Districts are Failing Their Minority Students
by Neil Munro, The Daily Oakland Press, August 5, 2003
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For years the state has been reporting on pupil achievement in
local school districts, and for years the story has remained the
The schools in the well-to-do suburbs and small cities are at
the top of the list and those in the older cities that serve
blacks and Hispanics are at the bottom.
The high-achievers get pats on the back and bask in glory, while
the others are berated and threatened with various kinds of
Now another report - a new state "report card" - is due in
September. And this time every district will suffer some
There will be emphasis on something that's been reported in the
past, but generally ignored.
It will be pointed out that the high-achieving schools are not,
in fact, able to educate all their pupils. Even in the
Bloomfields and Birminghams, about one in 10 is not making it
And that's not going to be overlooked anymore.
The fact is that many, many more school districts are going to
be found wanting than in the past.
No longer will they be listed among those doing well because
they have high percentage achievement numbers. Now they will be
listed as failing to educate the rest.
When President George Bush called his federal education program
"No Child Left Behind," that's what he meant, that we must
educate all youngsters, and not be satisfied with educating just
And it's about time.
Millions of children are being left behind and have been for
years, yet their plight has been overshadowed by above-average
achievement by the majority in too many districts.
It's ironic that it takes a "conservative" Republican to at long
last publicly rub our noses in the enormous and ongoing failure
to fully educate our minority children.
But the state of Michigan still doesn't get it, not entirely.
A key aspect of any effort to correct the problem has not been
put in place yet.
And that is the effectiveness, or lack of it, of individual
According to Tom Watkins, the state superintendent of public
instruction, teachers still will be evaluated on the basis of
"inputs," not "outputs."
In other words, their fitness in the classroom will be based on
what they've supposedly learned, not on what their pupils learn.
That has to be changed as soon as possible. At the very least,
we need to teach them - again - how to do their jobs. Too many
will be found lacking and are dragging pupils down.
At the same time, poor teaching cannot explain the academic
failure of too many minority pupils.
You may recall reading in this space of the Ann Arbor district's
effort to correct that, its failure to accomplish enough and its
ultimate abandonment of the goal.
Yet it is generally known as a "high-achieving" district.
The Pontiac district, which is not, because it has many minority
pupils, is said to actually do more for them academically than
Under "No Child Left Behind," districts such as Ann Arbor no
long will be able to hide behind their overall achievements and
the Pontiacs of the state no long will be unfairly tainted.
That moment can't come too soon.
Forecasts of rain aren't getting it done.
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