Black History Month

Thom Jackson on Black History Month

We are currently in the midst of the 41st annual observance of Black History Month.  It is the time when our nation recognizes and honors the contributions of African Americans, and reflects on the sacrifices African-Americans have made to continue our nation’s march toward a day when every citizen is able to embrace the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Over the past four decades, school children have fortunately learned about many remarkable individuals, who for nearly two centuries went unnoticed by history.  In the early 1900’s, the contributions and achievements of African Americans were not included in any education curricula of that time, and largely absent from the national narrative. Dr. Carter G. Woodson challenged this premise, and became the “Father of Black History.”

As one of the founders of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), Dr. Woodson led the movement to establish “Negro History Week” in 1926.  He chose the second week in February for the observance, since it coincided with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Born to former slaves in Virginia in 1875, he helped his family survive working as a sharecropper and miner. Although denied access to public education until moving to West Virginia, he began high school at the age of 19, and completed the four-year course of study in two years. Upon earning his bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Chicago, Woodson went on to receive a doctorate from Harvard University in 1912 - becoming the second African American to earn a Ph.D. from the institution, after W.E.B. Du Bois.

Dr. Woodson was a scholar and an educator.  His championing of Negro History Week was an initiative to make African-American achievements a permanent part of American public history; as well as a catalyst to develop and cultivate new understanding, new knowledge, and new collaboration.

Most assuredly what Dr. Woodson did not realize at the time, was that his efforts to raise black history awareness would have a global reach. Our colleagues in the UK observe Black History Month in October; and in Canada, it is also observed in February.  Additionally, Dr. Woodson would marvel at the new structure located on the mall in Washington, D.C. which is experiencing its first Black History Month, and providing all who visit with a new way to learn about that history – the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The Museum, which opened last September, is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.  My family and I visited last month and were profoundly impacted by the breadth and depth of the collections of historical artifacts and narratives.  If provided an opportunity to be in our Nation’s Capital, I would strongly encourage you to visit this remarkable facility to learn how, in many ways, African-American history is the quintessential American history.  Most of the moments where American liberty has been expanded have been tied to the African-American experience.

For us as an education company, we promote learning and achievement each and every day. But our role is not simply limited to the services we provide our customers.  It is more in keeping with Dr. Carter Woodson’s words:

“Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it, and make it better.”













Meeting EdisonLearning's New Florida Team

CEO Thom Jackson meets with staff of new Florida-based schools

On January 27, EdisonLearning announced that it had acquired Mavericks in Education, a Florida-based network of six charter schools providing students a unique path to earning their high school diplomas.  The following day, EdisonLearning CEO Thom Jackson met with the school leaders and staff, who are now members of the EdisonLearning team. Thom was joined by members of the Human Resources and Achievement groups, who will play important roles in ensuring a smooth and seamless transition of the former MIE staff members into the EdisonLearning family.

As a result of this acquisition:

  • EdisonLearning has re-established a presence in one of our industry’s top markets;
  • Doubled the size of our Alternative Education portfolio with a total of 6 schools located in North Miami Beach, Homestead, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Palm Springs, and Kissimmee;
  • And, taken on the responsibility to guide nearly 2,500 young people on their educational journey to a high school diploma.


Thom Jackson on Dr. King

The Significance of the Dr. King Holiday

In 1983, just a few days prior to Congress establishing a Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, shared her thoughts on the meaning of a National Day to honor her husband. 

"The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America. The King Holiday honors the life and contributions of America’s greatest champion of racial justice and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a color-blind society, but who also led a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality.

On this day we commemorate Dr. King’s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation; a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child. We are called on this holiday, not merely to honor, but to celebrate the values of equality, tolerance and interracial sister and brotherhood he so compellingly expressed in his great dream for America.

It is a day of interracial and intercultural cooperation and sharing. No other day of the year brings so many peoples from different cultural backgrounds together in such a vibrant spirit of brother and sisterhood. Whether you are African-American, Hispanic or Native American, whether you are Caucasian or Asian-American, you are part of the great dream Martin Luther King, Jr. had for America. This is not a black holiday; it is a peoples’ holiday. And it is the young people of all races and religions who hold the keys to the fulfillment of his dream.

The King Holiday celebrates his vision of ecumenical solidarity, his insistence that all faiths had something meaningful to contribute to building the beloved community."

At the time, there was no way for Mrs. King to know how appropriate and meaningful her words would be nearly a quarter of a century later.  However, she clearly articulated the timelessness of Dr. King’s message, and why is so important for all of us to not only hear Dr. King’s words – but to act upon them.


Chicago Bridgescape Students Exercise Their Voting Rights

Social Studies Learning Project

Students at the Bridgescape Learning Academy in Chicago’s Englewood area have turned this year’s election into a social studies learning experience, thanks to teachers Ms. Van Meter and Ms. Owens. Not only did they come to understand the important role citizens need to play in selecting government officials, those who were eligible, actually took advantage of early voting to make their voices heard.


Gary Roosevelt students get a taste of engineering

EdisonLearning's Innovative and Engaging Curriculum

GARY — If you stop by Jamie Wolverton’s introduction to engineering class at Roosevelt College and Career Academy, you might find students on the floor building a roller coaster, or at their desk calculating the materials, labor cost, profit and overhead for a bridge project.


The high school seniors are getting a taste of what it would take to be an engineer. The class gives high school seniors an opportunity to explore careers in engineering, and they earn a couple of credits because it’s a dual credit class through Ivy Tech Community College.

So far, students have built a bridge, a roller coaster and a speed ball machine.


As the teens move around the classroom separating into groups, Wolverton is talking above the chatter telling students to look at the items they will need for their projects. She also gives them a three-day deadline to finish them. The students use kits to put the projects together.


“You will be able to determine your labor costs by looking at the number of employees you will need, how much you will pay them per hour and how long it will take them to complete the project,” she tells students.


“Say, the worker makes $20 per hour and you need him to work eight hours a day, for a week. Figure out that cost, figure in your overhead cost for things like computers, a receptionist, office space, paper and pens. Figure the profit you want for your company, then decide how much you will bid for the project,” Wolverton said.

Wolverton said she wants students to learn the engineering design process, and each step it takes to complete a project.

“AutoCad has been installed on their computers, and they’ll be doing an online course to understand the process,” Wolverton said.

Senior Tarrence Montgomery, who works two part-time jobs, said his goal is to major in automotive engineering. He hasn’t made a decision on where he’s going to college but he believes the skills he’s learning in this introductory course will help him.

Senior Maliyah Norfleet said her goal is to become an engineer, and this class is giving her a feel for what it would be like to get into engineering. “I’m enjoying learning how to do the calculations to bid a job. Reading the blueprints is a little more challenging. It’s always good to have a plan B,” she said.

Despite so many positives at the school, Gary Roosevelt, which is operated by a private company, continues to struggle and face academic challenges. Roosevelt Principal Donna Henry said administrators work hard to empower its students.

“We’re in our fifth year of operation, and the parents are now familiar with us. They know we have the students’ best interest at heart,” she said.

In a report Henry made to the Indiana Department of Education last month, she said Roosevelt’s enrollment declined and is now at 606 students. It lost students to Gary New Tech, a high school operated by the Gary Community School Corp., and local charter schools.

However, Henry said the number fluctuates due to enrollments and transfers.

Although ISTEP-Plus test results have not yet been released publicly, Henry pointed out that students are showing growth.

Henry said Roosevelt has dramatically reduced its suspension and expulsion rate. In September 2015, a month after school started there were 83 suspensions. That’s compared to September 2016 when the number of suspensions was at 55.

Administrators said they’ve been able to create a healthy and safe school environment for teachers and students. She said the student attendance rate is currently above 90 percent.

Roosevelt also offers an alternative school and a credit recovery program. The alternative school is used in lieu of expulsion. Henry said if a student has an infraction that would cause them to be expelled, they are offered an opportunity to attend the alternative school, which is held during the school day.

“Those students come in an hour earlier and (are dismissed) an hour earlier,” Henry said. “The focus is to get them to correct their behavior. We’ve had some successes with students who have earned their way back into the traditional program.”