Education in Black America

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  • So, we had our own conversation about education at the Mamas Gone Wild Live Blog Party Sunday night as we watched Soledad O’Brien’s CNN special “Education in America: Don’t Fail Me.”

    Even though Soledad didn’t really explore many of the issues black parents deal with – violence in schools, vouchers, low test scores, etc. – the discussion on the live blog covered those topics and much more.

    Melissa, like so many parents, thinks too much time is spent “teaching” kids how to take standardized testing instead of spending that time on the basics.

    Click here to hear Nikki Woods’ weekly “What in the Weekend?” report.

    I agree. But since these tests aren’t going anywhere soon, it’s up to moms, dads, grandparents, caretakers — anyone who has a hand in raising our kids – to make sure out children are getting the tools needed to score as well as they can.

    My nine-year-old son went to Saturday school for weeks leading up to the TAKS test. It was a sacrifice for all of us, including my younger son, but we did it because that’s what it takes.

    One major criticism of standardized testing is that it’s actually hurting black people.

    MyFam#1 said in Houston, students who would be college bound are being held back because of the TAKS test.

    I get that. If we forwarded the calendar ahead eight years, and I found out that the child who has had a college fund since the day he was born wasn’t going to be able to graduate on time because he failed a portion of a test, there would be no words to describe my devastation.

    But, that’s personal. When we look at the broader picture, what do we really want and expect from our high school grads? This point was brought to Mamas Gone Wild’s Mary Boyce by a completely objective person, who calmly explained to her over lunch one day why standardized tests were created and necessary.

    “At some point,” Mary’s friend explained, “we, as citizens of this country, have to take action. We look at the facts and the scores, and we know that our kids are under-performing. We allow seniors to graduate reading at fourth grade level year after year. It has to stop somewhere.”

    So, while Soledad’s “Education in America: Don’t Fail Me” dwelled mostly on the importance of offering Advanced Placement Courses in School – which are crucial – Mamas Gone Wild thinks our call to action has to be to do whatever we can to insure that our kids are excelling in math science, reading and writing – or at least rising to their full potential.

    Standardized tests may be a pain, but they are needed. We DO need a measuring stick to know where our kids are and where they need to be. How many of us graduated from schools where we were in the top of our class, only to go to college to find out our very best was just average (if we’re lucky) compared to everywhere else? Our kids are not just being measured against the way kids in their class, their district or the nation perform; our kids are being measured against the way kids around the world perform.

    What we loved about the live blog party is that there was very little time spent laying out problems; instead, you all offered some potential solutions. Here were some of our favorites.

    From Megan:

    The GREATEST gift that a parent can give their child is literacy. Students who read well, perform at a higher level in Math and Science.

    From Kay:

    For those who help their children with homework in science and math and don’t feel comfortable or qualified, have you heard of Khan Academy? Over 2000 online videos that teach math, science, history, etc. – khanacademy.org.

    From TiffTalks:

    As parents, we should consider ourselves our child’s primary educator.

    From Barbara:

    As parents, we must be more vigilant of the goings on in our schools and volunteer whenever possible. We can not allow school districts a free hand at hiring unqualified people as superintendents. [Remember, it's not always unskilled teachers; sometimes, it's wretched principals or unqualified superintendents.]

    And finally, from MikHub:

    At the end of the day, the key to kids getting a quality education, or having a chance at a quality education, is parental awareness and involvement. Parents that are involved realize that they cannot leave it totally up to the schools, even private schools, to educate their child. You have to supplement what the schools are doing with tutoring, etc. I think that’s the real difference even more than economics. Look at a low performing school and the parental involvement is also low. Vice Versa for high performing schools.

    Thank you to all of you who commented or dropped by the party just to check it out – or stand on the wall, if you will. Our goal is to have more of these parties centered around television programs that we can watch and discuss together, so if you have suggestions, hit us up!

    And keep looking for more exciting things from Mamas Gone Wild.

    NOTE: Soledad O’Brien’s “Education In America: Don’t Fail Me” will air again Saturday and Sunday on CNN.

    Nikki Woods is senior producer of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” The author of “Easier Said Than Done,” the Dallas-based Woods is currently working on her second and third novels. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @nikkiwoods.

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