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Saturday July 26th 2014

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Are black children the problem with Escambia County public schools?

No, the problem is the Escambia County Public School District hasn’t figured out how to teach African-American children. Give or take a percentage point, 40% of the African-American are below their grade levels in reading and math; 40% don’t graduate from high school.

Drilling these kids on FCAT isn’t working. Their FCAT scores aren’t improving. The School District’s solution appears to be to warehouse them, collect as much money as possible from the state for them, and try to keep their test scores from counting against the district.

When African-American students make up over a third of the entire student enrollment, it is impossible to make significant progress in our public education system unless the system reaches the 40 percent that is falling further and further behind each year.

The Global Learning Academy and its curriculum weren’t built on how to teach the students from Hallmark, Spencer Bibbs and Allie Yniestra. The district didn’t bring in the top educators in the country and ask how can this new school better reach African-American kids from economically-disavantaged homes, nor did the district talk with the local families and black community leaders to get input.

No, GLA was a publicity stunt—much as Warrington Middle School was—to make whites feel good about themselves and the school district. Behind the scenes, kids are being drilled on FCAT, just like they are at every other struggling school.

A few years ago, when School Board member Jeff Bergosh hid behind the moniker “Godzilla,” he blamed the poor African-American students for pulling down the district grades. For him, if those inner-city schools could be eliminated, then the district would perform as well as Santa Rosa and Okaloosa.

Today, a white mother is quoted in the daily newspaper saying the Escambia district employees are doing “the best they can with the amount of kids they have and the demographics they’re working with.” She is buying into the excuses spread by Bergosh, Superintendent Malcolm Thomas and other white community leaders.

Those “demographics” are children–children who have a right to an education, children whom the School District receives Title 1 and other extra funds to teach how to read, children whom the School District currently is only reaching 3 out of every 5.