At the outset of the 2020 school year, Noble set a bold and ambitious goal of becoming a more antiracist organization. Since then, Noble announced our antiracism commitment (ARC),we engaged thousands of families in surveys and feedback to guide a reexamination of policies and practice. Since February, grounded in that feedback from parents, students, and alumni, ARC design teams have been meeting to guide the way forward on Noble policy and practice as it relates to our student code of conduct, uniform, promotion and graduation requirements, curriculum design and more. Those design teams then shared draft proposals with groups of Noble stakeholders for intensive feedback – hundreds of Noble family members, staff, students, and alumni engaged in these refine team spaces. This post is part of a series of updates on that work in progress.
Frances Grey is a parent at The Noble Academy. This spring she engaged in all five ARC refine spaces to inform and then provide feedback on proposals. We sat down with Frances to learn more about her experience.
Q. Can you share a bit about your background? Why did you decide to answer the call to engage in this ARC work this year?
A. My name is Frances Grey; I was born and raised in Chicago. I went to middle school at Smyser, which is North in the Portage Park neighborhood, High School at Lane Tech on Chicago’s Northside, and college at UIC and Roosevelt University in Chicago’s downtown area. I mention where I went to school because even though I’ve lived on the west side of Chicago most of my life, I’ve traveled to different areas in the city for a better opportunity and education. Doing so gave me the advantage of exposure and experiencing very diverse settings. For middle school at Smyser, I was bussed from an economically depressed neighborhood. The experience was eye-opening in many ways; however, there were mainly two lessons that have resonated with me and shaped the way I’ve decided to educate my children. It showed me the advantages of diversity. It exposed me to other cultures and other people that walk different lifestyles than my own. It also showed me that despite me coming from a lower economically tiered neighborhood, that academically I still outperformed most of the students that I went to school with. It is because of that experience, me doing so well at Smyser, that I tested well enough to be accepted to a selective enrollment High School, Lane Tech.
I have three children. My youngest James is a junior currently at The Noble Academy. I also have daughters who’ve both matriculated through CPS. We are a family that believes in education and that you need it to succeed regardless of your gender, race, ethnicity, etc. We also are an African American family and know that there are many odds stacked against us. We realize that education is key and one of the largest components to help you get to the next tier. I have a Black son, and I know that he has got to be stronger and better than his peers, he’s got to be a leader, he has got to be outspoken, and he is going to need those things to be successful. That is why the Noble ARC was important to me. I believe it takes a village to raise and educate a child. If he can go to a school that shares the same beliefs as my family does and provides additional support, then he is in a good environment.
Q. Can you describe the meetings you’ve participated in this year? When did they start? What did it feel like?
A. Originally, I didn’t like the meetings; I thought there were too many cooks in the kitchen. I do appreciate the request for parental feedback, however a couple of times I wanted to stop parents from speaking because they were long-winded. But who am I to stop another parent from speaking just as passionately about what is important to them for their child, so in hindsight, I get it. I appreciate Noble’s acknowledgment of the inequities and that there needs to be a change and that these are actually the steps to implement it. I like that Noble isn’t just attempting these changes themselves but soliciting those who are affected to work on what changes need to be made. It speaks to the patience and understanding of the struggles, and makes it a collective effort.
Q. What sort of proposals did you hear and what feedback did you provide or did you hear other parents provide?
A. Some parents gave excellent feedback. I know many parents chose Noble because of its structured policies. I think it is very important for the parents to understand that it is Noble’s intent to address the punitive policies and demerits and not make compromises to the curriculum.
Another reason that Noble is important is that despite it not being a selective enrollment school, which is deemed the best in the city, academically they are performing at the same level. Realistically we all just want a school that is going to prepare and springboard our children to this next step/phase that they are about to take. Taking away unnecessary and unwarranted disciplinary actions does not mean taking away the expectation that we are going to have great students who are prepared. I know this concerns some parents. When I first received the letter from Constance Jones, before the meetings began, addressing changing promotion requirements and SAT scores, it led to a debate with another parent who interpreted these action items as a lowering of school criteria. I interpreted it as incidents such as poor attendance and demerits no longer will stop you from being promoted to the next grade. Another parent suggested that instead of uniforms, implement a dress code. I thought that was a very reasonable suggestion and definitely a way to find a happy medium. It will also allow room for some type of self-expression while staying with guidelines amongst students.
A parent pointed out that wearing uniforms instilled a discipline like wearing a work uniform. Another parent equated discipline of a uniform and compliance to working for a corporation versus self-expression and an entrepreneurial mindset. It was a different vantage point that I’d never heard but can respect.
Q. What else do you want people to know about the ARC design and refine process you’ve engaged in thus far this year?
A. There is a societal shift happening and that Noble is showing accountability and is taking responsibility. Brown and black people are aware of the racist and institutionalized discrimination. I admire Noble’s commitment to address it and make changes. Noble’s track record academically speaks for itself. Addressing the issues and inequities within their majority demographic exemplifies that their students are important to them, it implies that their reputation is important to them and that they are “woke”. Noble proposed adding art classes and making students well-rounded. This will be helpful to many students who are different or unique learners and help them to be successful in the future.
Q. Why do you think this ARC work is so important?
A. The ARC is important because if successful, it will promote inclusive and confident mindsets. It will allow room to teach instead of managing unnecessary disciplinary actions. It will help prepare Noble students to be future leaders and work in a collective effort.