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BPS superintendent talks about closing achievement gap

Kenneth J. Cooper | 6/1/2012, 7:38 a.m.

She added the school system is discussing the creation of an academic unit on personal identity to be taught in the ninth grade.

John Smith, coordinator of the Youth Policy Initiative, suggested that an external problem is some black boys have come to see entrepreneurialism as a substitute for education and as a route to upward mobility.

“If you sit down with them, that’s what they’ll tell you — so-and-so rapper didn’t go to college. Bill Gates didn’t go to college,” he said.

Smith later said in an interview that he corrects the boys on the educational career of the wealthy Microsoft founder. He did go to Harvard University, before dropping out to go into business. The fact he was admitted to Harvard shows he was academically well-prepared for college.

As in two previous meetings between Johnson and black community elders hosted by the Trotter Institute at UMass Boston, the session last week reached a consensus that the school system needs help from members of the community to reduce the dropout rate of black and Latino boys, and to lift the achievement levels of students of color in general.

“When we make this only about the schools, we play the blame game,” said Brian Barnes, a community liaison with the Boston schools.