National Urban League To Concentrate Efforts on Black Children’s Education

By James Crawford — January 29, 1986 2 min read

John E. Jacob, president of the National Urban League, last week announced “a nationwide effort to achieve specific, measurable changes in the educational outcomes of black children, ... an unprecedented national campaign that will include every one of our 113 affiliates.”

“In 1986, education will be our prime area of concentration,” Mr. Jacob said.

The announcement coincided with the release of the group’s annual report on “The State of Black America,” which describes blacks as “excluded from the economic boom, excluded from full participation in job growth, and in danger of being excluded from tomorrow’s economic mainstream.”

Mr. Jacob said this year’s education campaign reflects an increasing emphasis on “self-help” efforts within the black community. The league’s chapters are “strategically located,” he said, in districts where 2 million of the nation’s 6 million black students attend school. Coordinating already existing “support systems” for schools in various communities will allow the group to exert a major influence on the education of black children, he added.

“It’s minimally a five-year effort,” said Betti Whaley, president of the District of Columbia chapter of the organization and chairman of a task force to plan the education campaign. “Once we decide on the specific strategies, we ought to be able to see measurable results at the end of that time,” she said.

Detailed proposals will be unveiled at the organization’s annual conference in July, according to Mr. Jacob.

Ms. Whaley said the task force is looking closely at the effective-schools movement, which she said has yielded promising results in urban school systems. ''But we’re avoiding labels,” she said. “That can cause detractors.”

Charles D. Moody Sr., professor of education at the University of Michigan and author of the education chapter of the report, was similarly enthusiastic about promoting the principles of effective schools.

“Given the demonstrated capacity for schools to succeed,” he said, citing the research of the late Ronald Edmonds of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, ''public policy no longer provides any valid justification for their failure.”

Mr. Moody made several recommendations for urban schools, “as we move from an industrial society to an information society.” These include:

  • The teaching of “higher-order thinking skills, problem-solving, test-wiseness, and computer literacy ... in addition to the three ‘R’s.”
  • “School-business partnerships” that include “apprenticeships, internships, mentorship , sponsorships, and networking.”
  • A focus on maintaining adequate resources for the 3 percent of the nation’s school districts in which three-quarters of the black student population is concentrated.

Mr. Moody cautioned, however, that achievement in education alone will not raise the economic status of black Americans. Social and political forces must also be addressed.

“Poverty levels have increased irrespective of the level of black educational attainment over the past four to five years,” said David Swinton, an economics professor at Clark College and a co-author of the group’s report. Black high-school graduates have higher rates of poverty and unemployment than white dropouts, he said.

The nation’s recent economic recovery “has not made much of a dent in black poverty rates,” Mr. Swinton asserted.

“Poverty and unemployment rates are at their highest levels of the post-l964 period,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the January 29, 1986 edition of Education Week