No Child Left Behind, My A$$. (Guest Post)

By AverageBro


I’m pretty serious when it comes to issues of education, especially as pertains to K-12. I’ve mentored and tutored because I really believe education is the great equalizer. Good grades, combined with a solid work ethic can take you many places, including the White House.

Of course, not all schools are created equal, which is something I can personally attest to. My rural/suburban town’s only high school was typical of many in the South in the early 90’s. Friday night football ruled. There were no AP courses. The CP courses were exclusively white. Despite having the highest GPA of any black student in my graduating class of 170, I was never at any point urged to take a college preparatory class. This was okay actually, because they only offered English and Math. I knew I’d be an engineering major in college, so I didn’t even bother pressing the issue. I coasted and finished 12th in my class, then basically got a full ride to the school of my choice, so who cared?

(More after the jump.)

I found out the error of my ways the first day on campus at my Negro College HBCU. In our engineering freshman orientation, a professor addressed our class of nearly 500 and asked us to look left, then look right. Only one of us would get an Electrical Engineering degree in 4 years. I scoffed at the notion. A week later, as a struggled to understand my ELEN101 course notes, the issue became clear. Here I was competing against other freshmen who’d taken this same class as high school sophomores. Some of these kids went to school just 10 minutes from me. Chew on that.

And no, just as the wise professor predicted, I didn’t get that EE degree, and neither did the other two folks. I nearly failed out of school before wising up, changing my major to Computer Science, and graduating with honors. So, happy ending to the story, but don’t miss the forest for the trees. Reality is, the public school you attend can fail miserably to prepare you for your future, and you might not even know it until it’s (almost) too late.

The other day I’m reading the paper and I come across an article about a 2005 documentary called The Corridor Of Shame which focuses on the bigtime issues that a stretch of I-95 in South Carolina have been having with equal educational opportunities for generations. Did ya’ll know about this movie?

Obama promised to fix this while he was campaigning. Oddly, this story was only covered on AlJazeeraTV. Go freakin’ figure.

While I agree that parents need to be more involved, teachers need more latitude to teach, and we need to focus more on math and science, one thing that every education debate seems to miss is the biggest problem of all: Funding.[1] Namely, because school funding is largely determined by the local tax base, poor folks are more or less screwed from birth. The solution: get pregnant in a rich burb’.

Many will say that schools can’t be fixed by “throwing money at a problem” and that school vouchers are the solution. Some politicians love them because they absolve them of all responsibility for fixing schools, and as a double bonus, vouchers are generally less pricey than the typical per-student expenditure. It’s a win-win. You save money and help the child succeed.

I think this is total BS. Vouchers only benefit the kids lucky enough to get them. The other kids who aren’t so lucky are still stuck in a bad school, now with even less funding. Vouchers seldom provide enough funding for the private schools they are supposed to allow the students to attend. Perhaps worst of all, students using vouchers have as a whole shown no demonstrable academic improvement in their new schools.[2]

So really, what’s the point?

The Obama Education Plan, to be administered by Arne Duncan isn’t exactly full of details right now. There are plans for improving early childhood education, lessening the obsession with standardized testing, and making college more affordable. But as a whole, I don’t see much that radically differs from Bush’s NCLB, which Obama plans to revamp in ways yet to be fully outlined. I can’t really say this matters either way, since no politician would have the balls to seriously address the real problems with the way education is funded. Doing so would be political suicide.

Too bad to those kids living in The Corridor Of Shame.[2]

Question: Would any politician be ballsy enough to take on the issue of equitable (not merely adequate) school funding or is this too much of a powder keg? Did your K-12 educational experience adequately prepare you for life after 12th grade? Do you think the Obama administration will change anything significant about the state of education in the US?

[1] Before anyone goes dredging up figures, yes, I know many inner city school districts get a lot of funding (ie: DC), but so much of that money is spent on(poorly) maintaining antiquated buildings and infrastructure. Not computers, books, and classroom materials.

[2] And yeah, I know… what about the parents? Unfortunately, you cannot legislate good parenting. This is the proverbial 3rd rail that no gubb’ment program can fix.

[3] In case you were wondering, yes, the young lady who sat with Michelle Obama at the recent Obama address was from this school district.


AverageBro is the blogger responsible for (what else?) the eponymously titled Peep his site for politricks, sports, pop culture, and random Negro Nonsense. It’s just one Black man’s opinion. What’s yours?

33 thoughts on “No Child Left Behind, My A$$. (Guest Post)

  1. Arne Duncan is Chicago Public School’s former Head and I’m a product of that system. CPS’s education gap in Black neighborhoods and White neighborhoods is miles apart. I was lucky enough to be in Magnet Schools in elementary school and high school, and my H.S. is actually one of the best in the state (and Michelle Obama’s alma mater). So I’ve been blessed to be in schools where the books were always up to date, we had computer labs, and college prep wasn’t an option, but was the only way. Some schools that were a mere 5 mins drive from mine had outdated history books, had 1 or 2 computers TOTAL, and college wasn’t a priority. I just truly hope that Obama’s plan helps to bridge this education gap.

  2. they do the look left/ right thing at my school (engineering at a PWI). they’re right. and only 2/8 on my freshman year dorm made it to sophomore year. your prof probably graduated from us.LMAO. j/k

  3. There have been public officials who have taken a stand to right the wrongs in public education, but their voices get lost amongst the grumblings of other city, state, and national politicans who want to stay with the status quo. The problems with the US education have to be addressed on all fronts. It’s nearly impossible to just have the top people working on things or only the parents. We (parents, teachers, school administration, and city, state, and national legislature) all have to make a concentrated effort to not just do a bunch of half a** studies on what’s wrong, but actually make a plan and implement it. I’m not faulting Obama (a the momemt) for not talking about education in detail because our budget is in dire straights. In a year, however, I do expect a plan (hopefully with some funding to back it up).

  4. Is Danielle on vacay? Maybe I don’t understand the system just yet, does she post other peeps articles or what? Im not sure, ok, I feel stoopid.

  5. @ This article. I don’t understand the big gap in black and white education. Are the white students not as much affected by their failing school systems? I need more insight on this. The main problem with many black students at public high school that I left stemmed from social issues as well as financial issues. Many of these students required accomodations, black students who attended my public high school were generally not as studious as the white students, and I hate to genralize, but it’s the truth. It really does start with the parents being concerned and being invollved with their child’s education. We need to enlighten these parents, they have failed their children and passed the blame off to some other higher official. I believe that motivation is one thing, but to actually study and make good grades is another.

  6. Also, not to be rude but black students NEED to realize that the odds are stacked up against them. Many high school graduates are going to be in a bad situation in this economy if they cannot afford college and do not have the grades required to be admitted. I am also at a point in my education where i have to really buckle down and study harder for the best grades possible. We need to emphasize good study habits more in public high schools, because many students do not know how to schedule their time right. Many high school students are working now, so maintaining a schedule according to their priorities is a good thiing that could be stressed more.

  7. I recognized the story of the author of that book, Pat Conroy, and remembered that there is a movie adaptation of his story. What is disturbing is that this movie is from 1974, over 30 years and well over a generation ago. You mean to tell me that this issue came to light well over 30 years ago, and those children are still being left behind? The federal government can’t even claim that it hasn’t known. Forget South Carolina, isn’t there anything the US can do?Mary McLeod Bethune must be turning over in her grave.

  8. Malcolm Gladwell in his book "Outliers" offers an amazing way to fix the problem of inequitable school funding. It doesn’t just pour money into the system, thereby creating more waste and inefficiency. Congress needs to explore to Gladwell’s solution to the problem, which is to create a school system based on the Asian model. Right now, there are inner city black and hispanic kids enrolled in this type of program and over 90 percent of them go to college, and many become engineers. While this program is very intensive, it shows kids how to learn in the same way Obama and Asian kids are taught.

  9. Until black parents stand up and demand better for (and from) their children, nothing will change.

  10. As someone who has actually been a classroom teacher I can tell you that the "system’s" problems are diversified, tiered, systemic, 50 yrs behind, and pretty much are substandard when it comes to building the best and the brightest. But alas. As with all American contradictions public school is still pretty much a good deal when it comes to the basics. You don’t need "schooling* to be a financial success cause there are countless entrepreneurs (grade school dropouts) who have proven that all you need are the basics. A lot of it boils down to parenting, personal responsibility(the values that capitalism are built on) and having a global perspective. The truth of the matter is that black people have it pretty damn good compared to the brown people around the world and we need to start getting back to those arrogant days of making the best out of what is available to us and making it work in our favor. You can’t dump money on a problem. I’ve seen kids come to class without pencils, in dirty uniforms, and I’ve seen parents not be engaged, I’ve seen stressed out teachers deal with ADD, and our kids are simply not interested in being taught the ethics of hard work. They want THINGS. Our morality has now become something for nothing instant gratification and that has had a major impact on African-American performance, ingenuity, and creativity.I’ve taught Chinese and African immigrants in NYC public schools. And you know what …the sky is blue, water is wet and they make due. Sometimes my people can really get a stiff "nigga puuhlease* from me cause our attitude (not all of us) can really suck. The truth of the matter is that the creme will always rise to the top. I mean think about it: Can the government really get between you and your dream if you’re truly determined? Those who get left behind will get left behind and it won’t have anything to do with the Government.

  11. The first lady has been talking about education from day one! she is doing the best that she can to send message’s to BLACK AMERICA, I pray that she make’s it her mission, to make sure INNER CITY SCHOOL’S will be treated fair,as far as money being allocated to enhance higher education, the PRESIDENT talk’s about computer’s being put in class room’s, that sound’s good, but, is he going to make sure INNER CITY SCHOOL’S receive their fair share of that STIMULUS MONEY! their is no excuse for poor children to be left behind now! we have a AFRICAN AMERICAN couple in the WHITE HOUSE now, that mean’s they have the POWER to make sure no BLACK CHILD, or poor child should be left behind! to be honest, their are POOR WHITE’S that live in poverty, they are cast aside as well, they live in the APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN’S, and their children are left behind as well, poverty has no color!

  12. "Those who get left behind will get left behind and it won’t have anything to do with the Government."Tell that to the kids whose publicly funded education doesn’t provide them with books. Those whose parents don’t realize what they don’t know and can’t help their kids with their homework, or even recognize whether or not their kids are behind where they should be educationally because their school experience failed to equip them to make such an analysis. Tell that to teachers who don’t have all the classroom supplies their children need because they have to personally fund basic school supplies for their classrooms since their school doesn’t get enough funding. Tell that to people like the author of this article who took FULL ADVANTAGE of what their school offered and didn’t have the tools needed to compete on par with his classmates in college.Anon, it seems to me that you are so willing and able to focus on the stereotypical weaknesses of African Americans that you are unwilling to consider that your personal experiences may have nothing to do with public schools that are not in your area. The children who are the subject of this post are not even limited to African Americans! But you were pretty much just worried about getting in your condescending "N—- please," and comparing the study habits of different raced children to underscore the fact that you think something is wrong with black people, and that’s not even what this post is about. What happened to make you so poisoned against your own people that jumping on black folks is your primary reaction? I’m not saying there’s no truth to the idea that students and their families should put in the ultimate effort to expect good results. I’m saying that you seem to be reverting to a black people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps argument, when the whole point of this post is that some people don’t even have any damned bootstraps in the first place. Free your mind.School funding and resources are likely very different in NYC than it is in places like the South Carolina islands. Making the best out of what is available to us also means consistently funding the tools it takes to educate – Mary McLeod Bethune, who basically started a school off of a couple dollars and a dream, was a TIRELESS FUNDRAISER. It takes money to adequately educate children for real choices in a competitive world. Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to come from the government, but that’s exactly where it comes from in PUBLIC schools. This post isn’t talking about throwing money at a problem of students who already have resources, and for many reasons, refuse to apply themselves. I’m talking about children who don’t even have resources – whose current books still talk about the hope of man one day being able to explore space. Not every public school is a good deal, even for the basics. And as our president has said time and again, the basics are not enough in a globally competitive marketplace. This is the wealthiest country in the world. After the New Deal, the War on Poverty, the Great Society, and No Child Left Behind, ALL of our PUBLIC schools should, at a bare minimum, be doing better than the schools in the Corridor of Shame are doing today.

  13. What the Black community needs is a paradigm shift. Let me tell alittle story…When I attended college I chose to go to an HBCU. During my sophmore, junior and senior year I would battle with housing bcuase I did not have adequate heat. I mean leggings, under jeans, under sweats with a winter jacket on under my blankets cold. During my senior year I approached the vice president of student affairs and complained about my situation. he sat me down in his office and after hearing my concerns he simply said, "You get what you pay for." I was offended. I was hurt. This educated Black man didn’t give a damn abot me and my situation. As I sat in my room thinking of how I was going to wam up that night I came to the realization: Just becuase a man/woman is Black and educated, does not mean they have my best interest at heart. They couldn’t give a damn about me anymore than the Black drug dealer who sits in front of my building everyday and sells drugs to my family, my neighbors and their kids. So why should I expect the president, this educated Black man, to care about me and my community’s needs and concerns? Why should I believe that he is not as self serving S.O.B. like the many politicians who only coem to the hood when they want my vote? He’s not going to change NCLB for the better. There are plenty of public schools and charter schools that are doing well. Why aren’t their methods being studied?

  14. Many students are trapped in the "Corridors of Shame" due to incompetent teachers and poor resources, no doubt. I’m not putting the blame on black people, as some would do. My grandfather always said you can’t teach what you don’t know. Yes, there needs to be equitable school funding, otherwise you’ll have wealthy suburban students always getting a better education their counterparts in poor areas. Author Malcom Gladwell also points out that suburban kids are also getting shafted in the long run because their education doesn’t compare favorably to those living overseas. He stresses the need for adopting school system that has worked extremely well for Asian students, who consistently outscore Americans on academic tests. The beauty of this approach is that it can be applied to poor urban and rural areas in the US, and it’s not all about money. Truthfully, white Americans don’t want to keep pouring money into poor black cities. If they are shown, however, that under the current system, their own chilldren are being short-changed too, then they will more likely want to make changes in education. Despite what we’ve been taught or come to think, Asians aren’t smarter than us. They perform better academically due to cultural reasons, as emphasized in "Outliers." Don’t believe what Americans want to you to believe. Poor black and hispanic kids are doing it now, beating suburban kids on their achievement tests because they’ve found out how it’s done. The Asians discovered the method and we can apply it too.

  15. Maybe I should repeat myself in a shorter post, since I understand that people tend to gloss over comments that are too long.The topic is not "What’s wrong with black people." The topic is equitable school funding and how it relates to getting an adequate education in this country.Ladyscribe, it may please you to know that the methods of schools that are doing well are being studied. It’s just not always easy to implement the results of these studies on other schools because the funding has to be found somehow.

  16. Great post! I can relate-similar story. It’s tempting to pigeonhole children when you work with them everyday for years. I have to check myself when I’m pleasantly surprised to meet a black child who cares about their schoolwork and works hard or when I meet an African or Korean student who’s lazy and could care less about their studies. I understand the bitterness and frustration; but having observed the successes of my mixed ability grouping versus homogeneous grouping (basically "low" and "high" kids separated), education needs to be shaken on so many levels, from teacher bias to alternative curriculums to standardized testing to funding. So, yes, while plenty of black children and adults need to prioritize education, I think the guest poster is focusing on what government can do to help solve the problem. While Obama and First Lady can encourage parents to turn off the TV, and take an active role in students’ education, they cannot legislate it. And even when Jamal(this is the kid’s actual name:) does want to learn, it’s much harder when he’s negotiating meetings with his P.O. and trying to balance community service with completing homework. So, yes, it’s bigger than funding, but in the words of Billie Jean, "fair is fair." We can’t force kids to take the opportunity, but we can at least make resources available for students who’d like to.

  17. I enjoyed your post. I can relate. I too graduated from high school in the early nineties. I graduated in 1993. My K-12 education did not help me much in college. I had it slightly easier than you. I did have college prep courses and there were programs in place that inspired me and encourage me to go into engineering and helped me along the way – I grew up in Northern California. However public school did put me behind and most of my peers at UC Berkeley. I had to work really hard to catch up. When I look at the education of the children coming after me, I’ve got to admit that they have it even worse than we had! I agree with you that we must make sure that our children have the same access to education equally. In college it is possible to fall so far behind that it is nearly impossible to catch up. It’s a really bad thing when you start a class already lost.

  18. For the record, I make no mention of stereotypes. I’m using generalities when I compare American and Asian performance levels in school. Of course, they’re lazy and academically poor Asian students. Likewise, there are black students who are valedictorians and on the honor roll. This goes without saying.

  19. While I can agree that the NCLB is bullsh*t, we also must look at the reality. No matter how much money is thrown at the schools, if the parents are not involved, then the students will not excel. I personally do not think that throwing money at the problem is the solution. I mean the children have to WANT to learn, the children have to WANT to excel, the children must be instilled with the value of obtaining a good education. I had the experience to work with a large commercial builder, who obtained contracts to build these large luxurious schools that people of my generation, only wished we’d had. However the sad reality is that no matter how many fancy computers, no matter how many science labs, no matter how much sq. footage is available, if the child comes from a household which is not instilling the importance of education, then he/she is doomed to fail. Our society has hood winked and bamboozled our people into television, video games, fast money, and bullsh*t is important. Not to mention, half of our children are being birthed by parents who don’t have the time or worst yet, don’t have an education. That’s just my 2cents, it’s a larger problem than money can solve.

  20. All it takes is the parent’s willingness to have their child succeed. There are parents desperately trying to get their kids enrolled in these academic programs that I’m referring to. Because they know if accepted, their child has a ticket out of the ghetto and on his way to being a doctor, lawyer or engineer. Once admitted, these students spend most of the day in class studying math and science. Class are small and specialized, and students learn at a rate that’s beneficial to them individually. At home, they must do homework for several hours a night and parents take a role in encouraging their children to study. According to reports, the dropout rates are very low. These students don’t get the traditional three months off for summer. In Asia, they don’t either. Studies have shown that black students fall behind in school because of the summer break, at time when many white students are reading books at home. In order for Americans to stay competitive with the world, we’ll have to kiss that long summer vacation goodbye. Also, we’ll have to adopt longer school days. Sorry kiddies, that’s what we have to do.

  21. I heard that we had the long summer break because this used to be an agricultural society, and children were needed to help with the farming. Um, this ain’t an agricultural society no more. My feelings wouldn’t be hurt if we dramatically shortened that break.

  22. Yip, you’re right, Glory. And parents will have to adjust to not taking their kids on summer trips. We might have some resistance to this proposition, I suspect, but it’s necessary.

  23. Glory,I wouldn’t be hurt if kids went to school year round with a few 2-week breaks through out the year. I think that’s what they need to retain information and hopefully some would stay out of the trouble they get in on these long, hot, violent summers. One area of resistance I could see are parents, especially parents with joint custody who live in two different cities. The child would be in two schools each year due to these issues.

  24. @NAGROM Not to get on the subject of what is and isn’t wrong with black students but I think you are essentially asking about the reasons why the lack of school funding seems to affect black students more than white students….or at least they get talked about more.What you may not be considering is the different educational experiences within the same district or school that black and white students face. Black students are more likely to feel alienated and unwelcome in school settings for many reasons including a lack of black authority figures in schools and lack of representation in school curricula (to name a few). These are two issues that can be affected by better funding.Also, many people have mentioned that nothing is ever going to happen with black students if the parents do not care and do not get involved. This is an example of how a simple issue or school funding will never be a simple issue. Black families are more likely to be impoverished and led by single parents (I use this even though this stereotype is often abused). Personally, I was raised by a single mother who worked for an average of 12 hours a day during much of my formative years. Her inability to help with homework assignments or take extra interest in my education did not represent her interest and desire for my achievement. This isn’t always the case but it does show how things can be more complicated. Many families cannot be more involved unless we also make it a priority to invest in social programs to help with healthcare, childcare, and better job training.

  25. I talk about learning in Asia because it’s important to understand why they do better than Americans on standardized tests, so we can learn from them and improve ourselves. The reason Asians do so well in math is because their languages (Chinese, Korean and Japanese, for instance) are structured in such a way that’s easier for them to pick up arithmetic. Author Malcolm Gladwell explains this ability quite thoroughly in his book, which I encourage you to read. So while your kid is struggling to learn how to count and add, Asian students are moving onto the next level, algebra. We can’t change the English language, unfortunately, but if American kids spent more time on math, they can compensate for this disadvantage.

  26. Great post! I too consider education the road to true liberation and I find that no one is truly addressing the sore issues in education. Instead, we have not education, but rote learning in order to pass a pend and pencil test.Nowhere is anyone truly addressing the real problems affecting ALL of education. as a result, much of education reform resembles rearranging furniture on the titanic.

  27. I just happened onto the site where your article about educational disparities was posted. It looks like it was posted over three months ago. But I want to take a shot at giving you my views, although I don't address that problem as my main focus. The following two paragraphs are copied from a piece entitled, “Good Teacher or Bad Teacher – Does Anyone Know the Difference?” which will appear in the near future on a new blog or website that I am preparing to launch. I have a wealth of material ready to use or adapt to this new forum and as a retiree have nothing but time to spell out the real truth for all to see. The reality is that official practices and policies are contributing to the use of teachers as scapegoats and the stereotyping of teachers and others, while superficial actions and statements change nothing. Here are the excerpts: Mr. Arne Duncan has perpetrated yet another fraud in the long series of frauds that have plagued education in the US. He has slapped some hot pink lipstick on the accountability pig and refigured NCLB so that federal bribes are incentives for schools to play more politics and more games with manipulating scores (See USA Today, 7/7/11 story captioned, “Atlanta Public School Exams Fudged” for just the latest in a very long series of examples). Sooner rather than later, we will pay the price for his failure to recognize that education is not a race to the top or to anywhere else and that ignoring decades-old problems is a sure formula for more of the same neglect, frustration, bureaucratic indifference and failure. “Race to the Top” and “Winning the Future” sound like something Margaret Spellings left on her ingenuous blackboard when she left the building. Competition has its place in education, of course. However that place is near the end of a very long list of other more significant incentives and priorities. The focus on competition merely reveals that the other things are being neglected because they are much harder and would require real change. This same movie has been playing over and over and over for over a century with no meaningful change and no in-depth comprehension by those who are involved in the politics and the official administration of educational institutions. Mr. Duncan has the obligation to discover that reform is not happening because of profound structural, legal, philosophical, social, and bureaucratic defects and he has the primary responsibility to know that superficial measures will never suffice. This is the moment of truth and I am going to do what it takes to finally bring these questions to the American people in a language they can understand and identify with. I recently submitted an article of over 10,000 words (including over three pages of references and quotations from many reputable journals and authors) entitled, “School Reform Mythology and Disappearing Research” to the American Educational Research Journal. The time for reform is long since passed and the only option for change now is an authentic educational revolution. You can lead or you can follow but I fully anticipate that there will be a groundswell of rebellion against the unethical and counterproductive political and economic abuses that are passed off as educational policy and administration at all levels. (This was written for Mr. Duncan).Regrettably, I am obliged to say that some of us are not impressed by window dressing, jargon or ambitious proposals. We don’t see the promise in new initiatives that are not actually new, old programs that have been revamped and revised to look progressive or million-dollar grants that will prop up systems and philosophies that should have been abandoned decades ago in favor of radically different systems and ideas. I have tried on numerous occasions to break through in order to start this conversation but have been ignored. Brilliant authors and speakers have come and gone, hardly leaving a trace. Now is the time for an educational revolution and I am the person that will keep speaking out until such a revolution is underway.

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