Thursday, March 08, 2007

More tail thumping

John Cook, the assistant principal at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School, penned an op-ed piece recently that appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In it, Principal Cook addresses the black/white achievement gap that Councilman Don Samuels so charmingly raised.

Cook said:

Why do African-American students consistently lag behind whites in test scores, graduation rates and academic achievement? What are the root causes of academic underachievement in the black community? Although the answers are complex, the first step to addressing these dilemmas is relatively simple: We have to admit that the achievement gap is not just an educational problem. Rather, it is a byproduct of America's socio-economic, cultural, family and racial crises. The educational system is but one piece of the puzzle. These issues all intertwine to produce the conditions that create the achievement gap.

If all kids could attend the school of their choice, there'd still be an achievement gap; pulling some students out of low-performing schools and placing them into so-called "good schools" never addresses the core reasons so many African-American students struggle in the first place. If all schools had unlimited financial resources, there'd still be an achievement gap due to America's unresolved issues of race and class. These factors contribute to poor academic performance, crime, generational poverty and societal prejudice that, in turn, perpetuate the achievement gap.

If all educators had access to world-class staff development and taught the most effective curricula, there'd still be an achievement gap; the breakdown of the black family has reaped economic, social and academic consequences that impede academic progress. If every black child began first grade prepared to learn, there'd still be an achievement gap because not all educators believe black students are capable of learning on par with their white counterparts. Surely, low societal and academic expectations harm student learning.

Spotty thinks that maybe Principal Cook has a little pent-up frustration about this. Who could blame him? Spot can't find a link right now, but there was an article in the Strib recently about a study that showed that students who migrated out of the Minneapolis public school system under the "It's Your Choice" program did not do measurably better than their classmates who stayed behind. Maybe one of the thousands of readers at The Cucking Stool can help Spot out with the link.

One of the effects of the It's Your Choice program is, of course, to diminish the funding available to the Minneapolis public schools because of the per-pupil funding formula. This program may increase parent satisfaction, but it certainly isn't clear that it improves education for inner-city kids.

Spot will say it again. School vouchers, as championed by Don Samuels, Captain Fishsticks, Katie, and Mitch Pearlstein are just a red herring intended to destroy public education, not improve the education of inner-city kids.


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