GCS, put the money up

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If you were lucky enough to see this week’s Guilford County Schools Board of Education meeting, you witnessed several members asking questions that hundreds of Guilford County residents are seeking answers to when it comes to the dismal testing scores being reported.

Let me start off by saying I’m a proponent for public schools. I really am. I like that they offer real world solutions to a generation that has been spoiled and pacified enough. The system teaches our students how to survive in diverse situations whether it’s because of race, social or economic status. With that being said, I want my coin to be invested in my community and that doesn’t always seem to be happening.

I don’t think it’s a secret that certain schools in certain areas get more attention, funding or instructional support than others. It’s no secret at all. It just hasn’t been said out loud until Tuesday night.

Members heard a presentation on the end of grade testing and graduation rates where Judy Penny, director of accountability and research for GCS, said that there were gender gaps in reading performance but not math and science, that proficiency is tied to economics and that even if you control for poverty there are still racial disparities across the system. In short, despite the test or the subject racial gaps are evident across the school system.

That’s when things changed and the voices of parents in Wards 1, 2, 8 and 9 filled the room through their elected representatives.

Board member Amos Quick that he was disappointed in the testing data and was tired of seeing the same results in certain areas for the past 11 years despite the language, staff and testing being different.

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He’s right. The proof is in the pudding folks and that pudding is spread all over the streets of Guilford County. While some of the pudding maybe doing ok there is some that is spoiled. Not through any fault of their own but because those who were supposed to make sure they did their best simply didn’t. I agree with Quick that it’s morally irresponsible for the board to continue overlooking a problem or not directly addressing the issues at hand.

What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. So we have to question just what is going wrong here. How is it that the gap in question stays the same despite scores increasing or decreasing? Whatever could the problem be?

Board member Deena Hayes-Green said that the scores are a reflection of the school system’s board, administrators, etc. and the lack of expectations. She went on to point out that school personnel don’t even know where the gaps are while the remaining members of the board don’t want to talk about the abnormal underachievement of African Americans, but wouldn’t stand for the same results if they were being generated in their communities even hinting at unperceived biases by the teachers.

While test data doesn’t show everything that goes on in the schools, they damn sure show a glaring inequality in the way schools that deal with a certain class or color are being dealt with. Schools that are traditionally in a high-poverty, low-income area with parents who can’t yell loud enough or who don’t want to yell at all.

For those who will be quick to yell that this has nothing to do with race, I’ll leave you with this:

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All facts. It is either believed that they can’t close the gap or you don’t care enough about the gap being closed. That could be the only reason these scores would be acceptable.

Let’s face a hard truth here.

The responsibility doesn’t just land on the BOE as much as some would want to believe. As a parent, I expect my child to do her best. I expect her to exceed the teachers, boards and school systems expectations. That’s my expectation for her. I also expect the teacher to exceed my expectations, her own, her boss’s and so on. Just like I am expected to make sure my child is at school every day and prepared to learn. There are a few parents who are going to ride both the teacher and the student but sadly they’re fewer and farther between.

That still doesn’t give you a pass to continue failing the students who are faced with an unproductive future.

The burden of conversation does not just belong to the board members but to the parents, the teachers who see the disparity and the administrators who are in charge of it. It belongs to the entire community and all of the taxpayers. We should all be upset. We should be upset that a ball has been dropped, that no one is looking for the ball and that we hadn’t even questioned where the ball was on any level.

Then there is the matter of money. While it can easily be said that the funds are available to erase the gaps or that the system doesn’t get the same amount as it used to, this disparity is a decade old at least.

A DECADE. Funding isn’t what it was a decade ago, that we can be certain of, but the achievement gaps are the same. Throw in the fact that the high-poverty, low-income schools usually get grants and more money for initiatives to increase scores and it starts to make you scratch your head. Where is the money that is allocated to schools who have a majority of students on free or reduced lunch (Title I) really going to? With all of the funds that are being poured into the school students should be showing some type of growth or improvement right? I’ll let Hayes-Greene clear that up for you:

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Now sip that tea. Mother Hayes-Greene just told you why little Malik can’t read. He’s not a priority when the funds come in. Well, I’ll be …

So where do we go from here? The next move is to see what happens with all of this information and passion. Will we see changes or will we be continuing this conversation next year?

It’s like having to play a game of Goldfish while everyone else is playing Spades. It’s real hard to play the game when you don’t have all the cards. If you’re missing too many cards you can’t play at all.

So the question is do you not want some people to sit at the table?

I’m just saying.

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