Part two of a three part stroy.
By: Amber Vaughan
According to Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, “Education is now the key to eliminating gender inequality, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, to preventing needless deaths and illness, and to fostering peace. And in a knowledge economy, education is the new currency by which nations maintain economic competitiveness and global prosperity.
As indicated in the 2011 annual report released by The Florida Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys: The educational plight of black males in the public school system across Florida is dismal.
The report also states: education plays a pivotal role in producing human capital and in the quality of life one achieves … Human capital, within this context refers to the knowledge, skills and social attributes that allow an individual to perform labor.
Observations noted in the council’s 2011 report were
• Black males are approximately two times more likely to be disciplined than white
• Black males are 19 percent less likely to graduate than white males
• Black males are two times less likely to be ready for postsecondary education (college) than white males
Still, Superintendent of Schools for Escambia County, Malcolm Thomas, believes there is hope. Thomas said the school district recently implemented a system that wherever a child goes to school, or how often they have to change schools within the district, he or she will not fall due to a unified curriculum across the board.
Reggie Todd, a former Escambia County teacher, said the blame for disparity amongst African-Americans cannot be completely school district – parents must accept some responsibility.
“As an educator, I believe parents can work with their children at home to reinforce what their child learned in school that particular day,” Todd said. “Even if they do not understand the subject matter, parents can encourage their child to complete out of class assignments.”
Superintendent Thomas echoed Todd’s sentiments. He said parent involvement is important and that they must be aware of how important their involvement can be. For that reason, Thomas said, the school district has launched a “parent portal,” where parents can log in and check on their child’s grades.
“Show me a parent that takes time with their student – particularly from an early age – stays with that involvement all the way through high school and I’ll show you a success story, almost every time,” Thomas said.
Another factor in the success of the student, said Thomas are the resources, facilities, equipment and opportunities that are made available to the students – hence, the vision behind Global Learning Academy. “It is the best school I have in the entire county, bar none,” raved Thomas.
Addressing naysayers, “Yes I’ve consolidated Yniestra and Hallmark, that were a couple of miles apart. I think people focus too much on the emotion of where you were and you have to look at what you got – look at the return on investment. They’re in the newest, most high-tech school…We did that, to bring to that community the best. Not to take something or short change them.”
Stocked with smart boards that adjust to the height of the student, state of the art computers, a science lab on the rooftop and keyboards, Thomas lauded, “It is the most technologically advanced school in Escambia County.”
Licensed Psychologist, Dr. Brian Turner, the Diversity and Outreach Coordinator for the University of West Florida, said although things are looking up for Escambia County, there are barriers, like racism, that sometimes go unaddressed that prohibit black males success educationally.
“The residuals of racism are not specifically somebody walking up to a young black man and calling him a racial epithet or slur, it’s not that he’s going to be told he can’t go to school at a certain place,” Turner said. “The residuals of racism will bare out in where the same work he does may be graded less. The same professional relationships and mentoring and networking will be hidden from him in ways that are subtle.”
Turner also said mentorship and openness to other cultures are also beneficial because it affords an individual the opportunity to learn about places, cultures and people that can’t be taught in a classroom or experienced through a television show.
Turner states, “As a psychologist, I see it every day – young black men who have issues that could be addressed, that could be worked through and that could be overcome but they’re afraid to put themselves in that situation. Therapy does not make you weak; getting help does not make you weak. But, historically, this has been what black men are told … that doesn’t help us as a society, that doesn’t help us as people – it doesn’t help us as men.”
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