October 07, 2005

Changing failing School Districts....

“Since we do not have a benchmark that can tell us how much Parent Participation contributes to a student’s success versus how much the lack of resources and lack of qualified teachers contributes to a child’s failure, why are we so receptive of the idea that it is family values, culture and lack of parent participation that causes children to fail in school.”

I wrote this statement and question over a year ago in a discussion on AfricanAmerica.org where in I asked the question, “What makes it ok to externalize good and success while the externalization of evil and failure is not ok.” This question was asked in an effort to help us better understand the roll external forces play in the failure we see day to day particularly in the public school system. Those who believe that Black men and women suffer from victim-hood will tell us the problem with our children in the public schools system is moral depravity, the lack of parental participation among many other things that seek to place the Blame for the problems with the public School system on the parents and the children. Those of us of a differing opinion will say; the lack of funding, under qualified teacher, low expectations among many other things is what is causing the problem, thus externalizing the Blame.

This is where many Black men and women part ways, there are those of us who fully believe in the internalization of failure and the externalization of it when the evidence points to something external being the cause. On the other hand there are those who seek only to place blame on Black culture and various pathologies that are not unique to Black men and women but apparently from their standpoint have an effect on us that it does not have on others which can only mean one thing “we are inferior to those unaffected by our shared pathologies”

I have argued the biggest problem facing our children education is School funding, incompetent and under qualified teachers and the curriculums that do not prepare our children for what they will face out in the world. To see if this is the truth one only need to look at those school districts that have made improvements and are no longer considered dumping grounds for the poor.

Take the Norfolk School district that apparently hit rock bottom around 1988 according to an article on US News and World Report Website. The Norfolk School District was a mess and the schools within the district scores reflected this fact.

“Just 38 percent of third graders passed the state's Standards of Learning, or SOL, test in English; 26 percent of eighth graders were proficient in mathematics; and a mere 18 percent of high schoolers passed Virginia and U.S. history.”

In comes the Black man John Simpson who believes in Black Children (Norfolk school District is two thirds Black) When John Simpson took over the school district in 1998 “67 percent of Norfolk's white third-graders passed the state English exam. Only 41 percent of the district's black third-graders met that standard.” In a few Short years Mr. Simpson had turned that 41 percent to 61 percent closing the gap by 23 percentage points, a major improvement “where progress usually is measured in tiny increments. How did he do it, what did he do, did he blame the parents? Did he blame the culture? Did he blame moral depravity? Mr. Simpson did none of these things because he knows these things are not the cause of what we see in the public school system today and he do not subscribe to white supremacist ideology.

What Mr. Simpson did do is some of the very things I have stated would solve school problems; he first shifted One million dollars from the administrative budget and put it in the classrooms, he then shifted some of the best teachers in the District to the neediest schools which openly says that he recognize the problems these schools are facing is with having unqualified and unprepared teachers instructing students. He then introduced standard aligned curriculum such that all schools were teaching the same thing and all students were being prepared for the test they were expected to pass using the same tools. He curtailed the practice of laziness on the part of the teachers (who could not or did not identify instructional problems until the end of the year when it was too late and the only choice left to the school was to hold the child back ) by having all instructional problem pinpointed immediately and remedied.

He also shifted the Blame to the teachers for the child’s performance as study after study even studies from Conservative think tanks have suggested; “the teacher is ultimately responsible for the child understanding instructions given in the classroom.” The teachers balked at such an idea of them being responsible but after being informed this would not be used as a means to fire them and more as a means to make them a better and more successful teacher, it took a while but they all came to believe it. The teachers and the school districts officials no longer say the things we still here a few Negro men and women saying and racist conservative white folk saying as noted by one Principal from the district; "We used to hear a lot of excuses--the kids aren't studying or behaving, parents aren't doing what they're asked--and no one says that now,” If you missed it here it is again…."We used to hear a lot of excuses--the kids aren't studying or behaving, parents aren't doing what they're asked--and no one says that now," Why no one is saying it now? because those things were never the problem and they are not the problem in most if not all poor performing schools in America.


At 4:32 PM, Blogger NmagiNATE said...


Thank you for the info. As always, you are always the most informed brother in the Blogosphere!

Also, it really is sad how so many, even some very well-intentioned and otherwise well-meaning Black folk INTERNALIZE RACISM and the attendant phenomenon of "Assuming The Worst".

It goes back to what I've said about people Voicing Sentiments Without Conviction. John Simpson here is an example of a man with a properly centered and focused Conviction: One Must First BELIEVE IN THE PEOPLE.

The problem here along with the tendency to "Assume The Worst" (that and expecting Black people, and in this case Black Children, to be super-people - i.e. "twice as good" and to not be subject to or a product of their enviroment, etc.)... There is also a tendency for people to speak from their own limited personal perspective. One thing about that is the phenomenon evident in Black sentiments about Black Crime.

Since Black people themselves are the overwhelming victims of Black Crime, African-Americans are generally harder than anyone else (even racist White people) with respect to questions about Black Crime.

The same thing seems to be at work with a lot of the INTERNALIZED perspectives on Black Education and Black Children learning. Because so many Black people see them bad azz kids acting up and displaying some form of "disinterests" in education (as if such an interest is suppose to be innate or sustained despite what a child's enviroment says) they feel justified in saying that it is "our" problem and are willing to believe the [White] Conventional Wisdom because, as you and Noah say, they can "bear witness to it" in their personal experiences. So then their perceptions become reality no matter how much truth and the bigger picture they are missing.

I'm reminded of some of the NOI's perspective about the utility of "separation"... One thing we need to put a block on is all the misinformation and intentionally ill-fated information that so many of us are prone to believe.

At 5:36 AM, Blogger Scott said...

Many people believe the public school system is doing exactly what it was created to do.

Read the : Underground History of American Education

Which is detailed expansion of his speech.

The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher

by John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991

"Call me Mr. Gatto, please. Twenty-six years ago, having nothing better to do, I tried my hand at schoolteaching. My license certifies me as an instructor of English language and literature, but that isn't what I do at all. What I teach is school, and I win awards doing it.

Teaching means many different things, but six lessons are common to schoolteaching from Harlem to Hollywood. You pay for these lessons in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what they are: "

The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong."
The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch.
The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command.
The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study.
In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of your worth.
In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched.

At 5:44 AM, Blogger Scott said...

Glad to see you posting again. I might not agree with a lot of what you say but I do read it and consider it.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger kiesha said...

Bravo!!! This is a great post and you have concrete proof to back up what those of us who have don't suffer from internalized racism have been saying all along.

At 8:14 PM, Blogger Jean-Claude Mudibé said...

You said, "Chaging failing school districts..." What does "Chaging" mean?

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Faheem said...

Jean, wouldn't it have been better if you said, "Faheem you mis-spelled changing great post any way"....

So to answer your question, I mispelled the word Changing but I will fix it. Do you need me to explain what "changing" mean. ;\


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