Reposted from edSurge:
For all the talk about educational equity and access, K12 has been slow to adopt mobile communication–the one technology that is indispensable to low-income families. Take a look below: this is how families see the New York City Schools website on their mobile phones. The country’s largest school district serves 875k low-income students and has a $25 billion budget.
I don’t mean to pick on NYC Schools. Of the 10 largest school districts in the country, which serve over 2.5 million students in poverty, only Chicago Public Schools’website renders properly in a mobile browser. (I’m not counting Houston Independent School District, which has a mobile-friendly landing page, but clicking on any button leads to pages that are not mobile-friendly.)
For school districts, making their webpages legible on phones is only the first step. How about making it insanely easy for families to use their phones to enroll their children in school, sign up for meals, check grades or talk to their teachers?
Reposted from Edutopia:
Equity is at the student level rather than the demographic level because demographics only exist on paper. Every student experiences commonality and difference — what’s shared (a student needing knowledge) and what’s distinct (urban, rural, white, black, male, female). This never stops. We can revise our schools, curriculum, pedagogy, and technology until it’s inclusive, fair, and accessible to every student, but that ongoing effort continues to represent a kind of basement for our goals.
Why not consider something more ambitious? New thinking about the terms and definitions of gender emphasize both the characteristics and the fluidity of any culture. If we insist on standardizing content, maybe we can avoid standardizing education. How many different answers are there to the question, “Why learn?” Fantastic! Let’s iterate ourselves until we can honor that.
The work before us, then, may not be to level an academic playing field for which there is no even, but rather to create new terms for why we learn, how, and where — and then change the expectation for what we do with what we know.
Reposted from the Washington Post:
There may be ways in school to make up for some of the deficits of skills and knowledge our culture believes to be important to competition in the marketplace. What I finally realized, in my ninth year, is that I do not support current attempts to “narrow the achievement gap” in school alone. Why? What we mostly mean when we talk about narrowing the achievement gap is finding ways to get students of color to score as well on standardized tests as white students do. As Hart and Risley’s work suggests, skills and knowledge essential to performing well on standardized tests (like vocabulary) are not easily gained, particularly when a student’s social-emotional issues (and perhaps hunger or lack of safety) stop them from focusing in school.
Does public education have a history of doing disservice to poor children of color in our country? Absolutely! Is it because they haven’t closed the achievement gap? Ironically, I would say schools continue to disservice students because they’re so hellbent on closing the achievement gap of standardized test scores. Schools leaders who focus on closing the achievement gap often do things such as reduce or eliminate art, music, social studies, recess; and, instead, spend lots of time analyzing student performance on math, reading, and writing tests in an effort to improve those skills. These skills are certainly vital, but this kind of schooling comes with grave costs.
It’s time education policymakers seriously acknowledge that we live in a tremendously unequal and unjust society that creates the problems we see in schools before students ever even arrive there. Students need to feel safe, to feel loved, to eat, to sleep, and to have friends before they can engage in learning. When students don’t feel safe or loved or are hungry, they don’t learn very well, if at all. The students who often don’t have their social-emotional needs met in and out of school are the same students who are on the bottom end of the achievement gap; force feeding them a simple diet of only math and language down their throat becomes becomes inhumane.
Reposted from Love, Teach:
I work in a district whose neighborhoods represent a variety of income brackets. Some schools in the district are a part of one of the country’s wealthiest zip codes. Other schools, Title I schools like mine, are in a different part of town and have a high percentage of students labeled at-risk and on free or reduced lunch. When my school’s sports teams play against schools similar to ours, it’s usually fine. But sometimes when we play the more wealthy schools, it’s difficult for me to be there on the sidelines. A few weeks ago, some of my students on the boys’ basketball team asked if I would come to their game that evening. I told them I would, then asked who they were playing. “Woodridge!” they told me. “We’re going to beat them this year, Miss!”
My heart sank. Woodridge Middle School (which is not actually the school’s name), is the wealthiest school in the district. They consistently have the highest test scores, the greatest amount of parent involvement and financial support, and easily the best sports teams. I can count the number of times I have seen or heard of our teams beating theirs on one hand. “I’ll be there!” I told them. I gave them a thumbs-up. After they left, I let out a sigh. My boys were so excited, and I’d already told them I would go. I did want to support them and let them know how much I value them and their interests, but I already dreaded going. I knew what would await me.
I knew I would see the look on my students’ faces as they stole glances at the other team warming up. They would see their brand-new shoes. Their effortless lay-ups from years of playing in community leagues, their camaraderie from knowing each other since kindergarten because they don’t move as much as the families at my school do. I knew I would see the Woodridge side of the bleachers full—parents, grandparents, siblings, and students who were able to have their parents drop them back off at school just to see the game. I would look at our side of the bleachers and see about half as many people there. I would know that one of our players’ mom works the night shift and will never see a game. I would know that less than half of our players would ever have both parents there cheering them on. I knew I would watch Woodridge take the lead by ten points, then twenty, then fifty. Then I would see the Woodridge coach call a time-out, and in the huddle all his players would smile suddenly, and I would know that the coach had just told his players that they have to stop scoring.
Reposted from Salon:
The gap in the mathematical abilities of American kids, by income, is one of widest among the 65 countries participating in the Program for International Student Achievement. On their reading skills, children from high-income families score 110 points higher, on average, than those from poor families. This is about the same disparity that exists between average test scores in the United States as a whole and Tunisia. The achievement gap between poor kids and wealthy kids isn’t mainly about race. In fact, the racial achievement gap has been narrowing. It’s a reflection of the nation’s widening gulf between poor and wealthy families. And also about how schools in poor and rich communities are financed, and the nation’s increasing residential segregation by income.
As we segregate by income into different communities, schools in lower-income areas have fewer resources than ever. The result is widening disparities in funding per pupil, to the direct disadvantage of poor kids. The wealthiest highest-spending districts are now providing about twice as much funding per student as are the lowest-spending districts, according to a federal advisory commission report. In some states, such as California, the ratio is more than three to one. What are called a “public schools” in many of America’s wealthy communities aren’t really “public” at all. In effect, they’re private schools, whose tuition is hidden away in the purchase price of upscale homes there, and in the corresponding property taxes.
Rather than pay extra taxes that would go to poorer districts, many parents in upscale communities have quietly shifted their financial support to tax-deductible “parent’s foundations” designed to enhance their own schools. About 12 percent of the more than 14,000 school districts across America are funded in part by such foundations. They’re paying for everything from a new school auditorium (Bowie, Maryland) to a high-tech weather station and language-arts program (Newton, MA). “Parents’ foundations,” observed the Wall Street Journal, “are visible evidence of parents’ efforts to reconnect their money to their kids.” And not, it should have been noted, to kids in another community, who are likely to be poorer.
Reposted from the TNTP Blog:
We come to our work at TNTP with the belief that schools can and must be a powerful lever of change in this country. We know how much of a difference schools can make in the lives of children, especially children living in poverty. I know it because I’ve lived it personally, growing up as the child of immigrants in California. That’s why we do what we do.
But as we’ve been reminded all too frequently these days, improving schools alone is not enough. Those of us working for better schools aren’t doing so as an end in itself. We are not naïve enough to think that a better education alone for kids of color is going to bring equity and justice. My friend Bryonn Bain, a fellow Columbia graduate, has written about the different rules men of color live by every day. Like Bain, we know that an education does not guarantee you will be afforded equal rights. That is why we see our work as part of a larger effort to promote opportunity, equality, justice and democracy. As long as these injustices continue, and wherever communities are torn apart by mistrust and lives are lost, then this larger effort is failing too. We all have so much more work to do.
And so we can’t stay silent when we see other institutions in this country sending the message that some lives matter less than others. The right response to institutional indifference of any kind—in our education system, our justice system, or in any other institution that is supposed to serve and protect us as citizens—is outrage. Outrage, and a call to action: We need the Justice Department to investigate and right these miscarriages of justice. We need to change how our law enforcement officers are trained and the cultures they work in. We need to examine the legal standards for the use of force. And we need to continue the national dialogue that’s been sparked by these events, about the very real consequences of racism and inequality in the lives of so many Americans. These may not be “education issues” per se, but for all of us who work to build a more just, more equal nation, they are our issues.
Reposted from Quartz:
The US became increasingly unequal in decades ahead of the Civil War in the 1860s. But at the dawn of the the 20th century it remained more egalitarian than European nations like Britain and France. Inequality rose sharply in during the Jazz Age, and collapsed in the Great Depression, staying pretty much stable until the early 1980s. Since then American inequality has climbed sharply—so much so that the US is now a more unequal society than Europe was during the last days of aristocracy ahead of World War I, according to French economist Thomas Piketty in his massive study of the topic, Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
Not only is the US now less equal than Europe, it’s less mobile than many European countries. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Americans had a much easier time rising above the station into which they were born than their counterparts in Britain, according to economic historian Joseph Ferrie. Now, a poor Moroccan kid in France is much more likely to move into the middle class than a child born into a poor family in Mississippi. (The US and Britain are usually seen as having the lowest intergenerational social mobility of the countries of Europe and North America. That means our ultimate earnings are now heavily correlated with those of our parents. Here’s another study on the topic.)
Few would argue that this is a healthy development. And almost all would agree that if a change is going to be made, it must be driven in part by the American education system. But here’s the catch: the American education system is itself only an offshoot of an increasingly class-driven society.