With the assistance of Lillinita Bell, a fourth-grade teacher at Salem Christian Academy, I (the executive director of Brown) was able to develop a four-and-one-half-day intensive Staff Development/In-Service training for parents, faculty, staff, and administrators. The school’s administrators are Reverend Illinois Senator James T. Meeks is the CEO and Mrs. Debra P. Miller is Principal. There were approximately 40 adult participants and more than 500 students involved. Students included those at nursery level 3 (three years-olds) through 8 th. grade. The activities culminated in a two-hour general assembly, which highlighted a re-enactment of the trial of the Brown case in Kansas .
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The following efforts were made in order to manage the academic aspect of the program:
(a) A comprehensive Brown v. Board of Education curriculum was used. It included a mission statement as well as information linking it to state academic standards. A week of staff development and in-service training included the utilization of a curriculum handbook that specified day-by-day objectives, core activities, teaching materials, and teaching strategies for use across the curriculum. Additionally, specific teaching strategies were developed to enhance the students’ learning skills and to address specific learning modalities in order to meet the academic needs of the students ranging from primary to junior high levels. Core academic subjects were organized and taught for maximum learning at the various grade levels.
(b) A system of assessments was developed to be administered at routine intervals. These were designed to diagnose the specific academic skills, strengths, and weaknesses of each student. Also, a specific written plan of action was developed for the remediation of students in need of additional support, as well as a plan of acceleration for students achieving above norms.
(c) A model was developed for teachers and the administrators that included outcomes and expectations relative to the Brown v. Board of Education Unit, (e.g., the maintenance and organization of classrooms and other learning environments).
(d) A system of professional development was created for faculty and staff that would ensure that students are knowledgeable about the foundations and the principles of the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. The instructors were given the opportunity to develop an awareness of how this school’s philosophy and best practices must relate to Brown in order to provide instruction that will result in high student achievement.
(e) Teachers utilized a Brown v. Board of Education manual that specified professional expectations related to in terms of teaching, assessment, discipline, classroom management, and participation in professional development activities, both inside and outside the school. Professional development activities for teaching staff included, but are not limited to, the following:
- Teachers were instructed to prepare a Brown v. Board of Education portfolio that documented their teaching and professional activities that are similar in content and form to that required by the National Board for Professional Standards. Items could include samples of unit and/or lesson plans, samples of students’ work, assessment data, plays, videotapes of instruction, reflections on relevant best practices of teaching. The portfolio included the consequences of the teachers’ practices for the students’ learning and the students’ academic achievement as it relates to the Brown v. Board of Education Teaching Unit.
- A reminder-of-the-year calendar was developed of professional development activities. The activities reflect the Brown v. Board of Education’s philosophy for faculty and staff and addressed the school's philosophy, academic curriculum, assessments, discipline codes, applicable technology, and mechanisms to ensure productive implementation in classrooms.
- A systematic program of observation and data collection was developed in order to document that teachers are implementing the curriculum as required. Teachers were provided the necessary support to effectively execute the program. Also, they are to receive the support needed to elevate and accelerate student achievement. The data from such observations will be used, along with teacher portfolios, as a basis for evaluation.
- Faculty and administrators worked closely with parents and the larger community to promote a sense of unity.
The culminating activity for Salem Christian Academy , “The 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education – Brotherhood Week Lasts All Year” featured music, oration (communicated in Spanish and Sign language, as well as in English), drama, poetry, and dance. This was the opening activity for the school’s recognition of Black History Month.
In addition to specially selected songs and dances, Ms. Sandra McKinley, one of Salem Christian Academy ’s eighth-grade teachers, adapted and produced a re-enactment of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court trial. The outcome of this case in Topeka , Kansas , declared that the … doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place . . . separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.
Eighth-grade students, dressed in black robes and other costumes representing the dress of that period, performed on stage. These young actors captured the intensity, the spirit, and the resolution of the Brown legal team as they argued for justice.
Though under tight time constraints, the students quickly learned their parts for participation in this two-hour program. Not only did these students act, they also took on the designing of the set while other classmates took charge of operating the audio/visual equipment(s). The audience, consisting of students, parents, faculty, and staff, sat spellbound during the performances.
The Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, I outline below developmental processes that could be implemented if this Commission were to continue for another year. Specifically, Commission members might do the following:
- Develop a parent handbook that outlines all school rules and policies that delineates the expectations and responsibilities of parents;
- Work with school administrators to organize an annual program of study and community- building activities for parents, faculty, and staff;
- Develop a system of communication and feedback to keep abreast of and respond to the concerns of parents, teachers and community leaders (such a system would involve all parties working closely and cooperatively);
- Develop a formal structure for leadership among faculty and staff so that, while being held accountable, they also would be participants in the decision-making processes of the school; and
- Maintain a personal knowledge of students and positive working relationships with them, their families, teachers, and schools’ administration and communities.