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: http://www.districtadministration.com/

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: http://www.edtrust.org/

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 http://littleurl.info/dwa.

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 "..an 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."

""...black-white 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 http://littleurl.info/axt.

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 http://www.cgcs.org 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.

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