Now that the confetti is a faded memory and graduation caps and tassels hang carefully out of reach, some parents have begun the search for a school that will elevate their child to the next level of achievement.
While it may seem like an overwhelming task to find out, there are some guidelines to follow that can simplify the task.
“Number one, parents need to check with the California Department of Education and get a subcategory breakdown in terms of how African American children are faring,” explained Diana Daniels, executive director of the National Council on Educating Black Children.
To find this breakdown, go to the department’s website–www.cde.ca.gov–and click on Data and Statistics, then click DataQuest, which is a database searchers can access to look at student scores on a variety of testing measures. One good test to look at is the Academic Performance Index (API).
At the DataQuest page, look to the left for level number one and pull the drop-down menu to school. At number two, select subject, pull the drop down menu to API. There are a number of other categories including drop-out, suspension, and expulsion rates you might want to evaluate later.
Next, hit submit and type in a portion of the school name. When the selections pop up, make sure to click on the school in the proper school district.
For this exercise, you will select the first report and hit submit.
Now look at the State Accountability: Academic Performance Index (API) section. The important numbers to know are the 2009 Base API and the API Target. Now look at the “Subgroups” heading and examine the score for each category. Particularly compare the scores of African American students to the school’s overall number as well as to the other subgroups.
Once you know how well the school is educating Black children based on test scores, Daniels said it is also important to look at suspension and expulsion rates for African American males and females and compare that to the total number.
“You want to make sure there is not a disproportionate number of suspensions and expulsion (for African Americans), based on their student population,” added Daniels.
Also look at the school’s math, reading, English, and other scores and compared them to state rankings, Daniels advised.
Carol Brunson Day, CEO of the National Black Child Development Institute recommends connecting with organizations like the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), talking to people in the community, the church and other community organizations.
Another consideration to keep in mind say Brunson Day and Daniels is whether or not there are African American teachers and administrators.
“You definitely want to look for cultural diversity,” pointed out Daniels. “If the school is 99 percent African American, you certainly want to see some semblance of African American culture, or someone in the school who looks like the children.”
The educational advocates also suggested looking at a school’s mission to see how it compares with your beliefs and goals and making sure that the teaching strategies being employed are culturally relevant.
Simply put, Daniels said this means things like understanding and teaching Black children in the way they learn best.