By Andrew Pillow
As everyone knows, Black History Month is a great time to reflect on how far African Americans have come. It is also a great time to reflect on how far we have to go. While great strides have been made, there are still plenty of strides yet to be taken.
Looking specifically in the arena of education, African Americans face many issues that have yet to be addressed. As a classroom teacher, I see many of these first hand and hear about others second hand.
What are the issues society needs to address for African Americans moving forward?
1. The Achievement Gap
Terminology around the achievement gap hasn’t aged well as many find the term offensive. The phenomena itself, however you want to classify it, is still a huge problem. Black students lag behind in academic achievement in relation to their white counterparts. This achievement gap persists from kindergarten all the way to college.
In America, we have a bad habit of talking about segregation as if it was a relic of the past. When in fact, some places never actually desegregated to begin with. Some schools are more segregated now than they were during the prime of separate but equal policies. Today’s segregation is not necessarily the product of overtly racist policies, but that doesn’t make it any less real. School districts have become a pizza pie of racially segregated neighborhoods.
3. Policy Wars
In any war, there are civilian casualties. In a war with bullets and missiles, that looks like broken buildings and dead bodies. In a war of educational policy, it looks like broken schools and uneducated children.
While public and charter school factions battle it out over supremacy, inner-city students are caught in the crossfire. We don’t have to decide which is “best” in order to serve students. But unfortunately, some public school districts don’t feel that way and inner-city students are the ones caught in the crossfire.
4. Low Expectations
It is well-established fact that black children are held to lower expectations by teachers than their white counterparts. It is also well established that high expectations are a key driver of academic achievement. It’s not hard to see how a teacher's standards, or lack thereof, contributes to the achievement gap.
5. Harsher Discipline Practices
Many times, black students face much harsher discipline than white students. This includes suspensions, expulsions and even consequences such as timeouts or negative phone calls home. Out of school suspensions and expulsions are not only punishments in and of themselves but also direct contributors to low academic achievement.
All of the areas listed above have been problems for a number of years, but some have solutions that have worked in other places. Some problems have no clear answer. Other times it’s a matter of finding the answer and replicating it. That is the case with these problems. It's on us to take availible solutions and implement them so these issues don't negatively impact future generations.