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A little more on Core...

When I first heard Rebekah Braclay's story -- accusing Crest High School Principal Roger Harris of discrimination, racism -- my gut reaction was mixed. Why in the world would Harris -- whom I've always found to be earnest and dedicated -- segregate students in the name of reward?

As is the case so often, the further into the story I went, the fewer my objections.

I've heard about closing the gap for years. Mind you, nearly everyone can agree there is a gap. But in the beginning, hardly anyone was certain how to even start to close it. As Larry Corry said, during the annual summits they'd look at the numbers and they wouldn't have changed. Ron Harrill called the numbers embarrassing, unacceptable.

There have been initiatives since the beginning of the "Close the Gap" campaign. The numbers sometimes changed but rarely maintained. Success was either minute -- though any child helped by the effort was certainly worth it -- or short lived.

Roger Harris had a very specific gap to close. He wasn't trying to change the world. He wasn't campaigning to stomp out poverty, destroy all drugs or any other broad Utopian goal. Each day, in person, he'd see what the numbers Harrill and Corry were looking at confirmed -- hardly any black, Hispanic, bi-racial or Asian students were in honors or Advance Placement classes.

The question was WHY? Why weren't minorities in these classes? Harris saw many of those minority students excelling in regular classes. Why did they not take the next step and take honors classes?

The classes are too hard.
It's too much work.
I'm not that smart.
I'm not going to college, so why bother?
I don't have time for the extra work.
None of my friends are going to be in the class.
My older brother, sister didn't take any honors classes.
I'm making A's in regular class, why work harder?

And that, my friends, is where Core came in. Harris, for all his dedication to his students, isn't able to mobilize quite like Core. Core took the message of honors and AP classes into the black community and into the lives of black children. Now, instead of their mostly white teachers singing the praises the honors and AP, people just like them are in on it. Black men and women, who had lived through one hell of an achievement gap and were now successful and active community leaders.

Do the efforts of Core at Crest single out students based on race?
Yes.
BUT controversy should be tempered by two things: 1. The efforts are young, and in the near future, Core plans to target any student that should be in honors classes but perhaps doesn't have the confidence or the support at home to take that step and 2. It's along racial lines that the achievement gap is bordered. If the vast and staggering gap were between boys and girls, it stands to reason that's how they'd be singled out.

Is the effort effective?
Yes.
Minority enrollment in AP classes at Crest increased by 113%. And it's the gift that keeps on giving. Every minority student that succeeds in an honors or AP class is a testament to other minority students that, they too, can do it. The students themselves are taking the message back to their neighborhoods and churches.

Is the effort racist?
I contend that it is not.
Does it target a group based on the color of their skin? Yes, but it's a necessary evil and if that's what it takes to close the gap and create a more conducive learning environment for every student, so be it. You can complain about the problem or you can do something about it. Fact is, the gap is there and it is embarrassing. It's unacceptable that in a school that may be 30% non-white to have any class be all white. Core's efforts may skate the edge of political correctness, but even I have to admit, they do it with a certain finesse that only certainty of mission can instill.

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