“At Duke, I realized how badly many South Carolina schools are failing students like me”—- “And my school is considered one of the best in the region.”–Ehime Ohue

Numerical percentages of high school graduation rates unfortunately only tell one part of the story. The other, much more important part is the academic quality of that high school experience; as well as the extent to which that high school diploma reflects a readiness on the part of the diploma recipient, to successfully negotiate a post-high school career or college opportunity.

There are no more joyful and worthy celebratory events in the Black community then a high school graduation. I know because I have attended more of them than I can remember. And also because as a principal, graduation ceremonies were often the first time in 4 years that I actually “laid eyes” on some parents. But like so many things in public education, some parents and communities are unable to separate the substantive facts from the fictional performance.

It’s an effective “sleight of hand” magic trick, where school systems distract parents with a “fake diploma” with one hand; while with the other hand push the young person out of the school door, tragically unprepared to compete with those who have real diplomas. And whoa to the public school educator who tries to infuse high expectations, academic achievement, rigorous learning and behavioral standards into the process. You will be told by both official stakeholders and even some parents, that you are: “doing too much!”

I wish this young lady’s story was a rare event, but unfortunately it is not. Nor is this just a “rural” problem; but rather the reality she reveals covers both urban and rural school districts; where “Black Folks” are, and are not in charge. Fake AP courses and disingenuous honors/advance programs are tragically designed in many of our school districts to fool the public, parents, the news media, elected officials and political educational policy makers (While at the same time the district is systematically restricting Black student access to real advanced and Gifted and Talented programs). But the ultimate victims of this system of charades are the students; who like this very talented lady, find out that their high school education was seriously deficient, while in high school, or worse, when they step into their first college classroom. The only question that remains: “When will it end?”

“At Duke, I realized how badly many South Carolina schools are failing students like me”— “And my school is considered one of the best in the region.”—Ehime Ohue; Washington Post; 7/6/2017

“Ehime Ohue, a student from Sumter, S.C., is attending Duke University on a full ROTC scholarship. Here, in a piece she originally wrote for her “Introduction to Human Rights” class, she writes about what she learned about her home state in her first year at college.
“Lake Marion does not prepare you for college!”

I heard this at my high school College Homecoming, an annual event where recent graduates share their college experience.
This failure does not fall solely on my alma mater, Lake Marion High.
The state of South Carolina perpetuates what’s called the “Corridor of Shame,” a string of rural school districts where students receive inferior educational opportunities.

As a rising sophomore at Duke University, I now see what the phrase means. I was educated in one of those districts from Head Start to 12th grade. I know firsthand the issues these students face.

The “Corridor of Shame” consists of 36 school districts along Interstate 95. Overall, South Carolina’s population is 48 percent minority, but students in the corridor are 88 percent minority, mostly African American. There, schools receive resources that fall below state averages.
I noticed deficiencies in many ways. My kindergarten teacher complained that she could not “do this anymore” and quit.

Other teachers lacked training and asked to be moved to non-teaching positions. It’s hard to blame them when most teachers in the corridor are paid $3,000 to $12,000 less than those in nearby districts.
High school was where I really noticed the disparities.

We didn’t have enough math teachers and barely enough working calculators. When the school added the International Baccalaureate program, the first class of students completed the program, but none were awarded the diploma. I enrolled the second year the program was offered, and our math teacher was still undergoing training. When he announced he would not be returning, training had to start again for another teacher.
Two AP classes were announced my senior year, but were scheduled at the same time. We were considered a technology center, but our computers were always down. Many of my peers ended up dropping out or flunking out of college.

And my school is considered one of the best in the region.
As a freshman at Duke University, I feel the effects of the “Corridor of Shame” every day.

Sometimes, it is hard for me to understand material my peers clearly find familiar. Often, I feel inferior. I never agree with other students who say, “Everything we are going over now we basically learned in high school.”

What hurts worse is that most students like me will never attend a school as prestigious as Duke. Some may not get accepted, but others may not even apply, including those who lack confidence because they know they’ve missed out on opportunities and resources.”

Study: “Knowledge of Geography Determines Political Views.”

No spoiler alert required:
It’s something that all of us who work in education already suspected. A lot of individual “bad decisions”, are often driven by a lack of access to knowledge and correct information. Also, an inadequate and/or ineffective K-12 educational experience, leads to a lot of bad societal outcomes. The national public and private prison system, essentially owes its very existence to poor educational experiences for selected members of the society.

One could hypothetically extend this study to other academic areas like: English Language Arts (particularly the experience, and exposure to a broad range of fiction and non-fiction reading materials), Mathematics, Science, History, The performing and graphic Arts, Music, Dance, Technology, Foreign Language, etc.

Does this theory of the political effects of academic deficiency, in any of the before mentioned subject areas, lead to the inability to fully function as a knowledge-information-facts based, empathetic and thoughtful citizen?
If voting is a core principle of a democracy; then why is not a good education also a national priority, to insure that voters are adequately prepared to make the best decisions?

“If Americans Can Find North Korea on a Map, They’re More Likely to Prefer Diplomacy”—NY Times

“6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use With Your Students”–Rebecca Alber; Edutopia


School Building leader: Thinking about next year’s opening faculty conference and/or the new school year’s professional development (PD) activities topics? “Scaffolding”: A term commonly used in education; but unfortunately, not so commonly practiced. This article is a good/short faculty discussion … Continue reading

A School Board District Tragedy… Educationally Defeating Other People’s Children…

“A Not-So-Simple Majority”

“They are stealing our children’s education… We are losing our kids, and nobody cares…”

“We have all of the power and so why should we negotiate…”

A School Board District Tragedy… Educationally Defeating Other People’s Children…:

Related Articles:

The Strange Fruit of Entitlement

First of all, why is Serena William’s name even in John McEnroe’s mouth? Did she call him a name; or talk bad about his tennis game to some reporter? This idea that you feel so free to insult the greatest woman tennis player in history (who happens to be Black); and in the midst of her pregnancy. What lack of a sense of relevance, loss of public attention, and decency deficiency, informs your brain that the proper thing to do is to attack this great woman now? And this coming from the most immature and petulant of all professional tennis players. Clearly we have entered, and are presently wallowing in the indecent muck and mired age of Trump. Mr. McEnroe should engage in some good public service works, and hire a good publicist, who can help bring his name back into the public conversation, but in a more positive and productive way.

I know that one sentence from the NYC Chancellor’s opinion piece on Mayoral control is absolutely true; but a warning…

Chancellor Carmen Fariña on why losing mayoral control would mean chaos, gridlock and corruption”— Chalkbeat

First, let’s not pretend that returning to local community school boards is not seriously problematic and dangerous for many students in the system. And whatever you think of Mayoral control, I know for a fact that this one sentence from the Chancellor’s missive is absolutely true: “One district alone stole $6 million from students, paying 81 employees for jobs they never showed up to.” I know because I was drafted as superintendent to go in and clean up that huge corruption mess. When I walked into CSD 29Q in 2000; I clearly understood why one central office official described the school district’s shenanigans as a political “cesspool” (my apologies to all cesspools). The large number of “politically connected” (from school aides to principals) jobs meant that “competence” was at best irrelevant. It was an operational definition of: Institutional “Black on Black” crime; and the primary victims were all of the children of Southeast Queens. Many computer purchase order forms were signed, and thus vendors were paid, but the children were forced to (not) learn computer technology on missing, quickly malfunctioning, or never-ever working computers. Computer company “Service contracts” were not worth the paper they were printed on. In many cases principals just gave up protesting, out of fear of political-professional retribution from the very district officials who mastermind and managed, what was essentially a major criminal enterprise. And since running a criminal business takes up the same amount of time as would be used to run a legitimate business (a great deal of energy had to be invested in bullying the district’s staff, and avoiding detection). There was not even the symbolic effort by the district’s leadership to pay any attention to teaching and learning in the schools.

This indifference to real educational leadership took place in what was, and still is, one of the most underperforming school districts in NYC. I base this district underperformance assertion on factors of: average household income, parental level of education, a large number of parents who are public civil servants, and the high percentage of family homeownership by the residents of Southeast Queens. To pull off such a large act of district wide educational neglect of this magnitude, required the cooperation and/or complacency of many elected, religious, civic and community based leaders. (Translation: Parents you may be on your own!)

Our team was able to clean up and dramatically turn the district around (“Trying a Stern Hand on a Mediocre School District”; NY Times March 22, 2000) academically, financially; and ultimately “flipping the narrative” of the district being a “technology desert” by introducing Applied Technology-Robotics Labs (along with fulltime Sci-Tech teachers) in every middle school, as well as several elementary, and early childhood centers. We were also able to put computer technology into the large number of temporary housing shelters in the district (at the time Southeast Queens had highest concentration of these temporary housing units in the city).
We expanded art, music and dance programs in every school, while at the same time significantly raising standardized test scores across the district, and in every content area. We expanded Gifted and Talented programs to schools and students who were able and willing; but were historically denied the opportunity. The institution of a district wide “Readers to Leaders” program in partnership with Time For Kids and Scholastic; exponentially expanded student’s informal (reading for enjoyment) reading experiences in every school in the district. We also partnered with Princeton Review to design and implement a real test-prep program, to increase the number of students gaining access to NYC’s Specialized High Schools. It is amazing what can be done when the funding goes into programs, projects and schools, and not only into the into the pockets of criminals!

But here is my warning for parents and communities of color. Our work was blocked and halted not by the corrupting influence of local politicians of Southeast Queens (even as they did their best to do so); but by a chancellor working under mayoral control (“Be tough-and smart- in streamlining schools”; NY Daily News … “New York Daily News, 9/2003; editorial: “Bonus for student achievement”).

The lesson here is that parents and communities where the school system is: “less than excited”, underperforming, and underserving their children, should not get totally caught up in the “look” of the structure; but rather focus on how said structure is prepared (or can be forced) to seriously educate the children of that community. There are districts and schools in NYC that have performed at a high academic achievement level, regardless of the political-managerial system that oversees the school system. That is the place where you want your children and community to be.

Ultimately you want your children in a school or district where their educational lives, and future success really matter. Failing to politically educate, organize advocate for effective districts and good schools; regardless of who “runs them”, will leave many of the city’s parents: to chase the ever-changing punchline-political joke, as the system applies the yoke and/or the rope to their children’s dreams!

“Chancellor Carmen Fariña on why losing mayoral control ‘would mean chaos, gridlock and corruption”…

Related Articles: