COMMENTARY: Black Students in Youngstown City School District Targeted for Failure by State

State Achievement Goals for Black Students Lower Than Whites by 23 Points

“We often battle the misperception that poverty is the cause for low performance, but data has proven conclusively that race is a factor not understood or factored in the equation,” said Jimma McWilson, who chairs the State NAACP Task Force on ESSA and Preventing School Takeovers and serves as the Secretary of the local chapter. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
“We often battle the misperception that poverty is the cause for low performance, but data has proven conclusively that race is a factor not understood or factored in the equation,” said Jimma McWilson, who chairs the State NAACP Task Force on ESSA and Preventing School Takeovers and serves as the Secretary of the local chapter. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

The State Department of Education published its goals for White students at 86.3 versus 63.4 for Black students, as reported by the Performance Index Subgroup Data. The NAACP Leadership made this presentation to the Roberts Deliberating Club (RDC), which is comprised of Black professionals and business leaders, last month, where data was rolled out that they found to be incredulous.

“If this is true, why is the community not more aware,” said Atty Charles Mickens, an RDC member.

“We are trying to make the community aware of this disparity which is why we are presenting it, said George Freeman, NAACP President. “It took a while to ferret out the details.”

“In March 2018, the State Superintendent didn’t even know that he could require teachers to teach the State standards,” said Freeman.

“When we pointed out to him that he had the power to order the teachers to comply and as of August 2018, there was an official order to do so.”

It took time to dig into the details, but the Ohio Department of Education Superintendent DeMaria has ordered the teachers to adhere to standards for the first-time in history, said Freeman.

That might sound unbelievable, but in retrospect, it is hard to fathom, but thanks to the leadership of the local and state NAACP, there has been intense and focused attention on providing remedies long overlooked.

DeMaria responded to a series of questions posed by the NAACP Education Task Force, one of them being, “Are all Ohio Licensed classroom teachers required to teach the State Criterion Reference Standards?”

His answer in a written response in August 2018 “There is no legal requirement specifically directed to teachers relative to teaching the State’s standards”.

DeMaria followed with the statement “standards are what is tested, one might suggest a strong motivation to teach the standards.”

The response came following months of digging into the data to prove that the fault of the failures falls squarely in the lap of the administration of both the State and the school District.

“If they don’t require it, strong motivation obviously has not had an impact” said Dr. McNair, president of the RDC. The 20 years of published report card failures prove a strong motivation does not make a requirement.”

“We often battle the misperception that poverty is the cause for low performance, but data has proven conclusively that race is a factor not understood or factored in the equation,” said Jimma McWilson, who chairs the State NAACP Task Force on ESSA and Preventing School Takeovers and serves as the Secretary of the local chapter.

indeed, Steubenville, which mirrors Youngstown with a 100% poverty student population, has targets much higher and performance much higher. The missing link is addressing the race factor specifically, said McWilson.

When the State audit of the District was released it validated this important flaw which is obviously a key to success for students.

“You’ve heard of students graduating with high GPA’s that struggle in college because of the lack of preparation. That preparation weakness is a signal that the grades were not standard, but subjective based on the classroom teacher,” said Freeman.

“We’ve been at this for several years and the consistent clear message is that many educators don’t know the legal ramifications of their positions,” said Freeman.

“The rhetoric around teaching to a test has been bandied about, but the standards are what is required on college entrance exams” said Jerry Sutton, CPA and RDC member.

“Things like this have been happening for years and more people need to be aware of them. We could have kept them (NAACP) here for hours,” said Sutton.

Dr. McNair commended the NAACP leadership for keeping a keen focus on these details.

“We find it unbelievable that the standards have not been required, but rather suggested. And the fact that the State targets are so low for Black students only reinforces the fact, as earlier reported, the failure is not on the parents or poverty or even the teachers. It’s the leadership. If teaching the standards is not required or inspected, it can’t realistically be expected,” said McNair.

“What makes it so unfortunate is the Black community and the children’s future is in peril as a result. It is unconscionable,” said McNair.

“The big challenge is the R word,” said Dr. McNair. “When race is discussed as a problem White people often have a difficult time wrapping their heads around the problem. The data clearly indicates addressing race, and not poverty only, is a leadership, and a strategic planning issue that must be addressed head on.”

The Roberts Deliberating Club meeting was held at Mill Creek Community Center on Glenwood Ave, Youngstown, in December 15, 2018. The following link is to the State report card with the targets for improvement.

(https://reportcard.education.ohio.gov/district/gap/045161)

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