Homeschooling, Charter Schools, and Beyond
Black Parents Regain Control over their Children’s Education

The secret is out. Many black parents are taking their children out of the American public school system and everyone is talking about it. Empty promises are no longer quieting poor minorities and the inner city masses. People are tired of waiting for smaller classes and bigger budgets. Black parents specifically are tired of seeing their children transform from bright eyed elementary school students into unmotivated, poorly educated, high school dropouts. Every year these kids receive an alarming amount of mental/behavioral misdiagnosis and negative criticism in their classes rather than proper encouragement and guidance. Moreover, beyond merely acknowledging these poor educational conditions, public schools have done very little to improve the state of education for black students. It is for this reason that Black Flight is on the rise. More black parents are seeking alternative solutions to the public school system in an effort to regain control over their children’s education.

Home schooling is by far one of the most popular and effective alternatives available to black parents today. It gives them the power to define their own educational methods; integrating stronger Afrocentric curriculums as well as moral and religious values into their daily lesson plans. The end result for many of these families is a revitalized interest in learning. As studies show, homeschooled children average 30 to 37 percentile points higher than their peers in public school, across all subjects on nationally standardized achievement tests.[1] In fact, according to a comprehensive study conducted by Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, white and minority homeschoolers scored at the 87% percentile in reading and minorities trailed whites in math by a mere 5 points. Moreover, 63% of the minorities in this study were black and Hispanic, which proves that it is possible to close the educational gap between minority students and their white peers.[2] Is it really any surprise then that black parents are taking their children out of public schools? Blacks are now the fastest growing demographic of homeschoolers totaling about 110,000 among a total number of 1.1 million homeschooled children in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.[3]

Homeschooling is clearly on the rise within the Black Community, but it isn’t the only path parents are choosing to take. Across the country public school officials are noticing a decrease in enrollment largely due to black students entering charter schools. In Minneapolis, the district enrollment is projected to be down 30%. And in the last five years, the Washington D.C. school district has lost 10,000 students; 25% of which are now enrolled in charter schools.[4] These schools are actually independent public schools of choice that operate outside many of the regulations that govern traditional public schools. Governed by a group or organization (ex: a group of educators, a corporation, or a university) under a contract or charter with the state, charter schools generally aim to better serve a particular population or improve the achievement performance within a preexisting school.[5] For the most part, a growing number of charter schools are successfully meeting their goals, which in turn is convincing many minority parents that school choice is the way to go. According to a 2004 report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, charter schools are smaller than conventional public schools and serve a disproportionate and increasing number of poor and minority students. This is in large part due to the fact that the greatest achievement gains can be seen among African American, Hispanic, or low-income students. According to a December 2004 Harvard University study, these students are more likely to be proficient in reading and math than their peers in neighboring conventional schools.[6]

Similar to home schools, charter schools foster more parental involvement, better student assessments, and a stronger sense of cultural identity among the minority populations that they serve. For those families looking for an entirely different approach to learning, these alternatives are definitely the way to go. For those parents who are more so interested in filling the gaps within public schools rather than replacing them all together, supplemental educational programs are another option. They provide additional academic services to students who are in low-performing schools and they happen to be very popular.[7] As a matter of fact, everyday children across America attend these after school and pre-college programs at which they generate a renewed sense of themselves through new arenas of support. In spite of overcrowded classrooms and out dated books, students can further develop their minds with the help of the one-on-one training and co-curriculum classes that these organizations provide. For the most part, these programs typically offer tutoring, mentoring, summer instruction, workshops, internships, artistic development, college guidance, and career counseling. We will review more of such programs in the chapters to come.

From new school choice initiatives to after school programs, alternative educational avenues are becoming more accessible and sought after within the Black Community. As these changes continue to translate into decreasing enrollment rates at public schools, a few things are becoming clear to the American public at large. For one, school choice isn’t simply a privilege for those who can afford a private school education; it is a viable option for every American citizen. Secondly, politicians and school district officials alike can no longer count on minority and low-income parents to stand behind an educational system that is failing their children. And most importantly, irregardless of how much certain people want to portray Black Flight and Charter School segration as a problem, the increasing number of these minority students excelling past their public school peers is an indication to black parents that in regaining their control, they have actually found the right solution.

[1] Homeschooling Helps Minorities, by Lee Safley, Illinois Christian Home Educators, www.iche.org/pages/articles/focus.php?ID=19&parent=3

[2] Why Black Children Benefit From Home Schooling, by Jennifer James, Suite 101 - Multicultural Homeschooling, www.suite101.com/article.cfm/african_american_homeschooling/111986/1

[3] Home Schooling Basics: Facts and Myths, by Jennifer James, Black America Web, www.blackamericaweb.com/site.aspx/family/homeschool50106

[4] Black Flight, by Michael Strong, TCS Daily, www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=040706D#_edn1

[5] Definition of a Charter School, www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&rls=RNWE,RNWE:2005-15,RNWE:en&defl=en&q=define:charter+school&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title

[6] All about Charter Schools, The Center for Educational Reform, www.edreform.com/index.cfm?fuseAction=document&documentID=1964

[7] Supplementary Education Programs, Black Alliance for Educational Options, www.baeo.org/programs?program_id=5&program_category_secondary_page_id=19

Additional Black-Education Related Posts
- Websites for African American Homeschoolers
- Find Black History / African Culture Books
- Mahogany Momma BookStore

About the Author:
This article is an excerpt of A Better Today Brings a Brighter Tomorrow, (abt.msoyonline.com) a resource guide for African American parents, self-published by LaShanda Henry. Visit www.lulu.com/msoy to purchase a copy of this book or email lhenry@msoyonline.com for details.

© LaShanda Henry 2005

NOTE: You are welcome to forward or “reprint” this article online as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the “about the author” info at the end and the copyright notice), and you send a copy of your reprint to lhenry@msoyonline.com.

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