Monday, June 25, 2007

The State of Education: Breaking Bread by Akindele Akinyemi


The debate on charters and Detroit Public Schools are heating up everywhere. They are talking about this in Lansing as well as in the grassroots arena in the City of Detroit.

Ever since Mayor Kilpatrick recommended up to 25 charter schools in the City of Detroit grassroots activists and teacher unions have been getting geared up for the long war ahead.

The only people will lose out will be those parents and children who simply want a sound good education for their children.

The poor level of education quality domestically and vs. foreign nations places our young at great risk. In Detroit, this risk is even greater with the rise of ghetto culture and more and more young people going to the Department of Human Services receiving welfare benefits and bridge cards.

Presently, the quality of schooling is far worse today than it was in 1955. Therefore, it is necessary for us to examine the need for more educational choices in the City of Detroit.

Let's take a look at this from a national viewpoint.

In Advanced Math U.S. students scored next to last, world-wide. In Physics the U.S. scored at the very bottom of the heap.

Recently released data for the Paris-based OECD's Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) math test series for 2003 reported America's 15 year old students performed "significantly below average," ranking 29th out of 34 nations.

In December 2005 a report showed how today's 8th graders in the recent international math & science test scored no better than their dismal performance 4 years ago, when they scored behind 27 nations on the same test?

Two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders read below grade level and the weakest ones are falling further behind', according to the U.S. Education Department's reading ''Report Card'' released in April 2005. Students reading at a proficient or advanced level from private schools performed 57% better than public schools.

How about the poll reported by AP: Voters consider public schools Mediocre or a Failure - 67% cite low academic standards. Or, the Gallop poll showing that 48% of whites and 57-65% of minorities want parental choice for private vs. government education.

Were you surprised with numerous reports that home-schoolers scored 70% higher than public school students on standardized national achievement tests, regardless of race, economic status, or regulation levels?

Were you surprised in February 2005 to read that China produced 4 times more BS engineering degrees than the U.S., and Japan twice as many. Nobel Prize-winning scientist R.E. Smalley of Rice University reported "by 2010, 90% of all Ph.D. physical scientists and engineers in the world will be Asian living in Asia."

The International Math & Science Study reported U.S. 12th graders were out-performed by 90% of other nations in math and 76% in science. In advanced math the US was out performed by 94% and in science by 100% of other nations. The American Association for the Advancement of Science reported 90% of math books and 100% of science text books are unacceptable.

When you bring this down to a local level the crisis is in full bloom. Again, families are leaving Detroit because of high crime, no jobs and failing schools.

The debate is not about charter vs. DPS. The debate is how to improve quality education through family values.

How often do you read the actual curriculum of the school your child is attending? Are they teaching certain values that contradict your personal belief system? They are sliding homosexual curriculum's under "diversity" courses in urban public schools. And our state lawmakers are introducing "anti-bullying" legislation to protect the rights of homosexuals, not protect the rights of all students.

In order to change the ghetto culture of our educational system we are going to need the church's help. I was invited to come to Perfecting Church yesterday by Kimberly Hill to come and listen to former U.S. Congressman Bishop Floyd H. Flake. The point he kept pushing is for educational reform must begin in the home.

I can agree 100%. The only way we are going to reverse the ghetto culture or Culture of Death is to get our churches involved in this new push for educational reform through choices. There are some church institutions that want to help revitalize DPS but are they sincere about helping DPS or do they have a controlling interest in a school district that large?

Our discussion should begin by admitting that we are living in a global society. Detroit Public Schools are not on an island. They are part of the global culture and if the schools do not meet up to standards to prepare our children in a 21st century environment then there will be no hope for those children.

Clearly dismal performance continues, relative to ourselves and especially relative to foreign students. Clearly, poor quality output of public schools is not because of too little spending per student - - its a system problem.

There is an erosion of educational quality in Detroit Public Schools. While you have schools like Spain Middle School that are making the grade there are other middle schools out there that are 2-3 grade levels above Spain. The parents must demand more to prepare their children.

This is not a feel good thing. It is a crisis that we must deal with. There's no such thing as outcome-based competition to make sure nobody's feelings get hurt. The real world is not a padded romper room at McDonald's. It has edges to it.

Competition will help DPS schools. You see when you have people crying out "no new charter schools" that is keeping our people in the dark.

It's time to stop fooling ourselves about government schools. They are not doing the job the taxpayers are paying for and are unlikely to improve unless education follows the example of business and engages in competition.

Schools like Spain, Golightly, Renaissance and Cass Tech are not enough to transform Detroit Just as the goal of auto-making is to produce good cars at competitive prices, so, too, is the goal of education to produce people with the knowledge and skills to succeed in an increasingly competitive world. Does it make sense, that virtually everything else, including the once-monopolistic phone company, is competitive and our public schools are not?

Education requirements in our urban communities have been "dumbed down" so as not to injure students' self-esteem. How's this for a reality check concerning outcome-based education, watered-down curricula and grading techniques?

Also, critics of government education are told they judge DPS teachers unfairly, especially when being compared to other statewide educational systems. My response to this? Fairness has nothing to do with it. The cars coming out of foreign factories were better than ours. The customers are only interested in the end product not the problems that we have producing it or the advantages our competitors enjoy that we don't. This is why Toyota is the #1 automaker right now and not General Motors.

Again, to those who claim school choice would irreparably harm public schools, competition won't kill public schools. But in many cases it will force them to act differently, to adopt different priorities, to make needed changes, to cut costs where they are wasteful and to devote more resources where they will do more good, and to become more customer-focused.

Those unruly students in DPS? We've made a big mistake thinking that our Detroit Public Schools should be warehouses for incorrigible adolescents. No one should be allowed to stay in school just because he has nowhere else to go but the street, that is pure insane. Children get self-esteem from success.

I am appalled in either DPS or charters to hear that syntax and spelling get in the way of self-expression, and that protecting a child's self-esteem is more important than developing his mind. Maybe there's a place for people who sit around feeling good about themselves but can't write a coherent sentence saying why, but school is not that place.

It is time to have a serious discussion on charters, DPS and come up with concrete solutions to help transform our community.

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