Gov. Deval Patrick Opens Up About Educating Kids of Color for The Root

It's good to see an elected official who, at least to some extent, is willing to own up to the harsh realities of his state's flaws.

By Jamilah King Apr 22, 2011

Sheryl Huggins Salomon over at The Root has a revealing interview with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. The piece is an interview about Patrick’s new memoir, "A Reason to Believe: Lessons From an Improbable Life." But in it, the siting governor, who was raised on the South Side of Chicago, offers a free-ranging look at how the personal is political. It’s his take on education reform that’s particularly noteworthy:

…I think what I learned in those experiences, both on the South Side and at Milton, are that resources are only part of the equation. It’s a teacher who is excited about those kids, who conveys his or her love for those children and high expectations for them — above all, that is the most important. So we [in Massachusetts] have supported teachers, we have created environments where teachers can try new things, to meet the kids where they are.

Yet for all the five years we’ve had these extraordinary achievement results, we have had at the same time a persistent achievement gap. Stuck in that gap are poor kids and kids who have special needs or speak English as a second language. A disproportionate number are kids of color. It’s an economic and educational issue to have an achievement gap at all, but to let it go for the years and years, decades or more that we had here [in Massachusetts], that’s a moral question. Now we have some tools to reach that part of our family as well.

Julianne Hing has written before that while Massachusetts consistently ranks among the nation’s best public school systems, it’s consistently failing its Latino students. Earlier this year UMass-Boston’s Mauricio Gaston Institute released "The State of Latinos and Education in Massachusetts," a report that noted that Latino students–the fastest growing racial group in the state–miss more class and, on average, receive harsher punishment than other racial groups. Hing writes about the report:

Reports like Mauricio Gaston’s can be used in several ways–as proof that school systems need to do more to address the systemic forces that influence kids’ lives and their ability to get an education. Or they can serve as ammunition to people who would rather throw up their hands at a lost cause and chalk up educational disparities to cultural deficiencies or worse, inherent intellectual differences. (May I refer you to Charles Murray’s extremely influential and damaging book "The Bell Curve.")

It’s good to see an elected official who, at least to some extent, is willing to own up to the harsh realities of his state’s flaws instead of putting his foot in his mouth.