Defend DACA; Don’t rip away the dream


By Shawnta Barnes

On August 28, 1963, 54 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. said during his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  Today, ‘Dreamers,’ who had to prove they were of good character by obtaining an education and not committing crimes, may have the American dream ripped away.

‘Dreamers’ are undocumented immigrants who came to America with their parents as children.  Under the Obama Administration the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was implemented.  According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Department undocumented immigrants could remain in America if they met the following requirements

  1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
  3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  5. Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
  6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

These upstanding hard working people face an uncertain future because President Trump is expect to end DACA with a six month delay to force congress to find a solution.  There has been an outcry against this action from both sides of the aisle.  

Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted, “Taking legal protections away from 800,000 young people raised in this country is absolutely counter to what we stand for as a nation.”

Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch released a statement in response to Trump’s pending decision on DACA:

I've urged the President not to rescind DACA, an action that would further complicate a system in serious need of a permanent, legislative solution. Like the President, I've long advocated for tougher enforcement of our existing immigration laws. But we also need a workable, permanent solution for individuals who entered our country unlawfully as children through no fault of their own and who have built their lives here. And that solution must come from Congress.

Over the coming months, I'll be working closely with my colleagues in Congress and with the administration to pass meaningful immigration reform that will secure our borders, provide a workable path forward for the Dreamer population, and ensure that employers have access to the high-skilled workers they need to succeed in our technology-driven economy.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) pointed out in a radio interview, “These are kids who know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home. And so I really do believe that there needs to be a legislative solution.”

When asked by a reporter, “Should Dreamers be worried?” President Trump replied, “We love the Dreamers.”

To strip away protections and send people back to a country they might not remember, where they might not know the native language, where they will be separated from their families is an interesting way to show love.  Some of these immigrants may also be affected by Hurricane Harvey to compound matters even more.  

As a former English language learner teacher, I think about the impact this decision will have on students in the classroom, who are undocumented or have undocumented family members.  They have been driven to do well in school, master not only conversational English, but also academic English, in hopes they can live the American dream.  How can they continue to stay motivated when at a moment’s notice they are or their family members are snatched away and sent to a country where their fate is uncertain.

Although Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his speech during trying times, he still said, “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”  Even though the future is not clear, there are many people fighting alongside the ‘Dreamers’ to ensure their dreams won’t be uprooted and their families torn apart.  The question is, “Will you push your representatives to pass legislation to protect the ‘Dreamers’ if DACA is ended or will you be one of those good people standing by the side doing nothing?”

Tracking the Underserved


Tennessee gained approval from the U.S. Department of Education under ESSA, however; the state will not be allowed to view traditionally underrepresented groups as "supergroups."  The state must adjust its plan to look at groups individually.

“Ultimately, all of these approaches will help to shine a spotlight on all students’ performance and drive a conversation about the needs of individual students."

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Drum Roll....


CSE Executive Director Mendell Grinter released the following statement on the recent TNReady End of Course High School Test Results 

Memphis, TN - Campapign for School Equity (CSE) advocates for equal educational opportunity for all children, and remains committed to the equitable utilization of high quality educational options. Since our inception, we have worked to unite communities of clergy, parents and students to raise their voices to create effective change in our education system and promote improved outcomes for students. 

Yesterday, when Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced the district level end-of-course results for the second year of TNReady, we were encouraged to learn of the findings. Percentages of students across the state now scoring “on track or mastered” in high school math and English have increased. Additionally, nearly every school district also reduced the percentage of high school students who scored in the lowest performance level, which is called “below” - demonstrating widespread academic advancement.

At home here in Memphis, CSE has recently kicked off our direct student advocacy work. Starting this September, we will have presence in 8 local high schools working with students to develop personal advocacy skills and a collective agenda to improve education quality and outcomes for more students. 

We are optimistic about the potential for students across the state to continue making academic gains. And with the recent release of the TNReady end-of-course results, we are even more motivated to continue our work. CSE also recognizes the need to do more to ensure all children are achieving to their highest potential.  The gains that some Memphis high school students achieved are incremental, demonstrating a need to continue supporting interventions, innovation and school turn-around strategies that work while enhancing focus on areas for improvement. Our recent 2017 State of Equity report highlights those areas and mirrors our advocacy agenda for the upcoming year. Stay engaged with us as we forge ahead to advocate for equity in schools and higher achievement rates for all students.      

*TNReady is the statewide assessment administered to all students in grades 3-11. End of the Course (EOC) results from the Tennessee Department of Education can be viewed at 


Please Don't Miss the Message


When Carl Schneider was an elementary school teacher at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis, he walked his students home after school.  He built trust and confidence in his students this way and a picture of him performing this selfless act went viral in 2015.  Schneider appreciated the accolades, but wants people not to celebrate him, but to look at the systemic issues that students face every day.

"Please join me and my colleagues in the fight. Educate yourself about the ways systemic racism creates vastly different Americas. Join a local volunteer chapter dedicated to a cause about which you feel particularly passionate. Support as many local, minority-owned businesses as you can. Vote for people who share these ideals and consider volunteering for their campaigns."

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Can't we all just get along


When adults don't play nice, who does it affect the most? I should say who suffers the most? In a city like Memphis where thousands of our students are attending low-performing schools we cannot afford to have adults stand in the way of progress. Both Shelby County Schools and the Achievement School District have a tough job to do. 

“We have been spending a lot of time behind the scenes trying to have a better relationship and clear the air with a lot of issues,”

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