Come on Florida, Let’s Race to the Top!
by Gina Beckles
Dr. Gina Wilson Beckles
As a fourth generation Floridian, I am appalled and embarrassed that four of the eight school districts, with the lowest graduation rates for African American male students, are located here in the Sunshine State! Yes, a whopping 50% of the districts with the worst graduation rates are located in Florida. As reported by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, those districts are Pinellas County (21%), Palm Beach County (22%), Duval County (23%) and Dade County (27%).
An entire dissertation could be written on the how this educational mess was created or why these grim statistics continue to worsen over time. However, we as a people must mobilize at the grass roots level and work towards reversing these trends that our nation is moving towards where there is an educational dichotomy that has evolved consisting of those who are educated and those who are not! The degradation of our communities and our society at large will continue until something is done about it and we are going to have to be the ones to do it. We cannot sit back and passively wait for the educational systems to correct themselves. This especially true during these times that we are experiencing where educational funding continues to suffer budget cuts partially due to the recession. We must take control of the education of our African American sons in order to ensure that this trend is reversed. We have we have far too much at stake!
The federal government is making it possible through its Race to the Top initiative, where $4.3 billion has been allocated for states to utilize in addressing these problems. These funds are available for programs that link teacher pay to student performance, increase the number of charter schools, and shut down failing schools, and adopt voluntary core standards. Within the schools, they have to get discipline under control and get parents more involved.
Now this program has no shortage of critics. However, resistance is to be expected any time you veer off from the status quo. There will always be those opponents that resist change, that want things to stay just as they are, and that lack the initiative to try something new. Furthermore, there will also be those political opponents that are going to oppose any novel ideas presented by any member of the opposing party. However, before you criticize, let us establish a common ground in that we all want what is best for our children and our society as a whole. So instead of concentrating on what is not working, let us look at what is working and use those methods and standards as a model for the poor performing districts all around the country. All right people, let s get to work!
Though not the answer to all of our societal woes, education probably has a stronger impact on our society than any other single factor. It is the key to getting good jobs and solid careers. It has proven to have a strong impact on crime rates, drugs, and violence. It is also the key to ensuring that our future generations are well equipped to manage our country and maintaining our presence as the global powerhouse that we are.