Justice
 
     
 

INTRODUCTION
 

 

     
 

Seven years ago, when we began STANDARDS as a print publication at the University of Colorado, "multiculturalism" was a hot topic on campus, one that engaged as many angry debates as creative solutions. I was new to the Rocky Mountain regions, straight out of Southern California, and it took me a full two years to understand what all the fuss was about here.

In preparing curricula and pedagogies for the University, however, I did my homework, and discovered a context for the frustrations many students felt:

Graduation rates of African American and Native American freshmen entering CU-Boulder in 1987 and 1988, for example, were 37% for both groups. Graduation rates were somewhat higher for Latino/Hispanic freshman, at 46%, and for Asian American freshmen, 60%. (Source: Lou McClelland, Student Affairs Research Services, University of Colorado at Boulder, December 19, 1995).

About 20% of Asian American, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American freshmen, and almost half of African American freshmen entering CU-Boulder, are "provisionally admitted," indicating that either their college entrance test scores or their high school curricula did not meet the regular admittance standards of CU Boulder.

Today, through efforts at recruitment and retention from the CU community, those numbers have improved significantly, although first-year attrition rates continue to be high for students of color at CU-Boulder. The first-year attrition rate for freshmen entering in fall 1994 was 24% for Asian Americans, 34% for African-Americans, 33% for Hispanic/Latinos, and 40% for Native Americans.

These figures are indicative of the enrollment policies and minority rates of progression and completion in a highly-ranked middle-tier university, in the United States. Every secondary student, including those at-risk, should be made aware of admissions criteria for every type of further study, allowing for the consideration of maximum options: vocational schools, college ROTC programs, even entrance into one of the prestigious "consortium schools" (e.g.: Harvard, Stanford, Yale, UC Berkeley) should be a real option for each student, through an awareness of, and preparation for, national post-secondary models and admissions criteria.

Non-minority students who drop out of high school and college often face economic hardship as well as various levels of educational disadvantage. These students are a matching demographic targeted by the state Departments of Education. To assess all students equitably, rather than equally, requires particular focus on identifying which factors combine and contribute to individual student's current at-risk status, in building a course of study that will best work to meet their urgent educational needs.

 

DO AFFLUENT COMMUNITIES CARE ENOUGH
ABOUT THEIR AT-RISK CHILDREN?

 

Recently, one child's tragic death put Boulder on the cover of newspapers and magazines across the nation. Within weeks, that top story was replaced by another set of grieving parents, as Bill and Camille Cosby faced news of the murder of their only son. The Cosbys' press statement: "Our hearts go out to those families who have also lost their children."

Film highlights of The Cosby Show, and reportage of Bill and Camille protesting violence on the streets of New York, gave the visual cues to this recent headliner.

By contrast, Boulder's sensationalized murder case, with no suspects and no arrests for long months, has perhaps only raised up the carpets under which this county sweeps evidence of the truth about children at-risk.

Are the Boulder police doing their best to solve the Jon Benét Ramsey murder case? Probably. Within the confines of this city's confidence and quietude regarding family matters, Boulder police are faced with the task of insuring as much municipal damage control as crime-solving.

But are the children of Boulder County "safe" within our homes and schools?

The answer, astonishingly, is no. Over the past year, staff members of the new Frontera Foundation for Youth Services have conducted a lengthy service-integration study, piecing together what works for Boulder County kids, and where the county fails. Using the Colorado Department of Education's definition of "at-risk" -- children who have impediments to education due to "physical, emotional, socioeconomic, or cultural factors," Frontera found:

Facts: 75% of Boulder County at-risk students live at or below the national poverty line; 70% report family violence; 40% are homeless; 40% have experienced street violence and/or racially-motivated violence; 35% have disclosed histories of child sexual abuse; and 30% are teen parents.

What resources are available to such children and their families? Administrators within the City of Boulder have assessed that this municipality meets the guidelines for the receipt of federal aid, based on the fact that at least 20% of the City's residence are povertized. Thus, millions of dollars are given each year for the City Block Grants, which help provide housing and human resources. Additional funds allow low-income families to apply for down-payment grants, to secure home ownership. Clinical facilities encourage immunizations, well-child care, and supplemental food resources, like WIC.

Together, this data reads as if children were Boulder County's greatest asset. In fact, Money magazine last year listed Boulder in the top 100 places in which to raise a family -- based on criteria like median family income and property values. The Superintendent of the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) at that time, Dean Damon, was proud to display the cover of Money magazine for the cameras, at a locally-televised board of education meeting.

But, if median family income and property values are the criteria by which this area is measured as "desirable," how does that balance against the State definition of children "at-risk"? It doesn't balance. But the general assembly believes that it should.

Seem obvious? Ask Boulder Valley School Board President Stephanie Hult, who -- in an interview that sparked international complaints -- remarked that Down Syndrome children had no place in her daughter's classroom. "I think those children are wonderful, but don't tell me it's a good mix," Hult told a reporter. "We have to change this attitude that no, no, no we're not going to recognize that some kids are brighter than others because there is something inherently wrong with that," Hult said. "There's not. We're not all the same. We don't end up in the same spot, and it infuriates me to think that we are denying opportunities to kids who have intellectual capabilities that are different than others." (Source: Boulder Daily Camera, 3/10/96, page 2A). In the same article, Hult's 14-year-old daughter, Caroline, is quoted as saying, "I want to do everything. Right now, I want to be a lawyer. I like the power behind it." (2A)

The power behind a family's station and presence in Boulder County has been called into question by the treatment of the Ramseys, during the investigation of their daughter's brutal murder.

The memory Jon Benét Ramsey should not be allowed to stand in as the poster child for an "It Can't Happen Here" campaign. It does happen here; it goes on happening all the time: our children are not always safe. And not, as our readers know, just in Boulder, Colorado.

This special Focus on Education Issue of STANDARDS investigates some of the ways and means by which our nation's efforts at educational reform are truly beginning to make some headway. And yes, there are a few asides regarding the not-so-obvious blunders of what doesn't work.

To the students and teachers of the world, we extend what we hope will be useful resources. And we'll be waiting to hear from those of you who have yet more to add.

On a more personal note, the editors of STANDARDS wish to dedicate this issue to Tim Neese, a spectacular educator who has recently met his own risks, fallen, and stood again.

En junta,

Canéla A. Jaramillo

Canéla Analucinda Jaramillo
Editor-in-Chief
STANDARDS
Boulder, Colorado

 
     

 

 

 Text © 1997, 1998 by Canéla Analucinda Jaramillo
 
     
 

 Original Graphic © 1997, 1998 by Canéla Analucinda Jaramillo
 

 

 

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