I read with interest the Feb. 18 column by Tony Norman (“Biggest Gap in Black Kids’ Learning: Parents”). He states, appropriately, that “the education of African-American public school students in Pittsburgh has finally moved to the front burner of public policy and discussion.” I disagree, however, that the position of the NAACP Pittsburgh Unit, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, the Black Political Empowerment Project, A+ Schools and other interested groups and parents is “misplaced.”
Our statements are not anti-union, but our African-American kids are in crisis and we must engage all available strategies to impact the achievement gap between white and black kids. Teachers are paid to teach. They should be the experts. Effective teachers help instill a lifetime commitment to learning in the minds and hearts of their students. Not one of the participating groups or individuals in the Feb. 17 press conference would disagree with the goal of parents being intimately involved in strongly encouraging their children to succeed in school. The two goals of having “effective teachers” and “involved parents” are not mutually exclusive.
In the Black Political Empowerment Project’s Coalition Against Violence “Strategies for Change,” we put at the top of this document the “Community Manifesto” and “The Role of the Family,” to promote the need for both the community and families to instill positive values in our children, including the value of education. Unfortunately, too many of our African-American children come from broken homes and broken environments where education may not be valued. Their only hope may be “effective teachers”!
The writer is chairman of The Black Political Empowerment Project and co-convener of the Coalition Against Violence.