Guest Series: Irvin PeDro Cohen, New Town Success Zone

March 16, 2012 26 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville consistently offers the opportunity for our readers to absorb the editorials, personal accounts, and vocal opinions of some of the key players in the decision making process of our community. This week, New Town Success Zone Director Irvin PeDro Cohen explains the state of public education in Jacksonville and Florida.

As with any of my musings they always seem to come at those moments when my body and mind are at conflict regarding the need to conduct physical exercise as if I am training for mini camp with a NFL franchise or worst yet a MMA fight.  In light of that mental and physical battle I offer you this commentary regarding the state of education as I see it. However, before I do I offer you these sobering statistics:

• 42,000,000 adults are illiterate meaning they can not READ

• Every 26 seconds a young person drops out of school

• 90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts

• 2/3 of the students who can not read by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or welfare

• 85% of all who enter the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate

• 40% of minority students fail to graduate with their class.

If you are anything like me you find this not only heartbreaking, but a tragedy in light of the work that some of my friends who are educators are doing.  See what I have come to understand is that education like every other American enterprise from cars to real estate to good ole heaven has become profit centers and as any good capitalist would tell you there is money to be made and people are getting paid, especially when you factor in all of the profiteers here in the State of Florida with the FCAT.

Schools are no longer centers of intellectual curiosity as they may have once been.  In less than 15 years schools have been transformed into test mills that process young people into lines that ultimate suggest prison or college and do very little to prepare them for anything in between.  Matter of fact in a recent paper I wrote regarding high stakes testing I pointed out that within the last 10 years (1997-2007) the economics of the testing industry and all of the spin offs have gone from a $260 million dollar a year industry to an $700 million dollar a year industry (Supovitz, 2009).

The unfortunate state of today’s formulated education system is that it is created to push square pegs into round holes without addressing all of the many variable factors that make young people round, square, triangle and any other number of geometric shapes.  The frightening part about it is young people are realizing this fact earlier and rebelling against a system that has insisted on defining them by a test that has no implications on their abilities to compete in a global economy.  Matter of fact researchers Donnor & Shockley suggested that standardized test are neither indicative nor representative of whether a person can apply or transfer the information they know in other settings (Donnor & Shockley, 2010).  
Moreover, while we test our way into nowhere American children are falling further behind their global counterparts in reading and math.   Therefore, leading kids down the path of forced servitude via America’s prison system.  However, the shortsightedness of all of this is that the prison system takes all comers and as our education system crumbles around us no one will be able to escape its impact.
I AM Irvin PeDro Cohen

That’s My Truth and I AM Sticking To It.
Donnor, J.K., Shockley, K. G. (2010).  Leaving Us Behind:  A Political Economic

Interpretation of NCLB and the Miseducation of African American Males, Educational Foundations, pp 43-54.

Supovitz, J. (2009).  Can High Stakes Testing Leverage Educational Improvements?

Prospects From the Last Decade of Testing and Accountability Reform, Journal Education Change, Vol. 10, pp 211-227. DOI 10.1007/s10833-009-9105-2.

About Irvin PeDro Cohen

Irvin PeDro Cohen is the Director of the New Town Success Zone a community collaborative initiative largely based upon the work of Geoffery Canada and the Harlem Children Zone.  The goal of the New Town Success is to build a continuum of care for young people and their families living in the New Town/College Garden area of Jacksonville and lead children on a path to either college, the military or some other form of post secondary training.  

PeDro is a Jacksonville, FL native and a graduate of William M. Raines High School.  He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Florida (UNF) and his MBA from Pfeiffer University and is currently a doctoral student at Nova Southeastern University.  

PeDro also serves on the advisory board of the Florida Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, the University of North Florida’s Dean’s Education Advisory Council, the University of Florida CTSI Community Advisory Board, he is a member of the Jacksonville Chapter NAACP and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated Jacksonville Alumni Chapter.

PeDro is a frequent radio commentator.  His blog can be seen at  He is also in working on his most extensive work “A Charge to Keep:  The Role of the African-American Church in Social Outcomes in a Post Civil Rights Era.”