If you're like me, you'll be checking out the new, one-hour TED Talk special on education, featuring Harlem Children's Zone founder Geoffrey Canada, Bill Gates and some of the country's leading education experts and thinkers. The promo video says students will also get up on stage and share their thoughts.
JENNIFER GUERRA: It’s time to have the talk. I know, it’s not gonna be easy. Might get a little uncomfortable – maybe make you squirm a little. But it’s time. I’m Jennifer Guerra with Michigan Radio’s State of Opportunity project. For the next hour, we’re going to talk about RACE.
Now I know some of you listening right now are thinking Race? Really? It’s 2013. Aren’t we past this by now?
Want to learn more about the topics featured in Jennifer Guerra's hour-long documentary on race? The State of Opportunity theme thought about what cultural, social, and research out there helps us understand the impact of race beyond our own personal experience. Check out some of these films, books, blog, and songs to help think through what race means for our kids and education today.
Colorlines - award-winning investigative reporting and news analysis--and that drives our focus on finding solutions as well as naming problems.
When I told people I was working on this special, one hour show about race, a lot of the reactions were along the lines of “race…hmm….interesting.” Like, man, I’m glad I don’t have your job. That’s cause the topic of race is fraught; people hear it and they run for their hills.
One place where parents and teachers are talking about race in the classroom is Birmingham, MI. Birmingham is pretty much as white a city as they come, with a median household income around $100,000. Espresso bars and high end restaurants and shops line the streets downtown, and there’s a four star hotel where out of town celebrities stay whenever they visit metro Detroit.
From the looks of it, Birmingham has it all. But dig a little deeper, and Birmingham has a problem.
Gap #1: Achievement
Jason Clinkscale is the principal at Berkshire Middle School in Birmingham. He says when it comes to student performance on standardized tests, "the achievement gap is alive and well" in his district.
We're not talking about some 5 or 10 point difference here. The achievement gap in the Birmingham district translates to a nearly 30 point difference in proficiency in math at the middle school level between white and black students. By the time those students reach 11th grade, the math gap is more than 50 points wide.
Clinkscale is an African American with two daughters of his own. He uses words like "sobering" and "frustrating" to describe the achievement gap. And the gap isn’t just on paper. You can see it play out from classroom to classroom: minorities are over-represented in lower level classes and underrepresented in honors and advanced classes.