For decades, large amounts of time, toil and treasure has been expended trying to correct what are widely perceived as the failings of public education, here on the Suncoast and pretty much in every part of the nation as well. Great minds have grappled with the questions of how to ensure that public school students in general — and a large portion of the African American student population in particular — improve their educational performance. Much of the outflow of money and effort has gone for naught, as academic performance, overall, continues to lag. This, understandably, has led to a lot of frustration and finger pointing at the usual suspects.

It is with this background in mind that we tip our hat to Maria Scruggs, the head of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP. In December, she declared that the Pinellas School District had done what it could to help close the educational performance gap between African American students and the rest of the Pinellas student population. As a result, parents and other members of the community must take a more active role in educating their young people.

For years, we have been saying that efforts to improve the academic performance of young people that focus almost exclusively on the educational system — rigorous testing of students and teachers alike, the latest supposed improvement to curricula, et al —were doomed to either fail or produce disappointing levels of improvement. That’s because students who come from homes where intellectual attainment is not stressed have a hard climb when it comes to learning. This is certainly true when it comes to literacy.

Understanding this may prove more important than whether former Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran will be a good state education commissioner.