While I agree with the viewpoint that teacher quality is a crucial factor in the educational success of African American children, I want to emphasize the importance of teachers that are a racial reflection of their students. While an excellent educational experience can be provided by a teacher of non-African decent, it is the deliverance of an education from a quality African American teacher that liberates the minds of our young African American children.
It’s the cultural experiences that African American teachers bring to the class room that allows them to connect with our children and aid in their development about the real world.
As evidenced by the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, it is apparent that segregation of the public school system was detrimental to our educational progress. This is in part due to the infrastructure being designed to teach from a European perspective. As a result black history was marginalized, and hence our children were not educated about all the great contributions our ancestors have bestowed upon the world. Consequently, African American children did not develop an understanding of their ancestors’ place nor their place in this world as great leaders. Outstanding African American teachers are of the utmost importance in furthering the academic achievement of African American children.
While the success many charter schools have made toward closing the achievement gap is worthy of acknowledgment and applause, student achievement on standardized tests is not a great barometer of a student’s development or capabilities. I ask the question, what is great educational success worth, if one does not know how to apply the knowledge gained to help his people?
The real victory comes when a young African American student can graduate from an elementary or high school program and enter an institution of higher education with a solid foundation in knowing their education must be used to help uplift their people in the struggle. Often times this enlightenment is simply achieved by quality African American teachers in the classroom. More often than not, it’s an African American teacher that develops our children’s consciousness, confidence and character.
The NAACP is correct that massive over-incarceration is destructive to our nation. There is an additional part of this story, the school-to-prison pipeline. Six organizations — the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Advancement Project, Forum for Education and Democracy, Education Law Center (PA), Juvenile Justice and FairTest — recently issued a report on the causes, consequences and solutions of the pipeline.
The pipeline refers to the emphasis of punitive consequences, student exclusion, and justice-system intervention over students’ right to an education. And while it is affecting more students in more communities than ever before, it continues to fall hardest on students of color and students with disabilities.
Causes include “zero-tolerance” discipline policies, referring minor issues to the police, and an over-emphasis on high-stakes standardized tests that lead schools to sometimes push students out and that turn schools into alienating, boring test-prep programs. The consequences include a huge increase in students out of school and in the criminal justice system. Solutions include positive behavioral supports, restorative justice, reduced emphasis on testing, improved school climate and quality, and supportive re-entry programs for out-of-school youth.
Monty Neill, FairTest
Matt Cregor, NAACP
Legal Defense and
Educational Fund, Inc.