What’s Stopping Black Students’ Success

Experts explain that poor teachers and barriers to resources fuel an academic achievement gap.

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According to a Daily News report in November, black and Latino kids made up 70 percent of the city’s school population but only 17 percent of the population at elite schools like Brooklyn’s Mark Twain I.S. 29 for the Gifted & Talented. And while some programs like the city’s Young Men’s Initiative are aiming to close the achievement gap, they’re in the minority.

Howard University professor and The Root contributor Ivory A. Toldson added that there are underlying financial factors that also affect academic achievement.

“There’s a stark wealth gap in New York between black and brown families versus white families. This is reflected in the school system, where property taxes are used to fund schools, which translates to higher salaries for teachers who can instruct advanced courses and facilitate expanded college-counseling services,” Toldson told The Root. “I’m surprised that Walcott only projected a half-a-percent increase per year, because I consult in New York with Mayor Bloomberg’s Young Men’s Initiative, which, along with George Soros’ foundation, [has] given millions to schools showing potential to graduate African-American and Latino males at a higher rate, and they are making early strides.”

On the other hand, the New York Times reported that while the number of minorities attending private schools in New York City sits at 29.8 percent, it is an increase from 21.4 percent a decade ago. But Steve Perry, founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., said that this discussion is really about creating an environment for learning.

“It’s not an achievement gap; it’s an access gap. If you put black and Latino kids in great schools, like anyone else they’ll be great students,” Perry told The Root. “I’ve yet to go to any ZIP code in America and find dumb kids, but I can find some raggedy schools.”

Who’s Accountable?

Perry identified New York City teachers as part of the problem. “New York public schools are suffering because the teachers union has a financial stranglehold on the city,” he said. “New York City has some of the poorest-performing schools in the country, yet the teachers are some of the highest paid. There are over 50,000 children on a wait list to get into a charter school. Those parents have voted with their feet that they don’t want the raggedy school at the end of their street.”