Next Level Artist Showcase
Hard Statistical Truths
Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu is the keynote speaker at a student workshop being held
on August 10th at Madison College Truax.
are African American,” Kunjufu conjectured. “My question would be if we are to look at equity and diversity, then I’m looking for African American students to be 35
percent of the gifted and talented students, of the AP students. And I’m also looking for 35 percent of the special ed students or the students who are suspended to be
African American. When a school district, not just Madison, has 35 percent, as an example, as the threshold, if only 10 percent or less of the gifted and talented and
AP students are African American and 50 percent or greater of the special ed students or students who are suspended are African American or we cut 35 percent in
half and look at African American males, that would be 17.5 percent. Then the question becomes, ‘Are 17.5 percent of the AP and gifted and talented students African
American males? Are only 17.5 percent of the African American males representing your suspension of special ed population?’ And if the numbers are not there, if
there is a greater percentage of Black boys in special ed and supended and a smaller percentage in AP and gifted and talented, then let’s not be defensive. Let’s
correct the problem. And that takes leadership.”
Kunjufu also feels that academic performance can also be tied to whom the institujtion is designed for in terms of its structure and curriculum.
“If you ask the powers that be why it is that white girls are placed in special ed the least and African American males the greatest, if you ask them if there is any
correlation between the percent of white female teachers in Madison in contrast to the percent of Black male teachers in Madison especially in elementary grades, is
there any correlation between the high percentage of Black boys in special ed and the low percentage of white girls in special ed,” Kunjufu asked. “Let me go further.
In Madison, there is a greater percentage of white boys in special ed than white girls. So the question I’ve been raising for decades is ‘Have we designed a female
classroom for large numbers of male students?’ If you know that males have a different learning style, if you know that there is a greater percentage of males — not
just Black males, but also white, Latino, Asian and Native American males — are more tactile and kynestetic learners, then you should provide more tactile and
kynestetic lesson plans rather than giving those students ritalin and placing them in special education.”
Kunjufu has an almost civil-rights perspective on educational change. It’s almost like it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.
“As you know, there is the historical mantra that power concedes nothing without a struggle,” Kunjufu said. “Who is putting pressure on the Madison public school
district to change the numbers? Where is the pressure coming from to reduce special ed, to reduce suspensions, increase AP, increase gifted and talented and close
the academic gap? For example, nationwide — and Madison is pretty close to this — on the SAT, Asians are scoring 1181, whites are scoring 1118, Hispanics are
scoring 987 and African Americans 941. Who is putting pressure on Madison public schools to close the gap? And is there really a sincere interest in closing the
gap? If you have a school district that is controlled by whites, they don’t want their children to lose any numbers. So there is no real pressure on the Madison school
board or the superintendent or the cabinet to close the gap. And even though there is an increasing, as you pointed out, percentage of Black students in Madison, you
can’t expect low-income, single-female parents to drive this point home. But let me say this. I commend school districts like Montgomery, Maryland where they
realized that they are only as strong as their weakest link. And so what they have decided to do is put their strongest principals and their best teachers in the lowest-
achieving schools. And they also provide more financial resources to those schools because they are committed to closing the gap. That’s a leadership issue. That’s
not a parent issue. That’s a leadership issue. And until the Madison school board and the superintendent and the cabinet are willing to make those types of decisions
and increase the percentage of Black teachers, especially Black male teachers, then we’ll be having this discussion in the next decade.”
Due to the percentage of students by race who may be in particular classes, while separate but equal was outlawed by Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, it didn’
t prevent unequal situations from developing within the schools.
“In 1954, Thurgood Marshall naively thought if we could simply get into public schools or integrated schools, then our problems would be resolved,” Kunjufu said.
“But in 1954, we didn’t have tracking nor did we have special education. A school could have, let’s say, a thousand students on the outside and they could be
equally distributed between Blacks and whites, 500 of each. But on the inside because of tracking, you could have literally an all-white AP, honors, gifted and
talented class of whites and Asians and you could have a predominatly Black and Latino special education remedial reading track. So schools look integrated on the
outside, but highly segregated on the inside. But again, there are school districts that have made it easier for Black and Latino children to be placed in AP and honors
and gifted and talented classes. They don’t just rely on test scores. They literally, like Houston, Texas, have increased tremendously the percentage of Black and
Latino students in AP and honors. The only rewquirement is, ‘Do you want to be in the class?’ If Madison is committed to closing the gap, then they should be
committed to increasing the percentage of Black and Latino students in AP and honors. And if they want to be there, then encourage them to be a part of it.”
And Kunjufu feels that the schools not only need to teach students of color to be academically proficient, but also financially proficient.
“We need more schools teaching Black children entrepreneurship, the stock market and real estate,” Kunjufu said. “When I speak to youth in Madison when I am
there on August 10th, if I ask the youth what are the best three ways to earn wealth in America, what do you think they are going to tell me? They will say sports, a
football or basketball player, an entertainer like a rapper or the first drug dealer to never be caught. Our youth believe that the three best ways to get paid are either
sports, entertainment or drugs. We need to show our youth the three best ways to get paid are entrepreneurship, investing and real estate. But where in Madison is a
Black child being taught entrepreneurship, investing principles and real estate?”
On August 10th when Kunjufu speaks at a student workshop at Madison College Truax, he’ll be bringing more questions and then some answers regarding the
achievement gap and the education of African American and Latino children.
“Are there more Black males in prison or are there more Black males in college,” Kunjufu asked? “What percent of Black youth have their fathers in the home? What
has been the success of Black parents who home school their children? What are 500 schools doing to close the racial academic achievement gap? What are five
solutions to close the academic achievement gap where whites are scoring 1118 and African Americans 941? And lastly, what has been the success of single-
gender classrooms and single-gender schools? Those are just some of the questions that we’ll be looking at and providing answers and more solutions to those
Inquiring minds will want to know the answers behing the questions of Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu.
By Jonathan Gramling
Since the 1980s, Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, CEO of African American Images, which
he founded, has been a much in demand speaker and consultant concerning the
education of African American students. Using a scientific approach using
statistics that tell the blunt truth about the achievement gaps for various groups of
students, Kunjufu lays out the status of African American and Latino students.
Kunjufu has also written 40 books including national best sellers, Black Students:
Middle Class Teachers; Keeping Black Boys Out of Special Education; An African
Centered Response to Ruby Payne’s Poverty Theory; Raising Black Boys,
Understanding Black Male Learning Styles and Changing School Culture for Black
Kunjufu has visited Madison often during the last 30 years, most recently as the
keynote speaker for Dr. John Odom’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute luncheon.
Kunjufu looks at education through an equity lens. And he looks at statistics
nakedly without reasons and excuses for why they are meant to be.
“Let’s say 35 percent of the students in the Madison Metropolitan School District