Civil rights leaders should be fighting to ensure the success of No Child Left Behind, writes Brent Staples in the New York Times.
The law is not perfect and will need adjustments. But its core requirement that the states educate minority children to the same standards as white children breaks with a century-old tradition of educational unfairness. The new law could potentially surpass Brown v. Board of Education in terms of widening access to high-quality public education.
Waiting for “enough” funding before demanding higher achievement means “maintaining the disastrous status quo and sacrificing yet another generation of minority students,” Staples writes.
Staples also rejects the argument that tests are unfair to minority children.
The simple achievement tests required under the law are essential to the objective of closing the education gap. By arguing that these tests are inappropriate and culturally biased, these members of the liberal black elite have unwittingly embraced the worst stereotypes about the poor. They have also given cover to politicians who believe that the achievement gap can never be closed and that minority children can never reach the levels attained by their white, affluent counterparts.
That view is common and deeply destructive.
I visited a new KIPP middle school in East San Jose last week: Two-thirds of the students come from Mexican-American families; the rest are Asian-American (Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino, Indian) and black. No whites as far as I could tell. With a much longer school day and year, and a training on using class time efficiently, the first class of students had made enormous progress. I saw the math teacher, an experienced black woman, teaching algebraic concepts to fifth graders that the ninth grader I’m now tutoring hasn’t fully mastered. Students proudly told me they were learning eighth grade math.
One little boy said the school was very hard because they were learning so much. I asked what he liked best about the school. “We’re learning so much!” he said.