Monday, June 4, 2007

Creating a Successful Learning Environment for Minority Students

There are many people who believe that minority students achieve low grades because of their race. An equal number believe the schools are in a mess and there’s little anyone can do about it.

Screams for help from frustrated, overworked teachers fall on deaf ears. Complaints from concerned parents fall into a political vacuum. In the meantime, black and Latino students continue to sink deeper into the quagmire of failure.

Most of us feel powerless to do something about this problem. Today, I am beginning the debate to change the public schools in this country. For such a change to occur, we must empower ourselves to remember why we have public schools in the first place.

Public schools were created to provide every citizen with the opportunity to receive an education so they could provide a way of life for themselves and their families. To accomplish this goal, individuals were trained to become teachers and teach children how to become successful adults.

For many minority students, public schools have meant something entirely different. Teachers taught, but society restricted. Parents dreamed, while their children sank deeper into accepting themselves as receiving an inferior education. The knowledge of inferiority became a natural part of their culture, and it was generally agreed by society that black children were unequal to white children. Hence, the need for the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, to integrate the public schools.

Unfortunately, for most minority students, the decision did not help them to achieve higher grades, nor did it help them to change the way they live in many inner-city neighborhoods. By and large, by today’s standards, minority students are worse off educationally than they were in 1954.

So, I ask each of you what can be done to solve this problem. Well, these are some basic steps that I am proposing to solve the problem. And, fortunately, they do not require millions of dollars to implement them.

First, school principals would be required to hold orientation meetings at the beginning of each school year to remind teachers and administrators why they work in public schools.

Second, school principals would be required to hold orientation meetings for parents, particularly parents of minority students, to remind them why their children are attending public schools.

Third, principals would be required to hold a general orientation meeting for teachers and parents to explain to them the roles they must share jointly in educating their children.

Fourth, state governments would make it mandatory for parents to attend all required orientation meetings. Parents’ participation would become a prerequisite for students to remain in school.

Fifth, school districts would decentralize and give more direct control to individual schools.

Sixth, school principals would be appointed and evaluated by elected parents who have children attending the school.

Seventh, each school would be required to have a well-stock library available to assist students with research.

Eighth, immunize schools from partisan political actions. In other words, keep politicians out of the educational process.

Ninth, provide teachers with the opportunity to attend workshops once a quarter to assist them with improving their teaching skills and emotional related issues.

Tenth, create a system to transfer teachers and principals after ten years at a school.

I am confident that these changes would improve the grade scores of minority students and instill a new confidence in them to excel in school and in life.