Expect more than graduation from an education
The folders, markers and crayons have been purchased. Behind your back, the new school shoes have already been worn outside as play shoes and the horror of picture day is coming fast. It is all part of the annual event called the first week of sc...
The folders, markers and crayons have been purchased. Behind your back, the new school shoes have already been worn outside as play shoes and the horror of picture day is coming fast. It is all part of the annual event called the first week of school.
For many families in the Northland, major decisions of the season include what kinds of folders and what colors of crayons, plus the choosing the all-important character backpack. It is the season for getting back into routines and looking forward to a great new year of school that will place our children one more step down the road to success.
Or is it? For many other families, the decision-making process starts long before the shoes and crayons, with the reality of achievement gaps and graduation rates. A few years back when I enrolled my children in Duluth Edison Charter Schools, many asked why I did not support the public schools. My answer is first, Duluth Edison and Harbor City International School are indeed both public schools. Second, both have demonstrated a strategic and consistent plan to close the achievement gap and ensure higher graduation rates.
I have often seen bracelets handed out to our minority youth that state "Graduation is the Expectation." As I respect the theory, it is time we step up our expectations for our youth. I was disturbed when I discovered several years ago that the African- American graduation rate in Minnesota was 44 percent. What scared me even more was Duluth's rate of 42 percent. As a father, I learned it was not about the color of folders or the shoes, the real decision was where my children would attend school and how they would learn. It was about sitting down with teachers who were bold enough to give an honest answer to children asking, "Where are the black teachers and counselors? And who is here for us?"
In Duluth, it is time we look at all of our children regardless of the school or neighborhood. It is time that we step up our game and raise the expectation. We need to be giving bracelets that say "College is the Expectation," "Livable Wage Job is the Expectation," or "Saving is the Expectation." After all, are any of those truly possible if all we have expected is to get by to graduation?
A report released recently by the Minnesota Department of Education ranked area schools on a scale from 0 to 100. Without getting into a long explanation, the ratings are based on proficiency, student growth, achievement gap reduction and graduation rates. The second part is based on proficiency and growth of minority students, students receiving special services and students living in poverty. While Harbor City ranked the highest of the high schools with a score of 95.3, Denfeld ranked at 10.5 and East ranked 47.8. (A portion of that number is attributed to Denfeld being closed the previous year.)
In the middle schools, Northstar Academy (Duluth Edison) ranked 74.5, while Woodland ranked 11.34 and Morgan Park ranked at 7.6.(These schools are ranked in a similar manner, but do not factor in graduation rates.)
This past June I had the honor of watching the oldest of my three children not only graduate, but graduate with academic honors. What made me even prouder was watching a number of other minority students in her class also graduate with honors. For these students, it was not just about getting to that day, but using that day as a springboard to a productive and prosperous future.
So not only as a parent I must say that I look forward to experiencing this pride two more times. I must also say that I look forward to the days when every parent and every student in Duluth can approach the fall months with optimism and excitement; a season in which our youth will grow one step closer to the adults they choose to be. But the question remains, will we as a community do our part and choose to raise the expectation to ensure a positive and prosperous future for our youth?
Duluthian Brandon Clokey is the director of the Duluth Fathering Project, and the father of three.