Monday, March 28, 2011

RECYCLED RHETORIC: School Board candidates flounder over achievement gap

COLUMBIA, 3/29/11  (Beat Byte) --  We seldom study, honestly and carefully, the conditions and circumstances that create such things as the achievement gap, NAACP founder W.E.B. Dubois lamented.  Dubois was a consummate social scientist whose guiding mantra might best be culled from his vivid description of a "Southern Negro Revival." 
Those who have not witnessed, can but dimly realize. 
"It is so much easier to assume that we know it all," he wrote.  "Or perhaps, having already reached conclusions in our own minds, we are loathe to have them disturbed by facts."  
Today's achievement gap discussion -- unchanged in too many years -- suggests assumptions made without witness, conclusions absent realization.  Just look at the gap itself for the best evidence:  It's still not close to closure, while the discussion about it continues going round and round in the educational establishment like a rusty hamster wheel. 
For a compelling example of how sorely the achievement gap discussion is lacking amongst Columbia's 2011 School Board candidates, listen in as Missourian reporters blogged "live" from this week's NAACP forum. 
Count the number of times candidates mention diversity, early childhood education, parental involvement, standards, tests, hard work, the achievement gap, and existing programs.  Ask yourself:  At what point are these just words and phrases, devoid of any real gravitas?  How many times have you heard them before?   And if you keep hearing them, with little to show for it, do they lose the power they might have had to help those kids who are still waiting for Superman?    

NAACP forum question:  What will you do to close the achievement gap?

Incumbent Board member "Tom Rose stated he would advocate for curriculums that assure every child has the opportunity to learn and to succeed. Rose said we need a staff in place that fits the need of every student, no matter what the student's cultural or racial background is.  He said we need to hire school employees of a diverse background."
Candidate "Liz Peterson said our children need to meet national standards.  Peterson said she would be an advocate for early childhood education programs that would involve parents.   In regards to hiring teachers and diversity, CPS needs to look at the children and who is representing them."
Candidate "Dave Raithel said he believes supporting early childhood education will help close the achievement gap. Raithel said he would refuse to cut programs he views as necessary.  He urged the inclusion of African-American education in schools.   Raithel did not listen to the one minute time limit." 

Incumbent Board member "Jonathan Sessions said we need to close the achievement gap; community needs to help.  He also said we need to work on cultural awareness.   Sessions brought up ACT test scores in CPS.  He said almost three percent of black students are proficient in science; five percent in math.  He said this is a problem we need to address."
Candidate "Helen Wade said that early childhood education helps to prevent the achievement gap and bring kids to school ready to learn.  I would support a diversity officer for Columbia Public Schools, Wade said."

Candidate Sarah Dickson "said we need to focus on and reward hard work.   She said we need to focus on children's weak aspects.  Dickson said children need to learn how to learn math without calculators. She also said we need to stay within K-12 boundary." 

1 comment:

  1. Are you the guy who was asleep at the NEA forum? I don't even know what you look like. I did not say what is quoted for me above - well, you have some of it right, but I have no idea what "inclusion of African-American education" is about.

    I did finish my sentence as I sat down. We've all let each other do that. If memory serves me, I believe that the time keeper resumed timing us because when it was my turn, I queried about it - as it seemed to me that those who spoke before me had more than the minute I thought allowed us. I'm a bass player, time is clocking in my head as a matter of habit. One of the things we candidates also seem to agree about is: The forums really don't allow for more complete explications of our thinking - but we have an ADHD culture.

    I'm still waiting for your list of proposals which contain none of the words that weary you. Should not I use words like "homework" either?