The Ignored “R” Word of Education Reform: “We must be exceptional if we are to be anything at all”1
October 12, 2014 by JImbo
Well written article, but I have one caveat. The strongest correlation with lack of educational prosperity in many studies is not poverty, but rather single parent homes. Granted they are often seen together, especially in minority communities. However, lack of prosperity and progress in general by kids (on average) from nontraditional homes would arguably explain both lack of academic results and poverty, not the reverse.
Every factor that is used in the school reform debate as a problem usually tracks back at least in part to a single parent household.
Why is the household poor? Only one parent working.
Why is the district poor? A neighborhood of poor households is going to be poor.
Why does the parent not help with homework? She (or He, but usually She) is working or exhausted.
Why does the parent not work with teachers at meetings? She is working.
Why does the kid hang with gangs after school? Mother is too busy working to be home.
Why is the income of the family less stable and fluctuates more? Only one job in family. Loss of job is catastrophic. No time to work on job skills to improve job.
Additionally, there is a multi-generational effect. If you are 3rd generation single parent… that becomes seen as “normal” and if you grow up without an ability to go to college or even complete school, you won’t get a good job… leading to less opportunities for your children.
Before we blame “race” let’s look at all the white kids who are just as poor and in single parent homes. Or perhaps the rich black folks who come from two-parent households. Why aren’t there as many rich black households? Why are there more black single-parent households?
That is culture. It’s accepted and even encouraged by the media. It’s popular to address bad symptoms of the disease of social decay, not the root cause.
We can solve the problems, but it involved identifying the true causes underlying the rest.
Although the foundational approach to education reform has remained the same (as has the structure of and instruction in public schools) for about a century—one grounded in revising or updating in-school-only elements such as standards/curriculum, technology, and testing—the past thirty years have seen education reform increase accountability based on standards and high-stakes testing (despite that approach never working) while rushing to experiment with charter schools and value-added methods of evaluating teachers (despite neither working as well).
And thus the “R” word that has remained ignored in education reform is not “reform,” but “race”—or more directly “racism.”
Throughout our current three decades of education reform, poverty has been a significant part of the discourse and equation—often framed as “not an excuse” or misrepresented as the “achievement gap.” Poverty, then, has been allowed in the conversation, included in the policies, and identified as a significant barrier to learning, but only as something…
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Our largest area school district in Rochester NY has the worst attendance of any in the state. But not what you think. It is Kindergarten to the 4th grade. Parents are responsible for that.