PostRacialist

That’s Funny. I Flunked At the So-Called “White School” Too. (Unconventional Wisdom)

You go to a school where there’s no music, the gym is falling apart, the books are old, the building is near dilapidated, the neighborhood is iffy, the crime rate is high and the drop out rate is higher. If only you went to one of those sparkling, integrated suburban schools. Then you would have better teachers, computer labs and gym equipment that didn’t come from the 1940s. You’d have a better shot at better test scores and graduating there, wouldn’t you?

Mmmmm … maybe.

Just going to an integrated suburban school does not equal automatic instant education. Statistically it seems to no matter where black kids go to school, whether you have the inner city blues, are a desegregation kid or a sagging skinny jean suburbanite, your test scores aren’t quite what they should be.

More after the jump.

Traditional explanations for the black-white test score gap have not stood up well to the test of time. During the 1960s, most liberals blamed the gap on some combination of black poverty, racial segregation, and inadequate funding of black schools. Since then, the number of affluent black families has grown dramatically, but their children’s test scores still lag far behind those of white children from equally affluent families. School desegregation may have played some role in reducing the black-white test score gap in the South, but school desegregation also seems to have costs for blacks, and when we compare initially similar students in today’s schools, those who attend desegregated schools learn only slightly more than those in segregated schools.

Recent evidence suggests that disparities in school resources do affect achievement, but resource disparities between black and white children have shrunk steadily over time. The average black child now attends school in a district that spends as much per pupil as the average white child’s district. Black children’s schools also have about the same number of teachers per pupil as white schools. Predominantly white schools seem to attract more skilled teachers than black schools, but while black students who attend predominantly white schools probably benefit from having better teachers, this advantage seems to be offset by the social costs of being in an overwhelmingly white environment. In any event, schools cannot be the main reason for the black-white test score gap, because it appears before children enter school and persists even when black and white children attend the same schools. If schools play an important role in perpetuating the gap, either desegregated schools must be treating black and white children very differently or else black and white children must react very differently to the same treatment. (Brookings Institute Study)

But why?

There are lots of theories. Historically people have blamed racism, poverty, single parent homes and lack of education on the part of the parents and that all makes sense — up to a point. But that doesn’t explain the kids I went to school with who came from working-to-upper-middle class homes with business-owner or college educated parents who still produced progeny whose grades stunk. It still doesn’t explain why it was always me and the same four other black students in all the advanced placement classes or why there were even fewer black kids in my honors or college prep courses.

Is this the whole learning = acting white thing?

“What we don’t need in a school or a classroom is for a teacher to say, ‘These poor black children. They really have it tough,’ and not set the bar high enough for them,” said Barry Williams, an educator with the Baltimore Public Schools.

Indeed, some educators have found such stereotypes can undermine academic performance among black students.

“When we try hard to do something and we are expected to do poorly, often that translates into extra anxiety, extra caution, an extra mental burden that we’ve shown, in years and years of research, gets in the way of effective standardized test performance,” said Joshua Aronson of New York University.

Williams, however, puts some of the blame on black students. Some have had the attitude that if you do “well in school, then you are trying to assimilate and become white,” he said.

“There was a sense of dumbing down, which I found disturbing,” he said. (CNN)

Or could it be my own personal theory of this — some black people thought integration meant better and just left it up to the school to educate their children. That these parents assumed the “white school” was best and became less engaged or not engaged at all and went on autopilot assuming the kids would learn via osmosis of all the goody-goodness of the so-called better school.

Sending your child to public school is war. It really doesn’t matter WHAT public school. If you want your child to get the most out of your tax dollars sitting on your laurels won’t cut it. For all the wonderful, engaging and talented teachers and administrators in the world there are some bad eggs who are getting paid high prices for babysitting. Who have tenure and are never leaving and could give a rat’s ass if your kid learns how to read past a fourth grade reading level.

Example No. 1: When my mother, a former school teacher, began preparing my eldest sister for kindergarten she was told NOT to teach her daughter to read because she might teach her how to read wrong. Pay attention to that sentence. She might TEACH her how to READ WRONG. I had no idea there was a “wrong” way to read. Either you can or can’t. But my sister was an A student. Others who were taught to read by the district — well, some did great. Others had that moment of shame in high school when they had their reading levels tested and discovered that they were an 11th grader on a fifth grade comprehension level.

Example No. 2: My mom and my eldest sister again. This time after my sister was enrolled in school and people were “concerned” because she didn’t like coloring. They, meaning a teacher and a doctor, tried to tell my mother she might have a learning disability. My mother, needless to say, did not listen to these people. My eldest sister has two degrees, one in electrical engineering and another in accounting. Coloring not required. But this was a common theme I saw with black students who either were slightly quirky, hyper or had those dreaded “behavioral issues,” which my mom saw mostly as “kids being kids.” These students were often quickly ushered into the Byzantine no-man’s land of special education, never to return again. And never to learn again.

Example No. 3: School participation. I was fortunate. I had a stay-at-home mom. Most of my peers parents had to work. But that isn’t an excuse to not be involved in your child’s education. Too many parents used work as an excuse to be less engaged, then were shocked when they would learn their children were slipping as they aged. If you don’t make education a priority in your home and you don’t communicate your goals clearly for your kids, believe me, life will find them some new goals and aspirations. Like the goal to be a “playa.” And to call anyone who dislikes their “playa” ways “haters.”

Example No. 4: Racism.

Using data from the North Carolina Education Research Data Center, Jackson found that schools that had an increase in black enrollment saw a decrease in their share of high-quality teachers, as measured by years of experience and certification test scores. Teacher effectiveness, as measured by teachers’ ability to improve student test scores, also went down in the schools with an inflow of black students. The change in teacher quality generally occurred when the busing program ended, indicating that teachers moved in anticipation of more black students. (US News & World Report)

Some people don’t care if black kids learn or not. Sometimes that person is their own teacher, guidance counselor or principal. I don’t know how many times I had my guidance counselor try to convince me, a college-bound, A-student, to take home economics over pre-calculus. I told that woman REPEATEDLY to put me in advanced classes and her response was always, “But doesn’t that sound hard?” She was either assuming I was slow because I was black or because I was female or both. Either way, would you trust that woman with your child’s future? My mother and I always picked out my course schedule beforehand to get around such individuals and their not-helpful suggestions.

You cannot assume that “we’ve made it!” and just let your child go into the wilderness of public school without their battle armor on. It is hard to be the minority at an integrated school. I can be an isolating, lonely experience. Odd things can be conjured up as coping mechanism (hence the old “acting white” paradigm). Without good parenting there to combat that you could easily be raising the same stereotypical baby thug you might have gotten at any school, urban or suburban.

Don’t trust your kids to the system. That goes for all parents, black and white. Because, news flash, white parents who do the same thing often get the same disappointing, baby slacker bum results.

Agree? Disagree? Share your comments and opinions below. And if you’re so inclined, you can write the counter-argument to this post, and we’ll print it here on The Black Snob. This story is part of a series on interesting, unusual, funny and unconventional takes on issues. To see the full list of issues that will be covered, click here. To read past stories, click here.

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28 thoughts on “That’s Funny. I Flunked At the So-Called “White School” Too. (Unconventional Wisdom)

  1. polticallyincorrect says:

    Its the parents. Black parents whether they are poor or middle class are overly concerned with their kids wearing the nicest clothes and looking upscale.

  2. Urban Sista says:

    Unfortunately, Black people often fail to understand how important being involved in your child’s education is. I was raised in Canada and the issues are very similar. When my sister was in high school, her teacher — who disliked Black children who didn’t come from money, which we didn’t — tried to get her put into special education… where a large number of Black kids lingered and languished for their entire school career. My parents, who both worked full-time, went to every parent/teacher meeting and fought tooth and nail for my sister. Ultimately, they pulled her out of that school and enrolled her at another school where the teachers and principal were very supportive. My sister never spent a day in special ed and is now a certified project manager at a major Canadian corporation managing multi-million dollar projects. Education was no joke at our house. There was an expectation before we went into kindergarten that ‘you’re going to open your head and learn!’ or there would be hell to pay. We didn’t always have money for the extras — like Nikes or the latest fashions — but my parents could always find money to buy books or send us to a tutor or piano lessons — anything that would help us become successful adults in the future. It comes down to priorities, people.

  3. Another great post! Parental involvement is definitely key. I remember in 10th grade, my parents wanted me to take the SAT so I could see what it was like. They were going to pay for it and everything. And my counselor would not give me the registration packet because she said I didn’t need to worry about it. I ended up having to go to another counselor to get it. SMHBut parents forget that summer vacation, shouldn’t be a break from learning. We had all types of "edutainment" and got enrolled in the library’s summer reading program every year, in addition to music lessons and day camp. There was very little time spent watching tv or playing video games- if we were at home, we were playing outside or doing something creative. The brain really is a muscle, you use it or lose it.

  4. Xay says:

    I think it is a combination of factors. The pet theory about 7 years ago was stereotype threat – basically the potential of being judged by a stereotype causes enough anxiety to affect academic performance. Claude Steele stated that stereotype threat accounted for why the test gap persists among middle and upper class blacks.Now that I am a parent rather than an academic, I think that there are many factors involved. Parental involvement is a huge factor. My son’s school told us that we didn’t have to worry about anything and they would take care of educating him. We told them thank you, but we feel that there should be continuity between education at school and at home. So we have worked to keep the lines of communication open with all of his teachers and administrators so that problems get addressed early. But doing that takes time. I have the luxury of a two parent home where although both of us work full time, we both have a lot of flexibility (telecommuting, flexible hours, etc). My mother is a nurse and although she was as involved as she could be, her job simply did not allow for the level of involvement that I can take with my child. But parental involvement can directly challenge the racism and the assumptions that teachers can make.And don’t assume that any private school is better than public school. Private schools can have every fault of the public school system.

  5. Court says:

    Completely cosign. Just the other day a friend was telling me about her god-daughter, who because of some serious issues at home had begun failing at school and "acting out". The teachers wanted to put her in special ed and my friend (who had custody) was fighting tooth and nail to keep her out. Why? It turns out that the prior year, the little girl was in an HONORS PROGRAM! How the hell do you watch a girl getting straight A’s in advanced classes and then decides she needs special education a year later? The teachers simply did not care what the little girl had going on at home (abuse it turns out, she was taken away by the state). She’s just another black kid that won’t learn to them. And you know what’s really sad, now the girl is starting to internalize it all. Everyone’s saying she’s dumb and she’s giving them what they want.

  6. Lisa J says:

    A friend of my Mom’s whose son later got a full scholarship to Duke and a partial scholarship to MIT was told when he was in first grade that he might be retarded! Now you know they were black. INSANE. I’ve never heard of a white kid that smart being treated like that down in the grades. This was of course a white school. I went to a white school but was VERY lucky and had high test scores and a Mama who would jump into a teachers world in a minute (she had to go up oneside of my 1st and 2nd grade teacher-same evil witch for both- for twisting my arm once– when she first found out and went to the school the principal told the teacher to hide b/c my very peaceful Mama looked that mad). You have got to watch these teachers, black and white b/c they have an ATTITUDE about black kids very often, even if they are black themselves sometimes. So yes, I agree that parent participation is important.You also still have lots of problems with school allocations b/c that $ per pupil thing does not take into account the fact that once you control for the upkeep of often crumbling infrastructures and all of the other money you have to put into many intercity schools the amount per pupil really isn’t the equivalent or greater at majority black schools.At schools with black students, they love to do tracking that sometimes isn’t fair to the black kids, let alone the white kids and sadly, sometimes it is due to lack of resources, or knowledge of what is out there, the early childhood education that many black children get isn’t equivalent and that is an important time. The ONLY thing, I ever agreed with Bush about, was when he made the comment about the soft prejudice of low expectations. Didn’t like how he went about it to remedy it of course but still.

  7. tarheelio says:

    I like to argue, but here I can only agree. The biggest issue here is the parents’ lack of involvement. I heard an NPR story recently about a Jr. High in Chicago where 60% of the 8th graders flunked. One of the mothers featured complained about the school system failing to provide notice that her son was failing (her son that had failed before). Why would you need someone else to tell you that your son is failing? Another mother of a successful student claimed that she had the phone number of each of her child’s teachers in her cell phone. (applause) I lived in the projects with an unstable, heroin addicted mother – but she could tell you my grades at any time and she always went to those damned parent-teacher conferences. If you want your kid to do well – get involved.

  8. SistaOpinion says:

    I thank God on a regular basis that my mother was a high school teacher and that she and my father were of one mind when it came to their kids’ education. My mother always said that there are four elements to a successful student education — the student, the parents, the teachers, and the school board — and that if any one of those fail, the student’s success is at risk. I still think this is true but realistically speaking, esp. in this day and age, the importance of parental involvement cannot be overstated. My parents DID NOT PLAY…and our teachers KNEW IT. Plus you can’t overestimate the importance of learning outside of school: My parents cultivated in us a love of learning that persists to this day. Sure, we were the nerdiest kids on the street…but we all succeeded (as in, college degrees, good jobs, thriving instead of just surviving) whereas a lot of our classmates didn’t. And this was a working-class/middle-class integrated neighborhood in the 1970s and 80s…one of those places where others just left their kids’ education up to osmosis. Guess they really thought that simply being around white kids automatically made their kids smarter. (Sigh…I’m not going there this morning…)

  9. dukedraven says:

    There are a myriad of reasons that explain the achievement gap between black and white students,buto I don’t have the space here to give them. May I suggest again that everyone read "The Outliers" to get a good handle on why this occurs. We still need equitable funding for our public schools. Too many southern schools are underfunded, for example, while wealthy, suburban schools enjoy funding that allows for state of art facilities and supplies. You will always have an exception to every rule. You’ll get the son of two professional blacks parents flunking out. Most of these households, in general, are better off than the one-parent homes in the inner cities. Malcolm Gladwell, the author of "The Outlier," offers some wonderful solutions to our problems in education that would help poor black kids as well as poor white students. Plus, it would raise the test scores of suburban students, who are lagging behind Asians and the rest of the world. Right now, there are inner-city students attending custom-designed schools that are turning out top graduates at the rates of fine surburban schools. I’m not a snob. I believe black people have all the talents and gifts of whites and Asians, but through cultural and economic circumstances, their abilities lay dormant and unrealized.

  10. Wow. This is a topic that hits home for me. My parents were Nigerian so most of the black kids we came up with were fellow 1st generation immigrants from Africa. Even though all of our parents busted their ass to get to the United States, it has been interesting to see the divergence in the kids. Some of us, the ones with the "strict" parents had it like this: we would come home from school and, in addition to our homework, everyday my dad made us do a page of (repetitive, boring) math drills out of a math book series he had. We also had to write a one page essay. EVERY DAMNED DAY. At this point, my Mom worked 12hr days and my dad worked full time but dad would check the extra work every single day when he got home at night and there was hell to pay if you hadnt done it. For a lot of the other kids, their experience went something like this: their parents, also busy working multiple full time jobs, basically made sure they got up and went to school. I think these parents were well-meaning and working hard to put food on the table. But unfortunately, as many commenters have pointed out, getting the kids to school is not enough. Engaging with children’s education outside of school is a MUST. @Lisa J, I completely co-sign on the low expectations point, both from schools and parents. My parents forced all of us to take the highest level math, english and science classes. Nevermind that I was very good at English and that was my strong suit, I still had to sit through AP Calculus in 11th grade. That experience gave me so much confidence in college because I knew I could tackle any major or program. I think too many kids are allowed to cop out by saying things like: "I’m not good at Math," or "I’m going to be a musician" or whatever

  11. dukedraven says:

    As Malcolm Gladwell emphazises, it’s the responsibility of the parents to turn off the TV sets and ensure the child is doing his homework. The school system, though, with its long hours of specialized and customerized learning, can help a great deal. Longer school years, longer daily classes, lengthy homework assignments, intensive, personalized instruction in math and science are the keys. We can rebuild these kids. We have the technology. We can make them smarter, faster, stronger.

  12. swiv says:

    there is a fine line between being TOO proactive as a parent. i find it funny when parents think they can do a better job at teaching than teachers.

  13. The A says:

    @ polticallyincorrect -yeah I’ve NEVER seen a white family that was overly concerned with their kids wearing the nicest clothes and looking upscale so it MUST be a Black parental dysfunction!People,Education in America is a joke. & you’re darn tootin its WAR!! And there is one particular low expectations catch phrase that makes me react like a bull seeing a red flag"[My Kid] is doing FINE."My kid attends one of the most racially & economically diverse, well funded, & high performing public school programs in the entire country. I’ve wanted to dropkick more than one "guidance" counselor and several teachers in my day. ALL parents with good sense who are engaged are frustrated. And most of the good sense parents with kids in private schools are fighting the same battles with a higher price tag. Everyone blames the parents and I’ll agree with one caveat. Show up to your kids school and ask, No expect to be involved in his/her education – not the cupcake sales, I mean decisions about the your kid’s educational path. Then call me when you hit the brick wall of school administrative bureaucracy. WAR!! I tell you it is the HOLIEST OF HOLY WARS!!!Here’s the ugliest truth: Funding is the only educational outcome schools truly care about. Not only isn’t it a concern if the kids learn, there is a systematic process of mental slavery in place to ensure the majority of them do not learn a damn thing & can’t think for themselves! Somebody’s gotta be the slaves since we did away with physical slavery.I look at it this way, my kid is stronger and more prepared to face the challenges in the real world because we fought these battles together."’Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding." – Proverbs 4:4-7

  14. Monie says:

    Court said "And you know what’s really sad, now the girl is starting to internalize it all. Everyone’s saying she’s dumb and she’s giving them what they want."That sums up a lot of this to me. Every Black kid knows he or she is supposed to be doing worse than non-Black students. They get this from the media, from teachers, from hip hop and from parents. So, many of them eventually, as Court said, give everyone what they want and become lesser students.My question is; why is it that we only give attention to the Black students who are doing poorly? Why don’t we focus on the kids that are doing well. Every other ethnic group spends most of the time acknowledging the good work of their students. Yet we and everyone else only seem to notice Black students when they fulfill everyone’s expectations and do poorly.The loneliest students in America are Black students that excel academically. I know because I was one.

  15. DWS says:

    I enrolled my son in a private school last year and interacting with the leadership there felt like war for no other reason than me being determined to be a quiet yet present force in his education worthy of respect. Reluctantly, this year he will be enrolling in kindergarten at the local public school (best in the district) and I have already encountered that familiarly dismissive attitude from some of the teachers. I recognize that I will have to supplement and darn near home school him to ensure sure he gets what he needs but I REFUSE to go away and turn his education over to people who are quick to presume I haven’t a clue. I will let them do their jobs but trust that I am going to be watching.

  16. dukedraven says:

    In these KIPP schools to which I’m referring, there’s a level of social pressure for these urban kids to succeed. Right now in public schools, the prevalent attitude among black students is that it’s not cool to study or have good grades. In KIPP schools, the high test scores and graduation rates show that kids are very motivated to do well and to compete along with their peers.

  17. MrsT says:

    My step-daughter graduated from high school this past May. When we started with her college preparation journey (looking into tuition rates and application deadlines, etc) one of her guidance counselors told her he wasn’t going to write any recommendations for out-of-state schools. We live in Indiana, he said there was no reason to go out-of-state when there are perfectly good colleges here. As we moved further along in the process she kept insisting that she did not want to go to out-of-state because all of her friends were going to IU or Purdue and she was afraid she wouldn’t know any one. Mind you this is a child who has not gotten a B since 6th grade, NHS, academic honors diploma and all at graduation. But my husband and I knew better, not that IU and Purdue are not "good" schools, but we knew there was a world of opportunity out there if she would not let herself be held back by the fear mongers in her "guidance" office. We wanted her to push herself past the low expectations and go to the "best" school. She will be reporting to freshman orientation at MIT on August 29.The point is, its not just elementary and junior high, you must be mindful throughout the entire secondary experience. Just getting them to graduation isn’t enough.

  18. d says:

    great post! my mom stayed at home. I learned to read and pack my lunch before I started school. No excuses allowed here; only high expectations.

  19. touched says:

    Honey, it is war, my son now 26 years old had ADHD and Tourette’s Syndrome. But I placed him a private school (predominately Black students) from 3-year-old class through the sixth grade which gave him a very good foundation on which to build. Yes, he was placed in Special Education once in public school but he only had one period where he went to a Special Ed class to study, other than that he was integrated into mainstream classes and did take some AP classes.He sang in the choir (won awards in competitions), participated in student government, volunteer for a number of charitable organizations, participated in sports from grade school through high school (played varsity basketball). He never suffer from crushing social ostracizing (well not much, I had to give him my "Fuck em’" speech) but he did have many good friends. Not the greatest student in the world but not the worst.I had many teachers who just wrote him off because of his disability but I would never let him fall back on that excuse. I had teachers accuse him of purposely disrupting their classes with his ticking, etc, etc, etc. I had a teacher accuse him of throwing pennies at her in class, of course her back was turned so she did not actually see him throw the pennies. I know my son and even he wasn’t that crazy! This women was so condescending during the parent/teacher conferences I wanted to smack her. His counselor was useless, if it was up to her he would just drop out of school and work at Church’s Chicken.Hell, the principle pretty much had written him off since he wasn’t what she consider to be a "star". When I came to the school to get copies of his transcripts for college applications she assumed he would be attending community college. Weeks later I came back to the school to tell his Special Education Teacher that he was indeed going to attend college. I ran into the principle in the hallway, you should have seen the look on her face when I told her he was going to one of the best universities in the country. A history of high test scores and great SAT scores combined with a history of community service, awards for that service, great recommendations, along with a great personality, the ability to talk the panties off a nun, reasonably good grades and writing one kick ass essay, can get you into the university of your choice.Side note: His Special Education teacher was the best, everything teachers and human beings should be, I thanked God every day for her.But it was a struggle, there were many days when I watched my son cry and many nights when I cried. But now my son is thriving, a good person, has a great job and is enjoying life. It was all worth it. Never give up the struggle, NEVER!

  20. spiderlgs says:

    I love this post. I am a 7th grade teacher. I left a predominantly black school, where I felt I was waging war with my students everyday, to a predominantly white school, where I only felt like i was waging war with my black and Latino students everyday. Coming from my gifted, magnet school education I found myself, a highly qualified black teacher, in complete culture shock with my students who did not want to learn. Who would get work and not complete it… who would turn nothing in and then whose parents would ignore 3 or 4 phone calls and progress reports… until finals week, when they wanted to make 16 weeks worth of work up. Because its not about the educational process, its about the grade. Not what did you learn, but what did you get. But then again with high stakes testing, it doesnt matter because no matter how many classes they flunk in 7th grade, they will all go up to 8th. Tracking is the problem. Grouping all your low achievers together is not going to build a better work ethic, regardless of race. Students need to be in classes with children who are doing better than they are so they can see what is capable of them. Because let me tell you this, the black kids know, all the white kids are in the higher track.. so they must be smarter than them. What can we do? Mentor a child and let them know what they are capable of, monitor their grades even if mom or dad can’t. But understand, that given the stress of teaching, most people in the classroom truly do care about children and want them to learn.

  21. The A says:

    @ dukedravenYes, I’ve heard about the KIPP program and my nephew is trying to get accepted into the one in his city. There are so few slots in these programs and the core issue stated eloquently by Monie remains the same, Remember what the young girl said in Gladwell’s book? "All my friends are from KIPP"For a black student to achieve academically, there is a social sacrifice of many friends and some family and an acceptance of isolation as a way of life. Most people, especially kids, are not willing to do this. I didn’t give my kid a choice & we had a real rough patch because of it.Like MrsT knows, some teachers and counselors will actually undermine your credibility and authority with your kids if you are engaged and involved with the education of your child. Their biases, prejudices, ignorant assumptions & low expectations have an enormous impact on these kids- sometimes we don’t even know the root of it until the damage has been done.As for educators adopting the philosophy and practices of KIPP, don’t hold your breath. Adopting successful educational practices would be too much like right & would obliterate the servant class pipeline.

  22. My mother and father pushed and shoved me all the way. My mother took no nonsense. I realize now just how hard my mother hustled me along the ‘ good schools’ system of our public school system. She did what she had to do. If she heard about a program, my application was there. Period. But, yes, Black folk have to be on it.

  23. d-empress says:

    I think its a combo of things but the number one thing that needs to change is parental involvment if black parents placed as much emphasis on education as they do jordans i think our children would be in a much better situation I also believe we need more young black teachers in inner city schools. I went to a suburban high school but i noticed that the teachers and guidance counselors could give a shit about black students if it wasnt for my mother who took an active role in my education I wouldnt have taken any advanced classes or know anything about college preparation.

  24. MrsFDWalkerJr says:

    What an interesting article. I grew up in an area where I was one of the first Afrian American females to be in an All White school in Dallas, Texas. My mother worked from until. I saw the differences. However now as a substitute mom to my neices who now have kids in school, I tell them you must be involved. My youngest neice who went from Elementary to Junior High had a problem in a class. One of the teacher’s at the facility happen to mention it to me. I called the teacher and asked, "why have you not called her mom, my sister or her father", she indicated that she had. I asked and what happened and she said nothing. I asked and why did you not continue to try to make contact, she said, "I figured they did not care" I said to her on the phone on yea, they care and her father’s name is and her mother’s name is and I will call her father now! I did he made contact and was at the school within the hour. Needless to say, my neice never had another problem with any other teacher as long as she was in school. Her mom never got the messages. Thanks

  25. Fantastic post. I moved between so many schools that even as a child I could see the difference in education levels. This post really touches some concepts that were previously vague in understanding. I especially love the focus being on parental involvement- something that needs to be drilled in every parent or future parents head until the education gap is history.

  26. alicia says:

    fabulous post and very relevant to this day in our struggle as a country in education reform..I can directly relate to the outlined examples from my own experiences.. I’ve lived in dallas all my life I am 22 and as our family expanded, I remember moving from our one bedroom inner city apt to a one storey home the suburbs in 1993..as a child i had so much hope about meeting new friends and learning new things and excited about going on to the 3rd grade! My experience at theall black school I attended in the inner city was one endearing to my childhood and is still to this day a warm memory. Our teachers were like our parents and if no one looked after us they did..they came by our homes and made sure that we were fed…and school was a place where you got the worst paddlings that you would ever want to witness..but what happened to that? There were spelling bees, reading contests and I myself have a shelf of ribbons and trophies from winning several oratorary contests from back in the day.. 😉 there was a spirit of comradre among the parents teachers and students as our main goal was the success of everyone that had a hand in our education..our principal really belived in pushing back our sleeves and was enthusiastic about us learning and doing so in a safe and nurturing enviroment..Anyway, my family packed up and moved to the quaint suburbs south of inner city dallas…dirt road..one main gas station..typical of any nostalgic scene out of the Andy Griffith show…my first day of school there was not as welcoming and as exciting as I had hoped..my teacher as strict, cold, and distant it seemed to the FEW minority children as any sweat shop shift supervisor could be..What made me even sadder was the projection of the idea of what other children should be like on our young minds who they felt set the standard example of how to properly behave by giving yellow buttons to wear and were shown special favor and hailed themselves as ‘self managers’..and typically ..none of them looked like me…the very opposite of kinky natural ponytails and brown eyes who were all grouped in 4 desks arranged in a square further away from the blackboard with the other minority children..not long after this freshly recieved inner city african american second grade ‘B’ student on a fourth grade reading level was shipped to the ‘Content Mastery’ or ‘CM’ or ‘Special Ed’ class room for my constant curiosity and inquiry on the subjects taught being assumed as non comprehension and even got special treatment by way of taking modified tests that were different from the ones given to other students. Years and years passed and as my home town began to see more of an influx of inner city african american students so went the increase of summer school courses remedied to them for the apathy on part of the mostly white teachers who were then teaching.. I was among them and had taken summer school from fifth grade all the way to my Junior year in HS and was denied credits that would have nearly allowed me not to graduate with my class..but I agree much to what you said about our parents being a structural device to support the future education of our children..I totally believe that it is on the parents to invest and take special interest in their childs education and not trust them to a system that failing and takes no interest in the welfare of your child…had it not been for the support and concern of my parents at home to invest into my education to this day I probably would have never graduated at all..

  27. Duffy says:

    I teach 8th grade in a pretty diverse school district. I can tell you there are three factors that pretty much dictate a student’s achievement. 1) The parents’ involvement from kindergarten through eighth grade. (Note: Involvement does not mean emailing the teacher AFTER the bad grade has been given. It also means taking calls about behavior seriously and not making excuses.) 2) The teacher. Yes, there are BAD ones. Yes, I work with some. There are more good ones than bad ones. Tenure is a broken system in ways, but I don’t think achievement pay or employment is the answer, as that would potentially be all based on test scores. Those scores are tools, not goals. Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer. 3) The student. I have had students of a variety of backgrounds, who have involved parents and involved teachers and for whatever reason, they choose not to achieve. Many of them will come back in a year or two and say, um, sorry. Some will not. It can be a personal choice. All I know is I am doing my best. I just ask the same of everyone else involved in every single student’s education.

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