Cleveland Schools Struggle to Tackle Achievement Divides

Written by Patricia Hawke for

The Causes of Racial Divide in Cleveland Schools 
There is a deep and long reaching divide in achievement levels between black and white or Asian students in the Cleveland Public Schools; and the reasons might be more clear cut than we previously imagined.  At least that’s what a new report on Cleveland schools says.  PolicyBridge, a local African American analyst group says the causes for the visible chasm between performances of black and white students can be traced to pop culture that glorifies life on the streets and parents who undermine the value of education.  These causes, PolicyBridge argues, are the reasons for the consistently poor performance of black children in Cleveland schools where an alarming number of black children seem headed down a path of self destruction. 
A Closer Look at Race Statistics in Cleveland Schools 
While many education experts agree with the findings of PolicyBridge, an equal number are skeptical about the implications of the report. They say the report exaggerates, and does not take into account other reasons that may contribute to this disparity. If you take a harder look at the statistics in Cleveland schools, you might not agree with this argument. Close to half of black children in Cleveland schools drop out, and of the few who do graduate, a negligible number will go on to finish college.  Statistics like these might seem mundane but they point to a dangerous trend.  The report does a great job of stating that no amount of funding and good intentions can overturn the scenario in Cleveland schools as long as the community itself fails to grapple with the more prominent causes – a family and societal system that devalues the importance of education. 
The Role of Culture in Cleveland Schools 
The breakdown of the black family is seen as a contributing cause of this disturbing downward spiral.  More than 70 percent of black children, the report states, are born to single mothers.  The ensuing poverty and struggle are confounded by the absence of a paternal role model.  To this potent mix, add the “rap culture” that marks defiant, anti-authority and self-destructive behaviors as cool, and you have the makings of a very dangerous situation.  The report goes on to cite instances of black children in Cleveland schools who, paradoxically enough, have the highest self esteem levels even when their grades are dismal.  One student reported that when his grades began to slip, other kids stopped teasing him and began looking up to him instead.  A youth mentor went on record to say the black children under his charges told him they had never seen an adult get that excited about their grades before. 
Not all experts agree with these findings though.  Some argue that factors like the roles played by the community and teachers have an equal impact on student performances in Cleveland schools.  Whether you agree or not, one thing is clear; there has to be a multifaceted effort involving community leaders, schools and parents to address this problem; and corrective measures need to be taken before it is too late.