LatinaLista — Sometimes the people in Washington say the darndest things.
Education Secretary, Margaret Spellings, appearing before a special conference in Washington D.C. last week said that inner-city schools are nothing more than dropout factories — DUH!
It's taken this long for people who are mandating the educational curriculums in this country to realize that inner-city schools have the worst track records in meeting the academic needs of low-income and children of color?
No Child Left Behind still has to address inner-city schools.
The conference organized by MTV, the National Governors Association, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, was an attempt to find the reasons why only half of children of color are graduating from high school on time and too few are electing to go after a college education.
What they discussed have long been known in Latino communities, and other, "minority" communities: too little money invested in the school for maintenance, basic equipment and security; a different definition of the term "dropout" by each school district; and not always the best suited teachers for a student population that needs more help than students in middle to high-income areas.
The suggested solutions the conference attendees came up with are, well, not a whole lot. With such high-profile sponsors, one would expect suggestions bordering on being innovative or cutting-edge.
As it was, the following were some that attendees came up with:
Funding: Spellings recommended $1 billion more for the federal Title I education program to help low-income high schools.
Accountability: Summit organizers said the nation's governors have pledged to develop a common definition of the term "dropout." To help educate families, they also will release an online resource with the on-time graduation rates for every school district nationwide.
Teacher training: Schools of education must give all teachers a stronger grounding in math and science. Even prospective elementary teachers need required coursework in these subjects so they can better help students, said Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri. "There's a complete disconnect" on this issue, he added.
Thankfully, there are legislators who are taking a hard look at the fail/dropout rates in their school districts and have decided to do something about it.
In Texas this week, State House members voted to do away with requiring high school students to pass a standardized test before they be allowed to graduate from high school.
It seems that a record number, 40,000 to be exact, 2007 high school seniors will have to watch graduation exercises from the audience. These 40,000 students, one of every six high school seniors, failed to pass all sections of the standardized exit test.
Of course, doing away with any kind of testing goes against the grain where legislators feel there has to be accountability, on the part of both students and teachers, to measure each is doing their job â€” one side teaching and the other learning.
So, there are a variety of bills being discussed on how to keep the testing requirement in there.
Some feel that doing away with the testing is lowering academic expectations.
For the 40,000 kids who failed the standardized test, low academic expectations were made of them before they even left elementary school. Otherwise, why are so many children of color not able to read on grade level, or do simple math equations, etc.?
These children had the potential to succeed and the enthusiasm to learn until something happened to shatter their belief in themselves.
Was it flunking a standarized test?
Was it being called stupid by a teacher? A parent?
Was it being publicly embarrassed in front of their classmates by someone?
Was it coming to school hungry and in dirty clothes?
There are a host of reasons that could be the cause but there is a basic reason why some kids make it and others drop out â€” the ones who make it just didn't give up on themselves, they had somebody who believed in them too.
A lot more kids need somebody to believe in them to make sure that they keep believing in themselves.