Missouri Schools and Minorities: Closing the Education Gap
Posted 1/22/2013 11:50:00 AM

I was hot after reading the Kansas City Star Sunday. An article on more minorities in schools but still increased learning gaps had me enraged. What I saw was in Kansas schools like Piper and Blue Valley, the achievement gap for minorities were at 3 and 4%. I thought how great that gap is shrinking.

Except when I read about Missouri schools.

Not that all Kansas Schools were great. I think any gap is one gap too many. But readign about Missouri schools makes me...well...miserable. Even in good districts like Lee's Summit and Blue Springs, the achievement gaps were in double digits! That said to me even when black families or Hispanic ones moved to a better school, they were still lagging behind. Now I know straight A black students in many schools but when good grades aren't the norm, I am bothered. While I thank God my son is a good student (but trust, I am always up there and will call a teacher in a heartbeat!) I see some students of color in his school who also excel. Then there are some who just aren't getting it. But why? While many blame teachers and administrators, I say we all need to look in the mirror as ask, "Am I making my child's education a priority? Do I see every report card? Do I go to school events? Are teachers aware they can call me at anytime for a problem?" I mean, I work with urban schools and see good parents. But I also see some who will drive their kid to a fight but not show up for a parent teacher conference.

Can I get a witness?

It's not that minorities are a cursed people, enslaved by ignorance. Heavens, no. But why are our students not achieving greater results? The combination of teachers, the system, parenting and even self motivation are factors. But there are examples of success that give us no excuse.

Cameron Clarke, an African-American high school senior from Philadelphia, is being celebrated for getting a perfect score on the SAT exam. From My Fox Philly,Cameron said he knew he needed to stay focused during the exam, one mistake could have set him off the path to perfection. "I realized with 5 minutes to spare that I made a mistake and I need to erase 35 bubbles and go back and write them in the right sections. So that was kind of the low point of the day for me." He gave Kudos to Starbuckss' Mocha Grande's for late night studying but credits his circle of friends as positive influences, taking SAT prep classes and working together to shore up eachotherss weaknesses. And he was engaged -the principle cellist of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, editor on the school newspaper, a writing adviser in the school's writing center, senator in the student government, is involved in the math club, and in multiple honor societies. Most schools have some or all of these opportunities, right?

Then let's go to the West coast. This past fall thirty-four African American students from the Oakland Unified schools were awarded Thursday for achieving perfect scores - as in 100 percent correct - on the math or science portion of the California Standardized test.

While I am not saying all students will score perfect anything, I must ask:

Why are education gaps - even in good districts - such a problem for minority students?

While Lee's Summit faced the largest growth of black students, they still ranked lower than their white and Hispanic counterparts. A 20% gap is unacceptable. While we can point at teachers and administrators, I dare say all parents must point at themselves in furthering our kids education. And we must hold our kids accountable for their own academic strides. But still, what are some things we can do at home to reinforce good learning habits?

From rif.org, "44 Proven Ideas Parents Can Use to Help Their Children Do Better in School give us some ideas. For example, what about improving reading? If you want your children to be good readers, let them see you read. Also, hold D-E-A-R times at your house. "DEAR" stands for "Drop Everything and Read." During DEAR time, everyone in the family sits down for some uninterrupted reading time. Encourage children to read biographies about successful people. As children learn about the traits that made others successful, they are often motivated to adopt those same success patterns in their own lives.

And what about that homework? Try looking over your students study materials and making up a sample quiz as they study for upcoming tests. Teach your child to use the formula "SQ3R" when doing any homework assignment. The letters stand for a proven five-step process that makes study time more efficient and effective: Survey, Question, Read, Restate, and Review. Here are tips to make homework time easier for you and your child:

  • Have a regular place for your child to do homework. Use a desk or table in a quiet room. Be sure there's plenty of light.

  • Find a regular time for homework. You may want to make a rule: "No television until homework is finished."

  • During homework time, turn off the TV and radio.

  • Help your children plan how they will use their time.

Let me throw in my personal sidebar. Look for free or cheap learning resources. From books at the Dollar Store, to free ACT Prep at the Urban League, to Study Island which helps them for MAP testing, there are resources to help us help our kids. And we can't rely on the school to do it. We must be partners with our school but more importantly, the one who runs the ship of education in our house. Parents must prioritize and put their kids first. It hurts my heart when I see kids I mentor who have parents more concerned with their own “boo” and night life instead of their kids. We can't control schools but we can positively prepare our own kids for success. And that means we often have to be our wants on hold.

The damage to Missouri schools has been longstanding - for decades. This mess will not be turned around overnight while are already reaping the seed sown from previous years of failure in leadership, family foundations, sobriety and other issues clouded our communities in the mid 80's. Let's not repeat it by not being proactive to change what we can now. We must. Our kids and the future economy depend on it.


Posted By: Julee Jonez  

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