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Education and Income Inequality

On Tuesday, October 24th, we went to the City Club of Cleveland to hear Dr. John B. King, Jr.. President and CEO of "The Education Trust" and the 10th U.S. Secretary for Education, talk about educational inequality regarding race (African-American and Hispanic) and income which, according to the slides that he showed and that statistics that he cited, still has a long way to go even though some progress has undoubtedly been made in such areas as improvement in fourth grade math skills and the high school graduation rate. 

Getting beyond the charts and the statistics, the most interesting parts the presentation for us were what Dr. King said about how having a instructor of the same ethnic background as the student could really have a positive effect on the student's learning due to the student being able to interact with someone who can relate more closely with what they are going through. It also benefits white students to be taught by at least one skilled teacher of a different ethnicity because their consciousness is heightened by having to work with someone that they ordinarily would not. No doubt about it; teacher competence plays a big role in the success of the students because it has been shown that a student who has been taught by three excellent teachers in a row has excellent long-term benefits.

Of course other factors matter too like curriculum, parental and community support, and resources (often financial) as Dr. King showed during the course of his presentation especially during his overview of the "Every Student Succeeds Act" (ESSA).

We also found it interesting when Dr. King, in response to a question during the Q and A, mentioned the challenges faced by foreign-born students who do not know English and the creative ways that this issue is being addressed by an educational institution in New York that has students that speak maybe 15 different languages. One of the methods used is to have the students work on a project together wherein they must speak English (the common thread) so that they can communicate with each other and complete their tasks. Afterwards, we talked with Dr. King for a moment and he found out that he believed that some bilingual education was necessary and that the old-fashioned, sink or swim, immersion process was not the way to go. 

Overall, Dr. King really shined during the Q and A because there were students in attendance from several local schools who talked to him about their goals and how tough it was to achieve them because the schools that they attended didn't offer the courses and/or the programs that they needed. Dr. King listened carefully to what they had to say and made constructive suggestions as to what could be done.

On this day, we were privileged to share a table with at least two people who were working to make a difference.

The first one was Mr. Bob Theo from Ashland who has established trust funds to help the students at Hillsdale High School. Mr. Theo said that it didn't matter to him whether the beneficiaries of the scholarships chose to be welders or doctors as long as they realized their potential.


The other person was Ms. Lynn H. Foran, a coordinator with "The Literacy Comparative" which, as its mission statement reads, "was formed for public, charitable, scientific, and educational purposes relating to to the improvement of the literacy rate in the Greater Cleveland Area." We invite our readers to review the fine works of this organization at its website which is Ms. Foran told us, and we wholeheartedly agree, that the sooner the child is exposed to books and other reading materials (age appropriate of course) the more likely it is for the child to succeed in school.

Accordingly, Dr. King ended with a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., no relationship to him, regarding how important it was that could pertain to many things including the education of children, "Whatever affects one directly affects us all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality."


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC




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