National report suggests MI is failing minority children - WNEM TV 5

National report suggests MI is failing minority children

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

A national report suggests Michigan is failing its African-American and other minority children.

The report was produced by the Annie Casey Foundation, an organization aimed at helping disadvantaged families.

The 2017 Race for Results report suggests kids in Michigan are struggling, especially children of color. The largest disparity is among African-American fourth graders, in which only 9 percent are proficient in reading in the state. That's compared to the national average of 18 percent.

"First we need to make sure that parents have what they need to be economically self sufficient and second be a strong support to their child's learning," said Ja'nel Jamerson, executive director of the Flint and Genesee Literacy Network.

In a community like Flint, Jamerson sees firsthand a lot of the challenges outlined in the report. He said when students in Flint experience setbacks, poverty is often the main cause.

"When we look at families who are experiencing poverty at the most basic level, we hope that they can meet those minimum needs. Like housing, transportation and basic living needs. But a lot of families are not able to provide those enriching experiences that are needed to be coupled with education in order for students to be successful," Jamerson said.

Jamerson said the report had several recommendations for state leaders such as using an equity lens when developing public policies, programs for keeping families together, increase economic opportunity for all parents and provide a quality education.

He said there are a slew of new programs for parents and children to help increase literacy throughout Flint and Genesee County.

"Now in our community we are seeing a lot of programs to bridge the gaps. Early childhood education, mentor initiatives," Jamerson said.

Jamerson believes above all, a great education starts at home.

"Most parents want their children to be successful. We want to encourage parents to keep with that investment," Jamerson said.

The study suggest proficiency levels often correlate with family structure and income.

"Everybody in the world has some sort of hardship. You have to have the mindset to rise above that and to make your life better and you can do that by getting a good education," said Tonia Taphouse, teacher at Greater Heights Academy.

Taphouse understands the challenges many children face, but is not letting it stop them. She said they have a different approach to success.

"It goes to say if they come to school and they haven't eaten, they're thinking about their belly growling and they're hungry. You have to figure out what it is, fix that first. So they can concentrate in school," Taphouse said.

She said her school has made strong strides in improving learning outcomes. However, many other schools still fall behind.

Taphouse said she combats the study's results by encouraging parents.

"No matter where you are economically, geographically, it always starts at home. So I always tell my parents to read to their children even if it's just 15 or 20 minutes a day," Taphouse said.

She believes teaching respect and creating trust with students and parents is key to changing their futures.

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