Thursday, April 26, 2012

What Does it Take to Get Into Harvard?

Every African American child should graduate from college
I think about the education of African American children 24/7. I awoke early this morning thinking about a what if question I posed last year to several people who really care about the education of African American children living in SE Seattle. What if everyone who interacts with an African American student was committed to that student being prepared for admission to Harvard?

This means that the adults who are in their immediate proximity at school, places of worship, in the businesses they frequent, and at home must present for the children habits of success. They must stand erect and allow the children to climb up on their shoulders and look at their horizons. They must express high expectations at all times. They must know that they are communicating with a young and budding scholar.

SE Seattle (98118) is said to be one of them most diverse communities in USA. Seattle has a small African American population; however, African American and African born children make up the larger non white student enrollment in Seattle public schools 19.2% (2010-11) and the lowest outcome scores are posted for their academic achievement. The schools they attend are relatively new, the voters passed a Family and Education Levy to support the academic achievement of low income and low performing students in Seattle and this zip code is within the shadow of Microsoft, Boeing, and University of Washington.  With all of this one would think that except for children with a real disability any student would be high achieving.

What is missing for most of these students is high expectations spoken often and loudly.  We have conversations about the failed implementations of the many approaches for elevating the academic outcomes but seldom make it known to African American children that we expect them to learn for the purpose of being admitted to the top schools in the nation.  Most Seattle African Americans do not meet the qualifications to be admitted into UW, the 2nd largest research University in USA. There are enough students at University of WA to assign each African American student a math and science tutor.

The approaches and solutions are based on low expectation, most are implemented by those with little personal interaction with the families and communities of the students they get employment and grants to serve. They are primarily white mostly women who get the lion's share of funding to address education and social well being of African American children and they are not engaged in ongoing dialogue and conversation with the parents of the children they serve in ways that transfers information that parents need to know about the systems that propel a student entering Kindergarten into the top colleges including the many Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

So, I ask the question; What if every African American child knew why they were being educated and every family was knowledgeable of the curriculums used to educate their children, had a plan and held accountable all adults who had contact with their children. "My child has been in your tutoring program this year but his or her grades did not improve." "Can you tell me why?"

Here is a website for a book written by a Harvard student on Tips for Getting into Harvard.   I use Harvard not because every high school graduate will want to go to Harvard but because any student who can qualify for Harvard admission can get into any college or University and do well. Also of great importance is that Harvard is financially committed to any undergraduate enrolled who can not afford the tuition and fees.

A model for what I am speaking about is Successful Youth founded by Danna Johnston. When asked if  if expecting that each youth would get a four year degree was an unattainable goal she answers, "No, a four year degree is basic to their success and should be expected of every high school student." Everything she does toward reaching this goal is evident she means it. She has a waiting list of successful people selected to speak with her students. It is considered a  privilege to speak with them for 30 minutes about their personal and professional success. This is what should be occurring for all children, being in their presence helping them become scholars should be viewed as a privilege.

So I repeat the question; "What if every adult who had the privilege of being with a child played a role in getting them into the top colleges and universities in America." Last week my young first grade protege told me this "I am a scholar and I love to read." This is a child who could not read at all 7 months ago now reads no less than 5 books a day,  has near perfect attendance. And when doing his math homework and missed 3 out of 10 math questions, redid them two times until he had them all correct. He is seven and I am committed to him getting prepared for Harvard.

This is my thought for today. Thank you for reading this and I hope that I said something to stimulate you to think of ways of spreading this sentiment.

Next week I will write about the tragedy of services withheld from African American children with severe disabilities by Seattle Schools and Washington State. What I have witnessed, observed and researched could fill volumes. You will not believe what I am witnessing through two teenagers and their mothers.

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