At age 7, James Grey’s Dad was sent to jail for drug trafficking and possession. So growing up he saw education as a path out of the streets that took his father, he saw education as a way out.
He participated actively and gave his best; enrolling in after-school activities in middle school and various college preparatory courses in high school. The sky was the limits, and there was no stopping him.
But then he arrived Iowa state University and was stunned by what he learned.
His Colleagues at college seemed better prepared. They had learned how to write longer essays in high school, had learned proper formatting and writing styles required by college professors!
At Des Moines where James went, the study habit acquired didn’t go beyond flipping through a notebook few minutes before class.
Des Moines Public Schools does not know what it takes to prepare students for high school, and I’m just going to be blunt about that,” he said. “There is need for a higher standard.”
Is it just De Moines? Are minority students across America also feeling short-changed academically?
Across the nation, in cities, towns and suburbs, we have public schools filled with undeniable achievement gaps that have left African –Americans playing catch up to their white students academically.
The economics of racial and school segregation
A recent analysis of federal data showed that Most African-American students in almost all major cities across America attend public schools where most of their colleagues qualify as either poor or low income.
Studies have found that the extent to which students attend schools surrounded by other low-income students is the single most powerful predictor of racial gaps in our schooling system. Hence, this Systematic economic isolation affecting black students looms as a huge obstacle to providing quality and equal education to all American students
To fully grasp the breadth of the challenge, the economic segregation of black students persists across almost all types of cities. From fast-growing suburbs like Dallas, and Charlotte to struggling Rust Belt communities, Cleveland, and Milwaukee, to the country’s largest metropolitan cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston.
An estimated 2.1 million black students (about 28% of all black students) attend schools where there are both high poverty and almost no white student.
On one end of school segregation; we have schools with almost no white students (at least 9 out of 10 kids are black students). Among the African-american students attending these schools, a staggering 83 percent attend a high-poverty public school, and very few, around 5% attend a low-poverty school.
Louis King, a prominent black leader that once served on the Minneapolis School Board for four years (from 1996 to 2000), puts his opinion on public school performance bluntly:
"Today, I cannot with a good conscience recommend that an African-American family send their wards to the Minneapolis public schools. The facts are quite clear and irrefutable: These public schools are not adequately preparing our children to compete in the world." "The best way to get attention is not to protest but to shop somewhere else." Mr. King advised.
The Long reaching effect
Among black students like James who enroll at Iowa State, less than half will graduate within a period of six years. The odds are stacked even higher at the University of Iowa and Northern Iowa.
James has watched friends — few who grew up in his neighborhood — quietly pack their things and leave campus midyear. He watched some go into the streets, slipping onto the same path as his father, who sold drugs.
"They feel college is too hard," he said. "It makes the route to drugs-trafficking seem brighter. … Life is easier when you have money in your pocket