Later this week, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Ever's Achievement Gap Task Force will hold its first meeting. The committee is charged with finding ways to improve school test scores among minority students in Wisconsin--which continue to lag well below those of white students in the state. (Or at least I hope that is the goal. You never know, they could adopt the same tactics as those trying to solve "income inequality" by just lowering the standards for those at the top and the middle to get closer to the bottom.)
For those who missed it last week, the Annie Casey Foundation released a report that put Wisconsin at the bottom of all 50 states for the status of African-American children--while white kids in Wisconsin face the tenth best futures. Graduating more than one third of our African-American males from high school would be a good start toward improving those numbers.
But I am discouraged about what this Achievement Gap Task Force will be able to achieve following an interview the chairman, Mequon Superintendent Demond Means had on Upfront With Mike Gousha this weekend. Means started out talking a good game, saying we need to expect more from minority students in order to get better results. But when Gousha (very delicately as you will notice) tried to raise the issue of what I believe is the single largest factor in the failure of minority students in Wisconsin: the lack of accountability on the part of parents--Means insisted that only the school is responsible for a child's education:
Of course, why would a parent think they are responsible for their kids' educations anymore? The Government steps in as soon as it can to take the child out of home for "preparation to learn". There's early childhood at three, pre-kindergarten at four, all day kindergarten at five, before-school programs, after-school programs, and summer school programs--all promising to improve student performance. And yet, the kids who have grown up with all of these "improvement" programs from day one of their lives--are the ones falling farther and farther behind.
I can already tell you what the Achievement Gap Task Force will list as its "solutions"--even before they host their first meeting: more funding for education, more teachers in the classroom, earlier intervention, more alternative learning programs, and moving away from "testing-based" outcomes--all of which will mean more expense for you and me. While the people most responsible for the failure of their own children continue to think that is what we "owe" them.