Tuesday, December 7, 2010

School: Everyone begins on a different starting line

I see it every year in my classroom. I can tell you on the first day of school a lot about a child just by spending a short amount of time with them. Usually it is evident which children have summer birthdays and which went to a pre-K program and which have older siblings. No one likes to prejudge, but it is a social cue that comes with our innate humanness.

We do not all begin school in the same place, therefore even just at the end of the first full year of public school many black and brown children are already at an extraordinary disadvantage from their white peers because the experiences, language and styles of parenting they may have had, has influenced their abilities in school. The Harlem Children's Zone recognizes this race through school that leave many kids never able to catch up and continually fall behind grade level expectations. They are embracing education in a ground breaking way and following the 17,000 children in the 100 block radius of Harlem from birth to college graduation. Their offerings of formal education for each step, along with social services outreach, parenting classes and health and nutrition services. Even with such services the Geoffrey Canada, director and CEO of the program, still notes the disparity of achievement and a fight against a nationwide race through school which leads to the eventual drop-out of students of color that cannot keep up.


Clearly early childhood support is critical in eliminating the racially predictable achievement gap. This means reforming many of the ways that early childhood education and the primary years grade K-3 are taught. Giving up unethical practices that may be "fun" or something that has "always been done" but is not directly tied to student learning certainly should be the first step. Being creative with our time and integrating social curriculum and combining it with literacy and math skills has become a norm. What are the next steps that we can take to set the tone for amping up the early years so that our black and brown students may begin to align in a more parallel way with their peers of other races?

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