Historically, minority groups have been ardent supporters of and advocates for high-quality public education. Black efforts to gain systemic equality in educational policies and practices are well known: the battles for equal per-pupil expenditures; teachers’ salaries; length of school terms; expenditures for buildings, facilities, equipment, and books; curricular offerings; and so on.
As a result of these efforts and of political and economic changes nationally and internationally, progress has been made with respect to ending legally imposed school segregation, as well as increasing minority participation in schooling for longer periods of time, that is, raising the median years of schooling completed. This paper aims to identify three best practices which assist the educational progress of minorities.
Since public school desegregation began in the mid-1960s, urban school improvement is considered to be one of the most contributing factors for the progress of minorities in educational sector. Black educators and their likeminded allies have increasingly taken the lead in urban school improvement. One facet of this movement has been the study of schools that are effectively educating urban poor black children and making recommendations to other schools that want to replicate effective policies and programs.
Researchers like Ronald R. Edmonds, George Weber and Daniel U. Levine began by identifying public schools that were effectively teaching black children and pinpointed their common characteristics, namely strong administrative leadership; orderly but flexible atmosphere, conducive to instruction; philosophy that acquiring basic academic skills is the first order of business; climate of high expectations, and continuous monitoring and evaluation of pupil progress with instructional strategies redesigned as needed (Mohanty, 1994).
Achievements of urban school improvements were particularly evident in the middle of 1990s, for instance the data indicated significant increase in New York schools where 70 percent or more of the students “achieved reading scores at or above grade level for three years” (Iram & Wahrman, 2003:119). The second important practice contributing to educational progress of minorities is initiation and further development of various improvement projects targeting directly minority students and their teachers.
In the beginning of 1990s for instance, Chicago instituted a plan for mastery learning in reading to correct the widespread problem of low reading achievement. The program provided teachers with comprehensive instructional activities, corresponding student learning activities, formative tests for instructional feedback, and corrective instructional activities for those students who failed to master objectives. A criterion referenced testing program served as the basis for instruction, promotion, and administrative monitoring (Bjork et al, 1994).
The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) in 1996 instituted a School Effectiveness Training Program designed to increase student achievement. The results from this program showed lower staff absenteeism, higher participation of staff in instructional decisions, greater involvement of staff in school activities, reduced costs for vandalism, better management, and higher staff and student morale (McNeely, 1985). The final practice, very important in terms of progress performed by minorities in education is giving a preference to private schooling than public.
It must be emphasized that during the past two decades it has become increasingly apparent that larger numbers of minority adults are selecting nonpublic schools for their young. In their desire to obtain the best possible education for their young, they choose private schools, including minority independent schools. These parents say they believe private schools provide their children with better basic skills instruction, cultivate higher order thinking skills, have higher academic standards, and prepare their children for college or the work place more successfully.
School improvement for them means leaving public schools. As Slaughter and Schneider points out (1986:17) black parents’ choice of private schools is “less of a rejection of public schooling, and more of an evolution of a new strategy for insuring future levels of sustained and/or upward mobility for the family. ” Increased minority departure from public schools, however, may mean that the more supportive, motivated, caring, and accomplished parents and their children (regardless of income) are not involved in the public school system and that the system is the loser in the process (Henig et al. , 1999).
From the critical perspective, minority individuals and communities must consider the costs and benefits of education in nonpublic schools compared with education in public schools – not only for themselves, but for the nation at large. At the same time, public schools must make more headway in school improvement if they want to retain the traditional support they have long enjoyed from black families.
Many minority students can attain standards of excellence if school improvement policies and programs such as those described above are retained, consistently used, refined, and modified. Individual schools will find that their achievement levels and test scores improve, and that many of them can attain local and national norms even if their populations are poor, or black, or Hispanic, or both. These standards can be achieved without excluding any student from an equal opportunity to be educated. Our country still has a long way to go to realize equity in the schoolrooms of our nation.
All students need an equal chance to learn, which means providing equity in financing schools and programs; providing competent, caring teachers; retaining proven, compensatory programs and relating curriculum subject matter to coping with real-life situations and problems. References Bjork L. et al (1994). Minorities in Higher Education, Oryx Press Henig J. , Hula R. , Orr M. , Pedescleaux D. (1999). The Color of School Reform: Race, Politics, and the Challenge of Urban Education, Princeton University Press Iram Y. & Wahrman H. (2003).
Education of Minorities and Peace Education in Pluralistic Societies, Hillel; Praeger, 2003 Mohanty, C. T. (1994). On Race and Voice: Challenges for Liberal Education in the 1990s. In H. A. Giroux and P. McLaren (Eds. ), Between Borders: Pedagogy and the Politics of Cultural Studies (145-166). New York: Routledge Slaughter D. T. , & Schneider B. L. (1986). Newcomers: Blacks in private schools. Final Report to the National Institute of Education (Grant No. NIE-G-82-0040, Project No. 2- 0450). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University, School of Education