Parenting Through the School Years with Sharla Benson-Brown

Sending your little one off to school is a joyous occasion. The first day of school in fact is marked by fresh out of the box sneakers, popped tags from book bags and most importantly lots and lots of hope. Every mama takes a glimpse into the future on the first day of school. Perhaps they are raising the next president, creator of the cure for diabetes or choreographer for the Oscars. But a weighted start hovers over children of colors educational ventures. 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education there is still a persistent academic achievement gap. Children of color are least represented in gifted and talented/ accelerated classes, the classes needed to prepare students to do well on standardized tests and college courses. 

When my oldest daughter started preschool I prepared her by reading books every night. We constantly sang the alphabet song, pointed out the color of her shirts and barrettes. She could count to 20 without help and knew basic shapes like triangle, square, rectangle and circle. But, all of this wasn’t nearly enough preparation. On her first day of preschool she had students in her class who could count to 100 and knew shapes like octagon and pentagon! What?! Did I miss something? Did these parents receive a letter detailing what you should teach your child before they started school that I didn’t get? 

Two more kids later I know now that kindergarten is now the new first grade. I no longer believe that the best way to prepare my children for school success is to make sure they have back to school clothes and school supplies. Twenty first century schooling requires way more than enforcing homework completion and extra worksheets. My experiences as a mother, teacher and researcher have taught me I need to be an advocate for my children in different ways:

First: Request rigor at school and promote rigor at home. – Rigor, as related to schools, refers to in what way and how often a teacher pushes students to think…deeply. A skill needed in life in general, but most definitely to score high on standardized testing.

Second: A or A/B honor roll will not always translate to an invitation to accelerated or honors classes. Test scores are king! – If you don’t fully understand your child’s test scores ask your child’s teacher and get a second opinion from another teacher in the neighborhood or at church if you can.

Third: Self-esteem for children of color is a significant component of their success in school. – Researchers claim that messages and practices, i.e. talking about important figures in African American history, teach children about racial–ethnic heritage and provide the child with a sense of racial–ethnic pride.

I started Parenting Through the School Years (PTSY) in 2012 with the hope that parents, like myself, can come together and learn more about advocating for the success of our children of color in school. PTSY is committed to empowering parents of children of color to partner with schools to close the achievement gap. 

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Parenting a child of color? Visit . Find more helpful information on:

The latest in education research
Healthy lunch, snack and dinner ideas
Educational activities parents can implement at home to enhance learning.
School ‘Do’s’ and Book Suggestions 
Family fun activities

Here’s to Closing the Achievement Gap!

Empower Black Girls Empowerment of African American Girls For Parents of African American Girls ,

Tips for Starting A Girls Program

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