Progress Means Supports, Not Just Standards

The tides are turning against standards-based reforms as the great panacea for our educational crisis. Why? Institutions are recognizing that standards alone won't help students achieve or close the achievement gap; students also need the necessary supports to help them meet those standards.

What's especially exciting about this turning of the tides is the cross-sector support it's raising. Take the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Most of its philanthropic work is focused on healthcare, not education. RWJF recently launched Forward Promise, an initiative centered around improving the success of middle school- and high-school-aged boys and young men of color. In a column for the Huffington Post, Marisha Simmons, Program Officer at RWJF, explains why:

"It’s in our nation’s schools where our young men start to really fall behind. As a young woman growing up in Orange, N.J., I saw this first hand. As I made my way through middle and high school, I began to notice that boys in my class were becoming less interested in school. And when I attended college, it became all too obvious. Boys, smart boys who were once my equal, were falling behind. But, as I later learned, the under-representation of men of color in higher education was a national problem. Nearly a fifth of Latino men and one in 10 African American men do not even have a high school diploma.

While all young people need support on the road to becoming healthy, productive adults, it’s especially true for teenage boys. Growing up often involves risk-taking and experimentation, as they define their masculinity and exert independence. The data show that for young men of color, actions that would be treated as youthful mistakes by others are punished far more severely. Black boys, for instance, are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than white boys. Helping them and other young men of color navigate the teen years successfully is key to helping them reach their potential...

Improving health requires improving the social and economic factors that heavily influence how health is shaped. Where we live, learn, work and play makes a tremendous difference on our well-being. But in each area, young men of color often have limited positive options. Education and jobs are a particular concern, with the unemployment rate for black youth at almost 40 percent – far higher than that of white youth, according to federal statistics."

Click here to learn more about Forward Promise!

And click here to learn more about supports-based reform, what we here at the OTL Campaign call Personal Opportunity Plans, and how they are the key to ensuring all students have a fair and substantive opportunity to learn. 


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