Jarett Fields ER Room
By Jarett Fields
The Obama Administration is charting a new course in higher education access. Called the American College Initiative by some, the President’s goal is for the United States to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world, by 2020.
A major focus of the initiative, specifically, is to increase college enrollment and graduation among low-income and first-generation students.
As the leading Democrat for Education Reform, President Obama has expressed his intention to change the current trajectory of education for our most vulnerable students.
Nationally, the six-year college graduation rate for low-income students is twenty-five percent, well below the national average of over fifty percent.
Investing more in Head Start, increasing funds dedicated to the Pell Grant, promoting the DREAM Act, distributing more funds to Charter schools, creating more grants for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, and supporting Common Core Standards are all a part of his plan.
Here in Wisconsin, we maintain the highest Black- White and Black-Asian achievement gap.
Recent National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) reading scores revealed that Black eighth-graders in Wisconsin ranked the lowest of any state.
But test scores only tell a part of the story.
Concern over test scores increase when added to the fact that the high school and college graduation rates between Black and White students and Black and Asian students in Wisconsin are among the highest in the nation.
In short, low-income and Black students in the Badger state are being robbed out of an education that would allow them to compete in the 21st century.
This is a national problem too.
In response to the growing achievement gap between African Americans and their White counterparts around the country, President Obama issued an executive order to establish the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
The initiative was created in order to restore the United States as a global leader in education, improve educational outcomes for African American students of all ages, and provide African American students with a complete and competitive education in preparation for careers or college.
President Obama’s initiative takes both commitment and foresight—we need that here in Wisconsin.
As we prepare for the coming election year, we need Democrats who will chart a new path in education that is not guided by the same divisive politics about competing school systems.
Maybe that means a state office on Educational Excellence for African Americans, or maybe that means an unprecedented restructuring of school funding that supports and rewards best practices, as well as encourages growth in innovation, and promotes efficiency in resources, instruction, and enrollment.
But then, it could also mean building a structured partnership with community and neighborhood organizations designed to inform parents, increase involvement, and share resources.
It’s no secret by now that the problems we face become a vicious cycle.
Under-educated means less likely to be employed, less likely to be employed means fewer opportunities for income, fewer opportunities for income means the struggle continues with little or no way out.
The educational leadership from elected officials in 2014 must include new and bold ideas that address our most pressing problems among our most vulnerable students.