by Brenda Crawford, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Any way you slice it, students of color in Tennessee always receive the piece of cake that no one wants. You know – the piece of cake that is the poorest in quality, more lacking in flavor than the pieces that the rest of their peers received.
According to the latest round of scores from the National Association for Education Progress (NAEP) released this year, less than 36 percent of fourth-graders and 31 percent of eighth-graders in Tennessee met the proficiency mark in math and reading; here in Shelby County these numbers were 20 percent.
With numbers such as these, in a district where nine out of ten students are members of an under-represented minority, we should be doing all we can to support our students and our schools in Memphis.
Campaign for School Equity, whose mission aims to ensure that all children, especially those of color, have access to high-quality school options, has long supported the great work happening within Shelby County Schools to make certain that students who are most in need get the resources and access to quality schools that they deserve.
This past school year, I, along with 200 of my peers, had the pleasure of joining CSE’s student advocacy program at our school. The purpose of the program was to provide us with the skills and tools needed to add our student voices to shape the issues that we really care about.
Among them, our primary concerns included making sure that all of our schools have the proper resources that they need, and safe and functional buildings for us to learn in. This is why I’m writing: to urge the Shelby County Commission to support Shelby County Schools’ budget request to ensure that my fellow students and I receive the critical resources that we need.
My school has been a constant figure of negative attention in the media, but rarely do you get to see my hardworking peers and I fighting through the noise to be all that we can be.
At a time when improving the quality of education for children is our most urgent priority, our elected leaders should be on the front line demanding bold action. It’s time we adequately fund our school system and start focusing on our students. We need bold, decisive leaders who are willing to put politics and fear aside and put the needs of us students first.
(Brenda Crawford is a rising 10th grade student at Trezevant High School and member of the Campaign for School Equity’s student advocacy program.)