Schools say they need parents’ trust. Kathryn Bassett Hill says that, for black parents, distrust “is often prudent” because schools and educators “have not been trustworthy.”
Winner of TC’s 2018 Shirley Chisholm Dissertation Award, Hill (Ph.D. ’18, M.A. ’10) found that black New York City parents at “No Excuses” charter schools trusted educators to share or negotiate understandings with them about appropriate discipline styles. But their trust eroded when they were excluded from the conversation; when their children were repeatedly disciplined for small infractions; and when academic rigor didn’t translate into independent, critical thinking.
Charters did offer predictability from teacher to teacher and classroom to classroom, Hill found. Traditional public school parents felt vulnerable because so much depended on each year’s teacher, but had easier dealings with administrators on disciplinary issues.
The NAACP has called for a moratorium on charter school expansion, while noting that traditional public schools (attended by most black youth) often lack resources.
Chisholm, a TC alumna, was the first black woman to serve in Congress and run for President. She helped expand the nation’s Food Stamp program and create the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. Hill, now Dean’s Faculty Fellow at NYU’s Research Alliance for New York City Schools, recalls her own parents' vigilance that “everything was going well in the classroom,” which exemplified a Chisholm adage: “If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”