Alabama education plan draws criticism over different academic goals for different races

2013-07-03 by Phil Butler
News from the Alabama Federation of Republican Women (AFRW) whispers a time in Alabama most people would as soon put behind them. According to the organization, not only is their membership up in arms over suggested minority targeting, but Alabama citizens may have had the proverbial wool pulled over their eyes by state education officials. At the crux of the discord are alleged “race based” standards in education.
An article by Tuscaloosa News’ Jamon Smith recently frames what looks for the world like a kind of prejudice American’s have not seen in decades. The so-called Alabama Plan 2020 would set different (lower) standards for subgroups of learners such as American Indian, Asian/Pacific islander, black, English language learners, Hispanic, multirace, poverty stricken, special education and whites. Part of a Common Core adopted by the state board of education back in 2010, these unequal standards divide students into the suggested categories first of all, and secondly the theoretically partition student learning outcomes too.
In a press release Alabama Federation of Republican Women, Elois Zeanah, had this to say about what some would call “archaic learning standards”:

“No way would these standards, which have racial overtones, be accepted if there had been an opportunity for public debate. Parents have no idea that their elected state education officials and the state superintendent of education, are forcing different standards on their children based on their family income and race. Isn’t this discrimination? Doesn’t this imply that some students are not as smart as others depending on their genetic and economic backgrounds?”

Furthermore, a recently retired teacher, Sharon Sewell, offered comment based on her years of service to students of the system:

“This makes me furious. You know what this will do. Teachers will stop teaching those kids with the lower cut scores. They will, out of necessity, teach to the top cut scores. Common Core pressures teachers to teach to the test. “

Alabama ranks at the bottom of nearly every educational metric there is. The state is 46th in teacher quality, and 45th in social impact, according to this study by Dennis E. Clayson, Ph.D., Director Center for Applied Economic Research MSU-Billings. And in this report from, the state of the state’s education system takes on a shroud of dismal politicking as usual where students are concerned. Mired down in what is one of the nation’s worst systems, students there are further encumbered by 43rd position on the so-called Chance-for-Success Index. Beneath all the official tongue wagging, a far darker truth lingers burning in Alabama.
KKK in Alabama
Athens, Alabama KKK (Ku Klux Klan) Rally September 2007 – Courtesy Gregory.Skibinski
While the politicians banter back and forth over the causes and who’s to blame for Alabama’s sorry system, apparently the solution here is to drop the standards to raise national ranking. While not many have addressed the issues in this way, the end result of such a system not only implies a bigoted view on children and education, but still more dismal end results. The point being, low standards never produced anything of value – not even a superior student. The top image I feature here came replete with so appropriate lyrics from the group Air Supply and the song The Eyes of a Child. Let me stress here who is really watching Alabama and US leaders.

You’ve found the place to walk the path you’ve chosen
You’ll never miss the world you’ve left behind
When life gives life, it’s happiness unbroken
When you give love, it’s love you’ll find

In the eyes of a child there is joy, there is laughter
There is hope, there is trust, a chance to shape the future
For the lessons of life there is no better teacher
Than the look in the eyes of a child

Back in 2009, just before these new standards his Alabama kids and parents unaware, the rhetoric was all about the “No Child Left Behind” lunacy President Bush and Congress instigated. Proclaiming for the millionth time change to the second worst education system in America, even education intellectual leaders such as Dr. Anne Hancock of the US Department of Education seem more politically motivated than moved by any sort of sane logic.
The ultimate legacy of NCLB - courtesy Bernard Pollack
The ultimate legacy of NCLB – courtesy Bernard Pollack
Finally, as early as 2007 America’s experts on NCLB were worried the initiative would fail. This report (PDF) from 2009 entitled THE IMPACT OF NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests the mountains of money thrown into this plan have virtually no basis in any success. While math scores seemed to climb for public schools compared to private Catholic schools, reading levels have gone absolutely nowhere. I quote from the highly detailed research:

“Specifically, we find that NCLB generated large and broad gains in the math achievement of 4th and (to a somewhat lesser extent) 8th graders. However, our results suggest that NCLB had no impact on reading achievement for 4th or 8th graders.”

For the record here, 4th graders are learning to do basic arithmetic, 8th graders have just ventured into pre-algebra, not advanced calculus. Meanwhile, reading is a far more critical learned discipline than mathematics. Even if the two disciplines are weighted equally, clearly lots of children have been left behind and let down by the American education system. AND, Alabama is the second worst system within a nation that is now ranked far below the pinnacle the US reached just after WWII.  I quote from this Broad Foundation report:

“American students rank 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading compared to students in 27 industrialized countries.(OECD, 2012)”

American students are categorically being reduced to the standards of what were once known as “third world countries” in effect. Worse still, the ethnocentric or even bigoted tone of these Alabama standards, any state’s lowered standards, is in effect a disaster the proportions of which may never be fully grasped. We’re talking your the future, absolutely. As for Alabama? When Governor Robert Bentley (image at bottom) uttered his now infamous “Anybody ‘who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior…” comment, I know several million there must have cringed, as several million others smiled in agreement. Fact is, America seems to be getting more bigoted, not less. I am reminded here of something the late and very great Dr. Martin Luther King once said:

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

No child left behind? The great state of Alabama is leveling a sledge hammer onto the futures of millions of children with this idiotic hedging on the rules of the learning game. In a competitive world those who don’t do the work, don’t make the effort, are left behind those who do. This is an inextricable fact of nature. Legislators and those nesting on America’s school boards want big wins and big numbers, but cheating by lowering any group’s standards has a multiplicity of faults. The situation where hatred and mediocrity of leadership in America is at a crisis point. I quote from an Esquire article entitled Bigotry by the Numbers:

“888 hate groups are currently operating in the United States, an increase of 48% since 2000. Among them: 20 Ku Klux Klan chapters in Texas, 9 black separatist organizations in Georgia, 10 neo-Nazi groups in New Jersey, and 21 skinhead groups in California. Source: Southern Poverty Law Center“

Governor Bentley visits an Alabama school - courtesy the governor's Facebook
Governor Bentley visits an Alabama school – courtesy the governor’s Facebook
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