OpEd: It’s Time. Let’s Take Responsibility for Educating Our Children. NOW!

By Dr. Pat Phipps

The children of South Los Angeles are failing tragically and what are we doing about it? Has the village turned its back on our children? At the Los Angeles Urban League, we are alarmed by what is happening to the youth in our community. There is a serious achievement gap eroding academic success. Did you know?

· In California, 70% of African American third graders are not proficient in math and 60% are not proficient in language arts;
· Only 5% of African American children in California are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program;
· By the time low-income children reach 4 years of age, many are already two to three years behind their higher income peers;
· Children who do not learn to read by the end of the 3rd grade cannot “read to learn” in 4th grade and beyond;
· States determine how many prison beds they will need 10 years in the future based on 3rd grade test scores?

Sadly, all of the above statements are true. The statistics for young African American male students are even worse.

It has been proven without doubt that children who participate in high-quality early education programs develop better language and school readiness skills and have fewer behavioral problems. High quality early childhood programs also yield substantial long-term benefits including higher graduation rates, fewer school dropouts, decreased need for special education and less crime.

The time has come for the community village to take responsibility for educating our children. We can no longer wait on politicians and policy makers to solve systemic educational issues. And waiting until high school to address the problems does not work. We have to start much early in the education pipeline. Systemic and sustainable change in student achievement requires a strong focus on early education.

The Los Angeles Urban League is making the investment to change the face of education with early intervention and innovative initiatives, including:

· Community Parent Academy: Providing free training and resources for parents to help engage them in their children’s education and to learn how to advocate for their children,
· Teachers’ Coaching Program: Focusing on the young African American male by changing teachers’ stereotypical thinking about young African American males from a deficit perspective to a positive one; changing teachers’ instructional methods and teaching practices to be culturally relevant; and by providing a Summer Academy for African American males including educational and cultural enrichment programs for students entering into 9th grade.
· Early Literacy Program: For children and parents enrolled in the League’s State Preschool Program.

Success for children in our schools is not an option. But we cannot do it alone. As a community, it is critical that we take responsibility now. The village needs to reassemble and take leadership. If we do not, the future is bleak. If we do not collectively step up, another generation will be lost to extreme dropout rates, unemployment, violence, crime and the prison system.

Strong partnerships are needed in our community. Everyone can partner in this effort. It does not matter how much money you have, whether you own a business, or where you live. All you need is a commitment and willingness to help. Every single person in our community has a role in the village. If our children matter to you, if the teachers in our community matter to you, if the parents in our community matter to you, and if our community matters to you, then please help save our children by acting early. Success through education is a right not a privilege.

For more information on how you can help, contact Dr. Pat at the Los Angeles Urban League: [email protected] or 323-299-9660, ext. 2257 or ext. 2208.

imageDr. Pat Phipps is the Vice President for Early Education and Development at the Los Angeles Urban League. She was the first Executive Director the California Association for the Education of Young Children (CAEYC). She is a former board member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.