The ‘stench’ of education reform and the need to respond now

The victims: minorities with lower incomes and those who live under a lower socio economic status.

Toni Jackson | 1/30/2015, 11:35 a.m.
The victims: minorities with lower incomes and those who live under a lower socio economic status.
Tony Jackson

There is a stench in the air in Memphis and it’s a smell that is permeating throughout black school districts. One can get a whiff of it in Newark, N.J., Philadelphia, New Orleans and most urban areas that received Race To The Top federal dollars for education. This awful stench derived from education reform and it’s been perpetrated on minorities with lower incomes and those who live under a lower socio economic status.

This stench has led corporations and politicians to the belief that they can control the education of African American and minority children (black and brown students) simply because they were granted millions of dollars by the government. They want to buy our children and they believe the federal government has given them the power to do so with the money allotted to improve student achievement.

So these Nashville politicians have neatly packaged the Shelby County School District, which is 85 percent African American, in a box where students are behind, teachers are ineffective, teaching jobs are tied to test scores, and student scores are tied to whether a school is slated for takeover or is closed altogether.

These politicians have aligned themselves with rich corporate types and they have passed laws that will give themselves total and complete power over urban schools, urban teachers, urban children, and young black and brown minds from K-12 grades in Memphis, which will lead to generational control. We have seen this before, Memphis. We have fought this fight before and now 50 years later, we are facing the same thing our grandparents faced when they went against a power structure designed to have access and control over the minds of our children. It was called the civil rights era and the legal case was Brown vs. Board of Education. That is where the state would like to take us, but we’re not going back there.

Let me explain how we got in this predicament. The first step in the reform game came about a decade ago when there was a law passed by the government, carried out by the state and enforced throughout the Memphis City Schools district allowing the social promotion of our children. This meant that Memphis children were advanced to the next grade whether they had mastered the required skills for their present grade or not. This process was supposed to keep students from falling behind their age group, and it went on for 10 long years and now we find that our children are grade levels behind in their core subjects.

Teachers had nothing to do with those bureaucratic decisions; but, somehow, teachers have been the subject of blame, shame and labeled ineffective because of the educational decline in Memphis’s children. Once our students got behind by several grades, the state ushered in the next step in the education reform game. The state tied the student test scores to the teachers’ jobs. The school board, the politicians and the corporations know full well that their decisions are to blame for the dismal education standing of our inner city kids; yet they continue to push forward with the reform game.