NAACP Links Poor Student Performance to Racism

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The NAACP Youngstown/Mahoning County Branch is continuing its call for action within the Youngstown City School District, particularly related to racism toward the black student population, President George Freeman Jr. said.

“Race Trumps Poverty” was the theme of a news conference at the local office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Freeman stressed that black students will not receive an equal education until racism is effectively addressed in the classroom. He also pushed for all licensed teachers to use state standards in their curriculum to ensure academic equality.

As of Aug. 3, the NAACP’s state delegation has been heard, Freeman said. The Academic Distress Commission and the CEO of Youngstown City Schools, Krish Mohip, have agreed to train teachers on how to incorporate state standards into their lesson plans.

The Youngstown NAACP said the state superintendent and his team are in the process of contacting the Kirwan Institute For The Study Of Race And Ethnicity in Columbus to help address racism and racial disparity issues in the classroom and within the school district. Further, the superintendent agreed to step in should there be any disagreement between the CEO and the commission.

Jimma McWilson, vice president of the NAACP chapter, said that there was resistance from the Youngstown schools district superintendent, which required the NAACP to reach out to the commission.

“Our job is to ensure that we hold people accountable for our students’ academic achievement. In Youngstown, African American students are at the bottom, even though they’re the majority of the students in the district,” McWilson said.

After receiving resistance from the superintendent, who claimed that poverty was the reason behind lack of success of black students, McWilson and Freeman said they knew that they were going to have to show evidence to rule out poverty as the problem.

The two leaders organized a meeting with Steubenville City Schools, a city with a very high poverty rate and a primarily Caucasian student body. Overall, the Steubenville City District has earned a district grade of “B” for the 2017-2018 academic year. The gap closing grade, which shows how expectations were met for the most vulnerable students, was an “A”.

Youngstown City Schools earned an “F” for the overall district grade in 2017-2018, in comparison. Their gap closure grade was also an “F.”

In Steubenville, the black population sat at the bottom of their success charts, as well. After all of their research, Freeman and McWilson said the real problem is racism and discrimination in the school district.

“Race became critical when the only thing people wanted to talk about was poverty. And it’s not that poverty isn’t an issue. Let’s just say that poverty is the main issue and the school gets the money they need. How much money is it going to take to compensate for what people say is poverty?” he said.

With a social worker and counselor in every school, as well as sports teams, the Youngstown City Schools have what they need for their students, McWilson said, yet the students are not succeeding like they should be.

“Even the English learners are outscoring the African-American group. The economically disadvantaged are outscoring the African-American group. So if poverty is the issue, why are they always at the bottom?” he asked.

Although happy with the support they have received from the Academic Distress Commission and Mohip, the NAACP leaders plan to keep pushing forward and are looking toward the future, determined to help correct a institutionalized problem that continues to be ignored, they said.

“Race needs to be addressed. Ohio liberated slavery in 1803, but it also caught on to white supremacy. And then in 1804, the state passed black codes to control the very people that they said were just freed. And here we are today. It’s similar to the resistance we are getting,” McWilson said.

Pictured: George Freeman Jr., president of the NAACP Youngstown/Mahoning County Branch

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