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|We are asking schools to do what schools cannot do!|
|Written by Phillip Jackson, Executive Director of the Black Star Project in Chicago|
|Thursday, 23 October 2008|
Schools cannot eliminate the racial academic achievement gap because schools do not create the gap.
This gap must be eliminated at the source--at home, in the family and in the community.
However, schools can and do aggravate the gap. Studies show that this gap comes to the school with the child from the home, family and community.
The gap, which is well established before kindergarten, widens during the first three years of schooling. And from third grade through high school graduation, the academic achievement gap between white and black students is relatively steady.
According to recent statistics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the average 12th grade black student has the reading and math scores of the average 8th grade white student.
Schools and teachers in America usually do a good job. They have made the American educational system, generally, competitive with other international education systems, as shown by the "Progress in International Reading Literacy Study."
Good teachers and administrators are critical to the educational process, but they are not miracle workers. Very few teachers can compensate for years, and sometimes decades, of educational deficiencies in homes, families and communities.
Education, like wealth, is generational. It is something that is accumulated and enhanced by one generation and passed on to the next generation. There is an intrinsic relationship between the education and learning of parents, the education and learning levels of communities, and the education and learning of students.
In a real sense, schools do not educate children; they simply reinforce and expand what children already know when they come to school. Parents, families, communities, societal structures, value systems, peer groups, networks, cultures and institutions educate children.
Good schools seldom create good communities; but good communities usually create good schools.
In many of the best schools in the country, principals are almost interchangeable. Teachers are usually in a child's life for one or two years. Without involved, invested and engaged parents, supportive families and effective community institutions and structures, even the best schools will struggle to educate children. We are asking schools to do what school cannot do!
For schools to succeed, they must have students with basic skills who want to learn; parents who are active, engaged and involved in their child's life; and teachers and administrators who are skilled and passionate about their profession.
We are asking schools to substitute for broken family structures and decimated communities; to give moral and spiritual values to children; to teach children discipline and self-control; to teach children to want to learn and to inspire them to succeed; and to teach children to make positive and proper life choices.
Schools do not do any of these things well. Schools are best when they are responsible for teaching reading and math, history and science, not discipline and self-control, and notions of right and wrong.
And because schools spend so much time trying to teach things that they cannot teach, many times they fail at teaching the things that they ought to be teaching.
Parents must be the first, best and most important teachers for their children. Government and schools also have important responsibilities for educating children; however, they have failed miserably at one of their most important responsibilities: Getting parents involved in the educational lives of their children.
Effective parents, families and communities can do what no school can do - create the structure, lay the foundation, set the trajectory and start the momentum for learning and educational success for all children in the every community.