Achievement gap can't be fixed with a Black Lives Matter sign

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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By Sharhonda Knott-Dawson

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Just like being anti-sexist, being anti-racist isn't something you can prove by your own word. Nor can you prove your lack of racism and sexism by citing your relationships with people from other races or genders. In both situations, actions speak louder than words. 

It's the data surrounding your actions — both quantitative and qualitative — that prove the truth of your claims. There are white folks who aren't racist, but they didn't become "not-racist" by declaring it so. It took lots and lots of personal, professional, scholarly and uncomfortable work.

When it comes to equity in schooling, Oak Park offers an example of the gap between words and actions. Like other "liberal utopias," Oak Parkers are proud to put up their "Dump Trump" and "Black Lives Matter" signs and fly their rainbow flags. But that inclusivity is only surface-level.

Racism isn't something that can be fixed with a #BlackLivesMatter sign in your yard; eliminating racism requires a lot of work that most white liberal people aren't willing to do. My case in point is the racial achievement gap in Oak Park's District 97, which serves elementary students.

For many years, D97 has acknowledged that there is a racial achievement gap. However, most of the work toward closing the gap has been focused on "processing" workshops, focus groups and "diversity pods" that allow residents (mostly white liberals) to express their feelings about racism.

They want a change, and they will say so. Yet like other white liberals, their words don't come with mandates to take a hard look at themselves — either individually or institutionally — to change practices that don't promote equity and provide reparations for black families that have experienced racism.

This year a 40-point gap exists between black and white students across the district. Though that's an improvement over the past few years, the gap remains huge. Oak Parkers tend to explain away the gap by saying it is a gap about differences in income, not race. They offer a simple formula:

race + low-income status = racial achievement gap.

But income does not explain everything. Harvard researcher Ron Ferguson once estimated that only about half of the black-white achievement gap could be explained by differences in income.

While low-income students do face barriers to educational equity, there are also middle-class black students who are experiencing barriers to equity in their educational experience. Oak Park is not alone in this. Researchers like Ferguson and John Ogbu have examined racial achievement gaps between middle-class white and black students since the late 1980s.

While older research tended to focus on cultural and family differences, recent research is finally beginning to examine issues like teachers' unconscious biases toward students who are different from them by race and gender.

Black students are falling behind academically, not simply because of their socioeconomic status but because of a combination of racist institutional policies set in place by district leadership and individual racist actions by teachers, staff and administrators. Racist actions may be overt and deliberate, but they are also much more likely to arise from implicit, unrecognized bias against people of color.

It is important to me to use the word racism because that is what it is. In order for us to truly eradicate racism, we need to know it, we need to speak it, we need to call it when we see it, and we need to work on fixing it.

White fragility makes it difficult to discuss solutions to racism because of white people's inability to name and identify their personal racism. Factual examples of racism — both individual and institutional — in D97 include:

On average, black students are 40 points behind White students in nearly every subject in every grade at every school.

According to the Illinois School Report Card, D97's teachers are 80 percent white and 76 percent female. Research finds that generally, white teachers are likely to hold implicit biases against black students and that low-income black boys benefit most from exposure to same-race teachers. It closes "the belief gap" in expectations for their futures.

Data suggest there are inequities in discipline in D97 schools. For example, at Julian Middle School, while overall rates of suspension were low, black students were seven times more likely to be suspended than white students and Latinx students were 13 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers.

Research shows the established practice of admitting students to gifted programs, based on teacher referral, discriminates against children of color. Although there is currently discussion about changing the delivery of gifted education in D97, changing how students are identified has not become a focus of discussion. 

Broward County, Florida, pioneered the use of universal screening to identify gifted children and saw the percentages of black and hispanic students accessing services skyrocket. Florida's Orange County followed suit in 2012. By changing how giftedness is identified, D97 could do a much better job of finding and supporting gifted students of color. Eventually that could put an end to high school Advanced Placement classes with only one or two black students, as is too often the case today at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

Instead of just asking what black families and black students are doing wrong, why aren't we also asking what white teachers and school administrators and district officials are doing wrong?

If we are serious about alleviating the racial achievement gap, we have to be serious about alleviating racism. Racism is not a personal moral failing; it is the consequence of living in a society that has been steeped in racism, and white supremacy, for the last 300 years.

Being non-racist requires intensive study of institutional, historic, systemic racism and white privilege, and being able to identify personal (implicit and explicit) racial biases. It also entails examining the effect of different kinds of policies — such as teacher recommendations vs. universal screening for admission to gifted programs — and making the commitment to stick with policies that promote equity, even when they are more expensive or time-consuming.

It's time to get serious about doing the hard work to shift implicit biases within white people's minds and change racist policies in white institutions, especially public schools that educate children of color. If we don't acknowledge, understand and work actively to eliminate racism, then we won't be able to fix the racial achievement gap in schools.

ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson currently resides in the west suburbs of Chicago with her two school-aged girls and her husband, Brian. This piece originally ran as an EducationPost blog.

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Reader Comments

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Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: January 2nd, 2018 12:45 PM

In sports at the high school, if a kid is first string on the varsity it is because of their hard work, the many hours of preparation, perhaps even years of prep before they even got to the school. The second stringer is told to work harder. The third stringer gets cut from the squad. But no one freaks out and no one is blamed for anything. Same kids, same school. If some parents wanted to end all organized sports because the idea of winners and losers is too unequal to bear, everyone would be outraged.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: January 2nd, 2018 10:15 AM

@ Nick - finding "Racism" in all you mention is, in fact, the worst kind of racism. The fear of being called a racist is the weapon of the progressive left, and good citizens will forfeit their common sense to avoid having that label stuck on them Just do something so you don't have to do anything!

Nick Polido  

Posted: December 30th, 2017 7:49 AM

I get it, if you disagree with this author you are white supremacist and a racist. The idea that you would have the nerve to question this author, who has never sent her kids to the public schools in Oak Park makes you a racist. That you are so selfish to be concerned about your property values and taxes make you a racist. That you are so tired of the social engineering makes you a racist---.

Aaron McManus from Oak Park  

Posted: December 29th, 2017 10:59 PM

Thank you Ms Knott-Dawson for this important article. We clearly have a lot of work to do in Oak Park (and beyond) in combating racism and white supremacy. This comes as no surprise to anyone except those working hard to deny the problem exists. Your point on the sign is well taken. Diversity in this town has always been a PR initiative designed to prop up real estate values. This town has never been successful at integration, partly because it has never tried. Unfortunately, moral arguments will not reach racists, as you know. They are interested in propping up white supremacy for their own benefit. If love and compassion were effective, they would already be working to benefit others instead of working to further secure their own privilege. There is a less-compelling but perhaps more effective argument to be made that it will be cheaper in the long run for Oak Parkers to invest in closing the racial achievement gap. This argument should not have to be made on the basis of money, but that will be more effective to those more concerned with a few dollars of taxes than with the lives of children. Perhaps they can understand that when a kid is allowed to get an effective education without being held back by racial bias, that kid will earn more money and be able to do things like open a business that pays taxes, thus lowering the tax burden on them. If memory serves, this is part of how education brings a 1700% return on investment to a community. I rather hate to make the argument on financial terms rather than moral ones, but the repulsive attitudes of some of my neighbors leads me to believe that this may be the only way to persuade them of the importance of the points you make.

Amy Morton from Oak Park  

Posted: December 29th, 2017 11:57 AM

Paul C. The reason I point out Evanston Township High School is that they offer their students opportunities at a greater rate than does OPRFHS. The schools are similar in size, but ETHS is more diverse (more Black, Hispanic and Asian students), and has twice the percentage of low income students. At OPRF 35% of students take AP classes, at ETHS 44% do. At ETHS the number of low income students who take AP classes is over 4 times the number of LI students who take AP classes at OPRF. Almost three times as many Black students at ETHS take AP classes compared to OPRF. The number of Hispanic students taking APs at ETHS is 1.5 times greater than at OPRF. Maybe this is why a greater percentage of ETHS students are enrolled in college 12 or 16 months after graduation than OPRF. Giving greater numbers of students - especially low income and students of color - a shot at a college degree is a good way to quantify a school's commitment to the future of all its students. Give students a challenge to rise to and build in support so they can succeed. Don't write off anyone. Ever.

Paul Cagnina  

Posted: December 28th, 2017 1:10 PM

Amy Morton- I'm not sure why you wanted me to visit ETHS, was it because of this: Evanston Township High School slipped to 22nd place in Illinois and 746th in the nation, according to The Washington Post. ETHS is ranked considerably lower than OPRF. In every poll, review or study I have found. Are you suggesting we follow some school with a lower ranking? I think you're being confused between the term "BETTER" and "DIFFERENT ". Just because someone is doing things differently doesn't always make it better. In regards to the child: I view him as a "CHILD" you view him as a "BLACK CHILD" Do you see anything "WRONG" with your way of thinking? If you think you're correct please explain it to me. "ALL" children need direction and that direction starts at home. In regards to your "DECADES OF RESEARCH" comments: you need to get into the modern world. All that past research and data is pretty much outdated and useless now. Why did it change? 2 people changed it. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. A White president and a Black President, both people came from a broken home with only one parental influence. They both came from a poor environment with very little money. They had "NOTHING" according to your decades of research and didn't have a chance at success. LQQK what happened, they held the most prestigious position in the world. This changes all theories, all research, all concepts. Now we know as "FACT" success isn't "ALWAYS" because of a La-La Land environment or a socioeconomic environment. This is no longer a theory or an idea, it's a "FACT" If Clinton and Obama could do what they did anyone could achieve their own personal goals. This tells me no matter where you come from, what color you are, how much money your parents have, Every child has the ability to achieve with the proper parental "GUIDANCE ". " It's Okay To Try And Fail, It's Wrong To Fail To Try".

Amy Morton from Oak Park  

Posted: December 28th, 2017 10:52 AM

Paul C. - First, you cannot know the situation of Mimi S. better than most, because you were not a minority child. This is what the conversation is about. You did not have this experience. Offering her your excuse-laced "solutions" completely invalidates her struggle and ignores decades of valid data. Stop judging and listen. Second, implementing programs that give opportunities to gap-affected students does not lower the bar for high achievers. Read the links about ETHS. These programs, when implemented without reservation or compromise, benefit everyone.

Paul Cagnina  

Posted: December 27th, 2017 4:26 PM

Mimi Stovall I agree with you completely. There is nothing that is 100% and there are exceptions to everything. . I know your situation better than most because I suffer from dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder. 50 years ago they didn't know what I had, it was just called a learning disability. I struggled with maintaining a "C average. I'm willing to bet your child is retaining the information delivered to him, he's just not regurgitating it quick enough before the test. I'm also willing to bet if you gave him the same test he took 6 months ago he'll do 25 to 50% better. I suggest you enroll him in sports programs early. He might not be able to keep up in the classroom, however through sports he will learn about competition and how to "WIN" Once he learns to win, he'll win at everything. You are absolutely correct in challenging me. It's nice to hear from a parent that actually cares about the development of their child and doing something about it at home. Its very aggravating to me when I hear parents blaming the teachers and the school system for a child's shortcomings. All I hear here is I want more, I want more, I want more. How about this for a novel parental idea "DO MORE, DO MORE, DO MORE. Did you know 50% of all self-made billionaires didn't graduate from college?

Paul Cagnina  

Posted: December 27th, 2017 2:41 PM

Cheree Moore, I assume, I'm the realtor you wouldn't hire because of my comments not because of my skills. I'm not here to promote my business. I stand behind my beliefs, if the parents don't care about their kids why should the teachers or the educational system. The parents should be held responsible and accountable. Do you really think the school district isn't consurned about the overall drop in the numbers? The drop in test scores means a drop home values. In turn, a drop in tax dollars. If taxes don't increase at the rate of inflation, Oak Park loses. The parents of the underachievers need to get educated in parental skills. (White or Black) The educational system shouldn't be used for babysitting. The days of the participation trophy are over. It would be ridiculous to think Oak Park should lower the bar for the overachievers as some are implying. This might cause a mass exodus of the overachievers. Most people move to Oak Park because of the educational system, diversity, proximity to the city and liberal ways. Oak Park needs to be very carefull what they do with the educational system because it's the most important factor in moving here.

Deb Brown  

Posted: December 27th, 2017 2:26 PM

Here's what we all need to know. Even if a child is falling behind because of poor parenting, poverty, homelessness, or a variety of other reasons, it is NOT OK to write that child off as a failure. Sure, teachers can't do miracles but the schools can do more to give those children a boost. We want to use education to lift kids out of a cycle of poverty and give them a chance to move beyond their current situations.

Mimi Stovall from Oak Park   

Posted: December 27th, 2017 1:20 PM

I am highly offended by your narrow-minded comments, Paul C. As a parent with a minority child enrolled in D97, whom would be an example of a child who is falling behind and is only in the 2nd grade. To think this is a result of me being a lazy parent is absolutely ridiculous. My child wants to learn, he just has a hard time grasping the concepts, despite us (his parents) working with him at home. I have asked for additional support from the school and the response is he doesn't score low enough to recieve additional help. The teacher is doing what she can but says she doesn't have time to sit with him and go over the material 1 on 1.They move on to a new module before he can grasp the one prior. I say all of this to say, it is not just the fault of the parent or the school. There are many factors involved, dont be so dense.

Amy Morton from Oak Park  

Posted: December 27th, 2017 10:22 AM

As a teacher, my obligation is to meet my students where they are. I don't have permission to not do my job just because a student doesn't live in a two-parent middle-income household. The reality is that closing the achievement gap requires districts to take bold actions that the parents of high achievers find threatening. They worry that their kids will be adversely affected if anyone messes with the formula that lets only the best of the best get the best. Evanston Township High School (and others) began taking meaningful steps to address the achievement gap (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/high-school-shrinks-achievement-gap-setting-high-bar, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/01/closing-the-achievement-gap-one-school-at-a-time/431826/) nearly a decade ago. They made a real commitment to addressing the needs of kids affected, and the programs have made a measurable difference for everyone. It's time for Oak Park take a stand, and implement programs that disrupt the striated structure that insulates kids with resources and perpetuates the achievement gap.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 27th, 2017 9:44 AM

Following the "Gap" story for some time, I notice that the one group that has been absolutely quiet is the kids who occupy the "GAP" or their parents. Perhaps they don't care! The "Over Achievers" get their assignments and take off. The group who are being hurt by the gap is those kids in the middle who need the teachers help and cannot get it because the teachers are worried about progressive pressure to coddle the kids who aren't interested in education and just don't care. Teachers are paid to teach and never to babysit! It is about time we realize that there are kids who have zero interest in education and we owe to the 90% to let teachers do what they do best.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 27th, 2017 9:22 AM

Charity Anne.....You cite one example, from one teacher, on one day, in one school in Oak Park and systematically apply that ONE experience to every teacher, on everyday, in every school in Oak Park. How would you feel if someone had a negative interaction with a black person and applied that interaction to the remainder of the black population? With your logic you would be ok with one of the many carjacking victims applying their experience to the rest of the black community. Your logic is absurd. "At the age of 9 or 10 he already knew he had no voice" Please show me a 9 or 10 year old who does have a voice. Do you think the white student could have articulated themselves in the moment to plea their case to the false accusations of the teacher on the spot?

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 27th, 2017 9:13 AM

http://www.oakpark.com/Community/Blogs/12-7-2012/The-Absolutely_Without_A_Doubt_Single_Most-Embarassing-Thing-About-Oak-Park/ So in 2012 special ed students scored 44.7 , black kids scored 41.9 and white kids scored 88.2. When black kids score lower than special ed kids, there is a significant problem, and not one that the faculty can solve on their own.

JD Ouellette  

Posted: December 26th, 2017 8:59 PM

I am a white female former public high school teacher and absolutely see the implicit bias and unexamined passive racism of teachers like me to be a huge issue - and one that said teachers refuse to consider as an issue due to their white fragility. Spot on opinion piece.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: December 26th, 2017 8:42 PM

"It is good to know who your neighbors are, especially the "professional ones" " Professional neighbors, with a university degree and practiced skill of being a professional neighbor? An Oak Park Board to certify Professional Neighbors? A seminar in Hawaii? Will an Associate Degree from a Junior College suffice?Meetings, notes, , motions licensing? Oak Park might pass a law, everyone who lives in Oak Park must have a degree as a professional neighbor.

Cheree Moore  

Posted: December 26th, 2017 8:00 PM

It's clear that many of the people who have commented already have their minds made up and have no intention of learning or listening. It's good to know who your neighbors are, especially the "professional ones". I know who I won't be using as a realtor and who I WILL tell friends to avoid.

Shawna Seaton-george from Oak Park  

Posted: December 26th, 2017 6:42 PM

http://www.apa.org/research/action/stereotype.aspx https://dcal.dartmouth.edu/resources/teaching-dartmouth/disrupting-implicit-bias I'm not understating why some people are still struggling with what Sharhonda has written. A quick internet search will yield plenty ( I mean an absolute ton) of science ( going back MANY years) to back up her arguments. You have to work at being "not racist". I see we have some reading and working to do....

Mak Flournoy from Oak Park  

Posted: December 26th, 2017 3:17 PM

@RaySimpson, I don't want to assume what you are trying to suggest so please speak plainly and say more about the "inconvenient conversation" and the "one group" that is "always" occupying the "bottom".

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 26th, 2017 2:09 PM

Failure is ALWAYS someone else's fault. No matter how hard you try there will always be a bottom 10% and if one group always populates that group, perhaps there is a reason that isn't convenient to the political conversation.

Andrea Kovach  

Posted: December 26th, 2017 11:58 AM

Families are experiencing the district differently and the data cited in this article provides compelling numbers that bear this out. If your family is having a wonderful experience in District 97 (as I no doubt many are--there is a lot to be proud of), there can still be room for improvement to ensure that all families experience that as well. Please listen to those stories too. Please open your hearts and minds to these stories that are different than yours but no less valid.

Charity Anne Caldwell  

Posted: December 26th, 2017 8:29 AM

The child in the incident is black. He was talking with 2 other students, both white. Why was he the accused? Why did he feel he couldn't defend himself? What incidents large and small happen all day in and out of the school classroom?

Charity Anne Caldwell from Oak Park  

Posted: December 26th, 2017 8:12 AM

Thank you, ShaRhonda. I find your piece so clear. This is absolutely the real problem to be overcome here. I have seen educators come down unreasonably hard on Black students. An example: I was volunteering at a D97 school. An educator (teacher or aide, I do not know) was walking through the lunchroom and slipped. All on her own. She was crossing behind the line of students waiting for lunch and got up yelling at the last boy in line for purposefully tripping her. I witnessed this - the child was talking to friends, facing forward in line, and this woman slipped. No one touched her. The child felt terrible. You could see on his face that he did not know what to do. Most telling to me: he did not defend himself from her false accusations. At the age of 9 or 10 he already knew he had no voice. It was heartbreaking. (I told the woman he did not push her, got physically in between them and checked on the boy to see if HE was ok. I told him that I saw that he did not do anything wrong. I don't think it helped really though. I am not the person in authority he sees every day. And I reported the interaction to a school administrator.)

Paul Cagnina  

Posted: December 25th, 2017 11:41 AM

It's obvious ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson is using the WJ to promote her own personal beliefs. This article is probably one of the most prejudicial pieces I have ever read in the WJ. Someone has to tell the parents. " You Caused The Problem, You Need To Fix The Problem". Some of the parents use the educational system as daycare not as an educational opportunity.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 24th, 2017 3:36 PM

I would like to see a statistical study done of all black students at OPRF. What is the family unit like for the blacks who make the Honor Roll consistently and what is the family like for the black kid who is academically in the middle. Then we should make the same evaluation for the group that causes so much angst. If the results are as I would predict we seem to spend a lot of time assigning blame where it is not deserved.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: December 23rd, 2017 9:26 PM

What is the gap between performance between black kids at OPRF and those in Maywood or Austin? That is the comparison that shows how bad or good a job the school is doing.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: December 23rd, 2017 4:20 PM

I had Microsoft Word search this document for use of words such as ""race", "racist". "racial" and the like. I got 37 hits. This woman seems to be obsessed with the topic, and thereby not a very effective writer about it. Furthermore, she doesn't live here, so her piece is about as effective as me complaining about subway service in Manhattan.

Virginia Fazio Seuffert  

Posted: December 23rd, 2017 4:01 PM

I am interested in knowing specifically which racist policies are holding black kids back. Are teachers neglecting to tell black kids to study? Do they lower the grades black kids get on tests to ensure black kids fail? Do we have high achieving black kids locked out of honors classes? Please be specific! Vague generalities cannot be addressed.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: December 23rd, 2017 9:28 AM

"Black students are falling behind academically, not simply because of their socioeconomic status but because of a combination of racist institutional policies set in place by district leadership and individual actions taken by teachers, staff and administrators" If that is true, why are teachers staff and administrators allowed to keep their jobs? If certain students are suspended 13 times more than other students, someone must be signing off on the paperwork. Identify the employee signing off on the paperwork and terminate them. These aren't elected officials like Sen. Robert Byrd who was active in the KKK or Pres. Franklin Roosevelt who vetoed a federal anti lynching law. These are public employee with a written track record. I think something is amiss.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 22nd, 2017 11:46 PM

This piece is par for the course from Ms. Knott Dawson. She places the poor achievement of black students entirely on the backs of liberal white people. "Black students are falling behind academically, not simply because of their socioeconomic status but because of a combination of racist institutional policies set in place by district leadership and individual racist actions by teachers, staff and administrators." Since both the principal and superintendent of OPRF are black, am I to assume that you will be holding their feet to the fire as you do white administrators? Agreed, there is a lot of work to be done to change racist policies and white people's minds, but to place the entire burden on white people is delusional at best. There has to be a point where personal responsibility plays a role in a students success. What I fail to understand is how the author can blame white people for the lack of achievement of black students and then look upon the same people she blames for solutions.

Benjamin Hill  

Posted: December 22nd, 2017 8:37 PM

"Why is it everyone attributes low income and race to low educational achievement and then blames the OPRF teachers and The administrators because it doesn't get any better.?" Well, for one, it's been pretty well studied and documented. Just Google it. But more importantly, to Paul's point, it's an AND, not an EITHER/OR. It's that statement about the educational environment AND the home environment AND income AND several factors. Anyone suggesting it's just one thing is naive, just as suggesting it's one solution is naive.

Paul Cagnina  

Posted: December 22nd, 2017 8:26 PM

This is really becoming annoying. Why is it everyone attributes low income and race to low educational achievement and then blames the OPRF teachers and The administrators because it doesn't get any better.? Let's rview recent history. There was a guy named Barack Obama. He's "BLACK". He grew up without father at home, and he was poor. He eventually became the 44th president of the USA. It's the most respected position in the "WORLD". Let's go back 8 years. There was a guy named Bill Clinton, he's WHITE" . He also grew up without a father in the household and he was poor. He eventually became the 42nd president of the USA. Do you honestly think they both had some miracle teachers,? If that was the case the entire class would have been a presidential candidate. What they both had in common was a "PARENT" that "CARED". Success starts at " HOME" not the classroom. I went to OPRF in the early 70's everyone was white. Guess what,? There were very stupid kids and very smart kids. There weren't any racial divides ...just stupid and smart kids, all white. The smart kids had guidance, direction, confidence, morals, hard work ethics instilled in them from their parents at "HOME" at a very young age. The stupid kids were told by their parents they were going to get a job after High School and that's what happened. Kids from wealthy families have the same chance at failure as poor kids if the parents don't instill good work ethics and a need for an education. So if you want to complain about the educational divide go complain to the parent who isn't parenting. If you show me a stupid,lazy kid...I'll show you a lazy stupid parent. "IT'S EASIER TO TEACH A CHILD THAN IT IS TO CHANGE A MAN."

Jenna Brown Russell  

Posted: December 22nd, 2017 5:29 PM

The author is absolutely correct that we would be well served by more male teachers, more teachers of color, and especially more black male teachers. The challenge is supply. It is not as if there is a robust pipeline of these educators that we are passing over to keep our lilly-white ladydoms intact. While there are significant efforts to increase black male enrollment and completion in education programs, for now we are competing (within the constraints of union price setting) for precious few candidates. Our represention is higher than comparable districts, and our leadership is certainly diverse. But this is a solution easy to propose, and difficult to accomplish.

Deb Brown  

Posted: December 22nd, 2017 3:16 PM

Yet we can't use the cultural and socioeconomical differences that you mention as an excuse to let kids fail. It's not all about teachers, it's about human nature. We all relate better to kids that we understand - kids that are like us. We need to find a way around that.

Dean Rogers from Oak Park  

Posted: December 22nd, 2017 3:00 PM

My only problem with this piece is the same question I've been asking since the achievement gap was brought up 30 years ago. Why do we measure and define the gap by race alone?And I'm not talking about income only.Has any study ever been done comparing single parent students to those from two parent families.I know that minorities from two parent families are accepted at Ivy league schools;are less likely to engage in behaviors like sexual activity and drug and alcohol use.Of the minorities that are in AP classes,I'd wager most are from two parent families. That's a broad brush you use to smear our teachers and administrators,when the racial gap has not yet been examined on any terms but race.Yes,there are cultural biases,but these are part of the education progress,not necessarily racism.Teachers are trying to instill certain expectations on students;such as not speaking out of turn,keeping your pants pulled up,not swearing in the classroom,not disrupting class by leaving your seat.There can be the racism of low expectations if we allow minorities to behave in ways that will harm their chances of success later in life.Teaching such lessons is not indicative of racism by a teacher.It is evidence of the student not being taught such things at home.Ignoring or allowing such behavior as a cultural difference would truly be racist.

Deb Brown  

Posted: December 22nd, 2017 2:02 PM

Excellent! I don't have the answers but I am with you 100%. Eliminating racism starts with acknowledgement that it exists - in each of us. Before I vote for another swimming pool or tax increase, the schools can show me what they are doing to fix this.

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