Too many African-American students are behind academically. While Latino students also score lower than Whites and Asians, Spanish speakers and other students learning to speak English (known as English Learners) receive additional funding for specialized curriculums and extended after school tutoring, many African-American students continue to fall behind without specific interventions designed to meet their needs. Now in a few Los Angeles area schools, Black children actually score lower than English Learners on the statewide California Standards Test (CST). The difference between the academic performance of Blacks and Latinos compared to their White and Asian counterparts on standardized tests is known as the Achievement Gap. Although the term Achievement Gap is relatively new, this phenomenon of low achieving black and brown students has persisted for generations. As a result, a disproportionate amount of African Americans drop out of high school, work low paying jobs, live in poverty, and turn to lives of crime.
To compound the educational dilemma, the state deficit will have the most devastating effects on schools serving low socioeconomic areas, which African-American students are more likely to attend. It is time for African-American parents to get informed and take action so that each of us can work to eliminate the Achievement Gap.
This new column will contribute to closing the Achievement Gap with information for caregivers of African-American students because it takes a village to raise and educate a child. A quality education is the ticket to a comfortable life and a fulfilling career. Computers are already replacing workers, such as cashiers and parking attendants. With each new technological advancement, it becomes increasingly clear that our children must possess high-level math, reading, writing, speaking, and thinking skills in order to run a successful business, learn a trade, and earn a college degree just to earn a living wage.
As school systems undergo major changes due to budget cuts, it is important to remember that parents are the only constant factor in our children's lives. We are, after all, their first teachers. No matter which school a student attends or the caliber of teachers they have, parents must take responsibility. So if our children fail in school, we must be diligent about collaborating with teachers and finding the resources that will address their learning difficulties.
As the first college graduate in my family, educating Black children is very important to me. I taught my five-year-old sister to read when I was nine-years-old. I continued to tutor other students through high school. As an adult, I have dedicated my life to education as a tutor, a classroom teacher, and an educational trainer for many years. I am also a mother of a brilliant eleven-year-old with her own set of educational challenges.
Experience has taught me that educational excellence is not achieved through isolated acts. Simply changing a child's teacher, moving to a new school, or reading one book to a child will not develop a well-educated child. A promising career and an empowered future is built through an intricate combination of nurturing people, travel to stimulating places, and intellectually challenging activities that transform a dependent child into an independent adult.
Next week's topic will be "How to Support a Failing Child."
In preparation for next week's column, answer these questions about your level of involvement with your child's education:
1. Does your child complete their homework every day?
a. YesÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
b. Sometimes Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
c. I'm not sure
2. How do you know if your child completes their homework?
a. I check their workÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
b. I look at it Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
c. They tell me
3. What is your child's strongest academic area?
4. What is your child's weakest area? Why?
5. How have you helped your child overcome their difficulty/difficulties?
a. I enrolled them in tutoring/I tutor them
b. I talk to them about how to do better
c. I talked to their teacher
d. All of the above
6. Did/Do you have a problem in this same area?
7. How has your child improved in this area?
a. Higher grade/test scores
b. No change
c. They told me it's better
8. What kind of career does your child want when they grow-up?
a. He or she wants to be a _________
b. They aren't sure
c. Haven't talked to them about it
9. How does this area of weakness affect this goal?
a. If they aren't able to _____, then they will have difficulty _________.
b. I'm not sure
c. I don't have enough information about it.
10. What kind of extracurricular activities have you involved your child in to support this goal?
a. Enrolled them in a class, summer camp, or in a school that focuses on that area or regularly take them to places that allows them to explore this type of career.
b. I take them to ______ every once in a while so he or she can learn about it.
c. I haven't.
If you answered "a" or "d" on most questions and were able to answer all questions, you are most likely doing an excellent job at supporting your child. Learning more will only strengthen your child's solid foundation.
If you answered "b" on most questions and were able to answer most questions, you are probably doing an average job and would benefit from learning how to support your child better.
If you answered C on most questions, it's time to start learning more about how to support your child.
Please contact me if you have any comments or questions.
Taiesha Flenaugh can be reached at