The Road to Declining African American Achievement in SPASD is Paved with Good Intentions Dear Editor,
This is the month of February. The one month per year that Americans traditionally celebrate African American history. Subsequently, it is a befitting time to discuss the current educational system and academic outcomes for African American children, and children with disabilities in Sun Prairie Area School District (SPASD).
Recently school districts across Wisconsin received a school report card issued from the Department of Public Instruction. SPASD’s school report card was another ray of light that shined starkly into the dark corners of our embarrassing and nefarious history of failing to educate African American students and other underserved groups that bring unique gifts and non- traditional norms into the public education arena with equality. The array of facts that are embedded in SPASD’s disaggregate data regarding the state of education for the African American child is both astonishing and dismal. The most recent 2016/17 SPASD school district report card uncovered the latest data set in a five year trend that indicates students who identify racially or ethnically as Black or African American are losing gains disproportionately in both math and reading every year between the years of the 2011/2012 school years and the 2016/2017 school years, with epidemic academic loses in math and reading in the last three years.
The report also uncovered that in the last three years, graduation rates of African American students in the SPASD have dropped to 76 percent, which indicates that one in every four African American kids enrolled in SPASD will not graduate high school. These statistics are not surprising given the history; however, they are ghastly given the half decade that has passed since the Federal Office of Civil Rights directed SPASD to improve practices and student outcomes.
In 2011 the Office of Civil Rights conducted a compliance review of SPASD. The review uncovered that despite the best of intentions of staff and leaders, African American students in SPASD are subjected to discrimination on the basis of race and/or disability, in the pre- referral/referral and evaluation of these students for special education and their placement in special education. In 2011 although African American students represented 10 percent of the entire school population, they represented 30 percent of the special education population.
To parents’ dismay, SPASD has done nothing to positively change the detrimental educational outcomes for African American children. For a half-decade, the district unapologetically and uniformly has continued to not meet the needs of African American children despite interventions by OCR. Our children can not wait another year, another five years, and another decade. We want change now!
Jalateefa Joe -Meyers Parent of a SPASD Student Grandmother of a SPASD Student Licensed School Social Worker Licensed Therapist Licensed School Principal Director of Pupil Services License Jalateefajm@gmail.com