OPINION: PEFNC President Says Educational Success Comes from Community Inclusion

From Darrell Allison writing in The Star News:

Howard Fuller, a national education reform leader, former North Carolina civil rights activist and former Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent, best summed up parental school choice as providing a measure of equity and enhanced accessibility for all children.

“Consider the power of this right in the hands of families who have little or no power because they control no resources, no levers of influence over the decision-making process that impacts their children’s education,” he said. “Consider how this power may change the shape of the future for their children. And consider how the absence of this power may mean their children will be trapped in schools that more affluent parents who oppose choice would never tolerate for their own children.”

When only 54 percent of low-income students in New Hanover County passed their end-of-grade tests in 2009-10, compared to 86 percent of their higher income peers, it is clear that the balance of power, is in fact, imbalanced when it comes to the influence low-income families have over their children’s education.

New Hanover County school board members recently approved the conversion of D.C. Virgo Middle School into a public charter school. While they, along with the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence, are collaborating on a unique partnership that could become a statewide model, they should hold true to the most important element for building a strong public charter school foundation – the Northside community that surrounds D.C. Virgo.

It is vital that Northside has a voice in discussions about how their children are educated – and that school board members and the commission listen to what they have to say. These residents bring a wealth of expertise. For example, Lee Monroe, a longtime African-American Wilmington resident and senior education advisor to former Gov. Jim Martin, has stressed the need for community involvement as well as for others to not succumb to low expectations when it comes to education.

“Too many of our leaders have come to accept mediocrity as the standard for children of color,” he said. “Instead, we should expect excellence. This renewed standard should not just come from those within a school, but from the community as well. There are successful schools across the country, and even within our own state, that have led our low-income and minority children to great academic promise because they see themselves as part of the community, and the community sees them as a part of their identity.”

Read more here: http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20111020/COLUMNIST/111029976/-1/opinion?p=1&tc=pg