Monday, December 31, 2007

2008 and Beyond (The need for common currency)

On the eve of a new year, it is a good time to assess, wish and recommend. This site must take advantage of the season to express some of our hopes and dreams for the future of our race and by extension our country.

Our focus in this post on a "common currency" reflects a dream that black Americans will come to recognize and pursue a basic set of values and principles that we can collectively rally around.

This site continues to believe that knowledge (education) is the secret weapon for the uplifting of not only our race but also our country. Education is the vehicle that will allow the participants in this great democracy to reach their full potential.

Education( not just a diploma or degree, but achieving academic excellence) is the means for taking advantage of the opportunities offered by our nation. Blacks must move to a mental model of personal responsibility and self-improvement if we are to break free of poverty, disease and down right misery.

Recent polling by the Pew Research Center seems to point to a fracture within the black race. For example, 37 percent of blacks feel we can no longer be viewed as one race because of a continuing class divide. Think about that!

Henry Louis Gates in a recent article said "Why can't black leaders organize rallies around responsible sexuality, birth within marriage, parents reading to their children and students staying in school and doing homework? Imagine Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson distributing free copies of Virginia Hamilton's collection of folktales The People Could Fly or Dr. Seuss, and demanding that black parents sign pledges to read to their children."

We must also begin to focus on economics in terms of net worth vs. income. Gates sites work by economist Edward Wolff that is truly astonishing. According to Wolff, in 2004, the median net worth of non-Hispanic black households was $11,800 as compared with a figure of $118,300 for non-Hispanic white households.

It is fairly common knowledge that in America the bulk of our net worth is locked in home equity. Notwithstanding the recent crisis in sub prime lending, blacks must understand the importance of property ownership ( buy a house and not a car) and take care to maintain the property once you own it.

Americans fund a significant portion of their "privilege and advantage" from wealth or otherwise net-worth and not income. Blacks must identify asset classes that help build net-worth (stocks, bonds, 401k's, Ira's, rental property, and savings accounts) and move to acquire and build these types of assets. Good credit, in my view, is also something that should be viewed by blacks as a valuable asset class.

With these thoughts, I bid you and yours a happy New Year! As always, we invite your views on any topic or position raised on this site.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Black People at Risk of Returning to Pre-Civil Rights Conditions

I am amazed at how frequently the condition and future of black people is concealed in language that attempts to cast the nation at risk. In my view, that is simply wrong and some would call it "spin."

We do ourselves no favor by trying to put everybody, including the nation, in the leaking boat we (black people) obviously occupy.

And black Americans in position of leadership and responsibility must immediately communicate the hard truth as well as issue a clear and concise call to action within the black community.

The Shreveport Sun recently carried an article by Mr. Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. Morial reports on a new study regarding student achievement. He identifies four major areas of impact: 1. whether children live with both parents. 2. whether children were read to as youngsters. 3. whether children were permitted to watch more than four hours of TV on schools days. 4. whether they skipped school (attendance).

Now, these four areas of importance are not new to this site. But note the spin!

"...our nation's leaders need to start thinking outside of the box and the school in light of an increasingly low-income public school population if they hope to achieve their No Child Left Behind goals. Without some major investment soon, the United States, especially the South, can kiss goodbye to the standard of living it enjoys today."

Not one word in the article about the nation's black people needing to think "outside the box" in order to improve their own lives.

This should no longer be a debate within the black community about blaming the victim. This is a question about our overall quality of life and indeed perhaps about our very survival. We must have a candid presentation of the facts and recommendations to the black community for self-help.

My prescription:
1. The Learn to Learn strategy;
2. Poverty (and how to avoid it)

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Poverty (and how to avoid it)

The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) just published a report detailing the make up of public schools from an income perspective. The report indicates that low income students now make up a solid majority in the South. For a comprehensive review of this report and its findings, see our link to the SEF.

The report and its findings are not my main focus. Rather, I believe we should put a bright light on the formula for avoiding poverty.

In his book ENOUGH, Juan Williams records, in simple terms, what I think is the right prescription.

Mr. Williams says "The good news is that there is a formula for getting out of poverty today."

Step one: Finish high school (that also means you must do well in school, my emphasis)and finishing college (or other trade school, my emphasis) is much better.

Step two: Take a job (any job,my emphasis) and hold it.

Step three: Marry after finishing school and while you have a job.

Step four: Have children only after you are twenty-one and married.

Williams goes on to say "The poverty rate for any black man or woman who follows that formula is 6.4 percent. The overall poverty rate for black Americans, based on 2002 census data, the year this analysis was done, was 21.5 percent. In other words, by meeting those basic requirements, black Americans can cut their chances of being poor by two-thirds."

I know that circumstances will not always allow one to package his or her life in a neat step by step fashion. Just as following the formula will not guarantee you will not be poor. But, the message makes a lot of sense to me and it is a message that should be embraced and repeated within the black community.

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

High School Attendance Results

The local Learning to Finish effort just concluded its tracking of attendance in Caddo and Bossier districts. A recent editorial in The Times indicated "absenteeism rates ranged from an average of 1.4 percent at Judson Elementary to 10.1 percent at Woodlawn High to 12 percent at Caddo Career and Technology Center."

I personally tracked the High Schools and logged the following results: Magnet 2.4%, Green Oaks 3.9%, Captain Shreve 4.3%, Byrd 4.6%, North Caddo 5.5%, Northwood 6.1%, Fair Park 6.6%,Huntington 6.7%, Southwood 6.7%, BTW 7.2% and Woodlawn 10.1%.

Further, I clocked Caddo at 4.7% overall while Bossier came in at 4.2%.

In any event, the exercise was a good one. We all know that students must be in school to succeed. Communities surrounding the involved high schools should take note and make sure your children are attending school. I suspect many parents are under the impression that the kids are in school, only to be surprised when report cards are distributed.

Parents must check in on students frequently to pick up early signs of potential trouble. That means getting to teachers and administrators at other than school sponsored activities such as back to school nights.

Be sure to stay alert for other Learning to Finish initiatives.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Attendance (Learning to Finish)

We currently have 8 days worth of attendance data as published in The Times. Some trends are already apparent. For example, for the 11 high schools, the best in class is Magnet High with an average absentee score of 2.2%. Caddo Parish has an average absentee score of 4.8%.

It would be good to check your neighborhood school against these benchmarks. Remember, the child can not perform if he or she is not in school.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Education Week Open House

The popular publication Education Week is currently running an open house special. You may use and access all the features of this great resource free. I strongly recommend that you give this a test drive. Take a look at and you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

From Crisis to Contradiction

The Sacramento Bee recently reported on an educational conference that took as its theme "Is Bill Cosby Right." The article opened with the following statement: "The educational crisis facing black children in the United States is well-documented. Disproportionately, they attend the poorest schools, with the least experienced teachers, the lowest test scores and the highest dropout rates."

As you might imagine, conference participants did a lot of talking. In fact the article goes on to say "We're all doing a lot of talking," said Sacramento City Councilwoman Louren Hammond. "That's what we're best at."

On that point, I could not agree more.

Then there are developments in Maryland as reported by Gina Davis and Liz Bowie of the Baltimore Sun. This article was titled "Blacks in suburbs failing Md. exams (Poor results at some high schools called surprising).

The article further states "An alarming pattern of failure is surfacing: Minority students, especially African-Americans, are struggling to pass the exams in the suburban classrooms their families had hoped would provide a better education."

"It is a wake-up call to African-Americans in Maryland.," said Dunbar Brooks, president of the state school board and former president of the Baltimore County School board. "For many African-Americans, the mere fact that your child attends a suburban school district does not make academic achievement automatic."

Here is my take. Black children are being abandoned. First by parents and second by once very strong community support systems (church, clubs, organizations). They are abandoned to poor urban schools that operate without the essentials for a successful educational experience.

They are abandoned to suburban schools with the thought that by just being there, success is all but assured.

The truth is children must have supportive and involved parents to succeed. This is not a blame game but a statement of what I believe to be a fact. As a Christian, my belief system confirms our Creator set it up that way. Children are a blessing from God and require the care and nurture of loving and supportive parents.

No amount of talk, money or legislation will ever change that fact. Please see earlier posts on culture and parental involvement for my recommendations.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Learning to Finish (a national effort)

"...the learning to Finish Campaign , a national community-based effort established to respond to one of our most urgent public problems-the high school dropout crisis.
Despite repeated assertions on the part of leaders in all sectors about the importance of addressing the dropout situation, the problem today is more acute than ever. Recent reports indicate that nationally about one-third of all students who enter high school do not graduate on time if ever. Some 2,500 students leave high school every day." This quote is by Suzanne W. Morse, President of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change. Pew has teamed with local civic organizations to help the Shreveport-Bossier area reverse this trend.

I support this effort without reservation. It seeks to bring together collective local resources to focus on the drop out problem

The Times is running local attendance information on a school by school basis for the month of September. Clearly, if a child is not in school, there is no way to be successful.

I urge readers of this blog to pay close attention to the issue of attendance for this entire year. No matter who you are, you can talk up the idea of going to school each day, on time and ready to learn.

My plans are to post frequently regarding the local Learning to Finish effort.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Jessie Jackson says parents need help (NAACP issues Call For Action In Education)

Jessie Jackson is calling for more parental involvement as we prepare to kick off another school term. As reported by Craig Dellimore, Jackson says some parents don't understand the consequences...or may not care. Jackson was specifically referring in part to the lost of some $150 million dollars in education funding in Cook County due of lower attendance.

Jackson further indicated that he and other ministers are working to see that parents get the extra help they need.

In addition, the NAACP has issued a Call For Action In Education. For a detailed review of this document, please visit and click on EDUCATION.

With respect to high-stakes testing, the civil rights organization notes that "high-stakes testing used to retain in grade or to deny diplomas based on a single test(including retakes), exacerbates the disparate impact of resource inequality for children of color."

"Rigorous assessment, including the use of standardized tests, has a legimate place in the learning process and in school reform. The NAACP believes, however, that is is unaccepatable to implement the high-stakes components of tests until federal, state, and local educational agencies are held accountable for ensuring that teachers have the necessary resources to teach and students have the resources needed to learn."

The NAACP's plan also includes a section on dropout rate reduction. The organization indicates that "Obtaining a high school diploma remains among the most promient points of demarcation between the "haves" and "have -nots" in American society" Compared to diploma recipients, those who earn a GED have a much higher rate of unemployment and are much more likely to need welfare or other forms of government assistance."

This national activity clearly helps us locally to understand priorities and needs within the black community.

If you have received a copy of the Learn to Learn brochure, it appears that distribution of that document helps to lay a foundation for local action and provide specific recommentations for parents to follow. It is not enough to talk about "parental involvement" without having a model in hand that can serve as common currency.

Refer to earlier posts on Culture, and Parental Involvement for more information.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

2007 Act Results

This site advocates academic competition for black children and the black community overall. We must not be afraid to compete. (THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS HIGH-STAKES TESTING WHICH WE STRONGLY OPPOSE).

2007 ACT results are in and the average Louisiana black child taking the ACT came in at 17.0. That means the average black child could not apply for TOPS money which requires a minimum ACT score of 20. And for the record, I do not believe the cutoff score of 20 is unfair.

Other scoring results were: Asian, 21.7; White,21.4; Other,20.7, Hispanic 20.2; All Students, 20.1 and American Indian, 19.8.

As a community, we need to support efforts to improve ACT results with targeted initiatives. Please use our link to ACT for a complete review of these results to include year over year trends. In addition, note the suggestions for improving scores and support the ones you can for students within your area of influence.

Otherwise, we as a community are leaving scholarship money on the table for no good and valid reason.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The New Black Leader

As expressed by John McWhorter in his well presented book called Winning The Race (Beyond The Crisis In Black America), I quote his description of the new black leader.

It makes sense to me and should serve as a standard for those appointed to or assuming a leadership role in the black community going forward:

"Any black leader, political or writerly, who is to have any serious effect on black Americans' lives must openly and conclusively let the frameworks of the Great Society ideology, treating blacks as helpless victims of factory relocation, middle-class snobbery, buildings' heights, "segregation," and the rest, pass into history. To insist that this frame of mind is the only way to address our problems as humane, informed citizens is to, unwittingly, leave millions of people to languish in idleness, unfocused cynicism, and misery."

He goes on to say, "The work that remains to be done is dedicating ourselves to letting the "whitey has to pay" routine go, and filtering all of our race politics through a constant awareness of that, with a deeply felt moral urgency. We must open ourselves to this even though racism still lurks here and there and capitalism is a hard business."

High-stakes Testing (LEAP)

The Louisiana NAACP has recently launched an initiative to call attention to the harmful effects of the LEAP test in this state. LEAP is administered in the 4Th and 8Th grades and students are retained if they do not pass the test.

The NAACP argues this test is not legal.

State NAACP president Ernest L. Johnson continues to press the issue with a letter to the editor that appeared in The Times on August 9, 2007. Mr. Johnson points out that "As a direct result of this unlawful use this year, more than 28,000 fourth and eighth-grade students in our public schools were recorded as failing the test. Please keep in mind that most of these students pass their regular courses. Some are honor students, and some even have a 4.0 grade-point average."

According to Louisiana information on accountability, "Schools containing grade levels kindergarten through eighth (K-8) entered into the accountability system in 1998-99. Schools with grades 9-12 entered the accountability system in 2000-01.

The 9-12 portions of schools with K-12 grade structures also entered the system in 2000-01."

It is interesting to note the trends in grade retentions since accountability.

Some studies suggest that being retained even once between the first and eighth grades makes a student four times more likely to drop out.

Retentions have probably contributed to a significant increase in the number of over-age students in the system.

It is past time for us to rethink high-stakes testing. Studies should be conducted to better understand the impact this is having on our children.

This appears to be one of those situations where the cure is worst than the disease.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Graduation Rates for 2003-04

This table will be helpful as local leaders further consider the impact of the dropout problem on the black community. The numbers certainly support the assessment of black males in crisis. I believe it is important to have quality information upon which to base discussions, decisions and actions. As we kick off another school year here in the Caddo/Bossier area, we can also focus our attention on improving the results captured in this table. The entire community will benefit.

If you have some ideas you want to share, consider posting your comments here for ease of distribution.

Note: Column D in the table is my calculation.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A blueprint for black men to use

I have previously acknowledged the crisis gripping the black male in America. Even a cursory review of the stats would confirm this assessment. However, I do believe there is something we can do about our situation and it is within our control. The issue is do we have the will to dig ourselves out of this hole.

In a recent keynote address, Israel L. Gaither, national commander of the Salvation Army, challenged black men to rise up and lead. He said, "Enough is enough, now is the time for the rising of those who dare to lead with spiritual, cultural and intellectual integrity."

Following his model, a viable blueprint for black men should be characterized as L.E.A.D.

  • Learn to love God, others and ourselves. This becomes our core value.
  • Education is a life or death issue for blacks and the black man in particular. You must graduate from high school and you must do well in high school. There is no other option.
  • Accountability for reversing the dismal conditions facing black men rest with black men. We cannot abdicate this responsibility to anyone. Fathers, accept responsibility for your sons and daughters. That means you love your children, you set boundaries and limits for them and you protect them.
  • Determination and cooperation will govern relationships between black churches, fraternities and other organizations. The pooling of resources and talent is an important strategy to address the black male crisis. A collective rather than a go-it-alone approach is more effective.

Now, there is no shame in needing or asking for help. However, we should be clear that the heavy lifting is ours to do.

As Mr. Gaither put it "rise up, rise up, it's getting late.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It is all about culture!

If we as a community are going to close many of the performance gaps we hear so much about today, it will be a result of a transformation of our culture. As used here, culture simply refers to everything we do. Learning (academic excellence) must become an expectation in our culture.

It is not so today. A learning culture goes beyond simply "valuing an education" A learning culture demands excellence, and does not excuse failure to perform with the usual poverty/racism chorus.

A learning culture is characterized by actions that confirm what we say we value.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Making a Living

"The greatest indictment of such education as Negroes have received, however, is that they have thereby learned little as to making a living, the first essential in civilization." by Carter G. Woodson.

This quote is of course from the masterpiece, The Mis-Education of the Negro. Mr. Woodson was rendering a critique of what he called education under outside control. However, I would like to focus on his clear statement regarding the essential nature of "making a living" and its very basic relationship to civilization itself.

The statement speaks volumes and is a direct hit on those who today refuse, for any reason, to acquire the necessary education (skills, knowledge,training, etc) to take care of your own basic needs.

The United States faced by Mr. Woodson in 1933 is vastly different from the one we encounter in 2007. Opportunities are greater than at any time in our history. To be sure, African Americans continue to face problems, and race is certainly one of them.

But, in my view, neither race nor racism represents our biggest problem as a people today. I will not lecture or engage in further blame. My purpose is to challenge and encourage. Look deep within and learn the virtue of perseverance. You already have the gifts and abilities. Now use them if for no other reason than simply to....make a living.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Black Male Crisis is Real

There is a position among some in this country that black males are under siege. I am now among those who have come to this conclusion.

The tipping point for me comes in the National Urban League's State of Black America. You may view information on at The League has published reports of this nature in prior years, however, this year the focus presents a portrait of the Black Male.

Some of the findings indicate:
  • 18% of black males drop out of high school compared to 14% of white males
  • Black men earn less than three-quarters of what white men earned($34,443 vs. $46,807)
  • A higher percent of blacks (especially males) than whites are convicted and receive longer sentences than whites.
  • Black men under 25 years of age are 15 times more likely to die by homicide than their white counterparts.

Of course this conclusion is not a surprise to prolific author Jawanza Kunjufu who published Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys. Kunjufu concluded in part that "...passive conspirators, are African Americans who participate via their mis-education, self-hatred and apathy. This group consists of African American males who do not raise their children. It also includes African American women who have double standards for their children. They have lower expectations for their sons than their daughters. this group includes African American educators who also have lowered their expectations for African American children, specifically the male child. It also includes those that sell drugs and commit murder."

My attempt is therefore to drive a commitment to action in order to reverse this crisis.

Education is the key. Our males must be shown the value of learning and performing at their very best no matter the circumstances. Knowledge and your ability to apply it to a variety of situations will truly set you free and enable one to compete at the highest levels of our society.

This is about a change in black culture. More on that later. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Knowledge is Critical to Your Future

Today begins a journey for me. An attempt to use the power of computer aided communications to get a message out to African Americans. We live in the greatest nation on the planet.

In this great nation of ours, it is critical for African Americans to recognize the power of knowledge and get on-board before we are truly left behind with little or no hope of catching up.

The whole notion of an education and what it means to be educated must leap to the top of the list of important and urgent issues for African Americans. By focusing on knowledge (education), we get at the root of many of the other plagues (AIDS, Crime, Infant Mortality, Unemployment/Underemployment, Other Economic Disadvantages, etc) that seem to operate with impunity within the African American community.

Our intent is to sidestep raw politics, although you are totally free to express your views, political or otherwise, as you see fit. My point is simply the vision for Learn to Learn is to be a powerful and moving force in the discussion and debate of the real value of knowledge.

The site can also serve as a link to other organizations that contribute to the central thesis of this site.

We must likewise include the views of those who may differ from our main point of view. This is healthy debate. If an idea or position can not withstand assault, it is not worthy of consideration.

So, welcome to this space and let's get started.

Visitors to the Site