Can Schools Alone Close the Achievement Gap? Is Poverty Inexorably Link To Achievement? Can We Re-Create an Education/Civil Rights Coalition? The Unintended Consequences of No Child Left Behind.

 To what extent, if any, is the Afro-American community responsible for  low academic achievement in schools, poverty and the ills of the inner city? Can we create “highly effective schools” for children of poverty without resolving the ills of poverty?

The new Bill Cosby-Alvin Poussaint book, Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors has been widely featured in the media here  and here  and here. Some in the Afro-American community are outraged while others reap praise on the book.

John McWhorter, a linguist and Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute has been writing for a decade on the same topics.

Richard Rothstein cogently points to a range of issues that impact schools; both non-cognitive behaviors and the disadvantages of the inner city poor. Rothstein’s work has been sharply criticized.

The current occupants of the Tweed Courthouse, have chosen to ignore this vigorous debate and pursue a “schools alone can succeed in raising achievement” agenda. An ostrich approach ignores that from California to New York schools are struggling to meet the 2014 goals of No Child Left Behind.

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the State Teacher Union convened 400 parents, teachers and public school advocates to listen to a range of “experts” and discuss the wider question of “Closing the Achievement Gap.” From Katy Haycock, the Director of the Education Trust to Pedro Noguera to Richard Rothstein and a range of others.

Some crucial queries:

* Can current “great schools” in high poverty neighborhoods be replicated around the country?

*  Was NCLB a Karl Rove scheme to create public/private competition and destroy public schools and public school unions?

* Has NCLB turned the focus away from “traditional” civil rights issues, i.e., health care, housing, living wages, teenage pregnancy, etc., and placed the burden solely on schools?

* Why has the Civil Rights coalition of minority organizations, elected officials, the clergy and labor unions been unable to re-create the coalition of the sixties?

The Closing the Gap Conference  begins a dialogue that will produce a White Paper later in the year … will it result in a coalition that will address these issues in a collegial fashion that will result in legislation … ?

Unfortunately very little will happen until after the 2008 elections … and only if parents, teachers and advocates hold elected officials “feet to the fire.”

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