African-American Children Will Continue to Fall Behind, If Parents Don’t Do This…


I’ve been an educator for almost 17 years now, I’ve taught every grade 4-8.  I have never taught a grade lower than 4th grade.  Although I am not what is termed a primary teacher (grades K-3) it is my belief that this is the most important grades in a child’s educational career.  Primary teachers are expected to lay the foundation for children and set them on the path to educational success, right?  Wrong.  Primary teachers should not be laying the foundation for children, in fact, they should be building upon a foundation that has been laid by parents.  The Kindergarten or Preschool teacher should not be a child’s first teacher, the fact is parents are a child’s first teacher, or at least they should be.  Kindergarten is no longer play time and naps.  By the time a child leaves Kindergarten, they are expected to be reading.  If a child leaves Kindergarten unable to read, they are already “behind”.  Another unfortunate fact is testing doesn’t begin at 3rd grade, it begins in kindergarten where many school districts administer the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy)  assessment to determine if a child has early mastered early learning concepts.  These assessments are considered to be early indicator for a child’s educational success.  Research shows that one in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time. 

I remember participating in a grade level meeting where we were looking at data by sub-groups.  The White and Asian students were all in the 90th percentile.  The African-American students were in the 50th percentile.  My heart broke, but the truth is that wasn’t my first time looking at these numbers. While I believe that the test administered are biased and that many African-American children cannot relate to the material.  I also believe that it’s our responsibility as parents to provide our children with the best chances for success.  We can do that by building an educational foundation for our children.    I recently found out that in Jamaica children start school at two and a half.  Most children here aren’t legally required to attend school until they are seven years old.  A child in Jamaica could be in school almost five years by the time a child in the U.S. enters.  Most children here attend Kindergarten or enroll when they are five, however there is still a two and a half year difference between when a Jamaican child attends school and when U.S. children enter school.  My question is, should we neglect educating our children as parents first because there are people who, “Get paid to do it?”  One reason for the achievement gap that exists between African American children and other subgroups is because some African American parents don’t teach their children basic concepts during early childhood.  We don’t put the value on education that we should as a culture.   

Before a child ever enters school, parents should be reading to their children on a regular basis, thereby fostering a love for reading (this never gets old no matter how old the child).  Parents should be teaching letter and number (1-10) recognition.  Preschool students be able to recite the alphabet and numbers 1-10.  Once a child has mastered letter recognition, introduce phonemic awareness (sounds of letters).  Teach your child to count, basic shapes and the primary colors.  We need to spend less money on material things, and take our children out to museums and libraries.  Take them on trips where they can have different experiences and experience different cultures.   We can no longer ignore the importance of education.  Our children are already at a disadvantage simply because of the color of their skin.  We owe it to them to set them up for success.  Malcolm X said it best, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.  Let’s prepare our children for tomorrow.