By Nehemiah D. Frank
Tulsa, Okla — Dark cloudy skies hang oppressively low for the children who are the descendants of America’s infamous Black Wall Street. Access to an equal education is bleak for the community’s African-American students.
For those of who do not know, Oklahoma has a bittersweet history. A former time that once boasted America’s most prosperous, ambitious, and intellectual-driven negro community of Greenwood, commonly known as Black Wall Street. Moreover, the nasty and horrific massacre destroying that blueprint on how to achieve black progress amid an oppressive hegemonic-regime called white supremacy.
Today, their descendants’ unsatisfactory academic-performance blankets that glorious and celebrated legacy.
In 2016, north Tulsa’s majority black schools tested a collective average of 41.7-percent, which is an F on the A through F scale with F being the lowest possible score.
Even though some public/private schools like Carver Middle School and Booker T. Washington high school outperform area schools, State Representative Karen Gaddis – for District 75 – says schools like Booker T. should not be the only “ray of Hope in a desert of despair.”
A clear visible distinction between public and public charters, charters are merely outperforming Tulsa Public Schools. However, it should be noted; charters have more intimate settings and various methods of disciplinary actions that TPS does not use.
Does Choice Matter to Jonathan Townsend and Mayor G.T. Bynum?
Jonathan Townsend says “Choice is always good because we give parents a chance…obliviously no one knows their kid as well as they do, so any sense of empowerment that a parent can have for his or her child based of the characteristics of that child…some of their particularly academic needs if that’s identified then it’s always great to put your child in the best position possible or in a position that they can thrive in. Understanding that that can be different for each kid is why we try to offer as many options in a city like Tulsa.”
According to Townsend Mayor G.T. Bynum supports charters “many of the initiatives that we will be working on and speaking on later on absolutely empower them [charters] just like traditional public schools.”
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum visiting Sankofa Middle School of the Performing Arts – a local charter
‘Who should be held accountable’ is the talk of the hour.
Locals say the cause for low test scores is the direct result of the lack of funding from state legislators. Moreover, the exodus of skilled teachers skipping the state’s border for better financial opportunities creates the atmosphere for more inexperienced teachers. Surpassing Mississippi, Oklahoma educators are now the lowest paid in the nation.
Unless the trajectory changes, black Oklahomans will continue to see unemployment and incarceration rates climb.
It is a black holocaust; a modern-day intellectual massacre — a Willy-Lynch reincarnated method playing out in the twenty-first-century on how to control and maintain ‘your’ present-day negro population; and the solution, so they do not become a “problem,” is cognitive docility. [Meaning] Educate them to the bare minimum as to be uncompetitive and miseducate them to the maximum. Continue being the echo chamber of white-supremacist domination telling them that their American journey began as enslaved people — below the oxen and the mule — and mention no prior history.
Although the proceeding claim reads like a conspiracy theory, the fact remains, most blacks believe the system, which includes America’s public education system, wasn’t designed for Blacks to become successful, which is why every year a handful of black parents are choosing to send their children to charters. However, we all know that charters cannot save the future of the black race from a pervasive life of chronic poverty and mass incarceration.
A Glimmer of Hope in TPS
Notwithstanding that Oklahoma’s academic performances are the lowest in the nation, especially for African-American students, Tulsa Public Schools says progress is on the horizon.
· McLain High School increased their 15-16 graduation rate by 12.2 percentage points. They have improved chronic absentee rates by 6% to 8% over last year for the past 5 weeks. They have also stabilized their average daily attendance at 86.5% for November and December which is 2.5% and 3% per month higher than last year
· We’ve seen decreases in chronic absenteeism at Jackson (down by 1.5%), Penn (down by 8.2%), Burroughs (down by 5.3%) and Springdale (down by 2%).
· We’ve seen increases in third grade proficiency at Springdale (up by 12.5%), Gilcrease (up by 10.5%), and Emerson (up by 8.4%).
· We’ve seen increases in overall proficiency (math and reading) at McKinley (up by 27.8%) and Emerson (up by 23.9%).
· We’ve seen increased attendance rates at Burroughs, Gilcrease, and Whitman – all up by 0.8-percentage points.
· We’ve seen suspension reductions at Jackson (down by 4-percentage points), McKinley (down by 1.4-percentage points), and Hawthorne (down by 1.1-percentage points).
The lingering question is will African-American students be prepared to pass April’s state exam this coming spring, and bump Oklahoma from the last place to somewhere in the middle?
So, despite the fact that TPS is making progress, African-American students in the district still need every advocate, mentor, reading partner, and tutor in their corner. Also, all schools could use more volunteers.
Addressing the need:
- Black students need teachers to believe in them when they do not believe in themselves.
- Black students need teachers to believe in them even when their parents do not believe in them.
- Black students need teachers to believe in them even when society does not believe in them.
- Black students need parents and mentors to believe in them even when their teachers do not believe in them.
- Black students need advocates to speak-out when teachers are not educating and stripping them of the very thing that empowers them — their cultural identity, the very thing that makes them identify as a Black kid.
- And the Black community needs teachers to stop being afraid of developing a conversation with them, and the community need parents to stop thinking that all white teachers are out to get their kids.
What We Need to Understand about the North Tulsa Student Environment:
African-Americans are still experiencing adverse effects of the MAAFA or Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. For instance, most black parents have to work multiple jobs due to the fact African-American households earn 25-percent less than the average white American household does.
Zip Code 74106
Zip Code 74126
The economic gap indicates white households make twice as much than black households in Tulsa. They just lack the resources to provide the extra help needed for their children to be competitive.
Furthermore, black families deal with chronically higher rates of incarceration than white families, due to racial profiling, implicit biases and over policed neighborhoods.
So Stop Placing the Sole Blame on Black Parents
White teachers and school administration staffers need to understand that black parents are dealing with the social-pathological residue of what was once legally enforced illiteracy during America’s slavery era; and now, there is a lack of the passing down or the desire to pass knowledge to the next generation. Furthermore, we are dealing with first and second generation desegregated school black alumnus’ who were not thoroughly educated by their white teachers and as a result, may not have the knowledge or skill to educate their children at home. In fact, they may even feel as intimidated by their kid’s homework as their kids feel about it. Moreover, as a result, the student shows up without or with the homework half done.
We need to stop pointing fingers at one another, and we need to start having real candid conversations on how to solve the academic crisis in Oklahoma and Black America.
In today’s schools, are black kids sitting in classrooms with teachers not educating them? Are teachers and school administrators stuck in an unspoken and subconscious Jim Crow mindset when it comes to the classroom management?
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Editor in Chief of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank is also the Co Executive Producer of the “Dominic Durant Sports Show.” Frank graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a 2nd degree in Political Science from Oklahoma State University. He is highly involved in community activism, a middle school teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts, a blogger for Education Post, and dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community. Frank is a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and has been featued on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People.