Let's Make Kids Feel Good About Themselves ... With Segregation in School?

Filed under: In The News, Education: Teens

Only 33 percent of African-American students achieved proficient or advanced scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment as compared with 60 percent of Caucasian students.

You know what those black kids need?

A little pep talk, or maybe some time with a black role model, to let them know they can be just as smart as white peo- ...

Er, uh, that's not exactly the message school officials at McCaskey East High School in Lancaster, Pa., wanted to send. But they're spending a great a deal of time these days explaining what they meant by segregating students by race and gender for six minutes a day.

Officials say they wanted to close the achievement gap by giving specific groups of students some alone time with role models.

Surprise, surprise. The concept of segregating students by race and gender -- let alone this idea that a specific group needs a talking to -- is getting mixed reviews.

It's not the kids' expectations that need to change, education consultant Sam Chaltain tells CNN. It's ours.

"When we talk about reducing the achievement gap, do we mean merely reducing the discrepancy of test scores of white students and students of color?" he asks in a CNN interview. "Or do we mean reducing the predictive impact that things like race, class and gender have on all aspects of student engagement, performance and learning?"

McCaskey East Principal Bill Jimenez tells CNN the numbers are the numbers.

"One of the things we said when we did this was, 'Let's look at the data, let's not run from it. Let's confront it and see what we can do about it,' " he tells the network. "In visiting the classrooms, I saw students planning their path for success after graduation."

And the only way to achieve that is by segregating students by race and gender for six minutes a day and 20 minutes twice a month?

Some people are worried where this will lead.

School segregation supposedly ended after the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education.

"School boards across this country are rolling the clock back to the time before Brown vs. the Board of Education," NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous says in an official statement. "The NAACP will not let this happen."

Jealous also was responding to a decision by the Wake County School Board in North Carolina last year to end the district's policy that used the number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches to assign students to schools.

However, the president of the local NAACP in Lancaster (about an hour west of Philadelphia) supports what the school district is doing.

"The relationship between adult mentors and students strengthens the shared societal values and principles of achievement, goal oriented vision and productive citizenship," Blanding Watson tells the Lancaster Sunday News. "Let us pull together and recognize hope, achievement and the values that keep us together as a nation. Let us recognize the role of the mentoring program and the school district of Lancaster."

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