Addressing the African American achievement gap has been an issue in the forefront of public education. Factors such as poverty, lack of resources, lack of quality teachers, and other barriers have been said to contribute to the problem.
There are 11 elementary schools, four middle schools, and three high schools in the Waterloo Community School District (WCSD). In 2004, the Iowa department of Education pointed out 66 of Iowa’s school that did not meet federal achievement standards in math and reading as part of the “No Child Left Behind Act.” To determine the school’s status, officials looked at proficiency levels of all children in the designated grades plus subgroups of students based on five ethnic or racial groupings, a low family income, and enrollment in special education and English language learner classes.
Of the 66 schools not meeting the math and reading achievement goals, four schools, including Logan (now Carver), Bunger (now Lou Henry) and Central Middle schools and West High School, were located in Black Hawk County where there is a high population of African American students. While African American females performed slightly better than African American males in terms of achievement, the WCSD has expressed deep concern on this issue and sought ways to identify and intervene the problem early on. In 2004, a gender specific classroom was created in an effort to address the achievement among African American males, based on a distinct learning style. African American males are less likely to graduate high school than their white male counterpart. Fast forward to May 2011, student achievement continues to be an issue. There are 35 schools across Iowa deemed as a “persistently lowest achieving school,” five of which are in Black Hawk County. Those schools include Lincoln elementary, Carver, Central, Lou Henry schools and East High School. These schools, like those named before, have a large African Americans student population. While the WCSD is committed to ensuring that every student will graduate prepared for college, career, and citizenship, a comprehensive system of education and support from the total community is necessary for success.
Each year an annual progress report is available which contains information on student achievement and development (e.g., annual student achievement report 2009-2010), human asset building, community engagement and operational excellence. Coupled with good quality teachers, achievement for African American students can drastically improve. While expecting the education system would enhance African American students’ academic achievement, the community may step in to help our children and youth take advantages of WCSD school system to reach their future career goals.