How are America’s students let off the hook?


By Ronald Holmes

Vice President/ Education Editor

When the Arizona Cardinals lost a 20 point lead in the fourth quarter to the Chicago Bears, Coach Dennis Green angrily erupted toward the media saying, “They are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook.” At the end of the 2006 season, Green was terminated from his position.

Just like football players, America’s children come to school with different learning styles. Effective teachers assess the different learning styles of their students and create lesson plans tailored to their abilities. When state assessments consistently show poor results, teachers like Coach Green, may disappointingly complain, “They are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook.” Subsequently, teachers may be removed from their positions for students’ poor performance. So, the question to be asked is: How are America’s students let off the hook?

Too often American schools ignore the different cultural backgrounds of students and subsequently, employ a one-size-fits-all method to teaching. Research reports that this contributes to the failure of students such as African-Americans on state assessments because there is a disconnect between what is taught at school and what is experienced in students’ home environments. In review of a study, African-American students were more sensing-thinking on the Myers Brigg Type Indicator. This represents students who rely on logic and reasoning to make decisions. In another study, African-American boys were identified as kinesthetic learners and more receptive when the teachers used visual aids, hands on activities and explained concepts using real life home and community situations.

Thus, culture is essential to student learning in America’s schools according to the National Education Association. Students bring various cultural differences to the classroom requiring teachers to be culturally competent. Some critics argue that the disproportionate number of African-American students, particularly males, being placed in special education, suspended and expelled from school is due to having culturally incompetent teachers who do not recognize and accommodate students’ different learning styles.
Just as the NFL’s players bring various skill sets to the football field requiring coaches to assess their abilities and implement relevant plays to prepare them rigorously and proficiently for NFL competition, the same is expected of teachers in rigorously preparing students for state assessments. For effectiveness, coaches and teachers should understand individuals’ cultural backgrounds. Schools must provide teachers professional development training in multiculturalism to help them become culturally competent and incorporate components of culture into their teaching.

Having a better understanding of students’ home environments and working diligently with them before academic and athletic competition could yield favorable results and avoid the disturbing expression, “They are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook.”



Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of 10 books, “How to Eradicate Bullying” “Education Questions to be Answered,” “Current Issues and Answers in Education,” “How to Eradicate Hazing,” “Professional Career Paths,” “Your Answers to Education Questions,” “How to revitalize the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.” “Completing the Dissertation: Tips, techniques and real-life experiences from Ph.D. graduates.” “Jacob’s Dream, A Story of Careers for Children” and Jacob’s Dream, A Story of Animals in Africa. He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper. Holmes is a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at