Just who am I talking about? Quite frankly, all of us—parents, teachers, school administrators, coaches, executives, and entrepreneurs. I know it’s a sweeping indictment, but given the severity of our education crisis, not enough of us are engaged in adequately preparing our students to become capable, productive citizens.
Most of our kids are barely literate: 70% of all American eighth graders cannot read at their level. America’s Promise Alliance reports that a student drops out of school every 26 seconds. According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, 25% of our students fail to graduate on time, and the figure for African American and Latinos is a staggering 40%.
As a coach in AAU youth basketball, I know firsthand of parents who invest more time helping their sons build up stats on the basketball court than reviewing assignments for the classroom. It was painful to watch talented athletes being denied the opportunity to receive a full scholarship—the equivalent of a $200,000 gift—simply because they couldn’t meet NCAA eligibility requirements. If there were a law on the books that held parents and coaches liable for ensuring high school athletes meet minimal academic standards, many of them would be locked up for criminal negligence.
We also have cases in which educators undermine student achievement of minorities, especially black males, by treating them as suspects. According to the U.S. Department of Education, African American students, regardless of financial status, are more than three times more likely to receive suspensions than white students. Even worse, 70% of students referred to law enforcement by school officials are black or Latino.
So how do we fix the problem? Once again, it takes all of us. As mentioned in our award-winning series on education, which you can access on BlackEnterprise.com, parents must become smarter consumers of public education. They must demand nothing less than excellence in curriculum and instruction while making school officials accountable.
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