As president of the National Urban League, Hugh Price recently launched a campaign to boost the academic achievement of minority and urban youths. He spoke with the Monitor in Washington.
On high-stakes tests for kids:
Tough love for students is not the answer, at least not until we show adults in charge of schools how tough we are going to be on them by insisting that they do the right thing.
On reforming schools first:
The way you get children to higher levels of achievement is not merely setting the bar higher and then testing them to see if they can jump over it. We must attend to the quality of education children have received: Are their teachers qualified? Do they have computers and books? Have they been taught algebra?
On the achievement gap:
These gaps are rooted in nothing genetic. And there is no gap in aspiration. The gaps we're seeing in student achievement [between white and black students] are the result of the persistence of discrimination - differences in the way institutions serve individuals, rather than differences in race. Test scores in New York show a relationship between low test scores and a lower percentage of teachers meeting state standards, for example.
On teacher expectations:
It is hugely important to have diversity in the teaching corps, but you've got to make sure that the belief system is also there. You've got to believe in your heart that these children can achieve to high levels. Studies show that substantial numbers of teachers don't believe that urban children can succeed in college.
On zero-tolerance discipline policies:
There have been very high rates of expulsion for minority youths. It's part of a larger pattern of pushing kids out of challenging courses. But in this case, it's not just pushing them away, it's pushing them out.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society