I am quite frankly puzzled by the growing (or closing) gaps in testing that we read about among Black students. It appears to me that someone hoodwinked many Black people into believing that we cannot perform well on tests. We must teach our students that "life requires you to pass tests every day."
We live in the Information Age, where knowledge is power. In this fast-paced world, you need to be who you say you are, and you must prove that you know what you say you know. Let me give you a few examples.
If you want to be a lawyer, you must pass the Bar exam.
If you want to be an accountant (CPA), you must pass the CPA exam.
If you want to be a doctor, you must pass an exam.
If you want to be a Registered Nurse, you must pass the exam.
If you want to be an engineer, you must pass the exam.
If you want to be an airplane pilot, you must pass the exam.
If you want to design video games, you must pass a Software Engineer's exam.
If you want to be a teacher (in some states), you must pass an exam.
If you want to be a builder, plumber, electrician, or architect, you must pass an exam.
If you want to join the military services, you must pass an exam.
If you want a driver's license, you must pass an exam.
In fact, most of the careers mentioned above require the passing of many exams. So, if we want our children to succeed, we must teach them that they will be tested, and that they must do well. That's what the Asians, Hispanics, and other ethnic minorities do with their children. How is that we have been in this country for 400 years, and yet lag all other minority groups. This is not something we can blame on the White man. In the 21st century -- in the Information Age -- the most freely available comm0dities are education, knowledge, and access to information.
Only uneducated street corner hustlers and criminals don't need to pass knowledge-based exams. Their fate is to spend most of their adult lives in prison.
I have seen theories about "Learning While Black." I have heard the protests about "Culturally Biased Tests." I have heard the pronouncements of Jeremiah Wright that we Black folks are "not deficient; just different." I have heard the arguments about "Eurocentric learning models". I don't buy any of this. I believe that we are being tricked into explaining away poor perfromance.
Let me explain. When we convince our children that they cannot test well, when we complain about "teaching to the test", when we advocate eliminating or changing the criteria for learning (dumbing down grades), we are simply pushing our way to the back of the bus all over again.
I understand the advocates of "African Centered Education" who attribute low self-esteem and a lack of knowledge about our history to an inferiority complex. In spite of this, our children must recover and then "pass the tests" that life places before them. Most of the schools that embrace this approach are underperforming the averages. If this approach is superior, why aren't the schools producing superior results? This must change if we are to provide a brighter future for our children.
My experience in college is that the most stressful time on any college campus is "exam week." Every college graduate who hopes to get a decent job knows that his or her GPA is a critical factor in separating those who get to compete for the best opportunities. So, moving up to the next level requires a focus on demonstrating what you know by performing well on exams. There may be a few people in this world who truly get anxiety attacks and cannot perform well on tests. But those few people don't comprise the entire ethnic community of descendents of Africa. Are we the only ones who can't do well on tests? Absolutely not!
And for those who eschew a college education for the pursuit of entrepreneurship, I've got news. Entrepreneurs in the 21st century must be smarter than others to run successful businesses. Bill Gates and Michael Dell may have been dropouts, but most dropouts cannot perform at that level. The rest of us must learn how to be successful entrepreneurs with a good quality college education.
When challenged to excellence, what I am seeing is a roll out of all the excuses. I am tired of listening to excuses. If we truly want our children to escape a future of permanent underclass status, we need to challenge them from the time they begin to speak to become "learners" who are prepared at any moment to prove that they have learned what they must know to succeed.
I am fully aware of the many factors contribute to student performance. We need to address all of those factors -- school leadership, community involvement, parental support, supportive learning environment, and good teachers in the classrooms. But the bottom line is that our students must do better. You've seen the statistics about the difference in earning potential of a college graduate and a high school dropout (or graduate). If we fail, our children will be doomed to permanent underclass status.
I am putting my money and my time where my mouth is. I am joining the board of an urban charter school with poor performance, and committing myself and all the leaders in that school to raise the level of performance, and challenge every child and parent to accept responsibility for high performance. I will withhold the name of the school until I am able to report the results of my effort. I don't expect to fail.
If you agree, pick a school in your community where Black students are doing poorly, and make a commitment to change the outcomes. If you have escaped to a community where there are great schools, go to the urban school system nearest you where you can make a difference. Ninety-five percent of the students in my community graduate. They don't need me there. I am going where there is a need.
Join me if you are committed to make a difference. I would like to hear about what you are doing to help our children do better.
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