Tag Archives: black youth

Who’s Hurt When We Cheat?

22 Oct

From the flurry of reports in the media about cheating in our nation’s public schools, it seems children may not be the only ones in need of character education.  Educators, it seems, need it too.

Cheating scandals have surfaced in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, D.C., Illinois, Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, and Texas to name a few. It’s a growing epidemic according to investigative reports that educators appear to be inclined to ignore, minimize, deny, contain and gloss over as we fall further and further behind in global academic and labor measures.

Incidences of cheating are being blamed on everything from teachers seeking to earn job security and monetary rewards by producing artificially high test scores, school officials’ lackadaisical attitudes towards standardized testing and a lack of test security measures system wide.

I’ve yet to hear “the devil made me do it,” but I suspect we’re getting close.

In response to these scandals, there are calls for more attention to cheating prevention training, better standardized testing procedures, greater oversight by state and local officials, and calls for more federal oversight – a move that would undoubtedly lead to costly and complicated bureaucracy. Can you say federal testing police?  These solutions all but presume cheating is inevitable; but, what about not cheating?

When educators cheat our children are the biggest losers. The proficiency gains that have been touted to rationalize the distribution of bonuses and awards to educators have been as imaginary and ghost-like as inflated test scores.  Students’ confidence in the adults who they should be able to trust to teach them has been broken.

When our children lose we all lose since, as we know, they are our future. Even scarier is the reality that they are also learning that cheating is acceptable under certain circumstances like when you’re highly incented to perform, under pressure to achieve results or … when no one is looking.  Character is born in the private moments when we are called upon to consider and do what is right.  Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best – the function of a true education is to teach one to think intensively and critically – intelligence plus character that is the true goal of education.

It is disappointing that educators implicated and not yet implicated in these scandals think so little of their profession that they would choose dishonesty over integrity and their students’ best interests.  The actions of a few have compromised the veracity of the entire profession. Sharon Rideau, a doctoral candidate at Arizona State University, found in a survey of 3,000 Arizona teachers that 50% of them either had cheated or knew of a colleague who had cheated.  If she’s right, we’re in big trouble.

Let me be clear, not all educators cheat, but you only need one bad apple to spoil the bunch or sully the reputation of the entire profession. Even in Finland, a country that is out competing the US on most academic measures, only 1 out of 10 applicants becomes a teacher.  It’s a challenging, important job for which we only need the few and the ethical.

Etienne R. LeGrand is president and co-founder of the W.E.B. Du Bois Society.

Advertisements

To Everything There Is A Season

11 Sep

We have been working over the past 8 years to transform the lives and learning of minority children by celebrating and inspiring academic ambition.  From the beginning we’ve demonstrated that celebration and motivation are the keys to improving students’ academic outcomes. We’re proud of the many students that we’ve challenged thus far, and grateful to their parents and collective communities for stepping up to change the path of their lives.

We remain a long way from causing the change we’re after, but we have learned a great deal about the complexities of the public education system and the challenges to financing this work.  We’ve audited our processes, reviewed the landscape of education in this country and determined that the current conversation about education reform overlooks one important focus.

We’re convinced that learning is enhanced and transformed when the culture or conditions for learning in schools, homes and in our communities are aligned to foster learning.  Beginning with the 2013 school year, we will place an acute focus on school culture, and the dynamic educational and motivational shift that occurs when all connected to a school are aligned to focus on learning. What do we mean by “school culture”?

A collaborative educational system that celebrates the accomplishments of students and teachers, allocates the necessary time for teachers to collaborate and improve; invites parents to contribute their ideas and opinions, in addition to their resources; and coalesces necessary partners to support the myriad needs of poor students.

Why school culture?

Few are talking about it.  Research shows that schools with a positive culture foster academic improvement, cohesion, collaborative decision-making, professional development and staff and student learning.  Even as we tend to overlook it because we can’t adequately measure it, school culture influences what the school cares about, the way people behave, what the people in the school spend time doing, and what they celebrate. The school whose leadership does the best job of deliberately influencing culture does a better job at producing student and teacher learning.

As we focus on the link between school culture and performance we need your help.  We want to know:

  • What does culture look like in your child’s school or a family member’s school?
  • How does the school nurture and celebrate learning?
  • In what ways do the people in your child’s school work cohesively to foster learning for all children?
  • Are the teachers engaged and active in problem solving challenges or have they checked out?
  • What could the school do better?

Email me at etienne@webduboissociety.org and share what’s going on in your schools. Your stories and testimonials add value to the discussion, and are a critical factor in the success of our outreach.  Together, we can begin to disrupt the education reform debate to get this country focused on change that will make a difference in our children’s learning.

With investment, engagement, and support, we can make a difference.

Sincerely,

Etienne R. LeGrand

President

The W.E.B. Du Bois Society

Diddy’s lessons on parenting

24 Jun

It’s not an easy job, or a comfortable one, but we’ve committed to doing it.  That is: shedding a spotlight on the messages, attitudes, behaviors and beliefs that are being perpetuated in black culture—in our media, in our families, in our communities, in our school systems, by our “celebrities”.

So, if you’re a Diddy fan, I warn you now, that I’m only doing what we’ve committed to do…don’t shoot the messenger.

Did you catch the ABC Nightline special on renowned rapper, hip-hop producer and media mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs?

If so, then you’re probably wondering as I am: Has Diddy lost his mind? Are his priorities that out of wack?

You can’t hate on the man’s success.  For what he’s achieved and for the obstacles he’s overcome, you’ve got to give the man props.  BUT, you can STILL hold him accountable for how he leverages his success, his platform, to reinforce the myth that engaged parenting is optional…secondary to the public accolades.

As you pause this month to honor Father’s Day and to esteem the critical role of engaged fathers, you can slap him on the wrist for perpetuating the lie that as long as you take care of your kids, lavish them with expensive things, that compensates for not being present.  That a $400,000 Maybach car as a gift to your son on his 16th birthday is an appropriate stand in for instilling the values of hard work, academic excellence and integrity.

Apparently, we’re not the only ones who believe there’s something sadly out of sorts about Diddy’s priorities and approaches to parenting.  Nightline’s Martin Bashir didn’t let Diddy off the hook in his questioning of Diddy’s views on fatherhood.  And, Diddy was noticeably annoyed…arrogantly offended.

Check out the link below and watch the Nightline profile on Diddy.  What say you?

http://new.music.yahoo.com/blogs/thatsreallyweek/83264/jun-7-13-diddys-360000-maybach-birthday-gift-to-son-questioned-on-nightline/

It’s the Culture, Stupid!

15 May

Graduation ceremonies are book-ending the academic year and schools are closing for summer break.  Soon, the topics of education and the stubborn academic achievement gap will retire from public discourse for its annual 2-month hiatus.  But, sadly, the facts that continue to tell a disturbing story will reemerge just as strong by the fall:

  • There are significant gaps between blacks and whites in virtually every measure of achievement: NAEP math and reading test scores, high school completion rates, college enrollment and college completion rates.
  • Blacks are not faring well in high school graduation rates—only 55 percent, compared to 78 percent for white students and 72 percent for Asian students.
  • The dropout rate for black students is almost double the dropout rate for their white peers.
  • By the twelfth grade, on average, black students are four years behind their white or Asian peers.

But, discussion about this ominous academic achievement continually ignores one larger-than-life elephant in the room: the reality that African-American children are growing up in a peer culture and community network that, in too many ways, does not foster academic ambition. Instead, it’s a culture that, in too many ways, celebrates achievements in sports and entertainment more than academic achievement.

Consider these realities: Studies show African-American students are the least likely out of students in all racial and ethnic groups to:

  • Spend more time on their studies outside of school
  • To participate in academically-oriented peer groups or study groups
  • To believe success is based on effort rather than innate ability

They are more likely to view a C as a decent letter grade.  They spend 40% less time on homework than their white peers and 80% less time than their Asian peers.  And, nearly half of African-American fourth-graders and eighth-graders spend five hours or more watching TV on a typical school day.  This is compared to less than 20% of white fourth-graders.

It’s time administrators, educators and parents opened their eyes to the impact of the peer culture and community norms on how African-American children are faring compared to their peers in other racial/ethnic groups.  It’s time to consider new approaches for motivating student engagement in learning and commitment to achieve in school.

Consider the time and energy many parents invest in their sons’ and daughters’ athletic careers, yet they may not take 60 minutes to review their child’s academic standing or assist with homework. And, consider that students in general, and African American students in particular are often ashamed to excel academically. According to Lawrence Steinberg’s Beyond the Classroom, one out of every six students hides her intelligence and interest in academic achievement because she is worried about what her peers think.

We have to remove the blinders that relegate us to standard approaches to remedying this problem.  We have to recognize that school reform, while a viable part of the solution, is only a part of the solution.  We must supplement reform by confronting the overwhelming and powerful influence of peer, family and community culture—promoting a culture that routinely recognizes and rewards academic achievement as much as, if not more than, achievement in athletics and entertainment.

This is a battle we can win, but we must recognize the elephant in the room and see that a culture that respects education pays dividends.