Black, Hispanic Parents Say They Don't Feel Welcome In Schools
GRACE E. MERRITT
November 20, 2009
HARTFORD — - Black and Hispanic parents and community leaders said they often don't feel welcome in schools and expressed frustration with uninterested teachers at the first of several town hall-style meetings Thursday organized by a new coalition of legislators and activists called Campaign LEARN.
About 70 people listened at the Legislature Office Building as about a dozen speakers described numerous problems they see underlying the huge academic disparity between minority and white students, the worst achievement gap in the nation.
Some parents said they were frustrated by schools who urge them to get involved, but then make them feel like outsiders.
Others complained that some teachers aren't engaged. They said many teachers are white, upper middle class women who don't understand their history or heritage.
Often, they said, black children are categorized as needing special education when all they really need is a different teaching approach to engage a student.
"We've got kids going into special education because they can't read. That's not a special ed problem; we got a quality teacher problem," said Gwen Samuel, chairwoman of the State of Black Connecticut.
Parents lamented the high dropout rates of minority students and that more students are going to prison than graduating.
Many offered solutions. Some urged more people of color to go into teaching and suggested developing an alternative route to certification for school principals. Others suggested better coordination of parent training programs, which teach parents how to navigate local school boards and get their voices heard by state policy makers. Still, others urged parents to read to their children and become more involved in their lives.
"It all begins at home," said Rep. Hector Robles, D-Hartford, who is a Hartford police officer. "I go to numerous calls [where] Mommy has her 4-year-old kid dressed in gang colors."
The lawmakers in the caucus say they will take the suggestions from the town meetings and use them to craft legislation in the upcoming session to address inequities and overcome the achievement gap.
"The reality is we're all frustrated. We're spending a lot of money on education and we're not getting results," said Rep. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford.
They said they want to develop a clear plan that could help guide the state's application for President Barack Obama's education reform competition, called Race to the Top.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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