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MrWe MUST Understand

By Roy Douglas Malonson, Chairman

There has been much discussion over the years about how to best motivate our Black youth to learn and see the value of education.

Education has a huge impact on the success or failure of young people in society. Many like to focus on what is being taught, but I believe that it all goes back to when children are exposed to education and who is the bearer of that information.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requires schools to ensure that all children perform at high levels. States must show that all children make yearly progress so that by this year (2014) all children are achieving at a “proficient” level.

Under the initiative, states are required to close the gap between low-income and minority students and their wealthier, non-minority counterparts, raise overall student achievement, and improve high school graduation rates. Is this education equality a reality today for Black youth? If not then why not?

We MUST Understand that the earlier we expose children to education, the greater likelihood of success.

It is tragic to see statistics come out each year telling us that two-thirds of U.S. fourth-graders cannot read well enough to do grade-level work. Along with that comes report after report showing that many school are unequal in resources and not measuring up.

With those reports come a host of “chinese fire drills” aimed at fixing the problem.

Charter schools, public school choice, drop out prevention programs, increased teacher training requirements and linking teacher pay to performance all lead to the kind of chaos and confusion that when the smoke clears, “Johnny still can’t read.”

We MUST Understand that you can’t fix the problems in junior high school.

The focus or refocus must go back to early childhood education. Going back to the basics, it is important to realize that science has already determined that the greatest capacity for learning is shaped from birth to age 8. How much more information do we need to show us the best way to lead our children out of the current educational deficits?

Young people are impressionable and we must use that valuable time and resources wisely and channel them to help cultivate and develop these young minds for the academic challenges ahead. We can no longer afford to wait until later years when the frustration is high and the interest in learning has faded because the light was put out at the elementary level.

This is critical for Black children and others who are in economically disadvantaged and challenged school districts.

According to PEW Charitable Trusts, Pre-K and an early childhood education focus helps schools meet these requirements.

High quality Pre-K can no longer be considered a luxury for upper income families alone or a special program for the disadvantaged. Based on what we now know about children’s brain development during these crucial years, Pre-K has become just as necessary as kindergarten or first grade.

While targeted programs in some states have served at-risk children for more than a decade, experts now believe that all children need the benefits of a high-quality Pre-K education in order to succeed.

Children who enter school behind their peers often stay behind. For example, children who do not recognize the letters of the alphabet when they enter kindergarten demonstrate significantly lower reading skills at the end of first grade. Eighty-eight percent (80%) of children who are poor readers in first grade will still be poor readers by fourth grade. Seventy-four percent (70%) of children who are poor readers in third grade remain poor readers when they start high school.

It is ironic that it took several school years and thousands of children passing unsuccessfully through the education system to realize the value of early childhood education.

The same research suggests that high-quality pre-k increases a child’s chances of succeeding in school and in life. Children who attend high-quality programs are less likely to be held back a grade, less likely to need special education, and more likely to graduate from high school. They also have higher earnings as adults and are less likely to become dependent on welfare or involved with law enforcement, the report said.

The educated among us too must take stock in the community. Far too many educated Black people have left our base communities, leaving masses of children void of the kind of positive educated role models they also need to be motivated towards success.

It is time to end Black flight and return to the Fourth Ward, Fifth Ward, Acres Homes and other areas to invest in the young generations of youth who need us right now.

We MUST Understand that we can no longer afford to believe it when we are TOLD WE CANT DO IT. It is time for Black parents, Black teachers and community leaders to Refocus on empowering our own young people and demanding that early childhood education and Pre-K be mandatory because of the vital role it plays in preparing our children to take learning seriously and increasing the education success rates of our children.