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NAACP tackles achievement gap

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Posted: Thursday, August 1, 2013 6:06 am | Updated: 4:06 pm, Thu Aug 1, 2013.

The Missouri NAACP and St. Louis City NAACP plan to develop and implement a Missouri Civil Rights Initiative to close the academic achievement gap in every school district statewide.

Their first step was to host a forum, with The St. Louis American, where civic and religious leaders, parents, educators and other stakeholders could engage in open dialogue about how to address the challenges in urban education.

The Leadership Summit on Excellence in Pre-K-12 was held Saturday at the Better Family Life Cultural, Educational & BusinessCenter, 5415 Page Blvd. Facilitators included Walle Amusa, chair of the Missouri NAACP Education Committee; Mary A. Ratliff, president of the Missouri NAACP; and Adolphus Pruitt, president of St. Louis City NAACP.

Ronald F. Ferguson, director of the Harvard University Academic Achievement Gap Institute, was the keynote speaker. The next day, he traveled to Columbia, Mo. where he was also the keynote speaker at a statewide conference of more than 500 superintendents from every school district statewide.

At the summit in St. Louis, Ferguson presented the lecture “Toward Excellence with Equity: A Social Movement for the 21st Century” and later engaged in an informal Q&A session with the audience. He discussed the concept of “group-proportional equality” as being the goal in closing the academic achievement gap.

 That is, he said, we must “raise the achievement levels across all groups in the state’s population and at the same time narrow gaps between groups.”

At present, African-American, Hispanic and children of lower socio-economic backgrounds in Missouri are performing at proficiency levels that are about half the performance of other students nationwide, Amusa said. This trend is most evident in the St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan regions. Ferguson said that racial disparities in learning skills are clearly evident by the time children are two years old.

That is why the Missouri NAACP and the St. Louis NAACP are responsible for pushing the state of Missouri to release $95 million of de-seg money to St. Louis Public Schools to “put a pre-school program in every elementary school in the City of St. Louis,” Amusa said.

“By the time African-American children reach kindergarten, they are already two years behind because they lack basic skills,” he said. “Something needs to be done on early childhood education and literacy in the region because the goal is to have children enter kindergarten prepared, not dealing with remediation.”

Remediation leads to failing school districts, like Normandy and Riverview Gardens, the only two unaccredited school districts in St. LouisCounty. Another NAACP objective is to assist Missouri school districts in regaining and/or maintaining full accreditation.

Lynn Beckwith Jr., E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of Urban Education at the University if Missouri–St. Louis in connection with the St. Louis Public Schools, said early childhood education is critical to accreditation.

He cited SLPS Superintendent Kelvin Adams, who said the district regained provisional accreditation by investing in early childhood education programs.

In attendance at the summit were Ty McNichols, superintendent of the NormandySchool District, and Scott Spurgeon, superintendent of the RiverviewGardens School District, the county’s two unaccredited districts.

“People need to leave their egos and politics at the door so we can bring accreditation back and provide the very best for our kids,” Spurgeon said.

Spurgeon mentioned several times that he would like to see more parental involvement in the district. The NAACP plans to conduct an assessment of each school district to determine the effectiveness of its parental engagement infrastructure to sustainably improve educational outcomes for all children.

“The NAACP will bring the best national expertise to the St. Louis region and the state to provide resources and best practices for educators to tap into the strength that it currently has, to help eliminate weaknesses, and to take them to new and higher levels that translate to children from our state being able to compete at the global level,” Amusa vowed.

“NAACP is ready, willing and able to work with all segments of the community black and white, civic and religious, professional and nonprofessional, parents. It’s a collective community interest.”

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • ogel posted at 8:44 am on Fri, Aug 16, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    "When anyone speaks of the distinction between the suburbs and the cities in America, and the distinction between suburban school districts and urban school districts, one is speaking to a significant extent about race and ethnicity and class. If we do not close the gap between the two systems of public education in America, the system that could and should be better, but which is not failing its students, on the one hand, and the system that is failing its students on the other, then we will be condemning our society to the perpetuation of the distinctions and the inequalities across lines of race, ethnicity, and class that we've been struggling to overcome in recent generations.

    I don't know of very many people at any point along the political spectrum who want to look forward 10 or 20 years and see an America divided along lines of race, ethnicity, and class. I think that all Americans of good will want to see that those divisions narrow in the next generation. Public education reform that brings all public schools up to a common standard of achievement and expectation is one of the best ways of closing that gap that I can think of."

    ---William Galston was a professor and director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland School of Public Affairs. He served as the Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy in the Clinton Administration.

  • ogel posted at 12:51 pm on Wed, Aug 14, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    I really would like to cry.

    I believe I just heard on "Today in St. Louis," that the children who are being transferred will have to be at designated pick-up points to meet their busses at 5:30 in the mornings.

    Is this really the best we can do for these kids?

    Would this bother you if they were YOUR kids?

    I could ask where are the black leaders, but I don't believe that true leaders come in any particular skin color. A leader is just that, a leader.

    WHERE are the true leaders in education that know that this has to impact the lives of these poor children? Why has no one taken to the forefront to speak out about such a requirement, as if the 20-23 mile commute each way is not enough punishment of its own?

    Look, St. Louisians. Life has afforded me the opportunity to live in different cities. It has also given me a great opportunity to travel as well as live in other countries abroad. You have NO idea how antiquated your city is in terms of race relations, if you have never ventured anywhere else.

    You accept these antiquated relations because you believe they are this antiquated all over this country as well as in the world. They are Not. If you knew just how hateful this city is, in comparison, in fact to many southern states that were actual slave states, you would hang your head in shame. Rather, it is hopeful that you would hang your head in shame.

    Truly, this is the City of Apartheid. Nothing is more revealing than the way in which these poor little children are being treated by the political and educational leaders in this city.

    Yes, we can train dogs to guide the blind along with all sorts of other things, but the greatest challenge seems to be how to teach poor children to read and write and do arithmetic.

    No, the greatest challenge is to overcome the hate and false sense of self-supremacy that many persist in believing. Yet, you need to know, that God is not dependent upon you haters to rid yourselves of such hate to do those things he wants to have done.

    There will be great leaders to rise among the masses of these children. There will be those that preserved to become doctors and other great contributors to society.
    They will be able to say, "I did it not because of you, but in spite of you."

  • ogel posted at 2:22 pm on Mon, Aug 12, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    I'm Sorry. It should read:

    .........Emergency School AID Act of 1970

    I strongly believe that its principles and objectives as printed below are as valid today as they were then.

  • ogel posted at 2:10 pm on Mon, Aug 12, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    Richard Nixon
    XXXVII President of United States 1969-1974

    156 - Special Message to the Congress - Proposing the Emergency School Air Act of 1967


    The process of putting an end to what formerly were deliberately segregated schools has been long and difficult. The job is largely done, but it is not yet completed. In many districts, the changes needed to produce desegregation place a heavy strain on the local school systems, and stretch thin the resources of those districts required to desegregate. The Federal Government should assist in meeting the additional cost of transition. This Act would do so, not only for those now desegregating but also for those that have desegregated within the past two years but still face additional needs as a result of the change.

    The educational effects of racial isolation, however, are not confined to those districts that previously operated dual systems. In most of our large cities, and in many smaller communities, housing patterns have produced racial separation in the schools which in turn has had an adverse effect on the education of the children. It is in the national interest that where such isolation exists, even though it is not of a kind that violates the law, we should do our best to assist local school districts attempting to overcome its effects.

    In some cases this can best be done by reducing or eliminating the isolation itself. In some cases it can best be done through interracial educational programs involving the children of two or more different schools. In some cases, where these measures are not practicable or feasible, it requires special measures to upgrade education within particular schools or to provide learning experiences of a type that can enlarge the perspective of children whose lives have been racially circumscribed.

    This Act deals specifically with problems which arise from racial separation, whether deliberate or not, and whether past or present. It is clear that racial isolation ordinarily has an adverse effect on education. Conversely, we also know that desegregation is vital to quality education--not only from the standpoint of raising the achievement levels of the disadvantaged, but also from the standpoint of helping all children achieve the broadbased human understanding that increasingly is essential in today's world.

  • ogel posted at 10:53 am on Mon, Aug 12, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    In "The Death and Life of the Great AMERICAN School System, written by Diane Ravitch, a former secretary of education with 40 years of experience, she makes one of many points as it relates to her clear prescription for improving America's schools:

    "Leave decisions about schools to EDUCATORS, not POLITICIANS or BUSINESSMEN."

  • ogel posted at 8:59 am on Sat, Aug 10, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    "Our schools cannot be improved by those who say that money doesn't matter. Resources matter, and it matters whether they are spent wisely. The best-informed and most affluent parents make sure to enroll their children in schools that have small classes, a broad curriculum in the liberal arts and sciences, well-educated teachers, and well-maintained facilities. Ample resources do not guarantee success, but it is certainly more difficult for schools to succeed without them. If we are serious about narrowing and closing the achievement gap, then we will make sure that the schools attended by our neediest students have well-educated teachers, small classes, beautiful facilities, and a curriculum rich in the arts and sciences."

    ------Diane Ravitch, former assistance secretary of education, 40 years experience. (The Death and Life of the Great AMERICAN School System, p. 229)


    I will add that highly qualified teachers have the opportunity to be more selective in choosing where they will work. Who can criticize them for this after all, they do care about their own safety and that of their children.

    In the absence of special pay incentives, it can be expected that they will avoid areas plagued with violence and high crime, and those areas are where help is needed most. Unfortunately, those are usually under funded and therefore predisposed to failure. Ignoring this problem over a prolonged period of time has resulted in the wide spread systemic failure that we are seeing today.

    Parents who are able to transfer their children to better schools can benefit tremendously because it is highly likely that there will be a larger number of better qualified teachers.

  • ogel posted at 9:11 am on Fri, Aug 9, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    If need be, I will continue to be a voice in the wilderness on this subject.


    "Our schools cannot be improved if we ignore the disadvantages associated with poverty that affect children's ability to learn. Children who have grown up in poverty need extra resources, including preschool and medical care. They need small classes, where they will get extra teacher time, and they need extra learning time.
    Their families need additional supports, such as coordinated social services that help them to improve their education, to acquire necessary social skills and job skills, and to obtain jobs and housing. While the school itself cannot do these things, it should be part of a web of public and private agencies that buttress families.

    Our schools cannot be improved if we use them as society's all-purpose punching bag, blaming them for the ills of the economy, the burdens imposed on children by poverty, the dysfunction of families, and the erosion of civility. Schools must work with other institutions and cannot replace them."

    --------Diane Ravitch, former assistant secretary of education and a leader in the drive to create a national curriculum, 40 years experience. (The Death and Life of the Great AMERICAN School System, page 229).

  • ogel posted at 10:10 am on Thu, Aug 8, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    "Economic insecurity strangles the physical and cultural growth of its victims. Not only are millions deprived of formal education and proper health facilities but our most fundamental social unit --the family is tortured, corrupted, and weakened by economic insufficiency."--Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    People are quick to forget that poverty affects white people too. Those who quickly blame parents disregard the reality that many of the parents are themselves victims. Poorly educated parents who know very little about the educational process are sending their kids to school.

    Should these children be condemned to a life of poverty? Should our educational process take this serious problem into consideration and devise a means of addressing it? Should policy makers be allowed to maintain the NIMBY policies that enable them to isolate or disregard the problems without accountability, at the expense of the entire nation?

    I don't think so.

  • ogel posted at 1:35 pm on Tue, Aug 6, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    Okay, I have admitted previously that when my passion flows, my errors in word selection and typos flow as well, as in my previous posts. However, I wish to make another point, please. I have read an editorial in the New York Times, titled "havIn Missouri, Race Complicates a Transfer to Better Schools." I have never known "Race" to hurt or harm anyone! Some want to minimize the reprehensible behavior of many of the local residents by calling it something other than what it really is.

    A title more reflective of the real truth would read as follows: "The Persistence of Ugly Vestiges of Hate, Racism, and Bigotry, Among Locals, Complicates the School Transfer Issue in the City of St. Louis!" take it from there editors.

  • ogel posted at 1:03 pm on Tue, Aug 6, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    It is not about politicians. It is not about school administrators because they have their education. It is not about Who's Who in America or who pays what for property taxes. It is not about district lines, neighborhood districts, gated communities or any other physical boundary. It is not about class size or space availability. We have seen where God Almighty, has wiped every educational facility off the face of the earth with a mighty wind, as he did in Joplin, MO, only to witness substitute structures seemingly pop up within days.

    It certainly is not about who does not want your children coming to their school or some "fearing the unknown, as if some children are creatures from out of space. It is not about how pink or blue, or red or white or back or brown, the color of your child's skins happens to be. Rather, its about this Constitution of this United States of this America, that thousands of many of those same children's parents have been engaged in wars for over ten years now, have been fighting to uphold, that affords their children the "inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

    Colin Powell can be quoted to have said, "Let your being black be THEIR problem."
    I feel certain the same can be said for all colors that differ from those who choose to segregate themselves based on some false notion of self-superiority. If they had been taught the true history of this great nation, instead of a history that has been white-washed of the accomplishments of all of the other races, they would know that their feelings of superiority was based on myths and a history books that have been grossly emissive.

    It is said that the truth will make you free. The truth will empower many but humble thousands more. Such has been long overdue.

  • ogel posted at 12:38 pm on Tue, Aug 6, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    Parents, I am working on an editorial on the school crises because I refuse to further dignify many of the posts that I am reading in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and elsewhere with the "blame the victim" approach.

    Many white families as well as black families have been economically strangled for years now, as evidenced by thousands of children nationwide, who over a prolonged period have qualified for the "free lunch" program. This alone has served as a time indicator of many other social issues that have long been ignored. Yet, the ignorant but repetitive response continues to be a general chorus of "blame it on the parents."

    No, if the parents are the blame, then every baby born to parents who have not been educated is already condemned to a life of poverty.

    My most important message to you now and I cannot say it enough Parents.
    Take your kid out of that failing school and stop at absolutely nothing until he is enrolled in a school that is providing a good education that will at least give him some hope for a future.

  • Mad Man posted at 1:38 pm on Mon, Aug 5, 2013.

    Mad Man Posts: 224

    And I am appalled by the lack of action by elected officials to deal with this issue. At least locally, I expected more from black elected officials, not just at the point of crisis but when this first reared its ugly head. Like years ago someone should have been holding someone's feet to the fire, especially as it relates to resources. Betty Thompson was at least committed to doing something. Something...

  • Mad Man posted at 9:00 am on Mon, Aug 5, 2013.

    Mad Man Posts: 224

    Let's look at this school thing in a linear fashion. The Normandy School District is busing students to other school districts. Why? It lost its accreditation. What does that mean? It means its students were under-performing according to state mandates. Why are the students under-performing compared to those students in other school districts? Is it because the other districts have better teachers? Lack of resources? What gives? Do parents shoulder any responsibility? Uncover these answers and you'll get a peek into the achievement gap challenge.

  • Mad Man posted at 8:00 am on Mon, Aug 5, 2013.

    Mad Man Posts: 224

    The other issue that affects inner city schools and you hear it repeated by teachers over and over is that low income students (not all) do not come to school prepared to learn. Teachers spend all too much time restoring order before the day's lessons can be taught. Who we blame for that? Students don't respect teachers. Who do we blame for that? Yes, there are inequities in terms of funding and that needs to be addressed but preparation is a parent, student, teacher thing. Black folks can't continue to blame someone else because their child drops out, is failing or has no interest in an education. Who do we blame for that?

  • Pianki posted at 3:45 am on Mon, Aug 5, 2013.

    Pianki Posts: 62

    On the topic of Early Childhood Education, Normandy has had this program in a Belnor locations for decades. Normandy Early Childhood Center in Belnor has been in operation for a long time Mr. Amusa, know the history.

  • Pianki posted at 7:18 pm on Fri, Aug 2, 2013.

    Pianki Posts: 62

    The NAACP is part of the problem. When former State Represenative Betty Thomas introduced the Betty Thomas Scholarship Bill years ago this organization was against it. It would have been available for parents of the Wellston School District where by businesses would provide tuition for parents to send their children where they thought would be best. See for yourself.


    February 27, 2007

    Honorable Representative
    Of the Missouri General Assembly
    State Capitol
    201 West Capitol Avenue
    Jefferson City, MO 65101
    Re: HB 808 – Betty Thompson Scholarship Program

    Dear Representatives of the Missouri General Assembly;

    I and the many members of the Mar-Saline Branch of the NAACP #4069, OPPOSE HB 808 which establishes the Betty Thompson Scholarship Program for students in the Kansas City and St. Louis School Districts. The branch’s membership is comprised of many members in north central Missouri, the counties of Saline, Ray, Howard, and Lafayette.

    We Oppose HB 808 for a number of reason, a few are listed:
    The House Committee on Legislative Research clearly states in the Fiscal Note attached to the bill that the St. Louis and Kansas City School Districts will LOSE state funding “If students from the Kansas City of St. Louis School Districts receive scholarships, the amount of state funding to these school districts would be reduced in the following year. State funding is partly based on eligible pupils from the previous school year, therefore, the Kansas City and St. Louis School Districts would still receive funding for the first year for those students that attend other schools with this scholarship.”
    Ending as so:

    HB 808 and Voucher plans, in all of their incarnations, hurt public schools and indirectly hurt children.

    Clyde L. Williams
    Branch President

    It doesn't end here for the State Rep from U-City and others was against this idea which parents themselves wanted. Black leadership has stymied progress for decades and here they go again.

  • ogel posted at 5:29 pm on Thu, Aug 1, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    ok. I have to laugh at myself. I did not mean to say "toss the children into good, fertile soil, rather the seeds! Sorry kids.

  • ogel posted at 5:27 pm on Thu, Aug 1, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 450

    We can start by making a sincere effort to stop empowering some people with a false sense of intellectual superiority by using the incorrect terminology.

    The first priority for all concerned is to eliminate the "FUNDING GAP," as opposed to the "achievement gap." There are gross inequities or huge disparities in the way schools are funded, especially those schools situated in poor and underprivileged areas. A reduction in the so called "achievement gap," will naturally follow when the "FUNDING GAPS" are minimized or eliminated.

    Call it what it is to make the real issue the focal point. It is certainly not because some children were created intellectually inferior! Stop artificially inflating egos.

    Instead of there being a concerted effort to "eliminate the achievement gap," there needs to be a deliberate and pronounced nationwide effort to put in place a more equitable method to insure that ALL schools, FUNDED EQUALLY and at a set minimum, not based on parental property taxes, etc. or Who's Who in America!

    God did not deliberately create children of any race to be intellectually inferior. He distributed talents like a farmer tossing a seeds. Similarly, children may each differ, but toss them into good, fertile soil, and they will each develop into something special.

    Have you ever stopped to realize that the Nobel Prize winners are of DIFFERENT races?

    Have you ever stopped to realize that the greatest inventors are from ALL OVER the world and are of DIFFERENT races?

    Go figure!

    When you use the term "achievement gap," you are not calling it like it is. It is called inequitable funding.......or "funding gaps!"

  • Mad Man posted at 8:56 am on Thu, Aug 1, 2013.

    Mad Man Posts: 224

    Eliminating the achievement gap has been a goal for many years. I was a volunteer in the first initiative. I recall many implementation meetings held at the St. Louis Black Pages (Howard Denson), Karen Kalish and Robert Jackson to facilitate how to eliminate the achievement gap.

    We laid the foundation but not sure we garnered results. Apparently not as the gap is greater than ever. I wish the NAACP much success.

    I will say this, any effort needs to heavily involve parents during the planning stage or this will result in educators and civic leaders talking to themselves. Get parents involved on committees and implementation from the outset.

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