Are black children the problem with Escambia County public schools?

January 24, 2012

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.

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  • Escambia Schoolwatcher February 8, 2012 at 10:50 am

    What do you expect when the leaders of our county education system are first and foremost politicians rather than educators? Their main interest is patting each other on the back (Damn we’re good!) and getting re-elected. Instead of getting balanced education, our kids go to little FCAT factories because that’s perceived as job security for politicians interested in their reelection. And when FCAT results look dismal, (Escambia #44) the FCAT itself is lambasted as when Jeff Bergosh recently embarassed himself by criticizing that the data doesn’t tell the true story. BS! ESCAMBIA COUNTY NEEDS TO APPOINT IT’S SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT BASED EXCLUSIVELY ON EXPERTISE, NOT ELECT ONE BASED ON GOOD OLD BOY CONNECTIONS. If we had done this years ago we wouldn’t be #44 now. When will someone at a higher political level have the cojones to start moving us in that direction? A classic definition of insanity is when you keep doing the same thing but expect different results. How about it Escambia?

  • perdidochas January 24, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Brown Barge Middle School’s method works for teaching ALL children. It’s among the few schools in the district to make AYP, and that is the reason.

  • steve January 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I think there has to be a mechanism to make the better teachers want to teach at Of course the best students want to go where there is A plus money involved parents and PTSO and better facilities.

  • Laura Wright January 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    This is a very informative article. You are telling all of the truth and all the myth surrounding the new school. Being a teacher takes more than just money; it takes dedication and a desire to want to be all you can be for your students. I am so glad that you wrote this article.

  • Jann Mills January 24, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Rick, you are so right on this….but race is only part. IMO, there are as many white and Hispanic kids in these poor areas as black. I believe that it boils down to parent involvement. Not altogether blaming parents though. Most HAVE to work full time (or more) to make ends meet. It is hard to be involved in your child’s life to the extent needed while working so much. This results in fast food for dinner every night, sometimes on the run, not reading and plain old talking to your children. Forget checking homework or helping with it. There are just not enough hours in the day.
    FCAT….makes me ill. My daughter attended WMS. In 8th grade History, 95% of classroom time was MATH FCAT drill. How is that history? It did not matter, because the powers that are at WMS were not around when my child had history in high school and was not on the same learning level at the kids that HAD history in middle school.

  • Westsider January 24, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Ignoring race for a moment, one has to consider that for a teacher to succeed they require children that are ready to learn in the classroom setting. Children coming from rough homes and rougher neighborhoods often need more guidance than their teachers can provide. The obsession with FCAT and merit pay for teachers all seem to be based in a quest to control what is being taught in the school system.

  • T Anderson Rideau January 24, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Rick, you hit the mark on this one. There are several proven teaching strategies that have been implemented in school districts across the country, whereby impoverished African-American students have made great educational gains. One of the key failures of this district is to recognize that it has a poverty problem, but continue to do what it always does and expect a different result.

    Teaching impoverished students is not a new thing. There are teachers in this district, (even at Warrington Middle) that have had exceptional gains with students in there classroom because of the utilization of these strategies. Yet the district refuses to recognize the need to learn what they are doing, and how other teachers might be able to utilize it in there classroom.