Will The Real Villians in Education Please Stand Up

“It’s a fascinating one. I spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and this is a tough thing to say, but let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that ‘we have to do better.’ And the progress that they’ve made in four years since the hurricane is unbelievable. They have a chance to create a phenomenal school district. Long way to go, but that — that city was not serious about its education. Those children were being desperately underserved prior, and the amount of progress and the amount of reform we’ve seen in a short amount of time has been absolutely amazing.”  Arne Duncan, Education Secretary, January 2010

In Matthew Cunningham-Cook’s October 17th The Nation piece Why Do Some of America’s Wealthiest Individuals Have Fingers in Louisiana’s Education System he spells out that the money donated for that state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education campaigns rose from nearly $200 thousand in 2007 to $2.6 million in 2011 due in large part to two New Yorker’s: Mayor Michael Bloomberg who, through various PAC’s, chipped in $330k and John White, ex-deputy chancellor of New York City schools and present superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District.  These school “reformers” have undoubtedly changed education forever.  What will be the outcomes for African-American children, specifically Black males, nationwide?  Does President Obama and Mr. Duncan really believe merging Bush’s No Child Left Behind into their own Race To The Top policy solve our country’s education ills?  Consider these results from the past decade:

  • Nationally 2003-2009: average reading scale scores of Black males in large cities was lower than the average score of White males in public schools by at least 28 points at grade 4 and 29 points at grade 5
  • New York State 2007-2008: only 25% of Black males graduated high school with a Regents (basic Reading, Writing & Arithmetic) Diploma
  • Nationally 2008-2009: 43% of Black students attend schools with poverty rates over 80%, compared to just 4% of Whites
  • Nationally 2009-2010: only 52% of Black males graduated from high school in four years while 78% of White males did

In a Snapshot of the Superintendency 2009 the New York State Council of School Superintendents released a report stating that White males made up 96.7% of the top spots in 2006, with Black males a mere 1.2% representation.  In 2009 it was 96.6% White males, with Black males surging to 1.6% .   With 60% of contracts extending three years or more should superintendents, along with district school boards, hold some responsibility for this achievement failure?  Are these leaders sensitive to the majority-minority student population they serve? 

There has been success in closing the achievement gap in, of all places, Newark New Jersey; home of the $100 million donation made by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2010.  Graduation rates improved between 2003-2008 after a court case, Abbott v Burke, increased resources with “implementation of a comprehensive set of improvements, including adequate K-12 foundational funding, universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year old children, supplemental or at-risk programs and funding, and school-by-school reform of curriculum and instruction.” 

I’ve never heard Newark Mayor Cory Booker, another notable education reformer, speak about that outcome.

“Signed…An Educated Brother!”


About aneducatedbrother

Sharing the belief that education is not a business, and true academic reform is the only tide that will lift all boats.
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