When Disrespect is the Status Quo

I admit it, I’m fascinated by the national celebrity status recently conferred on DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee. With the powerful Oprah Winfrey media machine and the blessing of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, she appears headed for an illustrious career as the national poster girl for educational reform.

There’s only one problem:

The objectively quantifiable data shows that her efforts have hurt student progress in District of Columbia Public Schools.

Math Proficiency Scores:

-14 schools are worse off in 2010 than in 2007 with declines as high as 25% and an average of 8%
-41 schools are worse off in 2010 than in 2008, with declines as high as 35% and an average of 11%
-61 schools (52% of all schools) are worse off in 2010 than in 2009, with declines as high as 30% and an average of 10%

Reading Proficiency Scores:

-40 schools are worse off in 2010 than in 2007, with declines as high as 45% and an average of 6%
-58 schools are worse off in 2010 than in 2008, with declines as high as 36% and an average if 9%
-66 schools (56% of all schools) are worse off in 2010 than in 2009, with declines as high as 41% and an average of 9%

(source withheld)

Other performance facts:

-AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) under Leave no Child Behind, results for DCPS: 10 schools achieved AYP in 2010 a 70% decrease from 2009, when 34 achieved AYP.

-The achievement gap between White and African-American 4th grade students for Math has increased to a 58 point gap in 2009 from a 53 point gap in 2007.

-DCPS tested 14% fewer African-America children in 2009 indicating that many African-American families are leaving DCPS for charter or private schools.

-Since 2007 DC School construction shows favoritism toward Wards 2 and 3, where outlays average between $118 and $152 per sq. ft. compared to Wards 7 and 8 where expenditures drop between $40 and $54 per sq. ft.

(source withheld)

The truth is that systemic educational reform is holistic in nature. The history, economic development, and social structure of the student population has to be accommodated before lasting change occurs.

Positive educational outcomes for all children require analysis of the learning styles, and teaching strategies that work best for each demographic group. I strongly urge that educators study a focus group created by DCPS in the 1970’s called The Innovation Team, which was formed to study the challenges and opportunities specific to Urban education.

Washington, D.C. was decimated by the crack and gun wars of the 1980’s and 90’s, and some of those lost were among our most vibrant, creative and intellectually curious. Domestic and educational policy of the Reagan Bush years has had the effect of stifling the momentum of the 1970’s as related to Black consciousness and upward mobility. The collective psychological development of the Black community is diminished as a result. The children we see in the classroom today are essentially postwar survivors, yet we haven’t developed a plan that faces that excruciating truth. The sick joke is to send Rhee here, to insult and demean and blame our community for failing to effectively protect our young people.

If Oprah cares, and I believe she might, if properly informed, she needs to focus, not on personalities and style and money, but on history. Refugee and post-war children around the world have to be nurtured in a very focused way to be returned to their natural brilliance.

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A Sheep in Lion’s Clothing

When news of the Eddie Long scandal broke, people didn’t want to believe that he was guilty. He may not be guilty. The events leading up to this scandal, however, are reminiscent of horrific stories coming forth from Catholic congregations for decades. No one wanted to challenge the power structure or question the behavior of the seemingly Godly men in whom they placed their trust. Now the Catholic Church is paying billions of dollars in damages because the population failed to take precautions and speak out against sexual abuse of children. To be sure, someone within the New Birth congregation had an inkling, a feeling that something was amiss in their pastor’s behavior toward boys and young men.

Now, incredibly, people are postulating that this crisis should spur new dialogue regarding homophobia in the Black community. To be sure, that is a critical piece in the healing and reconciliation that has to occur among segments of the African-American community. Would Eddie Long have been as successful in the ministry as he was if he had been openly gay? Is it unrealistic to place the expectation of genuine moral purity on powerful men? Do their words mean less if we find them to have fallen from Biblical precepts? These are important questions.

However, the conversation regarding sexual orientation should take a back seat to the conversation about protecting our children from sexual predators.

Future generations of African American people will ponder the way we handle this current crisis in the Church. There are other sexual scandals brewing in several Black mega churches in the U.S., and whether they are quietly settled or brought to the public by the media, we all have to confront the inconsistencies between what we say we are and what we really are.

This situation calls for more than prayer. Someone has to speak for our children. Do we cherish our children enough to put their safety above the need to idolize men like Eddie Long?