Belief gaps, Black history curriculum and Kentucky's need for teachers of color addressed during second day of Black Minds Matter series | Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

Belief gaps, Black history curriculum and Kentucky’s need for teachers of color addressed during second day of Black Minds Matter series

On Wednesday, June 24, Prichard Committee President & CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey hosted three conversations on Facebook Live with state and national educators and KET journalist Renee Shaw. Three themes were prevalent throughout the second full day of conversations in our “Black Minds Matter Series” – belief gaps in education, the need for stronger black history curriculum, and the need for more teachers of color in Kentucky’s school system. Conversations included:

  • Our episode of Innovation in Education featured Dr. Aaron Thompson of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, Dr. Soraya Matthews, Fayette County Public Schools, Dr. John Marshall, Jefferson County Public Schools, and Dr. Lynn Jennings from the Education Trust. Click to watch recording.
  • A one-on-one discussion with Dr. Jonathan Plucker, who has conducted researchon the low representation of African-American students in gifted and talented programs for Johns Hopkins University. Click to watch recording. 
  • A one-on-one discussion with Renee Shaw, Public Affairs Managing Producer & Host for Kentucky Educational Television (KET). Click to watch recording.
Innovations in Education: Racial Equity in Schools

Wednesday’s episode of Innovation in Education, featuring Dr. Aaron Thompson of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, Dr. Soraya Matthews, Kentucky educator, Dr. John Marshall, JCPS, and Dr. Lynn Jennings from the Education Trust,.

Posted by Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence on Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Black Minds Matter: One-on-One with Renee Shaw

Prichard Committee President & CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey interviews KET - Kentucky Educational Television's host Renee Shaw about racial equity.

Posted by Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence on Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Belief Gaps

The Belief Gap is clearly defined by Prichard Committee Board Member Dr. Julia Link Roberts in this guest blog post, where she states, “Unless educators believe that children from lower income families, twice-exceptional children, and children from all ethnic and racial groups can achieve at advanced levels, it is unlikely that they will see their behaviors as evidence they have that potential.”

Plucker underscored this notion in his one-on-one interview.

“Just because a student isn’t performing at a high level doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential to perform at the highest level,” said Plucker. “Poverty, discrimination, bias and racism all feed into the belief gap. There are so many people who haven’t taken a step back to look at these gaps in front of them.”

Jennings said that Kentucky is not unique in its wide belief gap – and that this is a common, yet unfortunate, trend across the country which starts at the very first level of education. “Roughly less than 20 percent of black students, 3 and 4 years old, attend state sponsored early childhood programs.”

Most Kentuckians are now completing high school, but the question, according to Jennings, is now “what are those students being prepared for?” Far fewer Black students are being exposed to the opportunities that their White peers have, such as Advanced Placement courses and gifted and talented programs that prepare them for postsecondary success.

Thompson said some actions that can be taken at the state level to close the Belief Gap include educators providing “high expectations, high rigor and high input” for their students.

“Enrollment of students of color in Kentucky’s public colleges and universities is increasing,” said Thompson, “but only 51.7 percent of high school students are enrolling in college to begin with, so we still have a long way to go.”

Plucker says high-quality opportunities for Black students must be “frontloaded” in preschool and elementary so that by the time they get to high school, the students are prepared for high performance. “Teachers need to know how to intervene early so that by the time students get to high school, their talents and abilities can show through,” he said.

Panelists echoed the notion we discussed Tuesday that professional learning opportunities, such as implicit bias and cultural competency training, are needed to encourage educators to look beyond racial and socioeconomic stereotypes and implement strategies that allow students to make continuous progress and achieve at levels without boundaries.

Marshall said that colleges of education across the Commonwealth need to be screening future teachers for equitable behaviors and giving courses in implicit bias and cultural competency.

Black History Curriculum

Again echoing statements made during our Tuesday conversations, guests on Wednesday discussed the need for more robust Black history curriculum. In Kentucky, curriculum is chosen at the school level by School Based Decision Makers (SBDM), which means some schools might be providing adequate Black history when others are not.

“There are some tangible things we can do,” said Shaw. “We can reevaluate the amount of African American histories and histories of other cultures that are taught in our schools from the very beginning. It has to be deeper than MLK and Rosa Parks.” She added that there are leading figures of the civil rights movement that students never hear about. “There’s a lot of our history beyond Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth that we can really unearth and talk about and put into context.”

Recruiting & Retaining Teachers of Color

According to our 2016 report, Excellence with Equity, in Kentucky classrooms, more than 95 percent of teachers are White, while only 79 percent of students are (that percentage was unchanged in the 2019 school report data). Only 3.3% of Kentucky’s teachers are Black, and in many districts there are no Black teachers. Wednesday’s conversations underscored this fact, and many solutions were discussed.

“Getting more teachers in the classroom starts well before college,” said Matthews. “Programs like Educators Rising and teaching career pathways are helping build the pipeline, but equitable hiring practices also need to be in place.”

Marshall said work is also being done in colleges of education to build the pipeline of teachers of color. “An unapologetic campaign to recruit, retain and exalt black educators is necessary,” he said. Jennings added that many black educators often leave the profession early on, so special emphasis needs to be placed on retention.

Thompson said that leadership development and policy development will also be critical in recruiting and retaining teachers of color.

“It’s not just about changing a course or two. It’s about changing the way we are measuring what we are trying to accomplish.”

Black Minds Matter series continues

Our conversations will continue today and tomorrow. Join us for the following events on Facebook Live:

  • A conversation on implicit bias with Student Voice Team members, Thursday at 11 a.m.
  • A live conversation with Donovan Pinner, founder of a campaign to educate minority voters, Thursday at 1 p.m.
  • A live conversation with Louisville Urban League leaders Sadiqa Reynolds and Kish Price, Thursday at 4 p.m.
  • A live conversation with Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Dr. Aaron Thompson at 10 a.m.
  • Community Conversation: Finding solutions on racial education equity in Kentucky, a Zoom meeting. Click here to register. (This will not be on Facebook Live).