From wealth to diversity, our editors offer an action plan - Page 5 of 11

From wealth to diversity, our editors offer an action plan

to the rising costs associated with private school. Because of twin children, our costs are twice as high.

Around the time Earl G. Graves Sr. founded this magazine in 1970, many Southern school systems like the one I went to in Kentucky were busing children to and fro in an effort to end segregation. Yet, despite decades of attempted desegregation initiatives, an overwhelming number of classrooms remain segregated. While scholars might argue that public education is worse today than it has ever been, statistics reveal that it is particularly challenging for students of color. In short, an ever-widening education gap between white and black students persists. Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Education found that 40% of white fourth graders scored at or above proficient reading levels, compared with only 12% of their African American peers. In math, African American students fared worse — 35% of white fourth graders scored at or above proficient levels, and just 5% of African Americans scored above average.

There isn’t enough paper in the world to explore the reasons for this schism. Among our readers, 37.8% say there aren’t enough resources to teach our children; 20.8% say parents are at fault for not taking a more active role in their children’s studies. Opinion columns blame everything from television to medical disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder. Today’s students are beset by outrageous myths about race. Striving to live a middle-class lifestyle is “trying to be white” while engaging in violence, drug dealing, and being illiterate means being “black.” The impact of this behavior is dangerous to the black community. The bottom line: Uneducated African Americans do not qualify for well-paying jobs. To loosely paraphrase the words of Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction, without a job and legal tender, we become the bums of society.

So what is the prescription for a better education? What will it take to reform our schools? Based on our readers’ poll, 37.8% say an increase in public school budgets will help. Another 24.4% believe building more schools to accommodate lower class sizes would help; I support the latter. Evidence shows that smaller classroom sizes significantly boost math and reading skills. Earlier this year, a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology revealed that elementary students in smaller classes for four or more years increased their likelihood of graduating from high school by 11.5%.

Johnetta B. Cole, president of Bennett College for Women, says the responsibility for teaching children can’t be placed entirely at the doorsteps of schools. Parental engagement, she asserts, is the No. 1 reason why children demonstrate superior academic performance. If parents are actively engaged in their children’s education, then they learn to appreciate what education has to offer. Parental involvement must not stop there, however. Parents
must volunteer to become active participants within their educational institutions. For instance, running for a seat on the local school board would be a good start. As an elected member, the opportunities to influence everything from curriculum development to budgets abound. Parents could