Thursday, December 30, 2010

Education reformers made bold strides in 2010, but what’s next for 2011? |

Although I think the movie Waiting for Superman was an example of special interest (charter schools), it did serve to spark more conversation and interest in the overall topic of education. That said, at this point, I am pleased to cosign the message from Michell Rhee. Click on the link below to view her comments.

Education reformers made bold strides in 2010, but what’s next for 2011? |

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How Do You Get Black Kids to Learn? Teach!

When we argue for "Supportive Parents" and "Quality Teaching" as critical factors in achieving academic excellence, it is difficult to convey this message in a meaningful way. In addition, this site argues for "Building a Learning Culture" again, a difficult concept for many to visualize.

In the following interview with teacher Anitra Pinchback, it all comes together for me.
Note the following statements by Ms. Pinchback:

"We are always looking for outside accountability but as educators we should have inside accountability, too. You should do it because it works not because someone is looking"

"Each year, I meet with my parents during the first 2 weeks of school. I cover learning expectations and standards, and set the tone."

"I worked with parents on their (the child's) behavior and attitudes. I told them it's a lifestyle (culture) change for the family."

I hope these few excerpts have whet your appetite for more. Because there is much, much more.

Click on the link below for the full interview. If you have a passion in this area, you will not be disappointed.

How Do You Get Black Kids to Learn? Teach!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shanker Blog » Teachers Matter, But So Do Words

I have made the argument in using the Priority Impact Matrix (PIM)that of the five critical factors driving achievement, the teacher is number 3 on my list. That is behind a motivated student and supportive parents. These are followed by the principal and finally a rigorous curriculum.

Therefore, the post below makes good sense to me, and is one of the reasons I use the PIM. We must be careful with all the information coming forth and depending on the interest group, it can cause confusion in the public.

Again, this is a good post. Click and read.

Shanker Blog » Teachers Matter, But So Do Words

What I Learned in 2010 - Bridging Differences - Education Week

Diane Ravitch comments on her takeaways from 2010. I learn from her thinking and perspective on the current ed reform debate.

What I Learned in 2010 - Bridging Differences - Education Week

Monday, December 27, 2010

Schools Matter: To Starve the Beast, We Must Drown the Children

Could our public school system( with its billions in budget dollars) be a takeover target for wall street?

Could the Republican party be a part of sinister plot to weaken the Democratic party (and thus obtain more money and power) by moving to privatize our schools?

Read this post by Jim Horn. This is an analysis that should be kept in mind by all of us (like me) who support a strong public school system.

I will watch Students First closely, and Michelle Rhee, to be certain this is not her end game. One good place to watch from is inside the organization.

Schools Matter: To Starve the Beast, We Must Drown the Children: "Posted at Kenniwick School District Citizens: Waiting For SuperFraud By Michael T. Martin Public schools have to fail. There is no alternat..."

Why Finland's schools get the best results?

This is a good read. Note the comments on culture and how parents support their children. All while actually spending less time in the classroom.

BBC News - World News America - Why do Finland's schools get the best results?

Sunday, December 26, 2010


A motivated student is critical to academic success. Please consider this piece on Self-Efficacy. It makes sense.

V39N3_FT_Self-Efficacy.pdf (application/pdf Object)

There Are No Unmotivated Students | Dropout Nation: Coverage of the Reform of American Public Education Edited by RiShawn Biddle

I disagree with the assertion that "there are no unmotivated students".

I follow Dropout Nation. Usually the comments are strong and well reasoned. However, in this instance, I could not disagree more regarding the topic of motivated students.

In my view, there are five factors that drive academic excellence. They are: a motivated student, supportive parents, high quality teaching, high quality principal leadership, and a rigorous curriculum.

This is the recipe that represents the total shared responsibility for academic success.

You can not leave out any one of these factors and expect academic excellence.

I am not a "...lazy, shiftless adults in schools and communities." I am a parent of three adult children with a deep concern for the education of all children, but with an emphasis on the black community.

And I believe motivation matters. To demonize individuals as "lazy and shiftless" for holding an opinion on this topic appears somewhat extreme and unreasonable.

As well, not holding students and families accountable for a child's behavior is both demeaning and disrespectful.

Instead, we should make every effort to coach parents and make available to them key resources for assisting their children.

The obligation to educate the nation's children is an important trust. It should not be reduced to name calling, insults and blame.

Only a shared, healthy, and inclusive approach will work in the end.

Thanks to Dropout Nation for putting this topic in the conversation.

Your comments are always welcome. Please join in.

There Are No Unmotivated Students | Dropout Nation: Coverage of the Reform of American Public Education Edited by RiShawn Biddle

Friday, December 24, 2010

Class Struggle - Why Jay's classroom focus is wrong

I follow both Jay Matthews and Rishawn Biddle. Therefore, it was interesting to see the two of them exchange views as Jay presents on his blog.

I have personally adopted a view that five (5) factors are more important and have more impact on overall student achievement. They are in order of importance: A motivated student shows up to school, Supportive parents/guardians, High quality teaching, High quality principal leadership, and a Rigorous curriculum.

With that in mind, I enjoyed the following exchange. I hope you will as well. Click on the link to view.

Class Struggle - Why Jay's classroom focus is wrong

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Should Students Help to Assess Teacher Performance? |

Should Students Help to Assess Teacher Performance? |

In the work place, I often experienced what was called 360 degree feedback. That simply means your performance is rated not only by your supervisor, but also by peers, and subordinates. These ratings were combined and compared with self-evaluations.

Needless to say, this type of system can be quite revealing. My take away was that we all have blind spots and can usually improve. If done appropriately, the student input can indeed be a valuable part of the teacher evaluation process.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Atlanta Schools Face Scandal While Searching for Leader -

Atlanta Schools Face Scandal While Searching for Leader -

The Atlanta school system is certainly not a model at this point in time. Rocked by an alleged cheating scandal regarding standardized tests, it now faces a challenge to its accreditation.

On top of the cheating investigations, it appears the school board is aligned along "ideological and philosophical" factions which has caused it not to be able to govern effectively.

And of course while the adults fight over who controls the sandbox, the children languish.

Cheating is wrong. Nothing else to say if that is a true allegation. While I am no fan of high-stakes tests, I am equally no fan of cheating. Not only is it morally wrong, but what kind of lesson is that to teach our children.

My advocacy is for understanding the lay of the land, and working hard to compete within the boundaries of the rules and regulations. Otherwise a win- is no win at all.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Michelle Rhee & StudentsFirst

It is great to see that former D.C. school leader, Michelle Rhee has launched a new and exciting initiative.

She recently announced the formation of The new organization is a nationwide effort to bring interested parties together to support education reform.

Her stated mission is to: build a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform, so that American has the best education system in the world.

The core beliefs of the organization are:

1. Great teachers can make a tremendous difference for students of every background; all children deserve outstanding teachers.

2. Attending a great school should be a matter of fact, not luck; every family should be able to choose an excellent school.

3 Public dollars belong where they make the biggest difference-on effective instructional programs; we must fight ineffective practices and bureaucracy.

4. Parent and family involvement is key to increased student achievement, but the entire community must be engaged in the effort to improve our schools.

These four beliefs make sense to me.

Nationally, Ms. Rhee has her critics. Some claim her only focus is high-stakes testing, merit pay, closing schools and opening charters. I do not buy that framing of this initiative, or her past work.

At any rate, I am pleased to have joined this new initiative. The stated mission and beliefs are consistent with this site, and what I believe is the right focus for improving learning for all students.


1. I have created a link to under the links section of Learn to Learn for your easy use.
2. We have established a group on the StudentsFirst site called "Black Americans for School Reform." Check us out and please consider joining our group.
3. For more information check out the new site at:

Congratulations to Ms. Rhee on the new initiative. I think it is right for the current time, and will no doubt help drive improved academic performance.

Friday, December 3, 2010

President Barack Obama, meet Derrick Bell

Slightly off the core subject of education, but nevertheless focused on educating, we are struck by the tone and tenor of the political climate of the nation. And some comment is in order.

The president is at once being attacked from all sides. A unified front of Republican opposition has resurrected a party, that following the 2008 election, was thought to be on life support.

From inside his own party, a steady drumbeat of criticism. The jabs have ranged from allegations of one testicle (James Carville) to simply having to prove he is not an idiot (Mother Jones).

Through it all the president has remained outwardly calm. He seems to display reliance on an inner power to control his disappointment while keeping focused on a previously charted course.

To borrow from Dr. Charles Stanley in describing a different situation, I believe his words apply to the president. "By showing peace instead of anxiety or practicing patience rather that speaking a sharp word, a Christian bears witness to the beauty of the gospel."

But there is also another reality that the president must have clearly and calmly faced. And that is the fact that he is a black man in the white house.

Here, we introduce the president to Derrick Bell.

Bell says "Black people will never gain full equality in this country. Even those herculean efforts we hail as successful (becoming president of the United States--my emphasis) will produce no more than temporary "peaks of progress," short-lived victories that slide into irrelevance as racial patterns adapt in ways to maintain white dominance (100% of Republican senators and some Democratic senators unite against the president--my emphasis). This is a hard-to-accept fact that all history verifies. We must acknowledge it and move on to adopt policies based on what I call: "Racial Realism." This mind-set or philosophy requires us to acknowledge the permanence of our subordinate status."

Bell goes on to say, "We call ourselves African Americans, but despite centuries of struggle, none of us-no matter our prestige or position-is more than a few steps away from a racially motivated exclusion, restriction or affront."

Now I would not expect that president Obama would be as direct in his assessment of his current situation. After all, he would be accused by that right wing machine of playing the race card.

However, I do not have such restrictions. And, I don't much care what anyone thinks or feels about what I'm saying. For I know, deep inside, it is factual and it is the truth.

This is not in any sense a call for blacks to surrender. It is simply a clear statement of our condition.

It also underscores the need for black folks to wake up to the necessity of an education and a competitive spirit for our survival.

Good luck and best wishes, Mr. President. I admire your courage.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Black Children Still Left Behind

The article titled Black Children Still Left Behind appeared in District Administration.

I am creating a link to the article. It is a good read.

However, it is also the type of article that my recommended Priority Impact Matrix (PIM) is designed to assist with.

This article throws many reports and conventional theory about improving black achievement at you all at once.

No way for the average reader to sort through and lift out useful information perhaps for personal application or application with a local educational interest group.

This is a good article to use the PIM with.

Look forward to your thoughts.

The link to the article is:

Then CLICK on Magazine-Current Issue-Black Children Still Left Behind

Monday, November 29, 2010

Priority Impact Matrix (PIM)

Left click on the image for viewing,.

This is my Priority Impact Matrix (PIM). It helps organize my thoughts around those factors I deem to be critical to improving student achievement. Factors in the More Important/More Impact section are where I think most of our time and effort should be spent.

Teacher Quality in High Poverty Schools

A new report by The Education Trust finds that high poverty schools have fewer in-field teachers.

Teacher quality is very important and has a high impact on student achievement. It is clearly one of those areas parents should pay close attention too.

What is the situation in your local school or district?

For more information on the report see The Education Trust Web site and click on NEW REPORT ON TEACHERS: STUDENTS WHO NEED THE MOST DON'T GET THE BEST:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Motivated Student (Critical to High Achievement)

My favorite football team, the New Orleans Saints, won a Thanksgiving day thriller over the Dallas Cowboys. Final score, Saints 30, Cowboys 27.

It is a game that fans will talk about for some time to come. While there were mistakes made by both teams, it is the game-changing play by New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins that made an impression that will last for many, many years it football folklore.

You see, Jenkins stripped the football from the clutched hands/arms of Dallas receiver Roy Williams, who was surely on his way to a game winning touchdown.

Now, enough about the plays of the game. And, what does this all have to do with one of my other favorite subjects, education.

Motivation, or more particularly self-motivation, is just as important in the pursuit of academic excellence as it is in the game of football or almost any other endeavor in life.

Some commentary by the hero of the game may help add clarity to my point of view.

Jenkins observed that "You can attribute Gregg Williams {defensive coordinator} --how he preaches effort. "When our guys hustle to the ball, good things happen."

Jenkins goes on to say "You can't stop effort. "We're going to play to the end. We're going to fight you to the last play. You can coach up schemes, you can coach up routes, or what ever, you can coach plays, but at the end of the day what wins football is effort and heart. {MOTIVATION, my emphasis}

Saints Head Coach, Sean Payton seemed to agree. He said "The play that Malcolm Jenkins makes is an effort play, a heart play.

Implication for academic achievement: You must have a motivated student show up in the class room every day. A student willing to put forth the effort required to achieve and succeed.

Now this observation is clearly not revolutionary. But it is more important to the issue of increasing graduation rates and closing achievement gaps than most educational discussion captures.

As work continues on achievement going forward, perhaps it would be useful to adopt a more disciplined and organized approach. More on that later, but for now, Go Saints!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Frederick Douglass (a black male role model)

I have just finished reading "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave."

Of course I have read other material about Mr. Douglass in the past, but this experience was quite different.

In this case, I was reading his first hand account of his life as a slave, up to the time of about 1845 which would have made him all of 27 years old.

To briefly illustrate the eloquence and tone of the book, note the following:

"I was broken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!"

"You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man."

"My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact. I did not hesitate to let it be known of me, that the white man who expected to succeed in whipping, must also succeed in killing me."

Frederick Douglass, born into slavery, taught himself to read and write. Remember, a slave who could read was considered a danger to the very system of slavery.

This volume should be highlighted to black males. He is truly a role model for the challenges facing black males discussed on this site and others.

Low academic achievement, high unemployment, low graduation rates, etc., are but a few of our modern day issues.

I believe a close read of this book and seeing the world as Mr. Douglass saw it, would do wonders to motivate today's black males to conquer the world now as we see it.

Your thoughts?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Social Costs of Achievement......

The social costs of achievement have now been identified as a result of a new study.

Researchers "...found that for African American and Native American teenagers, the higher their GPAs at the start of the study, the more their feelings of social acceptance decreased over the one-year period. In contrast, for White teens and teens of other races and ethnicities, the higher their GPAs at the start of the research, the more their feelings of being socially accepted increased over the year."

See a report on the study at

John McWhorter in Losing The Race identified what he called a Cult of Anti-Intellectualism operating in the black community. He further states that "...the main reason black students lag behind all others starting in kindergarten and continuing through postgraduate school is that a wariness of books and learning for learning's sake as "white" has become ingrained in black American culture."

The late John Ogbu, as early as 1986, observed the phenomenon he called "acting white" as a primary driver of black peer pressure adversely impacting black achievement.

McWhorter points out that this is not just " inner-city pathology-it is culture-wide."

This site, in its Learn To Learn brochure, argues in favor of building a "learning culture." I know this may be oversimplified and easier said than done.

However, I believe the evidence is clear that much of our lag in achievement is self-imposed.

And, if we are ever to compete successfully in the academic realm, it will be as a result of nothing less than a black cultural academic revolution.

One day (and it will occur one day at a time) we will arrive at a place where achievement at the highest levels will garner respect and will not be viewed as something other than being "black."

Rather it will have become as natural as breathing. And, when that day comes, the achievement gap will no longer exist.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Achievement Gap (Race, Economics, and Class)

Dalton Conley noted in Being Black, Living in the Red that:

"Overall, blacks do worse than whites (the result one expects from anecdotal information and summary statistics), but when the differences in economic endowments that African Americans and whites bring to the educational system are taken into consideration, blacks do better than whites in some measures and the same as whites in others."

""For instance, net worth is the second most important predictor of attaining the increasingly important college degree (after parental education level.) This central importance of assets in financing higher education in an increasingly technical economy shoots a hole through the enticing account of inequality offered by Herrnstein and Murry in The Bell Curve."

"While young African Americans may have the opportunity to obtain the same education, income, and wealth as whites, in actuality they are on a slippery slope, for the discrimination their parents faced in the housing and credit markets sets the stage for perpetual economic disadvantage."

"" asset gap will continue to widen. This is true because of the cruel fact that wealth begets greater wealth. Starting with a few hundred dollars at 10 percent compounded interest, an individual will end up with a thousand dollars after a decade or two. Starting with a thousand dollars, however, another individual will end up with several thousand dollars, and the wealth gap will have grown in absolute terms despite equal access to investments."

"Wealth, not occupation or education, is the realm in which the greatest degree of racial inequality lies in contemporary America."

On the other hand, Annette Lareau, in her book, Unequal Childhoods, make the class argument.

She states "Many Americans believe that this country is fundamentally open. They assume the society is best understood as a collection of individuals.  They believe that people who demonstrate hard work, effort and talent are likely to achieve upward mobility. Put differently, many Americans believe in the American Dream.  In this view, children should have roughly equal life chances.  the extent to which life chances vary can be raced to differences in aspirations, talent, and hard work on the part of individuals.  This perspective rejects the notion that parents' social location systematically shapes children's life experiences and outcomes."

Other scholars,  Ms. Lareau points out, take the position that "...systemic forms of inequality, including, for example, differences in parents' educational levels, occupational prestige, and income, as well as in their child-rearing practices do exist. However, "These scholars, see such differences within society as a matter of gradation. To explain unequal life outcomes, they see it as helpful to look at, for example, differences in mothers' years of education or the range of incomes by households in a particular city." "Scholars who take this perspective on inequality typically focus on the ways specific patterns are related (e.g., the number of years of mothers' schooling and the size of children's vocabularies, or the number of years of mothers' education and parental involvement in schooling).

Lareau challenges both views. "...I see as more valuable a categorical analysis, wherein families are grouped into social categories such as poor, working class, and middle class.  I argued that these categories are helpful in understanding the behavior of family members, not simply in one particular aspect but across a number of spheres.   Family practices cohere by social class."

Lareau therefore concluded "Social group membership structures life opportunities.  The chances of attaining key and widely sought goals-high scores on standardized tests such as the SAT, graduation from college, professional jobs, and sustained employment-are not equal for all the infants whose births are celebrated by their families.  It turns out that the family into which we are born, an event over which we have no control, matters quite a lot."

All in all, this is excellent information. No doubt scholarly and of significant merit. But, we as a people, can not accept or be confined in terms of our life aspirations by any preconceived notions or explanations.  We must confront this type of information squarely, and resolve to break the gravitational pull of either race, economics or class.

Louisiana State Government diverts $147M in Ed Funds

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is a darling of the Republican party. Some reports indicate he is not home long enough to take care of state business. Apparently in high demand across the country, he maintains an extensive out of state travel schedule.

However, he has found the time to divert $147M in federal money that had been promised to local school districts, according to recent press reports.

The state education department announced in September, 2010 the filing of its application for federal jobs fund money. That announcement clearly committed that money to local districts.

Please see the actual announcement at

However, recent press reports indicate that state Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek now tells local school superintendents they will not get that money.

Press reports indicate that "...the Jindal administration wants to use the money to help fill in budget gaps next year and to offset cuts to higher education."

The governor, who has maintained a -no new tax-cut the budget-live within your means- public position, apparently could not resist filthy federal money available for the taking.

This is in spite of the fact that local state school districts were counting on that money to provide needed educational services.

And this action is symbolic of the current national conversation about fiscal responsibility. Many claim the no new tax position while the need for additional revenue to maintain quality services is clear and growing.

When will the public grow up and stop forcing politicians to adopt such dumb positions?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Call for Change

A new report was released on November 9, 2010 by Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS).

This report is titled A Call for Change and it primarily examines black male achievement in 6 areas.

1. Readiness to learn
2. Black male achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
3. Black male achievement on the NAEP in selected big city school districts
4. College and career preparedness
5. School experience
6. Postsecondary experience

Much of the information contained in this report has been revealed from other sources. However, this document does serve to collate significant data sets for review and further analysis.

One of the recommendations by CGCS is to "Convene a White House conference on the status of Black males and develop an overall call to action and strategic direction for improvement."

I vote no on this one. The last thing we need, in my view, is to be studied in the glare of a White House summit as some helpless endangered species.

Instead we should say thanks for the data and the hard work that went into pulling this information together and then get to work making our own corrections.

Government has neither the time nor resources to devote to what I consider to be our problem. When will we (black males) summon the courage and will to reverse these trends?

Marian Wright Edelman notes that "Education is a precondition to survival in America today."
Surely when talking about self-preservation, black males must take ownership of this cause themselves.

To review the report go to and click on ACHIEVEMENT.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Do Black Leaders Practice Straight Talk With the Black Community

Are black leaders capable of communicating with the black community with straight talk?

By straight talk I mean, state the facts as they are and without trying to concurrently open an escape hatch for our mostly dismal results.

I am not talking about the so called blame the victim mentality. However, it is dangerous and demeaning to always sugarcoat the facts. And why is it wrong for us to admit that a lot of our problems are self-inflicted? And that many of the solutions are within our reach and control.

Here are examples from a recent news stories.

"The fact that our nation seems tone deaf regarding the economic inequality faced by African Americans is of great concern." This statement is followed by a litany of economic measures i.e., income, unemployment rates, poverty rates, wealth, etc., all of which show the black community trailing everyone else.

Another news story proclaims "Because of the current economy and high unemployment rates, Black people in the U.S. are witnessing a severe downturn in economic status with respect to wealth attainment and empowerment."

On the one hand, it is the NATION that ignores our problems and on the other it is the CURRENT ECONOMY that is taking us out.

Now, I am not naive to the historical conditions out of which black Americans have arisen. For illumination on our struggles, I would suggest a read of at least From Slavery to Freedom by John Hope Franklin and Roll Jordan Roll (The World The Slaves Made) by Eugene D. Genovese.

And I think Norman Kelleys' The Head Negro in Charge Syndrome provides a thought provoking critique of black political and intellectual leadership.

I am just plain nauseated by black writers and leaders who will not state the facts; point to a strategy that is self-owned, managed and monitored, and challenge our folks to regain the will demonstrated by our ancestors.

If they could survive slavery and create the foundation for our existence, then surely we can summon the courage to honor their suffering by competing and winning in any modern day arena.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Food for Thought

"This is the keynote to control of the so-called inferior races by the self-styled superior. The one thinks and plans while the other in excited fashion seizes upon and destroys his brother with whom he should cooperate" Carter G. Woodson

Friday, October 29, 2010

Relationship or Leadership

A very nice commentary in the October 27, 2010 edition of Education Week reports some excellent results involving an Ohio high school.

Laura Pappano writes about an aspect of the school turnaround conversation that it not being measured nor receiving the kind of attention it deserves. She says "it's about relationships."

The piece describes an inner-city Cincinnati high school that was transformed from an "...absolute failure by any measure..." to one that has been nominated for national Blue Ribbon School honors.

Apparently the school was assigned a new principal in 2001 by the name of Anthony G. Smith. The article goes on to describe how Mr. Smith engaged his staff, the community and business to forge "relationships" that obviously mattered.

The commentary makes the absolute correct statement that "At the heart of all reform efforts are the people who bring the strategies to life."

Together, the various interests have transformed this once "...dark and impersonal building..." into a campus of excellence.

That these kinds of results are achievable with an inner city school should not be surprising if the school has the right "leadership" at the helm.

Derrik Bell has said, when commenting on successful black schools "The common element among successful black schools was a strong principal willing to give priority to his or her vision of education even over policy directions coming from the central administration. To buck the system, the principal must have the strong support of the parents and the community, support that can come only if the school makes measurable progress with the students."

And herein lies my major point of contention with an otherwise excellent commentary. The winning characteristic observed in this turnaround is impeccable "leadership" that delivered "measurable" improvements.

There is nothing new about that combination. Whether in education, business, sports or almost any other arena. Great leadership will usually produce measurable results.

And yes, most, if not all great leaders, either know (or learn) how to establish, nurture, and leverage important relationships for the benefit of the enterprise.

That is why exceptional leadership by the principal combined with a highly qualified and motivated teacher in the classroom is an absolute must for any school to succeed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Money and power clouds debate on education reform

The world of social media is buzzing with all sorts of activity in the overall debate on what constitutes true education reform.

And this fight (yes it is a fight) is full of the usual elements of any good fight. We have lots of name-calling, use and abuse of statistics, finger-pointing, and scapegoating.

But what else is new when the real fight has less to do with educating children, particularly poor (most often black) children and more to do with money and power.

The latest debate is being sparked, in part, by the movie Waiting for Superman. I have not seen the movie but I did study the article by Diane Ravitch titled "The Myth of Charter Schools."

Ms. Ravitch does a very thorough job of reviewing the movie before she launches her analysis and rebuttal.

Her article has been well received in the social media arena. It is all over Twitter and being celebrated as the knockout punch for the movie.

I have always admitted to not being an educator or policy expert. But, I am not intimidated by those who are either or both.

My overarching concern is focused primarily on the black community. I am trying to raise our level of appreciation for the real value of a good education and how that relates to the ability to make a living.

That's it. A good education is a tool that helps you protect and care for your family.

I am also in favor of a strong public school system. I am a product of public schools and most of the people I know are also like me.

However, I do not care to witness an endless debate over the merits of charters vs. non-charters. Frankly, I do not care what works, as long as it works.

And, works for me means that black kids are:

1) graduating from high school on time and on grade level,

2) performing on unbiased standardized tests as well as any other ethnic group,

3) attending and graduating from college or other post secondary training programs in numbers similar to any other ethnic group, and

4) prepared to compete for and win a fair share of the many rewarding career opportunities available in this wonderful country.

Now poor kids (remember mostly black) are being highlighted as the real problem. Well, let's frame it the way at least two recent presentations say it.

Mike Rose in a piece for the Washington Post blog, The Answer Sheet, says "There is a crisis in American education, and it involves mostly poor children, and thus it is a moral as well as educational outrage. But it is just not accurate to characterize public education itself as being in a 30 -year crisis."

Mr. Rose goes on to point out the well worn nexus between poverty and low achievement.

Diane Ravitch in her rebuttal to the movie makes the statement that "Guggenheim seems to believe that teachers alone can overcome the effects of student poverty, even though there are countless studies that demonstrate the link between income and test scores. He shows us footage of the pilot Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier, to the amazement of people who said it couldn't be done. Since Yeager broke the sound barrier, we should be prepared to believe that able teachers are all it takes to overcome the disadvantages of poverty, homelessness, joblessness, poor nutrition, absent parents, etc."

Well that's it folks. Poor kids are not generally getting a good education because of the impact of poverty, and they sure as hell are not going to break the cycle of poverty without a good education.

Sadly, too many are buying into this struggle over money and power and not staying tightly focused on the real issues.

Schools must be expected to educate the population they serve.

Educators and policy makers must be held accountable for devising the right combination of strategies to get the job done. The job is not to come up all the reasons the child is difficult to teach or reach.

Finally, I am also unforgiving when it comes to expecting parents to assume the ultimate responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of the children they have been blessed to have.

Parents can not delegate or abrogate that responsibility to anyone.

Now all stakeholders should begin to hold each other accountable for providing a high quality education to all this nations' children. Anything else is just plain criminal.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

National Conversation on Education Picking up Steam

It appears that the national conversation on education and education reform is heating up.

Whether it is about the movie "Waiting for Superman" or the program "Education Nation" our focus is slowly but surely honing in on the area of education.

Of course, there are those with turf to protect who are immediately counter punching and/or circling the wagons. OK, do what you think you must do.

But the rest of us with an interest in this issue, better come up to speed quickly and be ready to jump in the discussion. Believe me the "special interest" folks are all over this one and you could get steamrolled very easily.

Subjects hitting the table are tenure, charters, teacher unions, charters, standardized testing, charters, etc. You get my drift?

There is also talk about the billionaire boys club (Bill Gates and others) seemingly pushing an agenda. Again, heads up to the general public and particularly the black community.

Stay informed and prepare to vigorously engage as this debate continues to unfold.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

D.C. Chancellor Deserves Much Praise

My hat's off to chancellor Michelle A. Rhee for her untiring and focused work to improve the D.C school system. From most outside and objective observers, she made significant improvements and laid a solid foundation for the future.

With the recent election results that saw Mayor Fenty lose, it is perhaps only a matter of time before Ms. Rhee moves on. And of course Ms. Rhee will be just fine. Her career is only just beginning. The real victims here are the children of the D.C school system.

It is past time for parents and community leaders truly interested in education excellence to wise up. Rhee and Fenty were not in a popularity contest. Grownups should have known the educational ship was sinking and it needed strong and sometimes bitter corrective action.

Good luck and best wishes to Ms. Rhee and may you never compromise your principles where a child's education is concerned.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Black Male Graduation Rates

Our local Black newspaper, The Shreveport Sun, recently reported some results and conclusions published by The Schott Foundation for Public Education regarding graduation rates for Black males.

For example, it was reported that "...the overall 2007/8 graduation rate for Black males in the U.S. was only 47 percent." By any measure, it is unacceptable for only 47 Black boys out of 100 to graduate from high school.

However, some additional context for this statistic is needed, particularly as it may relate to local performance.

The 47% national rate for black males compares to a 78% national rate for white males for a 31% gap.

The black male rate in Louisiana is reported at 39% compared to white males at 59% for a 20% gap.

And, our own Caddo parish rate for black males is 38% compared to 57% rate for white males for a 19% gap.

Again, all unacceptable.

You may view the entire report on line at:

We appreciate the Sun for bringing this matter to the attention of our community. Clearly we have significant work to do locally to aid our children, and especially black boys not only improve graduation rates, but also to gain an appreciation for high academic achievement.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Black Academic Achievement (Stopped)

This site has attempted to foster understanding and conversation regarding the challenges that face the black community from an educational perspective.

Although slow to catch fire here, we shall nevertheless continue to voice our concerns and point to good material that helps us better understand our problem.

So it is with a new report from the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

The report called The Black-White Achievement Gap (When Progress Stopped) is a must read for any who seek clarity on the issue.

Not all material in nor conclusions reached by any one report should be taken as definitive on almost any subject. However, I like this document and believe it could easily service as a working document for the black community.

Now get ready to read about some painful facts. Such as the unacceptably high births to unwed/uneducated black women; and the consequences to children who find themselves in these fatherless homes.

For example, the report documents some of the consequences as follows:

  • Less academic success
  • Behavioral and psychological problems
  • Substance abuse and contact with the police
  • Sexual relationships at earlier ages
  • Less economic well-being as adults
  • Less physical and psychological well-being as adults

The complete document may be viewed at WWW.ETS.ORG and click on RESEARCH, then select "Progress Has Stalled in Closing the Black-White Achievement Gap."

Look forward to your comments.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

SAT Bias Against Blacks

Independent researchers Maria Veronica Santelices and Mark Wilson recently assert that "...the SAT, a high-stakes test with significant consequences for the educational opportunities available to young people in the United States, favors one ethnic group over another. Neither the specifics of the method used to study differential item functioning nor the date of the test analyzed invalidate Freedle's claims that the SAT treats African American minorities unfairly."

In 2003, Roy O. Freedle, then a retired research psychologist, first made the nation aware of the bias. The irony of Freedle's assessment was that he was retired from the Educational Testing Service (ETS), owners of the SAT.

Apparently he was roundly criticized by his former bosses for his position on the SAT at the time.

With the independent research of Santelices and Wilson confirming his work with respect to African American students, perhaps now more research will be undertaken to identify and understand the causes for the bias.

Regarding cause, Santelices and Wilson state that "We do not know if Freedle's (2003) hypothesis about cultural and linguistic differences, which was based on the work of Diaz-Guerrero and Szalay (1991), is driving the result or whether the systematic relationship between DIF and item difficulty is explained by some other cause. Our methodology also does not allow us to explain why there is White/African American DIF and not White/Hispanic DIF."

The trailing question now is what should the black community do with these new findings?

Should some powerful organization institute litigation to stop critical educational decisions from being made based on the faulty test?

Or should we work harder than ever to instill a competitive instinct into black students. Should we teach our students the absolute requirement to read widely and learn to write with power and clarity. Should we stress also the advantages of speaking standard English and doing your very best in school no matter what biases are found in instruments that purport to measure knowledge and predict future achievement?

I suggest we do both.

A defective test should be corrected immediately and not used to further disadvantage those already behind the curve.

But, as a community, we should not rest one second from pursuing known techniques for achieving academic excellence. If we do not create a "culture" that values doing well in school and achieving at the highest levels, correcting a defective test will not put food on the table.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Community Schools ( from idea to legislation and funding)

The fact that many students come to school with significant social needs unmet is not a revelation.

A lack of routine medical care, in-home academic support and limited knowledge about how the school system really works are just a few examples.

Community schools represent thinking that physical school plants can be transformed into extended service providers that meet local neighborhood needs.

Apparently there is strong evidence available suggesting this is a reasonable approach to improving education outcomes in certain unusually high stressed communities.

Legislation was reintroduced in September, 2009 called the Full Service Community Schools Act. It seeks to provide some $200 million each year for five years to fund partnerships, through grants, with community-based organizations for needed services.

The legislation, so far, has not seen the light of day. And, in the current climate of huge budget deficits and other heavyweight fiscal issues, I doubt it will surface any time soon.

But that does not and should not stop individual communities from taking advantage of the idea. Local charitable resources could be directed toward creating local "test sites" with the aim of replicating other national success stories.

Examples appear to be Harlem Children's Zone as well as some 150 Chicago area schools that were transformed into community schools.

As we rightly and loudly complain about blooming federal programs and deficits, we still must pursue workable strategies to improve learning and quality of life.

And that costs money. The only choice appears to something akin to "pay me now or pay me later."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Proposal to Change TOPS Rejected

AP reports that a Louisiana commission on streamlining higher education rejected a recommendation to change TOPS. The suggestion was to cap the program and direct more funds to need-based aid. The sponsor of the proposal, Daved longanecker apparently points out the program is something "all the white folks get."

The article indicates an analysis by The Advocate indicates that 38% of the TOPS students come from homes earning at least $100,000 per year. To me, this fact is irrelevant.

On this one, I concur with the rejection of this proposal.

Instead, I would much prefer to see more emphasis in our community on competing for TOPS benefits rather than changing the rules.

Now to be sure, if blacks start earning most of that TOPS money, you can be sure the rules will be changed. But, let's first compete for the dollars no different than we compete for athletic scholarships.

Academic Excellence must become at least as important, if not more so, than Athletic Excellence.

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