Make no mistake about it, the Sampson County school systems have some great students, dedicated teachers, competent leadership staff and concerned parents, with strong community support. Both systems seek to provide “the highest level of education possible,” while striving to make all students college and career ready. And right now, both systems, following an analysis of test scores, appear poised to take the next step, fulfilling the belief that all students can learn and achieve higher standards.
I want to applaud the school systems’ administrations for setting goals and seeking solutions to help our public schools work better. Key to those new goals and solutions will be the task of identifying the unique teaching and learning “best practices” and tools that can be used to better address the low achievement of black males, helping them to become more interested and effective learners.
Today, let us stop being afraid and uncomfortable about publicly addressing the fact that our society is not meeting the needs of black males. And the fact that both school systems have 100 percent control of their response to improving student achievement should allow them to be as creative and innovative as they choose.
First and foremost, there is a common factor that connects all students — the desire to be academically successful. Our schools need to be places where all students feel honored, respected and valued, places where learning and teacher are made relevant and meaningful to all students, and places that find ways to engage all students in learning.
If we believe all students can learn, let’s create opportunities for them to fully engage in the teaching and learning environment. Some students choose to under perform in school because that’s what some teachers allow and expect of them, thus becoming labeled disinterested and disruptive students. It is critically important for teachers to be cautious about making assumptions, remembering that students are individuals who “function best when they know the time and place for everything.”
Remember, increasing the reach of “culturally competent” teachers will do more than anything else in positively impacting student achievement. These teachers take responsibility to fully engage students in the teaching and learning process, thus better meeting the needs of all students.
Currently, there seems to be greater community interest in making schools better for all students, rising to the challenge that it takes an entire community to raise a child. As responsible adult stakeholders, we should all pitch in, helping to keep an eye on our school children as if they were our own, reminding them they have to “straighten up and fly right.” We are all stakeholders in this all-important business of education. If every child receives a good education, the whole society is much better off. Therefore, it is critically important for our general community to come together, “stepping it up a notch” to help our schools do a more effective job.
Now is the time for all our families, schools, communities and government leaders to recommit to improving educational outcomes for all children. We can all play a part in making our school system work better by emphasizing high expectations for all students, as well as all staff.