The goal of diversity did not trump the realities of racial disparities
In the mid-1980s, school officials touted classroom diversity in all classes as a desired goal. Yet a disproportionate number of black students continued to be tracked into basic courses taught by average teachers. Jessup discusses the significance and power academic labels had on students' self-perceptions. He emphasizes the need to provide all students quality teachers, regardless of their academic level.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with John Jessup, January 11, 1991. Interview M-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
- GOLDIE F. WELLS:
What about curriculum and instruction?
- JOHN JESSUP:
Well, curriculum and instruction--I guess my basic philosophy was
you're probably not aware of the fact but in this school
system we have five different levels, for instance in English. That is
how many basic courses you can be in--average courses, advanced courses.
You can be in honors courses and you can be in advanced placement
courses. So all of those are possibilities. I guess you could call it
homogeneous group--some people call it track. Right now it is very
popular to talk about heterogeneous grouping and it is a very popular
subject in this school system and we are moving toward that thank
goodness. But I talked about it some when it was not popular to talk
about. My basic philosophy I guess in regard to what we already had in
place was that we should be as anxious to move up kids as we are to move
down kids and working toward creating fairness in the placement of kids,
especially in the placement of kids and the concern about the
minorities, so many of them, being in the basic classes and average
classes but especially basic classes and the desire to have as few in
those classes as we could. We eliminated one year a basic class. We did
last year on an experimental basis, eliminating a basic class in
biology. We hadn't had any basic kids who passed the state
test and last year we eliminated it as a basic class and gave them a new
name. They were average students, studying average stuff and most of
those kids passed and I don't think anyone failed that class.
It was a small class. Just that the name change made a tremendous
difference. We had a situation in regards to social studies. The lady
made a mistake and told the kids that they were in an average class and
then she discovered later, the kids discovered before she did, that it
was not really supposed to be and she said it was amazing the difference
that it made in the way those kids responded. So therefore, we changed
the class to an average class. So we tried a number of things like that
in regards to curriculum but we had an established curriculum of course
that you just couldn't change so the main thing that you had
to do was to work toward young people being treated fairly in regard to
placement and to work toward young people having the same opportunities
when it came to quality teachers. Another part of my philosophy is that
basic kids deserve the same quality teaching as higher level kids.
Therefore, they deserve teachers with the same level of experience, same
level of education and everything else so rather than having a basic
class and a basic teacher, we let everybody share and the teacher who
teaches the AG kids should also have a class of basic kids. Therefore
nobody is going out with basic kids but everybody can come to that class
with freshness and at the same time we hope with
high expectations. Somehow it seemed that when you teach only basic kids
sometimes your expectations can get lower and lower and lower.