The Black Star Project Founder Phil Jackson says “The Achievement Gap is a Myth,” but points to other factors.
10 years ago the goal of the Black Star Project was to improve the quality of life in Black and Latino communities nationwide by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap. The Founder—Phillip Jackson—found out soon enough however that the racial achievement gap is a myth, there is however he says other real gaps: “an opportunity gap, an information gap and most importantly a parent engagement gap.”
Jackson strongly believes that black and brown children all have the same learning ability and says that if all children were given equal circumstances than there will be equal outcomes.
The Chicago based educator who was honored earlier this year by the White House as a “Champion of Change” agrees with the sentiments of Camika Royal who in her Op-Ed published in November of last year said:
“Because of America’s racial history and legacy, the cross-racial comparison that holds up white student achievement as the universally standard goal is problematic. Further, the term “achievement gap” is inaccurate because it blames the historically marginalized, under-served victims of poor schooling and holds whiteness and wealth as models of excellence. And, as with all misnomers, the thinking that undergirds the achievement gap only speaks of academic outcomes, not the conditions that led to those outcomes, nor does it acknowledge that the outcomes are a consequence of those conditions.”
Jackson jokingly stated “It seems at times that evil minds sat down, devised a plan, and got buy-in from the highest levels that there is indeed a racial acheivement gap. The worst part is that they actually got buy-in from low-income communities – particularly blacks believing it about themselves. Rather than identify the real contributing factors, they call it racial gap, blame it on something else – like the innate inability to black children to learn – and then invest millions in the failure of black children.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, The Southern Poverty Law Center on Friday filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging that Florida’s race-based education goals for minority students violate civil rights law. In October 2012, the state established reading and math goals for students that varied by race, with Asians expected to perform best and black students the worst. The plan is set to go into effect for the 2013-14 school year.
In reading, the plan set goals of 90% of Asian-American student reading at grade level by 2018 versus 88% of white students, 81% of Hispanic students and 74% of black students. In math, 92% percent of Asian-Americans are expected to perform at grade level versus 86% percent of white students, 80 percent of Hispanic students and 74% of black students.
The complaint, which was filed jointly with the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach, asks the justice department to intervene and prevent the state from implementing the goals, which the non-profit civil rights group calls discriminatory, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Jerri Katzerman, Deputy Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center agrees that if the goals were met it would narrow the existing achievement gaps, however they are not acceptable, she says, because of the message they send, adding: “when you set low expectations, that’s what you get.”
Jackson points to Florida as a state clearly suffering from an “expectation gap.”
The Chicago native has high expectations of civic engagement for all his constituents, especially the parents of his young people.
“We know that unless parents are engaged and involved, the education stops at the school house door. Parents however have been systemically disconnected and disempowered. They were told by the government ‘let us handle it’ and now their children are at the absolute bottom with few prospects.”
While his hometown has closed 49 schools – the largest school closing in U.S history – laid off 3,000 education professionals and slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from the budget, Jackson, claiming The Black Star Project is on the cutting edge of literacy in the country, has opened his own schools, with his own curriculum, staffed by his own teachers. Parental engagement, he claims, is the key to his success and parental empowerment, he believes, is what will make a difference for black and brown children across the country, “they just have to be empowered,” he says.
“Teachers have lobbyist; parents don’t. Until parents figure out a way to get the ear of their elected officials, they’re not gonna be heard. Parents have to organize differently than ever before.”
“In 2013, its all about economics – there’s a new a global ecology at the intersection of education, economics, and world politics. You’re no longer a citizen of North Philly, or the Eastside of Chicago, you’re a citizen of the world competing for your place in the world. If your school system is not teaching you that, then your school system is doing you a major disservice. ”
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Photo: C. Norris