School board ignored curriculum for years, only focused on state test

      State test scores were released and they reveal a disparity between the performance of poor children and those in the middle class in our city; unfortunately, the city school board spent four years in office and virtually ignored any curriculum needs not required by the state.

     To illustrate the problem here’s a quick glance one subject on three levels: 5th, 8th and High School.

     Locally, students who did best 5th grade English was New Vision Charter School. At New Vision, 50 percent of its 30 5th graders were mastery or advanced and another 46 percent were basic. Only five percent were approaching basic. The closest Southside public school to New Vision’s 5th graders in English was Minnie Ruffin at 31 percent mastery or advance. Only 29 percent had basic and 35 percent were approaching basic. Six percent of it 5th graders were unsatisfactory.

       It cannot be ignored that 30 percent of 5th graders at Barkdull Faulk scored unsatisfactory, followed by Madison Foster with 24 percent unsatisfactory.

       The City Schools that did well in 5th grade English were those with large numbers of white or middle class black families: J.S. Clark had 51 percent mastery or advanced in English. Similarly, Sallie Humble another Northside school had 45 percent mastery and advanced and only 6 percent unsatisfactory.

      What about Jr. High? The pattern is the same. Look at the 8th grade reports. Vision Academy charter school, which attempts to salvage low performing students had 70 percent unsatisfactory in English only 10 percent basic scores in English. Carroll Jr. High had 25 percent unsatisfactory and 17 percent mastery or advanced in English; Martin Luther King had 23 percent unsatisfactory and 20 percent mastery or advanced in English.

      What cannot be ignored is that Lee Jr. High, a Northside school with a large number of middle class blacks and whites did much better. Lee only had 7 percent unsatisfactory, but a whopping 57 percent mastery and Advanced in English.

      What about High School? The three high schools in South Monroe with small percentages, if any, of middle class or white students had the lowest English scores:  Carroll High School had 62 percent its students to score approaching basic or unsatisfactory in English 1; Wossman had 22 percent unsatisfactory in the same areas. Vision Academy Charter School had 87 percent unsatisfactory and approaching basic. On the other hand Neville High has 52 percent of its English 1 students scoring Advanced or Mastery.

       This small comparison only deals with one subject in a select grades from 5th to 12th. However, those who have studied the recent scores have realized that the pattern is consistent in all subjects; poor students are the district’s lowest performers.

       The pattern is the across the state. The present system of standardized, regimented, cookie cutter instruction is not working for poor students.

       Twenty years ago Tab-N-Action, Inc. tested a theory that if we could change the home structure of poor students, it would reflect in their academic performance.

       We assembled a group of people who were passionate about education to open a model home to test our theory. They were all much younger then, Janet Davis, LaToya Jackson, Constance Snowden and others began the plan.

       The housing authority gave us a four bedroom apartment off  Berg Jones Lane for our model home. Twelve boys were selected to live with us Monday through Thursday from August to May. Two parents served as house mothers each day to test whether changing homelife impacts academics. They lived in the middle of a high crime, high poverty neighborhood, but they went to school each day wearing a shirt and tie, they studied in the evening, dined at the table together as a family, had assigned chores, read books and listened to a variety of music from gospel to classical each day for 30 minutes.

      Tutors were brought in from ULM to help with their homework and parents were required to sit with their children and encourage their sons as they were tutored.  At night they showered, washed the dishes, cleaned the building, ironed their clothes and put them on hangers. At 9 p.m. they met in the hall for closing prayers and went to bed. There was a parents room for the house mothers.

      In nine months, we present the 12 boys to the Monroe City School. Nine of them had become honor students for the first time in their lives. The others were a hair away. The boys addressed the school board and were praised.

      We challenged the school board to expand the idea with paid staff instead of our weary volunteers. The program would not yield any state points, so it got nowhere.

       It’s obvious, that some attention needs to be paid to the curriculum of the district beyond state testing if the district plans to rich thousands of children who are coming unstructured home. Our test model showed one idea, but there are hundreds.

      The current school board has never addressed curriculum methodologies not related to test scores. In fact, it hasn’t talked about curriculum strategies addressing the academic performance of the poor at all.

      What a shame.