Ask AAU and HS Coaches the Hard Questions!!

Young fella:
It’s hard… I know… believe me, I know. You are just trying to find your way. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I flunked one year in school at 13. I was arrested at 16. I was a teenage father at 17. I lived in subsidized housing. I was raised by a single mother. In my early 20s, I smoked blunt after blunt after blunt… I played high school ball. I played college ball. My homies moved weight. I have been profiled by police several times. I have been strip searched for no reason. My car has been searched on the side of the road. My close friends have done bids in the penitentiary. By 23, the University of Michigan, the University of Delaware, The Ohio State University and the University of California were offering to pay me to attend their graduate programs.  As I approach 50, I have gained some perspective that may be of use to you as you begin your journey.  But, you gotta pay attention and listen closely…

Philly Pride Triple Threat LogoMore than anything else… More than exposure… More than playing time… More than trips to Vegas… More than fly gear… you need to surround your self with people that are knowledgeable about the ever changing NCAA eligibility process.  Make sure you participate in AAU and high school programs that genuinely care about college preparation.  Good programs have early-alert systems that flag student-athletes with spotty attendance, low test PSAT, SAT and ACT scores, too few core courses and low GPA’s.  Great programs will reward you for meeting academic goals and implement  consequences when you come up short.  Young fella, that’s the ONLY way to avoid being one of the thousands of young Black men who will inevitably fail to meet NCAA eligibility requirements in 2016.  Time is short, you have to grow up quickly.

As you embark on your journey, you will find yourself struggling with the conflicting ways the larger society views Black males. The relationship between America and Black males is really complex and can really be confusing for young men such as yourself. On one hand, for the better part of 400 years, Black males have been viewed as a menacing threat to all that is good about American society. Deeply ingrained white supremacist and racist traditions led to the exclusion of Black males from many major collegiate athletic programs up to the late 1960s and early 1970s.  To this day, young Black men can be literally shot in the face or choked to death in the middle of American streets while armed with only Black skin, loose cigarettes, iced tea and a bag of skittles. On the other hand, Black male athletes and hip hop performance artists are revered and rewarded with multimillion dollar contracts and enormous endorsement deals. Under Armour and Nike just emerged from an unprecedented battle over who gets to pay Kevin Durant $300 million over the next decade.  Of course, you want access to the latter, but everyday you have to navigate the reality of former. It ain’t gonna be an easy journey young fella…

Odds-of-Making-the-NBAIn the immortal words of Run-DMC, “It’s Tricky”…. But, for now, you just wanna play ball… You just wanna go to college, preferably D1. You know the odds are more than stacked against you. You have heard it all before. You fully understand that only 0.03% of high school players make it to the NBA. You realize that there are about 546,000 high school players and every year only about 48 college players are drafted into the league. But, shit… you could be one of the 48. I get that… I really do… As you see it, all you need is one coach in the right program, in the right conference to give you a chance. If they let you on that stage, you know you’re gonna shine. In your mind, you are better than many of the guys playing college ball right now! Given a fair chance, you will have the NBA contract and the massive endorsement deal. Maybe… Maybe you will young fella, but then, again, maybe you won’t. Be ready either way!

Mark MaconMark Macon, Temple/NBA

It’s possible… I’ve seen a lot of Philly high school and college players make to the NBA. Maurice Martin (St. Joseph’s), Lionel Simmons (LaSalle), Doug Overton (LaSalle), Randy Woods (LaSalle), Bo Kimble (Dobbins), Tim Perry (Temple), Mark Macon (Temple), Aaron McKie (Temple), Eddie Jones (Temple), Jameer Nelson (St. Joseph’s), Delonte West (St. Joseph’s), Kerry Kittles (Villanova), Rasheed Wallace (Gratz), Marcus & Markeiff Morris (Prep Charter) and Dion Waiters (Syracuse) were all 1st round picks.

I must also tell you, I’ve also seen guys who were good enough suffer injuries and illnesses that curtailed their NBA dreams. Rap Curry (St. Joseph’s), Bernard Blunt (St. Joseph’s), Bernard Jones (St. Joseph’s), Donnie Carr (LaSalle), Jason Frazier (Villanova) and Granger Hall (Temple) were fantastic collegiate players denied an opportunity in the NBA because of health issues. You have to simultaneously prepare to play at the highest level and get ready for the day the ball stops bouncing. It could stop bouncing at any time. First and foremost, we have to get you through high school and off to college.

donnie carrDonnie Carr, LaSalle University

Young fella… The first thing you have to do is become aware of and avoid the traps that have been set for you. Your future, your freedom and in some cases your life are at-risk every time venture outside your home. Every year, somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 African Americans are murdered annually in the United States. The overwhelming majority of these victims are young males. You should know that 93% of these murders are in fact perpetrated by other blacks.  Black people account for about half of all homicide victims in the US almost exclusively at the hands of other African-Americans. Every year Black men kill more Black men than the total number of U.S. service men and women that been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined over the course of decade-long wars fought in those nations.

I know… I know… You know your way around the “hood.” You know the gun-toters. You know the killers. They respect your game. You don’t have nothing to do with the neighborhood “beefs.” You ain’t really worried about dying in the streets at the hands of other Black men. But, you should be. Be careful. Be respectful. I can’t expect you to avoid all interaction with real “thugs.” Some of them are your uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends. In many cases, they love you and you love them. Nonetheless, you have to exercise extreme caution when interacting with them. Don’t take no rides. Don’t hold no packs. Don’t stash no burners in your crib. Be smart. You have other more important things to worry about.

6446-000031Young fella… there is a drug arrest every 19 seconds in the U.S. In 2009 alone, there were more than 1.6 million drug arrests and 82 percent of those were for possession alone. Despite the unquestioned fact that white boys use drugs just as much, if not more, than your homies, they are focusing their policing efforts on our community. As Blacks, we are only 13 percent of the U.S. population and we proportionately account for 13 percent of the nation’s drug users. Yet, Blacks represent 34 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 45 percent of those held in state prisons for drug offenses. We are the enemy in the “War on Drugs.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, in 2008, there were over 846,000 black men in prison, making up 40.2 percent of all inmates in the system. The brilliant Michelle Alexander notes that “More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.” We are drastically overrepresented in the courtrooms, jails and prisons. We are about six times more likely to spend time in prison or jail than whites. According to recent research, we receive up to 60% longer federal prison sentences than whites who commit similar offenses, and 20% longer prison sentences than whites who commit the same offenses.  It’s so easy to get tripped up.

Keep these statistics in mind while you listen to multimillionaire hip hop artists promoting violence, misogyny, drug abuse and crass materialism. Jay Z, Young Jeezy, 50 Cent, Lil’ Wayne and all the rest have bloody hands. They are purposely filling your head destructive messages, while accepting payments for lyrics that extol alcohol and drug use. A recent study by Dartmouth Medical School, analyzed 793 songs from Billboard charts starting in 2005 and found that 160 songs (about 21%) referred explicitly to alcohol.  The study found that the majority of songs that referenced alcohol were rap, followed by R&B/hip-hop and country.  Approximately 42 percent of the lyrics referred to alcohol in a positive way and mentioned specific alcohol brands.  The brands in most cases are associated with advertising that depicts a luxury lifestyle of drug use, partying, sex, and wealth.

Another study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that music listened to by teenagers aged 15 to 18 affects long-term attitudes and behaviors.  That study looked at 279 top Billboard songs and found that 33 percent included explicit substance abuse references.  Be strong young fella, they are after you.  The majority of these songs linked substance abuse with positive sexual, financial and emotional rewards.  There are very consistent messages within corporate-sponsored hip-hop that promote the murder of young black men, sexual irresponsibility, excessive consumerism, drug/alcohol abuse and other forms of illegal behavior.  The plan is to convert you into a blunt smoking, drug addled, liquor drinking corporate consumer for life.

Wiz KhalifaIn 2002, Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy released “Pass the Courvoisier.”  That song led to a 19 percent increase in sales for Allied Domecq, maker of Courvoisier. Young Jeezy has an endorsement deal with Belvedere Vodka. A number of hip hop artists are creating their own alcohol labels.  Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, is part owner of the Voli Vodka brand.  Other rap artists who are part owners of liquor brands include Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Ludacris.

LudaThe myth is bullshit, Young fella… They tell you, “Jay Z sold drugs, he came up… 50 Cent sold drugs, he came up.” That’s the narrative being repeatedly fed to you and your homies through the media and the hip hop lyrics. Meanwhile, one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime compared to one out of every seventeen white males. Most will go to prison for the same “hustlin” behaviors celebrated in hip hop. I need you be discerning. I need you to see what they are doing. For every Kanye, there are 100,000 Nates, Bruces and Jamals on probation, parole or in prison.

The aim, the goal must ALWAYS be to hone and leverage your athletic ability and gain access to higher education. Then use education to improve your life and the lives of your family members. Once this goal is achieved, you have won. A professional basketball contract is the gravy.  The college degree and the knowledge gained along the way constitute the nourishing meal.

Playaz logoToward that end, you have to exercise solid judgement in selecting AAU and High School programs. Don’t sell yourself for a mere pittance. When the AAU guys come around offering a couple dollars, a new cell phone bill and 5 new pairs of KD’s, ask then the tough questions: How many of the guys in your program did NOT meet NCAA eligibility requirements? How many of your guys in the past 5 years had to go JUCO? Exactly, what does your program do to make sure guys are eligible? Does your program have homework assistance and/or SAT/Prep? Do you provide practice SAT exams to see where I stand?

We R 1 logoReally good AAU programs won’t have a problem answering these questions. Really good program administrators understand what you are up against. They do everything they can to get you in college. Some of the best programs I have encountered are NJ Playaz, Philly Pride/Triple Threat, WE R 1, Baltimore’s Finest and Mississippi Basketball Association. These programs focus on academics as well basketball preparation.

Mississippi Basketball AssociationMany of these same questions must be directed to high school coaches. This is especially true for kids attending urban public schools. In urban districts across the country, budget cuts have eliminated guidance counselor and assistant principal positions. You must ask the coach: What is the “eligibility plan” for me? Exactly what courses will I take that will lead to you being eligible? Can I see the list of NCAA approved courses for your school? What is the average SAT score at your school? What scores did your players get over the past few years? Does your school offer summer school courses? What is the grading scale at your school? How many of your players have gone onto play Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA?

As young Black “baller” you may find yourself struggling to attain self-conscious manhood while avoiding traps permeating the landscapes you traverse everyday. As you inch closer to becoming an elite basketball player, the “love-hate” relationship America has with Black males will become more and more apparent. Your challenge is to both keep it “real” and represent your family and your “hood” while simultaneously accessing institutions of high education and playing at the highest collegiate level. Shit ain’t easy. But, it can done, but, you must start right now by asking the right questions.

Sincerely,

Delgreco K. Wilson

 

No Excuses!! Black Athletes Have To Use Better Judgement

Jaimeis Winton, the Heisman Trophy Award winning quarterback of the National Champion Florida State Seminoles was recently (09/17/14) suspended. Not for his alleged involvement in a sexual assault last year. Not for his subsequent nationally televised theft of crab legs from a local market. This time, he is being disciplined for repeatedly yelling “Fuck Her Right In The Pussy” while standing on a table in the student union.

Jameis WinstonJameis Winston, Florida State University

Interim Florida St. president Garnett Stokes and athletics director Stan Wilcox said in a statement. “Student-athletes are expected to act in a way that reflects dignity and respect for others… As a result of his comments yesterday, which were offensive and vulgar, [he] will undergo internal discipline and will be withheld from competition for the first half of the Clemson game.” Internal discipline….Ya think? The consequence should be more than half a game… This latest Winston episode highlights a far-reaching and, seemingly, expanding problem among Black male athletes.

Remember, this isn’t just an average everyday run of the mill college athlete. Winston is a tremendously gifted quarterback with all of the requisite football skills. He has great size, a very strong arm, and an incredible will to win. Based on his athletic ability and football skills, he should be in line for an NFL contract on par with the 4 year $22.025 million deal Cam Newton received and the 4 year $22.1 million package awarded to Andrew Luck. Except, there a major problem. For some reason, Winston seems incapable of exercising sound judgement for a sustained period of time. Quite frankly, he appears to be socially stupid.

He is not alone. This era has, unfortunately, witnessed an onslaught of tremendously gifted young Black men acting like they have absolutely no “home training.”  They bring loaded guns into locker rooms.  They beat 4 year old boys with “switches” and hit ’em on the scrotum.  They punch their women upside the head.  They assault fans in the stands.  They force themselves upon females.  They do all sorts of real stupid shit!  I know Big Momma and Pop Pop taught them better.

Clearly, the time has come for an honest and frank discussion about this serious and pervasive problem among contemporary Black male athletes. Far too many exhibit a persistent refusal to comply with rules or expectations in the home, school or community. I’m talking about multimillion dollar professionals, JUCO bench warmers and everything in between.

adrian-petersonAdrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Dominating current headlines are stories centering on cruel or violent behaviors toward children and women by NFL stars Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and Greg Hardy. The list NBA stars that have failed to fully consider the consequences of their actions and take inappropriate risks is also very long. A few of the more prominent names are Michael Beasley, Chris Washburn, Roy Tarpley, Richard Dumas, Gilbert Arenas, Delonte West, Javaris Crittendon and Ron Artest. Additionally, over the past few years, scores of young Black collegiate athletes have also been involved in array of gun charges. sexual assaults, burglaries, thefts and physical assaults that have led to disciplinary sanctions.

While there can be no denying America’s long standing uneasiness with Black masculinity, it is obvious that these young men have no idea how fortunate they are to play collegiate and/or professional sports. They take their positions as scholarship and/or professional athletes for granted.  Of course the media sensationalizes the incidents.  That’s a given.  My concern is that many Black athletes appear to have very little or no awareness of the sacrifices made by their predecessors that paved the way for them to be on the main stage.  Adopting their lingo, it seems they just don’t “give a fuck.”  This essay is intended to help some Mommas, Daddies, Uncles, Aunties, Grandmothers, Grandfathers and “Oldheads” understand just how far we have come.   If a few young Black male athletes take heed, that’s a real bonus.

No real understanding of the problematic nature of contemporary behavior is possible without an analysis of Black America’s tremendous struggle for mere participation in American collegiate athletics.  Put simply, we’ve come too far to act a fool now.  As it was with virtually everything else, in most states, Blacks were forbidden by law from participating in college sports.

The establishment of educational institutions serving African-Americans in the South following the the Civil War (1861-1865) was a tremendous accomplishment. Unfortunately, the nascent African-American college experiment coincided with the emergence of intercollegiate athletics and the rise of Jim Crow. Jim Crow law were Apartheid-like racial segregation laws enacted between 1876 and 1965 in the United States, primarily at the state and local level.

Four years after the end of the Civil War, Rutgers University and Princeton, played the first game of intercollegiate football on Nov. 6, 1869. Over the next three decades, a few northeastern colleges like Princeton, Columbia, Yale, Tufts, Harvard and Rutgers would challenge one another in “football” games.

By the early part of the 20th Century, major college sports were emerging. College football, in particular, was transitioning from an extracurricular activity to a highly commercialized and profitable sport. By this time there were around 250 or so college football teams. During this era, the unregulated sport was exceedingly violent. During the 1904 season, 18 players died from injuries on the field. “Every day one hears of broken heads, fractured skulls, broken necks, wrenched legs, disclosed shoulders, broken noses, and many other accidents,” the New York Times wrote after the 1893 season. Nonetheless, college football experienced exponential growth in popularity.

Black BoyBlack Boy in Jim Crow South

From the outset, Black Americans were systematically excluded from participation in collegiate sports. Simultaneous to the rise of college athletics was the disfranchisement of the African-American in the South. The last thirty years of the 19th century witnessed the ascendancy of American Apartheid in the former Confederacy. Brutally enforced racial Apartheid was the emerging norm. Laws were rapidly passed that forbade the intermarriage of the races in every Southern state in United States. African-Americans and Whites were formally and legally separated in virtually every aspect of public life. State legislative bodies banned African-Americans from White hotels, restaurants, theaters, and barbershops. As of 1885, most Southern states required that African-American and European American children be educated in separate schools. In 1896, with the sanctioning of the US Supreme Court, African-Americans were formally relegated to an second class citizenship.

By 1900, Jim Crow segregation was firmly entrenched throughout the American South. Apartheid-like separation of the races was rigidly enforced in public parks, buildings, recreational spaces, hospitals, prisons and even cemeteries. Of course, college athletics was not exempt from this dynamic. Like the rest of Southern society, Southern universities were segregated along stringent racial lines. This segregation was enforced through all available legal means and the extralegal practice of lynching. During the period spanning 1884 to 1900, there were more that 2,500 lynchings. The last decade of the 19th century saw an average of 187 lynchings per year in the United States. Needless to say, there would be no integrated college football games in the American South during the Jim Crow era.

lynchingsLynching of Four Black Men in Jim Crow America

The advent of “separate but equal” accommodations following Plessy v. Ferguson combined with sustained a terrorist campaign orchestrated by domestic terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan to produce a social climate of fear and intimidation across much of the American South.

In other parts of the country, there would be isolated attempts at limited integration in some college football programs. Among the early African-American collegiate players were George Jewett (Michigan), George Flippin (Nebraska), Matthew Bullock (Dartmouth), Fritz Pollard (Brown), Paul Robeson (Rutgers), Duke Slater (Iowa), Joe Lillard (Oregon), Bobby Marshall (Minnesota), Wilmeth Sidat-Singh (Syracuse), Brice Taylor (Southern California), Jerome “Brud” Holland (Cornell), Marion Motley (Nevada) and Levi Jackson (Yale). While they were allowed to compete on the gridiron, these early players were subjected to extensive physical abuse at the hands of teammates and opponents. Their on field performances were not recognized as there were no African-American first-team All-Americans during the period between 1918 and 1937.

Duke SlaterDuke Slater, Iowa University

One has to wonder what these pioneers would think of the antics of the elite Black athletes dominating today’s headlines. Unquestionably, Black players of the modern era owe a tremendous debt to the steadfast and brave student-athletes that endured brutally racist conditions while breaking down barriers. I guess the question becomes: Are things like honesty, compliance with rules, sensitivity to the feelings and rights of others and control over impulses too much to ask?  Should the Black community expect Black athletes to comport themselves in dignified manner?  Is it fair to expect the athletes to model positive behaviors for younger impressionable kids? After all, the opportunities they are blessed to have did not come easily.

Whites vehemently fought Black participation at every turn.  As the years passed by, the popularity of college football grew exponentially. Eventually, the pressure to field the best possible teams, win games and attract a large fan base would strain the ability of Jim Crow adherents to maintain their racist Apartheid-like tradition of excluding African-Americans from inter-collegiate athletics in the American South. Winning football games became increasingly important. Moreover, money began to talk.  University Presidents, Athletic Directors and coaches recognized that game attendance correlated positively with the quality of play.

Nonetheless, it would be a long hard struggle for African-American inclusion. Plainly stated, Southern Universities did not accept African-Americans as students. Building upon the foundation laid by Plessy v. Ferguson, for the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, Southern states operated dual – separate and unequal – systems of higher education.

segregationWhite Males Opposing Integrated Schools

With zero (0) Blacks in the universities, there were zero (0) Blacks on their athletic teams. Nonetheless, it is important to note that African-Americans were present within several athletic departments. Most southern football programs had beloved, non-threatening black figures who served as the male counterpart to the “Mammy.” These Black men served as janitors, equipment managers, waterboys, masseurs, trainers, etc. for southern college football programs.

In accordance with America’s patently racist traditions dating back to the colonial era, Southern White colleges refused to suit up African-American players. Moreover, throughout the 1920s and 1930s they demanded that integrated teams bench African-Americans during games held outside of the former Confederacy. During this period, it was commonplace for northern coaches and university administrators to acquiesce to the demands of rigid southern segregationists. As time passed, the hardline segregationist position would be compromised in some parts of the south. The rapidity and depth of compromise varied considerably across regions of the Jim Crow south.

Over time, the financial incentives were too strong to resist and southern segregationist bowl committees relaxed their apartheid-like ban on African-American participation in Bowl games. There was just too much money to be made with Black players participating.  There was recognition of the fact that revenues could be increased through integrated intersectional bowl games. Between 1947 and 1956, they would allow Northern teams with Black players to play in the segregated South.

This adaptation was driven solely financial gain. If these changes had been fueled by racial enlightenment there would have been a gradual inclusion of Blacks in regional south versus south regular season games. There was none. The games and the teams remained rigidly segregated during this period. However, northern universities during the post-war era began integrating in large numbers.

The Texas Western College basketball team is widely credited with fueling the movement to desegregate college athletics in the south. In 1966, Texas Western faced perennial national championship contender and number-one ranked Kentucky for the NCAA title. For the first time, there were five White starters playing against five Black starters for the championship. Texas Western’s victory clearly demonstrated that southern schools would have to integrate to compete with non-segregated teams. It is worth noting that while Texas Western began integrating southern college basketball in 1956, they refused to integrate the dormitories and the Black players were required to live off campus.

Texas WesternTexas Western University, 1966 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champions immediately after defeating Kentucky

The most significant football game during the long slow march toward desegregation of college athletics in the south occurred when the University of Southern California visited the still segregated University of Alabama in 1970. Led by an all-black backfield of quarterback Jimmy Jones, running back Clarence Davis, and fullback Sam “Bam” Cunningham, USC trounced Alabama 42-21. Alabama assistant coach Jerry Claiborne succinctly noted, “Sam Cunningham did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes that night than Martin Luther King had accomplished in 20 years.”

Sam CunninghamSam Cunningham, USC, running over, through and around Alabama defenders

It is worth noting that during this period of “Athletic Apartheid” spanning 1906 through the 1970s there was very little research regarding student-athlete academic performance. During the 70 pus years, when the student-athletes were predominantly white, there were no significant NCAA sponsored academic reforms. At the institutional and Conference level, there was some minor analysis of the 1.6 minimum grade point average rule. However, the NCAA during this period of extensive racial exclusion did not use research in any systematic way to formulate policy or establish eligibility requirements.

Since the early 1980’s, when Blacks males became a majority of scholarship athletes in the revenue producing sports – football and basketball – there has been a series of increasingly stringent Academic reforms.  This timing of these reforms has led some to question the actual motives of the NCAA.  Hall of Fame Basketball Coach John Chaney fought the reform measures throughout his illustrious career.  In January of 1989, Coach Chaney declared, “The NCAA is a racist organization of the highest order… On this day, it instituted a new punishment on black kids who have already been punished because they are poor. Any time the NCAA, which is 90 percent white, considers the youngsters in Division I basketball and football, it discriminates, because 89 percent of the kids are black… I wonder what message they are sending. It’s another hardship for black kids made by white folk.”
NCAA Men's Basketball - Temple vs Army - November 15, 2005

John Chaney and Mark Tyndale, Temple University

The self-inflicted wounds of contemporary Black athletes make no sense when viewed in historical context.  Too many were forced to play on the “chitlin’ circuit”…. Too many were denied opportunities their abilities warranted… Too many never got a fair shot… Too many watched inferior white players win awards and receive accolades… No excuses!! Black male athletes have to use better judgement…

 

It’s a Set up!! The Public Educational “Game” is Officially Rigged in Pennsylvania!!

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Young fella,  the educational crisis in Philadelphia’s public schools has received a great deal of attention in the national and local media.  The $300 million dollar budget deficit, the school closings and the massive teacher layoffs have been extensively debated.  Ms. Jones, your favorite NTA, Mrs. Williams, the music teacher, Mr. Jenkins, the guidance counselor that exposed you to the world of HBCUs, they’re all gone.  Along with over 3,000 of their peers, they have been terminated.  It’s bad, real bad young fella.  Much worse than when I graduated about 30 years ago.

A general consensus has been reached: Public Education in cities like Philadelphia is in critical condition.  Some contend it’s on it’s deathbed.  The media tends to frame the debate in the following manner: Should financially strapped public school districts and and their supporters focus attention on how to provide quality schooling with, admittedly, dwindling and insufficient resources? Or, alternatively, should school districts and their supporters continue waging [losing?] a struggle to gain additional public funding?

However, very few analysts and commentators view the situation from the most important perspective.  What you, your Mom and your Dad do?  What should you and your parents be considering?  What factors should you weigh as you make educational placement decisions?

Please consider this open letter a warning!  Please be careful, be very careful.  The educational landscape is changing.  While the focus of the public debate has been on yet another budget crisis, there has been a HUGE political shift as well.  While this political shift has not received the same level attention as the recurring budget crisis, the long-term consequences will be much more impactful.

Plainly stated, if you do not make informed and careful decisions regarding school selection, you will be excluding yourself from the possibility of higher education and relegating yourself to life time of low-wage employment or worse.

Urban BlightIn many ways, it’s a classic set-up.  Young fella… pay close attention! Beginning in 2017, most low-income minority students attending traditional neighborhood public schools in places like Philadelphia, Chester, Reading, Coatesville, Harrisburg and Lancaster will NOT graduate from high school.  I am not suggesting they will drop out of school.  Although that is a huge problem in and of itself, I am referring to students that stay in school and complete the 12th grade.  Most Black and Latino students in large urban districts will not graduate with a diploma beginning in 2017.  Now, why would I make such a sad and pessimistic prediction?

A year ago, the Pennsylvania State Board of Education approved a controversial plan to require all Pennsylvania students to pass proficiency tests in science, math, and language arts before graduating.  If approved, the standards would take effect with high school graduates in 2017 (current 10th graders), and require them to demonstrate proficiency in Algebra I, Biology I, and language arts on the Keystone Exams or a state-approved assessment alternative.

By adopting this requirement, Pennsylvania has become part of a larger nationwide trend.  The Common Core standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.  These standards are ardently backed by the Obama administration which contends that outdated and inconsistent guidelines leave students ill prepared for college and the work force.  In effect, the argument is that by implementing tougher standards, the schools will rise to the occasion we will see an increased level of academic performance.  What is too often left unsaid is that requiring low-income urban students who have spent their formative years in highly dysfunctional underperforming schools to demonstrate proficiency in these subject areas is a set-up for failure.

Over 85% of Philadelphia 214 public schools are currently listed as “low achieving” based on student performance on Keystone Exams or state-approved assessment alternatives.

 

FIFF - Negative Poster 1-page-0

Young fella, this is not speculation.  This a prediction based firmly on an analysis of student performance trends.  Think about it for a minute here.  Students in nearly 9 out of 10 Philadelphia public schools have been “low achieving” for years.  Since then the district has cut over 3,000 teachers.  Last spring, Superintendent Hite facing yet another budget crisis declared “our schools will go from insufficient to empty shells that do not represent what I consider a functioning school.”

We know that a vast majority of these ill-prepared low-income minority students will not be able to meet these standards.  It is equivalent to strapping a 50 pound weight on their backs and demanding that they beat Usain Bolt in a 100 meter dash.  The outcome can be predicted with absolute certainty, they won’t win.  The early results in other major cities forecast the coming Philadelphia storm.

New York was one of the first states to develop tests based on the Common Core standards. The results, predictably, were abysmal.  In math, 15 percent of black students and 19 percent of Hispanic students passed the exam, compared with 50 percent of white students and 61 percent of Asian students.  It is widely accepted that children reared in low-income Black and Latino neighborhoods are at a disadvantage in standardized testing, not because of inborn capacity but because of cultural differences and economic deprivation.  Now, under the new plan, these students will be labeled “not proficient” and barred from “graduating” high school.  Young fella… most of your homies and many of the young ladies in Philadelphia’s neighborhood high schools are going to earn “certificates of attendance” not high school diplomas!

Diploma

Within the School District of Philadelphia only special-admit magnet schools have been able to consistently make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).  Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, is a measurement that allows the US. Department of Education to determine how every public school and school district in the country is performing academically according to results on standardized tests. In recent years, 10 out of 58 (17.2%) Philadelphia public high schools made AYP.  They were all special-admit magnet schools.  In recent years, zero (0%) traditional neighborhood public schools have made AYP.  Most have failed to make AYP for 9, 10 or 11 years.  In many instance, students are attending schools that have not made AYP since the measure was implemented in in the 2001-2002 school year.

So, young fella, let’s get this straight…  The state of Pennsylvania will be requiring students that have spent every day of their educational careers in under-performing and failing schools to demonstrate proficiency on standardized tests in order to graduate.  Over the past 12-13 years, zero (0) neighborhood high schools in Philadelphia have made AYP.  Adequate Yearly Progress is based primarily on standardized test performance.  On top of that, they have laid off over 3,000 teachers in the last 12 months.  Young fella, it’s a set up!

As noted earlier, those unable to demonstrate proficiency will likely receive a “certificate of attendance” in lieu of a diploma.  What will be the value of the certificate of attendance?  Will colleges accept this as evidence of completing high schools?  How will employers interpret this as opposed to a diploma?

It is safe to assume that the results in Philadelphia, Yeadon, Darby, Darby Township and Chester will mirror the result in New York City.  The overwhelming majority of low-income minority students in public high schools will not meet the standards.  Unfortunately, the fact is they have not been able to meet the standards for the past 12-13 years.  What can you and your parents do?

If you are not enrolled in a special-admit magnet public school like Masterman, Central, Science Leadership Academy, Palumbo, Carver or Bodine you need to find an high-quality alternative placement.  Indeed, even parents of students in magnet schools may need to consider their options.  A year ago, it was announced that the libraries at Masterman and Central, the two highest achieving high schools in Philadelphia, have been closed due to budget cuts.  The State of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia are financially strangling the students in Philadelphia’s public schools.  Young fella, how are these ‘high-achieving” college bound students going to do research and independently pursue areas that interest them without access to libraries?

Can you see it?  It has all the marking of a set-up.  With this plan in place, most of Philadelphia’s low-income Black and Latino public school students will be labeled as non-graduates.  That is not taking into account the more than 50% percent that drop-out of the system altogether.  Again, let’s use the NYC results as a guide.  If 15% of the students meet the requirements for graduation and 50% or so dropped out before even taking the test, then only about 7.5% of Philadelphia’s low-income  minority public school students will be actual high school graduates.  The other 92-93% will be relegated, at the age of 18 or 19 to a lifetime of low-wage, low-skilled labor, excluded from institutions of higher learning, prone to participate in the underground economy and as a result far more likely to encounter the criminal justice system.

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Unfortunately, there will be students with A and B averages that cannot meet the standards because they have attended failing schools throughout their entire educational careers.  My strong recommendation is that you and your parents immediately research their options.  Take some time to learn about the Independent Private Schools, high achieving Charter Schools and Catholic Schools.  We have reached a point where leaving your child in a traditional neighborhood public school is tantamount to child abuse.  Yes, many of these options will require financial sacrifice.  But, the alternative is simply unacceptable.

Remaining enrolled in a traditional neighborhood high school could very well lead to a lifetime of financial sacrifice.

Many critics charge that the state doesn’t care about the children and they don’t plan for their future.  I vehemently disagree.  The state is clearly planning for the their future.  Pennsylvania has extensive plans for low-income minority children.  Please keep in mind, Pennsylvania is spending $400 million to construct two new prisons at the SCI-Graterford site in Montgomery County.  The funds are in addition to the $1.8 billion corrections budget signed by Governor Tom Corbett, an increase of $208,000 from last year.

For information information on alternatives to Philadelphia Public Schools, contact me at delgrecowilson@outlook.com.