Friday, October 30, 2009

AIDS Ban Lifted

Shockingly little coverage so far on the President's action today to lift the 22 year-old ban that has prevented people living with HIV/AIDS from traveling in the U.S.

Umm, this is a really big deal.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama: Make it Happen, Please!

One step closer to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Local Perspective on GED Policy & Process

The editors of the NY Times today highlighted one of this country’s most shameful systems—the GED testing process. The editors were pointing out New York’s deficiencies but their observations should be widely applied.

Although I appreciate the spotlight on this issue that too frequently slips through the cracks of the radar of education reform advocates and social service policy makers, I feel that the editors misunderstood the full range of issues.

The editors focused on the poor GED passage rate in New York; however, they drew a direct correlation between this problem and insufficient funding for GED preparation programs. In doing this, they neglected to acknowledge the problems with GED test administration offices. In DC, for example, the GED testing office placed high barriers on GED test registration in an effort to boost their passage rate. While this improved the city’s passage rate drastically, it did nothing to benefit the majority of GED candidates themselves. In fact, in the GED program that I formally headed, it had a negative impact on my program outcomes and my student’s morale.

GED candidates are required to take the entire 8 hour, five-subject GED exam in one sitting. However, they are only required to retake the sections that they failed. Most often, GED candidates will fail the math or the writing. For my former students, it made sense to take the test in full, knowing that they will probably fail one or possibly two sections. That way, when they attended my preparation program, they could focus exclusively on the one or two sections that they did not pass. They were motivated to stay in my preparation program because they already passed the rest of the subjects, and this knowledge motivated them to prepare for the sections that they missed.

In DC, the GED testing office recently implemented a rule requiring the students to demonstrate proficiency in all five subjects before they were permitted to register for the official test. The result—the only candidates who register for the test are the ones that can pass the entire exam. For the city, this resulted in high GED passage rates. For the high school dropouts, the removal of the test’s low-hanging fruit exacerbated the psychological barrier of preparing for the GED exam.

I hope that today’s editorial provokes conversation around remedying the issues surrounding this country’s high school dropouts and improves the GED preparation and testing systems. However, I hope that this conversation expands to include the point of view of the dropouts themselves rather than statistics that too frequently drive policies that are separated from the human face of the issues.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Marching for Equality

What an incredible day it was in the District. The National Equality March attracted hundreds of thousands of individuals and families to the nation's capital to stand up for the rights of gays, lesbians, and trans people everywhere. I haven't experienced energy or sheer manpower like this since inauguration took over this city.

And nine months after the election of President Obama, many in the LGBTQ community (myself included) are frustrated at the lack of tangible progress on discriminatory policies such as DADT and DOMA.

What today proved, however, is that we are more energized than ever and full of hope that real change is coming. Beyond that, there is an ever-growing number of straight allies - family members, neighbors, and co-workers - who are willing to stand up and fight beside us.

The LGBTQ community is, to say the least, a unique one with a unique history. It is a history of pain and division as much as it is one of empowerment. Today I finally understood why the fights of those who grew up before and during the Stonewall era matter. I think those older generations are finally feeling and celebrating the openness and joy of all of us who benefited from their struggles. We are learning from each other. The inevitability of real progress is palpable.

As Andrew Sullivan wrote after the march today,
More to the point, this was not a plea for it; it was a statement of it. We are equal. We always have been. The prison of inferiority is in our own psyches as well as in others' fears. But I sense now, for the first time, a critical mass of self-respect among my LGBT brothers and sisters. It was there before; but now it's everywhere, especially the young, who seem to have found the courage of their own desires and the knowledge of their own love.
Thank you to everyone who came out (ha ha) today. Let's keep up the fight.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Peace President

President Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize .... First of, congratulations Mr. President. It's inspiring that the leader of our nation is awarded such an honor.

Nonetheless, I wonder, if this is deserved just yet. My fellow ReGenerate, Pilar, says he is laying the crucial foundation necessary for future peace and prosperity in the US, and around the world. I agree. However, I wonder if the committee could have waited for his efforts to bear fruit before awarding such a high honor.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Shock in the District

Drastic cuts appear to be upcoming in the DC Department of Human Services budget. This will inevitably cause shelters across the District to reduce capacity or shut down.

I wonder how the DC Council is going to manage the crisis when the thousands of homeless individuals and families have no where to go but the streets.

With hypothermia season just around the corner, this is an absolute outrage.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Powerful and Unapologetic, Michelle Rhee Brings Change to Washington

By Ihotu Ali
Originally published in LIMIte Magazine

We all remember the Hillary - Barack infighting, and how the nation and all its various ethnic-racial and gender lines subsequently went haywire. Race and gender fought to hold central stage in American politics and, although we now have a black president, I dare say we still have significant skeletons in our closet when it comes to the media and powerful women. Take Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of DC Public Schools since 2007, and controversially portrayed and yes fierce, if perhaps misunderstood, advocate for DC school children.

In a city where private schools overflow with affluent sons and daughters of politicians, public schools are a near disaster. And Rhee has stepped up to the plate with so-called “tough-talk” and “arrogance” that, in my opinion, would be a necessary requirement for the job. This is DC, folks: generations of educational disinvestment and disenfranchisement. Not a walk in the park. However, Rhee has been painted as an unwanted intruder.

First off, she’s Korean, and we all know how well Koreans and blacks get along…except that this one read Dr. King as a child, was married to a (black) NBA player, and taught for three years in Baltimore, Maryland. She’s certainly not black, but certainly not a stranger to black cultures. She’s been scolded for antagonizing teachers with the front cover of New York Times image of “sweeping out” old and ineffective teachers like an old and cranky schoolmaster that wants things her way. She may want things her way, but “her way” has a pretty good track record - Rhee founded the “New Teacher Project” which trains and recruits thousands of high-quality teachers to provide to struggling school districts.

But she does not beat around the bush and does not bend over to please, which may not sit well with Washington-types. She knows her strength and is not afraid to flex her muscles. She’s quoted in the cover article of the Washington Post Magazine: “I don’t mind firing people, because I know it is going to benefit kids.” For complacent, or for earnest, but bureaucratically limited teachers, this may sound like a threat. But it seems those that meet her face to face see her deep commitment to students and passion for not just talking about reform, as many in DC do, but acting on it. In a year of promised change and reform, she seems to me a truly bright light on the DC horizon.