When DC Public Schools (DCPS) released its results from the National Education Report Card (NAEP), it did so with the heading, “The #2019NAEP results are in and…. DC is the fastest improving state and urban district in the nation over time! In fourth grade math, DC has gained nearly 30 points since 2003.”
What it failed to mention in the headline and subsequent text is the abysmal achievement gaps that still exist and persist in this city between white students and students of color.
Here’s the reality: according to a report released today by brightbeam – the umbrella org for Education Post and other platforms – entitled “The Secret Shame: How America’s Most Progressive Cities Betray Their Commitment to Educational Opportunities for All,” there is a 60% achievement gap in reading when comparing Black students to white students in Washington, DC. Equally alarming is the 62% achievement gap between these same groups of students in math. Adding insult to injury, Latino students attending traditional public schools in Washington, DC have a 49% and 51% achievement gap in math and reading respectively with white peers. A travesty indeed.
The question is who’s going to fix it?
And please don’t tell me the progressives who claim to have our (Black and Brown) children’s best interest at heart. As the title of the brightbeam report says, there is a disconnect between what progressives—including elected officials, community leaders, and influencers—claim they are committed to and what they are willing to do.
I attended the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference back in September where I sat in on a session hosted by Roland Martin that featured several Black educational leaders including Shawn Hardnett, the founder of Statesmen College Preparatory Academy for Boys Public Charter School in Ward 8, the poorest section of DC and Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers Union.
Hardnett started the panel conversation in a very controlled manner listening to much of what Davis had to say about how successful the city has been turning around student achievement at DCPS. Slowly becoming annoyed with the apparent and obvious misrepresentation of how Black students have, or rather have not, been counted in the messaging around the data, Hardnett decided he had enough and promptly reminded Davis and the standing-room-only crowd, that the city has been failing to educate Black children who live and/or go to school east of the Anacostia River for years. So, to present aggregate data as if it’s all good in DC was not only wrong, but it removed students from the conversation who actually need to be the ones we talk about the most.
Hardnett reminded us that when you make promises that you don’t keep, like we’re seeing progressives do in our fair city, there are groups of children and families who, more times than not, go unserved and unrepresented. And it is incumbent upon US – those that look like them and have voices and platforms to speak up and speak out – to do just that! It needs to be done in order to protect our communities that aren’t being served and in support of our children who aren’t being educated. I hope we will stand as a village to call out discrepancies, especially as they relate to unfulfilled promises.
Our children don’t have time to wait for the “powers that be” to get the data right. The achievement gap needs to close for every child – not just the privileged. If conservative states like Texas and Oklahoma can do it, so can we. It’s time for us progressives to match our words to our actions—our children deserve at least that.