If the topic makes you uncomfortable, change the channel. For those with thick skin and a healthy dose of reality, I implore you to continue reading. This blog post is not meant to be a finger-pointing, make all White people feel guilty and/or uncomfortable rant. Instead, I thought I would point out some issues challenging states efforts to Race to the Top and close the ever-elusive achievement gap.
A historically significant ‘change’ occurred last November. I have not heard anyone debate whether Obama’s election as the first Black President of the United States has had an impact on the citizens of this country. Notice I wrote a change, as opposed to simply saying change. The difference may not seem important; however, when we juxtapose change against the new-found interest in overhauling public education we cannot ignore the fact that the majority of those making major decisions do not resemble those who are most disadvantaged, e.g., minority students. Essentially, there is no real change taking place in Education. Am I implying that non-minority educators are not qualified or compassionate enough to educate minority children? Absolutely not! What I am implying is that our country continues to have discussions about closing the achievement gap and how to best meet the needs of students in AYP subgroups, e.g., minority, low-income, ELL, and students with disabilities; yet, there are no representatives among the state superintendents, and few among the politicians and district superintendents. The actual number of minority superintendents is too small to make a significant impact.
Whenever I read the small amount of news covering America’s Education woes, I make a conscious effort to ‘check’ my racial blinders, but that is often difficult to do when your race is an obvious part of your identity. As a parent, I would certainly like to believe that race will become obsolete as my kids grow older. As an educator, I know better. I am not basing my thoughts on some conspiracy theory about ‘the man.’ Instead, my conclusions are based on observation, research, and data. Numbers don’t lie: Black and Latino students are not as ‘test’ intelligent as they should be. They do not graduate at the same rate as Whites and the numbers attending 4-year colleges/universities are not where they should be, in my opinion. Yes these facts are disheartening, but we also need to consider that Blacks and Latinos have less access to rigorous academic programs, Advanced Placement classes, arts, technology, etc. There are a few educators, such as Dr. Steve Perry and Baruti Kafele, who have created learning environments where a ‘college is the only option,’ attitude is the norm. These two men are among the minority, both literally and figuratively, as they have worked, persevered, and are now making quality education and college feasible options for large numbers of minority students.
I would venture to say that for every Perry or Kafele, there are probably 100 minority educators who have tried to improve conditions for their students, only to be met with resistance from administrators, school boards, etc., who also happen to be all-White. I have been there and I am still fighting to bring school choice to the heavily minority community in which I live. In the coming months we will be bombarded by stories about states either lifting charter caps or scrambling to create charter legislation where it did not previously exist, all for the sake of Race to the Top funds. This Johnny-come-lately approach has not place in Education. The stakes are too high if these silver-bullet ideals fail. We have already seen the effects of lackluster leadership, ignoring the learning needs of students, and dismissing the potential contributions of our educators. As long as school districts continue to operate in this manner, we will continue to chase our tails in the quest to improve the quality and outcomes of public education.
Race will likely never be obsolete, but we must all ensure there is fair representation at each and every roundtable discussion.