The schools some liberals don't want America to see: minority, poor, successful

May 06, 2001|By GREGORY KANE

IMAGINE A SCHOOL in an impoverished community. Its students may be African-American, Hispanic or white. But the students at these schools consistently rack up high scores in math and reading.

A dream? No, at some schools it's a reality. These would be schools where learning is going on, where students are given standardized tests to measure their progress. These are schools mercifully free of the influence of the Congressional Black Caucus, which four years ago issued a press release containing this sort of drivel:

"Widespread misuse of educational testing has disproportionately penalized poor and minority children. The CBC cannot support any testing that may further stigmatize our children and force them into lower educational tracks."

That quote was from Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, who was reacting to President Bill Clinton's proposal for a national reading test for fourth-graders and math test for eighth-graders. The CBC is a liberal Democratic entity whose members have no use for high-achieving, predominantly minority schools where most of the students are from poor families.

It took the conservative and much maligned (by black liberals) Heritage Foundation to find 21 schools from around the country where the test scores of poor minority children (liberals should love that terminology; they can't use the word "poor" without linking black or Hispanic to it) are some of the highest in the land.

Samuel Casey Carter, a Bradley Fellow at that bad old Heritage Foundation, wrote a book last year about these schools. It's titled "No Excuses: Lessons from 21 High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools."

The "No Excuses" part of the title is an immediate clue that no one from the CBC or NAACP - or Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, for that matter - had anything to do with this book. These are the schools America's black liberal and leftist leaders don't want you to know about. The students there tend to belie the notion that all po' black folks are victims of a cruel and racist educational system.

Take the Marcus Garvey School in Los Angeles. According to Carter, pupils there routinely "score two or more years above grade level. In 1999, three 7th graders went on to attend West Los Angeles Junior College after they tested at the post-secondary level in all subjects."

Fourth-graders at the school study elementary algebra, while 9th- and 10th-graders take calculus. Marcus Garvey has an Afrocentric curriculum and students study Spanish and Swahili. I would drop the Swahili and add French to the foreign language curriculum, but otherwise Marcus Garvey seems to be getting the job done.

And Marcus Garvey is a private school, which may be another reason why black liberals don't whoop it up. Some black parents might get the idea of supporting those vouchers liberal black leaders dread to help foot the cost of attending Marcus Garvey, which was $492 a month for elementary school and $508 a month for high school at the time Carter's book was published.

Other schools doing well:

Cascade Elementary, an Atlanta public school where first-graders scored in the 98th percentile in reading and the 92nd percentile in math on the 1999 Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which is one of those standardized jobs the CBC feels is wreaking such havoc on the minds of African-American youth. Cascade has a 99 percent black student body, 80 percent of whom come from families living at the poverty level.

Earhart Elementary School in Chicago, where 99 percent of the student body is African-American and 82 percent come from poor families. Hellen DeBerry took over the public school in 1991. In seven years, test scores shot up 52 points in reading and 46 points in math.

George Washington Elementary in Chicago, which is 73 percent Hispanic. Seventy-six percent of the pupils are from poor families, but that didn't stop third-graders in 1999 from scoring in the 92nd percentile on the Iowa test.

Portland Elementary in Portland, Ark., where 77 percent of the pupils live at or below the poverty level. Sixth-graders at Portland scored in the 84th percentile in math and the 72nd percentile in reading on the 1999 Stanford-9 Achievement Test. For those CBC members and their cousins in whining, the Hispanic Caucus - who figure poverty is a black and Hispanic thing - it is worth noting that the student body of Portland is 65 percent white.

Carter tells similar stories of 16 other schools in his book. Most of them have in common a principal and staff committed to teaching and testing. Tom Williams, principal of the Healthy Start Academy, a public charter school in Durham, N.C., doesn't make excuses for his students, 99 percent of whom are black and 80 percent from poor families. He and his staff teach them.

"If the achievement scores at the end of the year show bad results, that's not the test's fault," Williams told Carter. "That shows lousy teaching."

As if to help prove his point, his students scored in the top 1 percent of the country on the Iowa test two years in a row.

There are no excuses for even poor and black students not achieving. Isn't it time that message sinks in with America's liberal black leadership?

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