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How to fix low SAT and ACT scores in horrid Chicago Schools

The Missing Link
The Missing Link

The easiest way to increase Chicago’s standardized test scores is to recruit the brilliant offspring of Asian immigrants and enroll them in an Arne Duncan charter school in Roseland. We could rename the notorious Fenger High and call it the Educational Grief Academy for Diversity, or EGAD for short. Doing so would be a blow to the basketball programs on the South Side, but maybe it would save the jobs of a few embattled principals. Why not? Asian kids scored the highest on the national SAT scores in 2010.

Specifically, these hard working youngsters averaged a score of 1636 out of a maximum point total of 2400. White children averaged 1580. Black students scored below every other category of human youth at 1277. The absolute lowest. The national average for all of humanity in 2010 was 1509. I was particularly disturbed to learn that our Hispanic brothers and sisters, many who began school struggling with a new language did better than African-Americans. Mexican-Americans tallied an average of 1369, and Puerto Ricans came in at 1349. BTW, if you are from Puerto Rico, your biological ancestry is partially African, the Obama part I guess.

The So what? The ‘so-what’ is that the lowest SAT for admittance to the University of Illinois is 1610. 1277 ain't cutting it. The universal reaction from elected black officials, apologetic black educators, and guilt-ridden black parents, or more realistically, single mothers is: RACISM. They declare the SAT is biased. You know what? It probably is. It is biased toward students who can read and write well and who take an algebra class before they have a child out of wedlock. But then colleges, grad schools, and corporations are biased as well. Life is biased, job competition is intense, get over it.

A Simplistic Review: The SAT has three components: Math, Reading Comprehension, and Essay/Writing. A student can acquire a maximum score of 800 in each part for a total of 2400 points. One out of every 3,000 test takers achieves maximum, and that kid is not likely to live in Chicago, or for that matter in Illinois. In 2010 average scores in our state dropped in reading and math. To be candid, only six percent of Illinois students take the SAT. That is the good news. The bad news is that the percentage that do are applying to the best schools: the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, the University of Chicago in Bolshevik Hyde Park, Bernardine Dohrn’s Northwestern University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the Kremlin’s favorite source of comfort and unilateral disarmament, Harvard. Thus, our most academically inclined adolescents take the SAT. Logically then, our most gifted black students, or at least those with high aspirations fall over 200 points below the national average.

The Fact-Based Presumption: Black students, for a variety of horrid reasons familiar to anyone in America old enough to have had a root canal, are hopelessly behind their non-black peers in educational achievement that matters. The social, economic, and criminal consequences are evident and will not be repeated in this missive. The War on Poverty, launched with ‘shock-and-awe’ in 1965, has resulted in massive urban ignorance and collective dependence that cannot be remedied in less time than the twenty-five years of decadence that took us there in the first place.

That’s right poverty pimps, black high school seniors averaged 1277. Therefore your church scams, sleazy politics, and non-profit (yeah right) organizations are safe for the next half century. But for the rest of us who give a duck, we gotta start Negro education reform somewhere, and I do not think we are going to do it with the U.S. SecEd, Arne Duncan’s Race-to-the-Top game show. Let’s get down, dirty, and practical.

One Answer: Well, uh first the question. What do we do to improve reading? A couple of years after my appointment as an elementary school principal in Bellwood a light went off in my head. You see my teachers, most of whom hated the kids, would confiscate toys they would bring to school. They did so with great joy and enthusiasm and deposited them in my office with a sense of accomplishment akin to a cop making a big drug bust. Eventually I realized that among the confiscated Pokeman Cards, transformers, and switchblades there were no comic books. When I was a kid going to school on Chicago’s south side, McCosh, Bennett, and Beidler, teachers were always snatching comic books. Even the tough guys read them. Indeed, the thugs would strongarm them from the smaller kids. But no more. Ghetto kids no longer read comics. Why? The cost is prohibitive.

When I was crumbsnatcher my mom gave my sister and I a 25-cent a week allowance on Saturday and I walked down to the local mom-and-pop store, you know where you would occasionally find a roach inside of a malted ball, and bought a box of Milk Duds for 5 cents, a designer Mounds Bar for 10, and a package of 3 comic books for a dime. The middle comic was always a mystery because you could not see it. Everybody read them, traded them, and hid them from evil teachers.

But no more. An Action Comic book today costs over three bucks! This people is the Missing Link between today’s madness and yesteryear’s sanity. Everybody read something even if it was only a comic book. Now they read nothing until they get to their sophomore year in high school and they are required to read MacBeth. Hell, if you can’t read Spiderman how in the duck are you gonna get through Shakespeare? Madness!

The Answer: I used my Title 1 money that every ghetto principal has to set up an account with a comic book store on Mannheim Road. I loaded up my kids with comic books and made sure my Gestapo teachers permitted them to read them for 30 minutes every afternoon. Yes, my reading scores went up. Folks, this is not rocket science. Let’s cut the crap about mission statements, best practices, data systems, and teacher evaluations and work directly with the bloody kids and stop playing fiddily-duck with each other!

Oh, oh do you remember Classic Comics. Those of us who were a little more serious about reading than the Egyptian Cobras (remember Chicago’s first black street gang?), read the upscale and slightly more expensive Classic Comics. I think they were a whole quarter, so you were a committed academic if you read these. According to Wikipedia, the series went out of publication while I was overseas in the Air Force in 1971. A terrible loss that I did not notice until 1994. Today they are valuable collectables. Culturally, they filled a gap for kids, especially poor kids. It is far better to read something than suffer the fate of those who read not; and comics had plot, characters, and a beginning, middle, and end that made more sense than reality TV or Hip Hop music.

Look, I am running out of space so I will just direct you to my solution to those schools who are infested with minority children that are three to five years behind white kids in mathematics. This is how you can fill that gap. I wrote this article well over a year ago. Fact is, professional educators had the solution to the academic gap between the races every since Nixon escaped impeachment by resigning, but they do no have the guts to implement it. I cannot wait until the first Tuesday in November.


  • d2harris 4 years ago

    I think your idea is phenomenal and right on the money. Where I would challenge you is on the dismissiveness surrounding the biased nature of the SAT. i teach college readiness and I have to say, some of the SAT questions really do reveal that this was originally an Ivy League exam, culling from cultural references that most poor kids simply do not have. This bias (as you correctly pointed out) permeates our entire society. But the SAT proclaims itself an objective measure of college learning ability, a fact that is disproven by the subjective nature of many of its questions. That is what i take issue with. That said, our kids will still do better if they start reading more.

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