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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It is tough to be a black kid in Florida

I could have written “poor kid” but we should all know by now that nobody cares about poor kids.

Lets get right to it.

Charter schools are being put in poor neighborhoods and being sold as miracle cures, unfortunately snake oil is closer to the truth. Stanford’s CREDO, the definitive study on charter schools said that kids in Florida charter schools lose an average of seven days in reading and hold steady in math, which is hardly a miracle right. However it is worse because when you factor in selection bias, low numbers of ESOL and ESE students, the ability to counsel out poor performers, kick out kids with discipline problems and their ability to impose requirements on parents, with all that going for them, they should be killing public schools but they aren’t and instead they are lagging behind.

Then there is Teach for America, which does the exact opposite of what we know to be best practices. They take non-education majors and put them through a five week teacher boot camp and then put them in our neediest classrooms, you know the ones with all the black kids, err make that poor kids. There they stay for two years and leave, or most of them do anyways, only 8% of Jacksonville’s first class of TFA teachers made it to year 4. That’s right instead of recruiting our top teachers to work with our most needy students we would rather have an ever-revolving door of neophytes, so much that the champions for, privatization, err, change recently pledge to invest 11 million dollars into the program.

Say some of them do somehow make it through all this and graduate with a well rounded education, well there is no guarantee they will be able to go to college since the state changed the bright future rules. From the Gainesville Sun: The percentage of Alachua County high school seniors receiving Bright Futures will drop by 63 percent under the new guidelines. Low- and middle-income students will feel the brunt of the changes unless action is taken.

The Miami Herald also weighted in: Starting next year, Florida students will need to post higher scores on the SAT and ACT scores to qualify for the state-funded scholarships. The change will likely cause the number of college freshman receiving Bright Futures awards to drop dramatically, with poor and minority students suffering the most.

Some of you are thinking if they can't get scholarships then they can get student loans, well not so fast. According to the Washington Post, The Obama administration’s rules for approving student loans are causing a disproportionately large number of blacks to be denied because of blemished credit histories. Imagine that, poor people having a hard time getting loans.

A reduced chance of getting a quality education, coupled with no scholarships and no loans to go to college for those few that do make it is sadly what many of our neediest kids are now facing. Sadly that’s what I believe many of their parents and grandparents faced too.

The real problem is the only time the state doesn’t ignore poverty is when it says poverty is an excuse. 
Poverty, by the way, is the number one quantifiable measurement in education; those students that live in it as a group do worse than those that don’t. But that’s not to say we should just throw our hands up, quit, dismantle public schools, though many influential members of the state government would like us to and ship the students out.

Instead we should employ common sense solutions that don’t break the bank or reinvent the wheel, and perhaps most importantly that don’t wreck neighborhoods in the process. We should have disciplined and rigorous classes. We do students no favors when we pass them along without discipline, or a work ethic, or the basic knowledge that they need. We need to provide legitimate after school and summer school opportunities to catch the kids up to where they should be. We could make the schedules more manageable (8 classes at a time, really) and make school more enjoyable to kids by making sure each student had a least one elective on their schedule. That and we can make many of their education experiences more meaningful by offering more trade, skill and arts opportunities. We can’t continue to make school such drudgery or irrelevant for kids and then wonder why so many do poorly or drop out. Then we need social workers and mental health counselors because often why a kid does poorly in school has nothing to do with school. We could make a change. We could be doing so much better if we wanted to.

Please forgive the pun but a lot of kids, our poor white kids and our poor black kids start behind the eight ball and we don’t do much to help them get out from behind it. It is almost like the plan from the beginning is to keep the cycle of poverty that affects so many of them going.

It is tough to be a black kid in Florida

I could have written “poor kid” but we should all know by now nobody cares about poor kids.

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