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Education Officials Say Racism Sets Students up for Failure

Teachers and school administrators tackled the issue of racism in California's education system on the last day of the state's Achievement Gap Summit yesterday. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis reports fr

Education Officials Say Racism Sets Students up for Failure

Teachers and school administrators tackled the issue of racism in California's education system on the last day of the state's Achievement Gap Summit yesterday. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis reports from Sacramento.

A number of black and Latino scholars led discussions about the sticky and controversial topic of racism in California schools.  

Glen Singleton was one of them. He helps schools come to terms with educational inequality and turn things around. He says too many educators have no idea how to engage black and Latino students in cultural terms they understand. That coupled with built-in negative attitudes or low expectations about black and Latino potential sets the students up for failure.

Singleton believes black and Latino test scores would soar if educators looked at their role and didn't blame outside forces.    

Singleton: There's adequate research that connects to effectively educating black and brown children. We are not using this research to inform our practice partly because many folks don't believe there is a racial issue to consider. 

Not everybody agrees. Orange County math teacher Lee Clark is of many teachers who are convinced that the problem is complicated by more factors than just race. He's still believes poverty and other socioeconomic factors are parts of the equation.

Clark: I bend over backwards to go over to respond to their needs, to overcome what has been a history of ignoring some of theirs in the past, and I think most teachers that I talk to have an attitude very similar.

But State Superintendent Jack O'Connell is convinced race is a big factor. He says test scores clearly show poor white students are still doing better than affluent Latino and black students. O'Connell says all educators have to ask themselves if they're treating kids equally. 

O’Connell: We do have to look internally at our own philosophies, our own expectations and make sure we're challenging all students we cannot have low expectations for any student or certainly for any group of students.

At the end of the achievement gap summit, it was unclear what kind of solutions will come about as a result of these conversations, although O'Connell has hinted at racial sensitivity training for all teachers. He's expected to present a comprehensive plan in January. 

From Sacramento, I'm Ana Tintocalis, KPBS News.