Let’s get over student underachievement

first_imgBut here is what’s well worth doing something about. School performance is closely related to income levels, and students in low-income neighborhoods are mostly Latino or black. We can’t assume that all, or even most, come from families indifferent to success. We also can’t assume that nothing can be done to raise test scores at underperforming schools in poor neighborhoods. There are too many success stories that prove the opposite, in high-performing districts like Long Beach and Garden Grove (both winners of the prestigious Broad Award), but some in low-performing districts, too. Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub pointed out that students at Ralph Bunche Elementary School in Compton outperform their peers consistently despite the fact that 97 percent of them are low-income. In the latest test scores, 79 percent of black fourth-graders and 71 percent of Latino fourth-graders at Bunche were proficient in math, compared with 30 percent in the rest of Compton Unified. The Bunche school at one time was in the bottom 10 percent of schools statewide, and now ranks among the best. The transformation began a few years ago when Mikara Solomon Davis became principal while still in her 20s and put together a group of teachers who, like her, were determined to show that all students can learn. Dozens of other schools have demonstrated the same thing, although statewide, hundreds are failing. We can do better, which is what nearly all parents want for their children. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he wants to bring together legislators of both parties and educators next year to focus on improving schools and closing the education gap. That’s a big order, considering the burdens of poverty and the challenges of cultural differences. But, as the Bunche school and a growing list of many others have shown, we know it can be done.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Some public officials are tippy- toeing around reports that show Latino and black students perform worse than Asians and whites even when they aren’t from poorer families. They should get over it. They also shouldn’t make the mistake Jack O’Connell, state schools superintendent, did in calling it a racial achievement gap. It has nothing to do with race, at least directly. It’s a cultural phenomenon, usually a negative but not always. For example, can you imagine a healthy, happy, hard-working family with strong moral values but, for whatever cultural reasons, without much interest in high academic performance or material wealth? We can. Why fret about changing their goals? last_img read more