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Monday, October 15, 2012

Black People, Florida is really out to get your children (rough draft)

I don’t understand why the African America community isn’t in the streets protesting over what the state of Florida is doing to its children. There latest slight is the state board of education setting its benchmarks based on race. Quite frankly they don’t have very high expectations for the African American child. This however isn’t their first attack against the African American community, no it is simply the latest in a long line of attacks.

Jacksonville and several other communities in Florida have contracted with Teach for America to send teachers to work in our poorer, i.e black schools. TFA takes non-education majors, throws them into a five week training course and then puts them in our most troubled schools or does the exact opposite of what we know to be best practice. Then the vast majority cycle out in two years assuring our poorest and most needy schools never get continuity or experienced teachers.

Next the state over the last few years has sought to close many of the schools in our poorest neighborhoods. Not fix the schools but close them. They over burden the teachers with task after task to the point that many leave and few of our best teachers want to go there and they shove most of the kids into curriculums that rob them of the joy of learning. This creates a self fulfilling prophecy of failure that many schools can’t break.

This problem is magnified by our culture of testing. Not only does it siphon hundreds of millions out of our system but drilling kids so they can pass a test does not promote real learning and critical thinking skills and assures many of our great teachers will stay away from those schools. Why would they want to go there and risk their jobs?

The answer is not charter schools either. Study after study says charter schools don’t perform better than public schools and this is made worse here in Florida because nationally, as a group, our charter schools have a terrible reputation as fly by night organizations more interested in the bottom line than educating our children. Furthermore study after study has pointed out that Charter schools are bringing back segregation as many have a disproportionate amount of just African American students.

Those students that opt against segregation and bused across town to white neighborhoods to attend white schools through opportunity scholarships. Funny I thought we had done away with busing  but regardless this takes even more resources away from the schools the kid left .

Some people might point to KIPP as an example of how charter schools work but when you peel back the curtain quite a bit of the luster wears off. Much of their improvement has been credited to attrition,  you see they get rid of their worse performing students and don’t replace them and their constant drill and kill philosophy. Ever wonder why those billionaires that contribute so much to KIPP don't send their kids there? Its because rich kids get taught and poor kids get tested. Also it’s little known but KIPP schools have high teacher turnover, are increasingly employing more and more TFA recruits and actually spend about 50% more than public schools.

I guess we could blame a lot of the parents, many are absent and or don't teach that education has value but to do so alone is disingenuous especially since the system has set up so many kids up to fail. We can't continue to put our children in situations where success is hard to achieve and then scratch our heads and wonder why they don't. It is time the powers-that-be started to take responsibility for where we find ourselves.

With low expectations, bad programs and a lack of resources it is no surprise that many of our predominately African America schools are struggling. They black community has the deck stacked against them. I just wonder why they aren't doing more to reverse this. Just taking it seems like a pretty poor strategy.

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