GED, Common Core to Blame for Denkins?

I recently wrote about the Akiel Denkins shooting and over the weekend, a reader of the blog pointed me at a very lengthy article in the News and Observer about him.

The article is very  long but the narrative throughout is  that people knew Denkins was no angel but the reader is supposed to feel bad for him anyway.  I feel bad when anyone loses their life, however if you’re going to sell drugs, run from cops and brandish a weapon at police… it sounds awful, but my sympathies are tempered somewhat there.

Having said that, it is quite possible this guy had no chance and that other avenues were cut off. I’ll explain. Way down in the piece is a section titled “Honor Roll Student”.

Here is an excerpt and the emphasis added is mine:

Denkins was born in February 1992. His mother, Rolanda Byrd, was 15. His father, Sean Dailey, had numerous drug arrests starting when Denkins was a toddler.

By all accounts, Denkins was a happy child, making people laugh and carrying around a well-worn football. He made the honor roll in 2002 as a third-grader at Cooper Elementary when his family lived in Clayton, getting his name in The News & Observer. But his ease with academics did not last, and he left Enloe High School without finishing the 10th grade.

Denkins’ first arrest came in 2011, a trespassing charge not long after his 19th birthday. Womack was there for the arrest, which he calls “bogus” even five years later. Denkins, he said, got singled out from a crowd of people. A misdemeanor marijuana charge followed in November of that year, and more would follow.

Still, away from the streets, Denkins showed his depth.

When he came to Neighbor to Neighbor for his GED, he took a placement test to determine his reading level. The average score for students around Bragg Street falls somewhere around the sixth-grade level, Womack said. Denkins scored an 11.8, or nearly 12th-grade level.

In GED class, he showed a hunger to learn, questioning his teachers relentlessly until he understood a lesson. Womack recalled that Denkins’ questions once took up an entire class. But once he finished, his classmates told Womack they were glad he spoke up. They hadn’t understood, either.

“Akiel was brilliant,” Hathcock said. “This is a guy who’s been through some things. He’s brilliant, but he’s shaped in an environment where he’s not thriving. He’s surviving.”

In early 2014, when the GED curriculum changed to reflect Common Core standards, the work grew exponentially harder. Denkins quit coming as often, as did many others. But he continued with the job training program and briefly found construction work in the field he wanted to work: carpentry. That job, Womack said, turned out to be seasonal.

Now, not to diminish the seriousness of the Denkins case, but I have to stress that for some time now, I’ve been railing about the GED being Common Core aligned.

Common Core itself has a racial bias to it as test scores around the nation have been spelling out.

The GED is supposed to be the ‘every man’s’ test.  It’s not. I assert that by aligning to Common Core, the GED has been turned into a test to weed out people just like Akiel Denkins and put them into a workforce silo of ‘skilled labor’.

While his actions over time that eventually led to the confrontation that ended his life are not excusable, neither is the way education elites are driving people like him down that path.

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
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