessons that require teachers to literally read aloud from a script. These highly structured lessons kill creativity and fail to address the diverse needs of a student body.
I believe that instead of pulling all power away from teachers and turning them essentially into robots, we should be empowering teachers to actually use their training and teach. We should create a collaborative environment where teachers can learn best practices both from on-going training but also from each other. Give the teachers room to experiment and respond to the individual needs of the students right in front of them. Hire the best teachers and get out of the way.
Our approach should be bottom-up and student centered instead of top-down and administrator centered.
Right now the culture in RPS is one where teachers don’t give homework because it “will just bring down the student’s grades.” Seriously that is a direct quote. After I heard that attitude from someone working in the school system, I was overwhelmed with a combination of heartbreak and anger.
This culture of making excuses must end.
No wonder our school system is the worst in the state when the expectation is that the kids will be failures.
I believe that children will rise to the level of expectations you set for them. No matter the child’s background, they can all learn when given access to high-quality teaching practices and a supportive learning environment.
If I am elected I will make sure that from the minute a child walks into a Richmond public school they will be supported, encouraged, and challenged to reach whatever level of success they desire. Instead of getting in the way of Richmond’s youth, we will work to instill hope that destroys the cycles that have plagued us for generations.