Postings will resume September 10. Let’s Go Mets!
Eduflack’s 2007 Seventh Inning Stretch
Postings will resume September 10. Let’s Go Mets!
Typically, Eduflack comments on what is appearing in the media. What does it say about education reform activities? How successful is it as a communication vehicle? How does it contribute to the overall push to improve the quality of education for all students.
We hear a lot about student data. This week brought us the debate on what a dip in SAT scores really means, and the Miller-McKeon bill offered the idea of multiple assessments to determine student achievement. You know where I stand — there should be one national standard that all students are measured against. It is the only way we can ensure that every student, regardless of hometown or socio-economic standing, has the skills and opportunities to achieve in the 21st century workplace.
So when the following piece came across Eduflack’s inbox, it piqued my interest. It was written by Hayes Mizell, the former director of the Program for Student Achievement at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and former school desegregation advocate in South Carolina during the 1960s and 1970s. While I may not agree with all of his points, it is a commentary definitely worth a read.
Why? It is written from experience in the trenches. It gives a different voice to an issue that is widely debated. And it provides a call to action that isn’t seen too often in our middle-of-the-road commentaries.
So I offer the following from Mizell:
“Resting in their heavenly repose, South Carolina’s civil rights pioneers of the 1930s and 1940s must be scratching their heads. A prominent African-American state senator, also a Democrat and minister, says many of his generational peers are longing for the days of racially segregated schools. Another minister says most African-American children ‘fared better when we were segregated.’
These leaders are understandably frustrated. Too many children are not reaping the academic gains that African-Americans hoped would follow public school desegregation. On last year’s state achievement test, more than 40,000 African-American students in grades three through eight scored ‘Below Basic’ in English/Language Arts. An average of 60 percent of all African-American students in third through eighth grade performed at the Below Basic level in science.
There is some good news. Thousands of African-American students are performing well, scoring at the highest levels, “Proficient” or “Advanced,” on the state test. However, thousands more have the unrealized potential to do so.
Proposals to solve students’ academic problems abound, but many are simplistic. South Carolina has long favored such approaches in public policy. Human bondage would fuel economic development. Secession would free South Carolina of the federal yoke. Racial oppression and segregation would preserve ‘our way of life.’ Low taxes would attract industry. Providing a ‘minimally adequate education’ will secure the state’s future.
Now comes school choice. Some African-American leaders are tempted by the prospect of state financial support, one way or another, for constituents to choose private schools for their children. Perhaps they genuinely believe this will improve the education of the more than 275,000 African-American students in South Carolina’s public schools. It may be just as likely they are focusing on the relatively small number who attend or may attend private schools operated by some African-American churches.
There is no doubt some public school educators lack the cultural orientation, sensitivity, and pedagogical skills to educate some African-American students effectively. This is not universally true, however. Several months ago, the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee issued a report examining 26 ‘gap-closing schools.’ During four consecutive years, the schools significantly reduced the achievement differential between ‘historically underperforming students’ and the schools’ other students. Three of the schools had poverty rates greater than 70 percent.
What were the reasons for the schools’ success? The report concludes: ‘Not only do gap-closing schools maintain an instructional environment that supports high achievement, but these schools also create a positive school climate that fosters the attainment of high student performance.’ These conditions do not exist in every public school because local education leaders choose not to make the effort and take the risks necessary to develop and sustain them.
All South Carolinians, not just African-Americans, should be enraged that too many children are failing to meet the state’s academic standards. Where this is persistently the case, citizens should organize to demand and support improvements in their local public schools.
At the same time, African-Americans are entitled to the same portion of nostalgia as any other segment of the population. After three centuries, they also have the right to seek or create what they consider to be the most effective education venues for their children. Their unique history, however, provides them a useful guide to discern what is false and what is true. Separation, withdrawal, and isolation are anathema to authentic education. They did not serve African-American children well when required by law. They will not serve them well if sought by choice.”
Definitely gives folks something to think about as the Ed in 08ers push for greater education-speak in South Carolina and as we continue to look at (or look away from) the achievement gap.
In focusing on an issue like education reform, Eduflack never expected that he would be writing multiple entries about the great state of Montana. In March, we talked about how pre-K advocates in the state understood effective communication and effective advocacy. Now, we focus on Montana Sen. Max Baucus, and his effort to solve multiple education ails with his proposed Education Competitiveness Act.