October 27, 2004

Group to explore racial divide in student progress

by Larry A. Davis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The academic achievement gap between minority and non-minority students and the racial divide in the Carbondale schools will be the focus of a free seminar on Nov. 8 on the campus of Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The seminar, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the Student Center Auditorium, is open to the public. Teachers and parents of children in Carbondale Elementary Schools District 95 and Carbondale Community High School District 165 are especially encouraged to attend.

Phillip Jackson, director of the Black Star Project in Chicago, will deliver the keynote address. The evening also will include a panel discussion involving parents, educators, administrators and community leaders.

The state report cards for districts 95 and 165 will be among the topics addressed, as will the federal No Child Left Behind program. Scheduled panelists include:

  • Harold Bardo, director, MEDPREP program, SIUC.
  • Father Joseph Brown, director, Black American Studies program, SIUC.
  • Norma Ewing, associate dean, College of Education and Human Services, SIUC.
  • Norman Greer, professor in speech communication, Eastern Illinois University.
  • Melanie Jones, assistant instructor at the Head Start agency, SIUC.
  • Khafilah Abdel-Malik, assistant professor in curriculum and instruction, SIUC.

Phillip Jackson is a former senior vice president for Chicago publishers Kroch’s and Brentano and past director of intergovernmental affairs for the Chicago Public Schools. He is the founder and executive director of the Black Star Project, an educational services program designed to help young people -- from pre-school children to college and post-secondary training students -- succeed.

Black Star particularly tries to help mentor low-income minority students in low-achieving schools, and it emphasizes the importance of parental involvement in the schools.

“The racial academic achievement gap is not a Black problem or a Latino problem,” Jackson says. “It is an American problem.”

Seminar sponsors are the Black American Studies program at SIUC, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Southern Illinois Regional Career Preparation Program.

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the seminar. Anyone with questions can call Mona Brown at the SIUC Center for Basic Skills at 618/453-6891.