Monday, February 25, 2013

'School Failure is a Whole Community Problem'

In previous posts, we've taken a look at graphs that show how students in BUSD are performing academically. But as we do so, let's remember these powerful words by two of our community's leaders: "These scores are not just numbers, these are real children and families failing in our community, and it is profoundly hurtful. How does a young person or a parent internalize the stigma of the message? – a message that represents the daily loss of potential, slipping away across ground that cannot be easily made up – like trying to catch a train pulling out of the station. That slippage, that distance, is like a wound aggravated by the regular comparison to those who excel through their advantage – those on the train. To the parents and children left behind, it creates resentment, division and a profound loss of hope.  One ugly outcome of the disparity, which is not so uncommon among those who set the style standards for youth culture today, is to wrap it all up into a self-fulfilling rationalization to not only stop trying, but to even ridicule effort and intelligence."

These are words written by Santiago Casal and Michael Miller, members of United in Action and Parents of Children of African Descent (PCAD) on December 11, 2007, in "A 2020 Vision for Berkeley Education" in the Berkeley Daily Planet.  In it, they explain the reason for the need for the 2020 Vision for Berkeley's Children and Youth, given the gap in math and English test scores between white students and African American and Hispanic or Latino students in Berkeley Public Schools.

They go on to say,  "Because school failure is a Whole Community problem not just a school problem, we will ultimately need to challenge and systematically mobilize all sectors of Berkeley into the effort – the city, our local colleges, the teachers' union, our profit and non-profit organizations and businesses, and the parents. We do not need to look backward for blame, but rather forward at solutions to the real culprit.  That culprit is failure and we need to urgently prioritize the issue, see it for the crisis that it is, and mobilize the entire community to invent or import the proven programs and leaders that can convert failure to success." 

In a recent post on 2020 Vision is our Collective Responsibility, I shared an excerpt from another public comment written by Casal and Miller during the time of 2020 Vision's launch. I will share the third letter in the series tomorrow. As we continue to work together as a city, school district and community to provide all youth in Berkeley with an excellent education, this series of posts will provide some context about the history of 2020 Vision and the important role that it plays for us all.


To learn more about the work of 2020 Vision, visit Berkeley Alliance.

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