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Op-Ed by Nehemiah D. Frank
Black Students’ Low Academic Achievement
In 2017, Oklahoma’s black students scored an average of 18 points lower than their white counterparts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam, a blow to the gains made in 2015. Moreover, a large percent of Oklahoma’s black students attend Title I schools. Title I schools are considered low-income schools. The majority of black students in the state attend Title I schools. Students attending these low-income schools scored an average of 23 points lower on the NAEP.
While teachers, school administrators, and school officials across the state speculate and correlate low test scores to the flocking of ‘good’ teachers to neighboring states for better pay, their theories do not negate the fact that black students tested 18 points lower than their white counterparts. This continuation of the lagging in test scores in Oklahoma reveals clearly: There exists a disconnect between Oklahoma teachers and their black students.
Notably, 80 percent of Oklahoma teachers are white. And yes, I will partially blame their unconscious biases for Oklahoma’s current academic achievement gap.
The racial demographics of Tulsa Public and Oklahoma City Public schools are rapidly changing. Nearly half of the students in TPS and OCPS are composed of black and Latinx students while the majority of their teachers are white. It has been proven time and time again that students of color fare well when black teachers are in the classroom. Hence, if there aren’t enough black teachers than the schools are falling the students.
Trumpian Teachers, Administrators, and School Officials
It is no secret that Oklahoma is Trump Country. Every county lit-up red when the polls closed on election night in 2016 — even the counties which included the large metropolitan areas cast their votes for then President-elect Trump. During his election, a wave of populism swept the Sooner State from end-to-end. His seemingly dangerous slogan “America first” and mentality swept the Sooner State from end-to-end. We would be ignorant if we didn’t think teachers with this type of ‘Trumpian’ mindset weren’t in the classroom teaching our black children.
Who holds Trumpian teachers, administrators, and school officials accountable when only 7 percent of teachers in Oklahoma public schools are black and less than 2 percent of the black teachers are black men?
Joy Hofmeister, a Republican, is the state’s school superintendent — a state that boasts the highest incarceration rate of black people per capita in the nation. We are a state where the school-to-prison pipeline doesn’t show any signs of stopping when black students lag behind their white counterparts by 18 to 23 points on national standardized tests.
Black Oklahomans need to start holding Joy Hofmeister accountable. She chose to inherit Oklahoma’s racial academic mess — from decades of racist school policies.
Now, she is responsible for failing Oklahoma’s black students.
She is not putting forward the effort required to close the state’s racial achievement gap.
She is responsible for the continuation of it and current school-to-prison pipeline, where many Oklahoma black students are fastened tightly.
Where is her explanation for the racial achievement gap between black and white students?
Oklahoma has a long malicious and dark history of disenfranchising its’ African American voters and US Secretary of Education, Besty DeVos doesn’t show any signs of stopping it.
In an open letter to Joy Hofmeister, Ms. DeVos had this to say:
Where is the accountability from the federal government?
So, if failing schools aren’t performing well as a result of teachers who are afraid to teach black students, or don’t teach them as a result of a possible biased coupled with poor district policies that make it difficult to teach the whole black child, do we shut them down?
I suspect that most of the schools attended by majority black students will shut down since our kids are at the bottom of academic achievement in the state.
What about Ms. DeVos’ school choice agenda?
Are public partnership schools not part of her school choice agenda? After all, Greenwood Leadership Academy appears to be doing well. Are funding options available amid this consolidation period?
The head of Ms. Hofmeister’s political party, Donald Trump, has ushered America into an age of political consciousness. We are in a period were we demand transparency and a visible plan of action.
Therefore, we will hold superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s words and agenda to the fire.
To read more about Secretary DeVos’ Letter to Oklahoma’s superintendent click here: Letter to Oklahoma from Secretary DeVos regarding State Plan
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and executive editor of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Oklahoma State University. A rising voice in America and an emerging leader in the education reform movement, Nehemiah frequently travels for speaking engagements around the country, is a blogger for Education Post, and has been featured on NBC as well as in Blavity and Tulsa People. Nehemiah is also a teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts in Tulsa, OK, a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, and a 2018 Oluko Fellow. He gave a TED Talk at The University of Tulsa in the spring of 2018.