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Travis Rowley: Providence Student Union Ignores Blacks, Hispanics

Saturday, September 14, 2013


“I’m not going to get involved with sideshows with 16-year-olds. I’m starting to see Steve Brown [of the ACLU] the same way — as a sideshow.” – RI Board of Education Chairwoman Eva Mancuso

This week RI Board of Education Chairwoman Eva Mancuso referred to the Providence Student Union as a “sideshow,” as its members continue to pester the Board to “reopen public discussion of the state’s new [NECAP] graduation requirement.”

While Mancuso’s comment placed her in a small spotlight of controversy, a “sideshow” is exactly what this small coalition of high school students represents – and worse.

Flat out, the PSU is a leftist front-group being manipulated and encouraged by key members of the Rhode Island Left, including the ACLU, elected Democrats, RIFuture.org, and the teachers unions – whose eternal aim is to deflect attention away from the harmful product that is the public school system (particularly within urban school districts).

Antics That Distract

With the media always in tow, the PSU orchestrates extravagant gimmicks and nonsensical publicity stunts that make the average Rhode Islander wonder if PSU members are unaware that the Vietnam War is over.

And, judging by their test scores, that just may be the case. With the NECAP requirement in place, the large majority of Providence students are “at risk of not graduating.”

Last spring PSU members organized a mock NECAP challenge taken by known progressive activists who were primed to fail it. This summer, carrying a gigantic $500,000 check representing the lifetime loss of income that the average high-school dropout is supposedly denied, they held a sit-in at the office of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist in order to present her with the prop. And last winter they marched down the streets of Downtown Providence costumed as zombies.

No, the PSU isn’t a sideshow. Not at all.

Responding to Mancuso, one student named Hector Perea said, “The future of Rhode Island students should not be seen as a sideshow by the very people in charge of our education…We definitely don’t see our futures as a sideshow.”

Perea is obviously struggling with the reading comprehension portion of the NECAP exam. Mancuso never said that the students’ “futures” are a sideshow. She called the PSU’s antics a sideshow.

Nevertheless, that’s the exact type of comment progressives were hoping one of their student activists would be able to make, as they teach these young community organizers to bring every issue down to an emotional level in order to evade more honest confrontation – to simply paint their opposition as cruel, even if they’re right; to create the impression that those who disagree with them on policy matters must not care about the “future” of Rhode Island children.

That’s Liberal Agitation 101.

More Discussion?

The latest stunt being pulled by the PSU, the ACLU, and others comes in the form of petty complaints over transparency, and taunting the Board into “hold[ing] a fresh series of public hearings on the NECAP” – a demand that naturally submits the lie that there hasn’t been enough public deliberation yet over the new graduation requirement; a lie that screens the fact that this reform was telegraphed to teachers and students over five years ago.

As Mancuso explained, “This discussion has been going on since 2002. It’s not a new conversation just because this is a new board.” She added, “The time for discussion is over…We are using the NECAP as a graduation requirement, period.”

Mancuso sounded a lot like Deborah Gist, who recently said, “We need all of the adults rallying around these students rather than getting caught up in arguments that don’t have any substance.”

Mancuso and Gist may be learning for the first time what many of us already know: Progressives are always on the march. Speaking about the nature of the political Left, conservative commentator Bill Whittle once explained, “This progressivism will never go away. There will never be a victory over liberalism. There can be a victory over conservatism…But there will never be a victory over liberalism. You have to mow the grass every week.”

Confirming Whittle’s warning this week was ACLU Executive Director Steve Brown, who said, “We will be considering next steps as this fight is far from over.”

We know, Steve. You exist to agitate.

Preserving the Status Quo

The Rhode Island Left is using children for the propaganda power they possess in order to enslave them to the system that has failed minorities for decades.

By design, what gets lost in the haze of the PSU’s political theater is the fact that the only people truly working on behalf of Rhode Island students are reformers such as Gist and Mancuso.

Attempting to refocus on the root of Rhode Island’s educational crisis, Mancuso stated this week, “My message is, ‘Work with us so students graduate career and college ready.’”

And that’s the point, of course. Rhode Island diplomas have become embarrassingly devalued over the years. Speaking of the challenges students will face in the future, Gist remarked last spring, “The stress is really going to come if we went ahead and gave a diploma to a student who is not ready…and they find doors being closed to them. That’s when the stress really sets in.”

When making her own statement, Mancuso may have been thinking of the New York Times story from several years ago, a report that informed the public that only “7 percent of [Central Falls] students [were] proficient in mathematics by 11th grade.”

By the way, in order to receive a diploma, students will only be required to score “partially proficient” on the NECAP exam – on a tenth grade level. That’s the academic bar that the Rhode Island Left, including most of the state’s unionized educators, is afraid of.

With this shockingly poor performance now disclosed by the New York Times, the very liberals who had traditionally resisted calls for immigrants to learn English – the “language of success” – could ironically be found blaming the educational breakdown on the fact that a “large percentage of students [are] English-language learners.”

But liberals still aren’t demanding that urban students be immersed in English.

Instead, the Rhode Island Left finds it wise to cement their low academic standards into place, and to continue to usher unqualified students onto college campuses and into a competitive global workforce.

Meanwhile, numerous studies continue to reveal the same findings – that is, that “students who are low-income, minority, or first-generation are the most likely to drop out [of college].” And that “the graduation rates for blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans lag far behind the graduation rates for whites and Asians.”

These are the results of the system that PSU activists are fighting to preserve. This is the grave that progressives have tricked them into digging themselves.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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Simple cure: Privatize the schools.

Comment #1 by Killary Klinton on 2013 09 14

LMAO!! Seriously Travis!

Comment #2 by lupe fiasco on 2013 09 14

"...a gigantic $500,000 check representing the lifetime loss of income that the average high-school dropout is supposedly denied..."

This is a key point. The reason that graduates make more money is that they have skills that employers require. In terms of the NECAP test for minimum proficiency those skills are reading, writing and doing basic math. If graduates don't possess those skills they will not get the $500,000, which is an statistical average made up of some graduates who make a lot more and some who make a lot less. Which group of graduates do these Student Union activists wish to join? There is, unfortunately, a reality that will kick in once the diploma opens a door. If the diplomas our system awards are not worth the paper they're printed on, guess what. No $500,000. It's not a lottery ticket.

Who do they think is being disadvantaged? It's not Deborah Gist, Eva Mancuso or the teachers. It's the students themselves who are being cheated by a society that doesn't make sure they acquire skills they need to survive in the real world. How many of them will ultimately acquire the skills on their own initiative and work their own way to financial success, and how many of them will end up miserable, poor, illiterate... Steven Brown, are you thinking this through?

Comment #3 by Kenneth Amylon on 2013 09 14

thee needs to eb 2-3 sets of schools.

one for college bound and one for many others that focus on parenting and mentoring and basic life skills plus reading , writing, math.

75% of black children are born out of wedlock. they have differnet needs than the kids in barrington that have 2 college educated parents thata r eboth employed.

sorry. but that's the way it is.

Comment #4 by john paycheck on 2013 09 14

Can anyone explain why New Hampshire and Vermont, which both score high on every national or international math test they've taken, score only slightly higher on the 11th grade math NECAP as Rhode Island? The NECAP is nothing like a "basic math" test. If it was, students in New Hampshire would ace it, and they don't.

If it wasn't for the "antics" of the PSU, would we even be talking about this?

Comment #5 by Tom Hoffman on 2013 09 15

So you can spend 12 years to get to a 10th grade level and still graduate.

The business community will now have to value a high school diploma for what it is.

A worthless lie.

Comment #6 by John Waddington on 2013 09 16

As the parent of a special needs student, I am deeply grateful that the Providence Student Union, Steve Brown and the ACLU are speaking out about this issue. The policy and the test are so blatantly discriminatory, for this population in particular, yet no one is standing up for these students except the PSU. In the face of injustice, sometimes use of provocative tactics is necessary to alert the general population to the fact that people are being harmed.

The Board of Education absolutely needs to review this policy because students with special needs and limited English proficiency are:
1.being denied access (the current test is being administered in a manner that they do not understand);
2. being held accountable for information they haven’t been taught;
3. being denied appropriate remediation;
4. being denied civil rights protections (test accommodations are strictly limited).

Why do you think the ACLU is involved? Why do you think 85% of students with special needs and 90% of English language learners did not pass? Is it the students’ fault? The parents? The teachers? The schools? Or, maybe, it’s actually the test. The sad thing is that they do know it. Unfortunately, this is about politics - not education. Certainly not for these students.

Comment #7 by Jean Ann Guliano on 2013 09 16

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