Friday, September 14, 2012

How do we, as a nation, create scalable, sustainable models for effective public schools in high poverty communities?

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“The overwhelming proportion of the JPL Mars Curiosity exploration team came from America's public high schools.  A JPL website, Zip Code Mars, carries brief bios of the Mars team. When this article was written, 141 names were posted.  Of those, 104 graduated from public high schools.”

Middle-class American students who attend well-funded schools rank at the top of the world on international tests. Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California August 12, 2012 

U.S. 15-year olds in schools with fewer than 10 percent of kids eligible for free or cut-rate lunch "score first in the world in reading, outperforming even the famously excellent Finns." 

U.S. schools where fewer than 25 percent are impoverished (by the same lunch measure) beat all 34 of the relatively affluent countries studied except South Korea and Finland.

In Pennsylvania, the statewide average for public school students in poverty in 2011 was 39.1%.  For the 144 PA schools on the 2011 list of failing schools that accompanied SB1, the voucher bill, the average poverty rate was 80.8%

A whopping 23.1% of U.S. children under the age of 18 live in poverty, putting us second in the world.  Among developed nations, only Romania has a higher relative child poverty rate…..

Twenty years of charter schools and vouchers have not proven to be systematically any more effective than our traditional public schools at educating high poverty populations.

All of our children can learn.  Here’s a crazy, hair-brained idea from Stephen_Krashen: what if we took some of the money we are spending testing the hell out of our students who are NOT living in poverty and spent it to actually help educate our disadvantaged kids?

I believe that most of the folks on both sides of our education debates truly have the best interests of kids at heart.  That we need to occasionally insult each other seems to be human nature.  Let’s blow it off and keep our collective eyes on the ball:

How do we, as a nation, create scalable, sustainable models for effective public schools in high poverty communities?

That question was asked to Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to President Obama for Education, in a meeting held a couple weeks ago at the White House with about 40 Pennsylvania education leaders.  I suggested that perhaps it is time to bring respected people from all sides of the discussion together and ask them to develop such a model based on their experience and best practices.

Who might that include?  How about people like Anthony Cody, Linda Darling Hammond, Diane Ravitch, Stephen Krashen, teachers, school superintendents, Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children’s Zone, Wendy Kopp of Teach for America, Michael Feinberg of KIPP, Vickie Phillips of the Gates Foundation, Pasi Sahlberg from Finland….there is no shortage of human resources from across the full P-16 community.

What might such a model include?  Here’s a start: prenatal, medical, dental and vision care.  High quality early childhood education.  Books – literacy programs, books in the homes, books in staffed libraries.  Longer school days; longer school years.  Parental involvement programs.  Rich curricula not focused solely on test preparation.  Arts, music, physical education.  Afterschool activities and enrichment programs.  Equitable funding.  Recruiting the most qualified teachers.  Induction and mentoring programs.  Professional learning communities.  Counselors, social workers and nurses in the schools, with reasonable caseloads.  Programs to help guide and support students into and through college.  A means to coordinate the whole continuum of services.  A plan to evaluate and replicate effective practices.

It might be a little tougher than sending a probe to Mars.

Would the White House, the teachers unions, the Gates Foundation and the Waltons support such an effort?

1 comment:

  1. This is how we do it:
    1) Commit to democracy as a process and outcome of education. Let's argue about what THAT looks like.
    2) In PA, we raise revenue to fund a "thorough" education in line with the best that the independent schols have to offer: small class size, beautiful campuses, exceptional student clubs, activities (with adjustments for counseling, healthcare, etc.).
    3) We support teachers so that they have the effective working conditions AND expertise to help integrate curriculum, instruction, assessment and policy.
    4) We commit to eradicating poverty and ensuring that all children are well-rested, healthy, well-fed, feel safe and come from families that have balanced work lives and meaningful employment. Eliminate proverty and then we eliminate for education as remediation.

    Poverty is a form of violence. Children who are proximate to poverty arrive at school less-than-ready to learn.

    Gamal Sherif
    Teachers Lead Philly


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