Monday, February 11, 2008

Columbia Public Schools Are Not Educating All the Same

I have often wondered what the differences were, if any, in the education levels of the various races in Columbia. We are a smaller city than St. Louis and Kansas City and we, overall, have much better schools. Some of our schools are considered "one of the nations finest", while that description is to be debated. Nevertheless, wondered what the differences would be for African American students and white students. The Columbia Tribune wrote an article which summed up this for me, "Bridging The Gap, School Officials Try to Improve Academic Performance of Poor Black Students". Janese Heavin writes how black students are overwhelmingly doing worse than the white students.

So far, they haven’t arrived. A stubborn academic achievement gap exists between black students and their white classmates in Columbia Public Schools, mirroring national trends. Interviews with school officials and the students themselves point to several explanations:

● Poverty erodes a culture of education.

● A transient student population has a hard time learning.

● Peer pressure among the students themselves sometimes gets in the way of achievement.

Closing the achievement gap is a top priority for Columbia administrators.

One solution given by Jack Jenson, assistant superintendent of elementary education, would be to give them access to affordable preschool programs. Other solutions have come about that may be helping some of these students, such as having teachers who can truly motivate the students and the MAC (Minority Achievement Committee Scholars) program.

After reading this article, I decided to do some research in my own. DESE posts everything you can think of on their website, although sometimes it may be hard to find. Well, according to what I found, it is worse than I thought! Reading the article is one thing, but looking at hard data is another. In 7th grade, about 9% of white students were below basic in Communications, while there were about 25% of black students below basic. In 10th grade, 18% of white students were below basic in math, while an astounding 50.9% of black students were. These disparities were shown across the various grade levels.

It is even clearer to me now more than ever we need to do something to fix our education program. We have got to try something different, something drastic, and now.

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