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By Nehemiah D. Frank, Founder and Editor-in-Chief
TULSA, Okla. — ImpactTulsa released its annual Community Impact Report on the progress towards educational equity for students enrolled in the public schools.
An organization founded by former city mayor Kathy Taylor, Carlisha Williams-Bradley, an African American visionary — fighting for all students, is the new director for the non-profit.
Mrs. Bradley said the organization’s mission is to spotlight educational progress and highlight areas that still need work in our city’s public schools.
And in its fifth year of existence, ImpactTulsa is beginning to see bright spots: Although African-American pre-K enrollment still lags 4.6-percent behind white pre-K enrollment, African-American pre-K enrollment is up 2.9 percent and the city experienced an overall 7-percent increase in pre-K enrollment since 2013.
Impact Tulsa’s data suggest that African Americans, along with other ethnic groups in Tulsa, should focus on enrolling their children in pre-K programs because it ensures kindergarten readiness and improves academic outcomes long into the child’s future.
Furthermore, students are more likely to be prepared for their academic journey from pre-K through high school and college when they have a strong foundation of a high-quality pre-K education under their belt, making it easier for kindergarten and first-grade teachers to move the class — as a whole — along academically. The long term benefits of enrolling children in pre-K suggest they’ll have higher graduation rates.
Ensuring that pre-K programs in the city’s majority African-American and Latinx communities are equitable and of high-quality, in comparison to other pre-K programs in more affluent neighborhoods, could be the city’s next challenge.
Mobility or access to reliable transportation is also a challenge for many north-siders in the city, which is one of the many causes to why some parents and other family members aren’t enrolling their children in pre-K.
“As a district, we know that success on the 3rd grade reading test begins with instruction in pre-K.” Traci Taylor, an Assistant Principal, stated.
In measuring literacy rates by racial demographics in the city, African-American students continue scoring the lowest. Only 13-percent of African-American students placed proficient in reading comprehension and just 1-percent tested advanced. Advanced African-American readers decreased by 1-percent from the previous year’s data.
White students scored the highest in reading comprehension, 33-percent; however, even white students experienced a sharp decline in scores, a 6-percent decrease from the previous year.
“Becoming a volunteer in programs like Reading Partners impresses a positive and significant difference in the lives of Tulsa’s young people; you become their role model,” DeVon Douglas former Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Tulsa.
On the third-grade reading assessment, economically disadvantaged students scored 15-percent in reading comprehension; not economically disadvantaged students scored 37-percent in reading comprehension.
The most shocking number of the report, however, was in spotlighting the eighth-grade mathematics data along racial groups: Only 4-percent of African-American public school eighth-grade students in Tulsa scored proficient in math. Their white counterparts scored 14-percent.
Interestingly, African-American not economically disadvantaged students were 15-percent proficient in math while economically disadvantaged white students scored 14-percent, suggesting there are more underlying variables affecting low math proficiency for African-American students.
Only 7-percent of African-American eleventh-graders were proficient in math, and 22-percent were proficient in English.
The brightest spot revealed by the Impact Tulsa report was in high school graduations; African-American students experienced the most significant increase at a 9.7-percent rise in just five years.
“Our community is obviously changing. The best way to meet the needs of the students is having an understanding of the different cultures and making sure we are inclusive,” Jessica Lozano-Alvarez a parent stated.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief 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 an educator and school administrator 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.