Apr 13, 2011

Education As A Civil Right

The numbers tell a sad story about how our country is doing educating low-income minorities.
Less than half of black male students graduate from high school, and what happens to them later terrible. Nearly three-fourths are jobless by the time they’re in their twenties. The problem starts early. By fourth-grade, when many other kids are devouring "Harry Potter" books, only 12 percent of black male students are reading at grade level.
President Obama said last week that education and inequality in the American school system was the "civil rights issue of our time." We at StudentsFirst agree.
StudentsFirst CEO and founder Michelle Rhee will join a discussion Thursday on the topic of education as a civil right at Spellman College in Atlanta. She will be joined by local civil rights leaders such as Lonnie King, who was arrested alongside Martin Luther Kin Jr. for trying to integrate a lunch counter Atlanta.
More than 50 years later, the nation is still struggling to live up to Dr. King’s dream of knocking down barriers to equality. Among those are laws and policies that ought to be changed to make sure our education system better serves all American children and especially low-income minorities, who are more likely to be stuck in failing schools.
Change is hard. It sometimes means adults, many of whom are kind, caring individuals, might have to receive intensive professional development or even have to leave our schools. No one likes to make those kinds of decisions, but our kids’ lives depend on it. Simply put, there is not one single school-based factor that is more important to a child’s education than the quality of the teacher in the classroom. You can renovate buildings, shrink class sizes and build computer labs. It won’t matter at all if you don’t have good systems for recruiting, hiring and retaining excellent teachers.
More than five decades after the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education, ruling separate but equal was not equal, our nation has still failed to live up to its promise. We can and must do more. Our kids deserve it.

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