News - 'Will Barnes' no social promotions" bill adversely impact minorities?'"
Yes. The governor should first concentrate on the interests of all of Georgia's students
Some of us wonder if the governor has temporarily taken leave of his senses regarding education reform.
The governor and his legislative minions have now targeted "social promotion" — the process of passing failing students to the next grade, deserving or not. But, while such promotions are indeed problematic, we should also address what Barnes plans to do in their place.
No matter how much Georgia boasts of its prosperity and desirability, rural counties are often too poorly equipped with such basics as books and classrooms to offer a quality education. Urban schools, which generally endure the brunt of booming student populations, face similar concerns — and the burden of their struggle falls overwhelmingly on minority students.
That explains the pleas by civil rights leaders and African-American and Hispanic parents for Barnes to reconfigure his plans for an issue (mis)perceived as a key educational reform.
Social promotion notwithstanding, the governor should first concentrate on the interests of all of Georgia's students. A good start would be a mandatory state Board of Education review of the test Barnes envisions as a requirement for advancing — essentially, a Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, which is supposed to determine students' knowledge of basic math and English.
At present, consistently lower scores by low-income black and Hispanic children indicate a marked cultural bias in the CRCT, and should sound a call to legislators and educators alike to fashion a standardized test truly representative of the state's total population.
Barnes plans to spend millions on expanded remedial programs and anticipates even greater numbers of children needing such classes, thus raising the specter of "tracking" — the practice of retaining kids in the same grade and placing them in remedial programs or "study hall." Black students, in particular, are often dead-ended into such programs.
While teachers and parents bear a large portion of responsibility for their children's education, students themselves must shoulder most of the weight. They should at least be assured of an equitable playing field.
Something is very wrong when more than half of a demographic sector cannot comprehend basic English and math questions. Obviously, there is more to this test's skewed results than simply writing off minority children, as a class, as poor students.
Though social promotion admittedly deserves swift elimination, such a move should not be the precursor of an already flawed reform effort. It only increases the potential for creating societal misfits.