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posted: 11/6/2012 4:12 AM

Only so much our schools can do

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Only so much our schools can do

For the past week, several newspapers have been reporting on good schools in the area not meeting the "No Child Left Behind" standards. Statistics from the state report cards show Hispanic and black students are scoring significantly lower than their classmates.

The DuPage County Regional Office of Education wanted to know more about why the two groups of learners are consistently outperformed. So they went straight to the source. They hired Stephen Garlington, MSW/LSCW, and Lourdes Ferrer, Ed.D., to ask black and Hispanic teens why do Caucasian and Asian-American students do better than you? The report culminated five years of study and is published in a book, "Voices: African-American and Hispanic students' perceptions regarding the academic achievement gap."

The answers from the students interviewed was that their attitudes and perceptions played key roles. Just to pick a few attitudes: They place low value on high quality education, low expectations for academic achievement, code switching -- shifting their speaking style between school and their neighborhoods, long-entrenched cultural elements, a disconnect between home and what they're learning at school -- expectations in the two settings are notably different.

There were many more cultural and home-based causes too numerous to mention here but neither group named racial discrimination as a barrier to their success.

There were recommendations made such as putting more emphasis of learning starting with kindergarten (What? That was never done before?), more diversity among the staff, getting these students to change the way they think about themselves.

There are only so many things the schools can do. Changing the home environment isn't one of them.

Janet Begeman


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