A new school year is upon us and it presents a great opportunity to take meaningful steps to close the achievement gap for minority students.
We are bombarded with study after study about the systemic practices in the nation’s public schools that promote and embrace the poor educational performance of children of color. The numbers confirm that when it comes to black and Hispanics students there is a trend of disproportional expulsions for disciplinary issues, and the tendency to stir them to a curriculum that will likely keep them from going to college or trade school.
Aside from the moral and unethical issue these practices raise, the ramifications of keeping America strong as a nation of contributing citizens are equally monumental.
Irrespective of your views about blacks, Hispanics, equality, or other socio-economic issue, how can anyone conclude that promoting, even tolerating, a system that breeds and perpetuates an underclass can be good — short-term or long-term?
We know the practices and culture of the schools in our neighborhood and community. If not, we need to care about what is happening to the thousands of young malleable and impressionable minds that will go through their doors in just a few weeks.
What are they experiencing that can shape their lives forever?
The school system, teachers, volunteers, and other staff can do only so much.
Now, is the time, at the beginning of the school year, to get involved and make a difference in a child’s life. We need to ask our children and their schools, during the first weeks of school, what role we can play to improve and positively impact, the learning experience in and outside the classroom.
As much as many of us would like to find solace in the notion that educating our children is left up to parents, teachers, superintendents, principals, and administrators, they really can not do it alone. Effectively educating all of our children takes involvement and support from every segment of the community.
Such involvement is usually commonplace where high educational achievement is the norm. Examine any school where there is consistently high performance and academic excellence on the part of students, you will likely find consistent and broad community support.
For those schools that are particularly challenged, like many in urban communities across the United States, community support and involvement are needed even more, and in many areas.
Many who want to help children learn may not know where to start. Why not begin with the school in your neighborhood, or nearest to you? If not your neighborhood, you can certainly find a school in the urban core that needs your help.
You can help in many ways by devoting an hour or more a week. You can volunteer to be a teacher’s aide in the classroom. You can be a mentor, a tutor. Perhaps through your church, service organization, or company, you can adopt a school and provide any number of support services, from transportation to coaching the debate team, and managing other after-school programs. Work with targeted schools to reduce truancy.
Working with students and teachers at the same school on a consistent basis can have an effective and powerful impact for all involved.
And we cannot leave out the needs of parents — one of the most important components of the learning equation. Perhaps one of the most important ways to help schools is to work with teachers and administrators in improving parental involvement. Developing and implementing parental support and involvement programs that will reinforce student learning and achievement at home, and in the classroom, which could have a lasting and beneficial impact.
The important question now facing us is, "What will we do to close the educational achievement gap so all of us can have a brighter future?"
Whether the child is black, Hispanic, white, Asian, or any other racial or ethnic group should have nothing to do with it.