Addressing Poverty as a Sector, as a School and as a Classroom


Reposted from ASCD In Service:

On Wednesday, May 5th, ASCD sponsored its most recent Whole Child Symposium on the topic of poverty. Convened at the Newseum in the heart of Washington, D.C., and streaming online to educators everywhere, we assembled two panels of educators to explore the impact and implications of poverty in preparing children for their future.

“It’s a national problem. If public education in this country fails, the nation fails,” stated Steve Suitts, senior fellow of the Southern Education Foundation. “The trend of impoverished majority has been accelerated by the great recession. Even in suburban America, more and more students are low income. Poverty cannot become the new normal.” And yet that is the reality we are facing.

Poverty2ASCD Executive Director Judy Seltz agrees. “At the beginning of the War on Poverty there was a
national commitment to make life better for poor people. But over time there was a shift and it became OK to change the dialog from the supports people needed to blaming them: it’s their fault. This 50 year mark is an opportunity to look back, do this again, do it differently, do it better.” It has become too easy to select media and news sources that only reinforce our existing belief systems. To fight poverty is to fight ignorance and belief systems of “us” versus “them.”

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Where Are Students in Poverty Most Likely to Graduate?


Reposted from the New York Times:

More high school students of minority backgrounds and from poor families are graduating, the U.S. Department of Education announced Monday. New data shows that not only does the high school graduation rate for the country as a whole continue to rise, but also that the increase was particularly pronounced among black, Hispanic and American Indian kids and for economically disadvantaged students.

Nationally, 81.4 percent of high school students graduated in the 2012-2013 school year, an increase from 80 percent the previous year. That figure included 86.6 percent of whites, 88.7 percent of Asians, 75.2 percent of Hispanics and 70.7 of blacks. Among low-income students, 73.3 percent graduated.

The department also published graduation data by state, showing variations in how well students of different groups do in high school. Blacks in Oregon, Nevada and Minnesota confronted long odds of graduating. The graduation rates for blacks in those states were 57 percent, 56.7 percent and 57.8 percent respectively, as shown in the map below.

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“Our” Kids

child poverty

Reposted from the Harvard Kennedy School:

When Robert Putnam was a teenager, somebody put up the money for him to play football on the high school team. And somebody put up the money for his spikes and helmet. Somebody also put up the money for years of music lessons and for an instrument so he could play in band. That somebody was the community of Port Clinton, Ohio, where Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, grew up in the 1950s. That small community on the shore of Lake Erie about halfway between Toledo and Cleveland, came together to do all that because it believed that it was right to support young Robert Putnam, just as it was right to give to every other kid in town the same opportunity to succeed. There was plenty wrong with a place like Port Clinton in the 1950s, including racism and chauvinism, Putnam readily concedes, but to a surprising degree, all the members of his high school graduating class were, in the eyes of that community, “our kids.”

Today, in Port Clinton, a lot of kids can’t play football or band because they can’t afford the hundreds of dollars needed to pay for the equipment. The lives of the bottom third, often simply characterized by personal and societal neglect, are unimaginable, in fact unknown, to those succeeding in today’s America.

“Over the course of the last four decades, our sense of ‘we’ has shriveled,” Putnam says. “Now when people talk about “our kids” they talk about their own biological kids, they don’t think about all kids. This leads to a situation that’s bad for the economy and bad for democracy. But it’s also just not right. We have an obligation to care for other people’s kids too, not just our own.”

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Seattle Project Tackles Suburban Poverty & Early Education Deficit

roadmap project

Reposted from Thrive by Five Washington:

The changing face of the poor in America goes beyond the deep poverty in the nation’s cities. While it still exists, is being outpaced by rising poverty in its suburbs. Only about a quarter of low-income children are enrolled in high-quality early learning programs, a number that drops to 17 percent if you exclude Seattle, The Road Map Project said today in its 2014 Results Report. Lack of access is probably one of the main reasons the report found only 39 percent of the region’s kindergarten students are ready to start school.

The Road Map Project has an ambitious program to tackle the problem with a comprehensive plan to improve education from infancy through high school in South King County and south Seattle, Washington. The project’s overall goal is to double the number of students who are on track to graduate from college or ready for a career by 2020.

In early learning the project is working to increase school readiness, expand full-day kindergarten and improve access to good child care and preschools, while improving quality among providers. Even though the project is only four years old, it reported today that quality among child care programs is rising. By the end of 2014, half of child care providers in the Road Map Project’s region were in the state’s quality rating and improvement system, Early Achievers, higher than statewide enrollment of 43 percent.

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Shakira: Initiating a Tidal Wave of Change [VIDEO 1:39]

“I am convinced that education is the vehicle to break the cycle of poverty.” Through her foundation, Shakira Mebarek has built schools that also serve as community centers in some of the poorest neighborhoods in her home country of Colombia. “We want to initiate a tidal wave of change to restore education as a birthright and not as luxury for every child no matter what…no matter what circumstances they are born into.” May this vision for children be embraced by education stakeholders around the world, and here in the United States. Break the cycle of poverty by providing a quality education for every child, everywhere.

Report: 51% of Students Now Live in Poverty


Reposted from the Washington Post:

The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.

“We’ve all known this was the trend, that we would get to a majority, but it’s here sooner rather than later,” said Michael A. Rebell of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College at Columbia University, noting that the poverty rate has been increasing even as the economy has improved. “A lot of people at the top are doing much better, but the people at the bottom are not doing better at all. Those are the people who have the most children and send their children to public school.”

The shift to a majority-poor student population means that in public schools, a growing number of children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up. They are less likely to have support at home, are less frequently exposed to enriching activities outside of school, and are more likely to drop out and never attend college.

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America is Secretly Number One Internationally in Education


Reposted from the Hill’s Congress Blog:

A new Columbia University study by Michael Rebell and Jessica Wolff has found that the United States outperforms every single country in the world when controlling for schools with a child poverty rate of less than 20 percent. While noted education experts have started to come out against standardized testing in response to the U.S.’s supposedly abysmal performance, perhaps a new takeaway should be drawn. Namely, our “education” problem is really a problem of poverty.

Given the United States’ huge education budget, it may seem baffling that schools would need even more money, but consider how funding is dispersed in the United States. Nearly half of school revenue comes from local property taxes, meaning per-student spending increases with more affluent neighborhoods. For example, in Philadelphia, poor school districts would need an additional $1 billion to have the same funding as the rich public schools.

Even school districts contribute to making poor schools poorer. Research from Education Next suggests that districts do not distribute education resources equally between schools even when they are serving the same kids. Poorer schools tend to have more junior — and thus less experienced — teachers and produce lower test scores. Those failing schools often lose federal funding once again due to their poor scores. The cycle continues…

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Boutin: We are Trying to Close the Achievement Gap All Wrong


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.

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Report: Deepest Funding Cuts in Virginia Hit Highest-Poverty Schools

school funding

Reposted from the Lynchburg News & Advance:

During the economic downturn, Virginia dealt its deepest education cuts to its highest-poverty school divisions, according to a new report from a Richmond-based policy group. “The state made a series of cuts to education during the recession to close the state budget shortfall, but the way they did it did not protect high-poverty communities in Virginia,” said Michael Cassidy, president and CEO of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. The Commonwealth Institute, a left-leaning think tank, said a review of Census figures and superintendents’ reports found the steepest cuts in state aid were sustained by communities with the highest poverty rates among children.

In Virginia’s poorest school divisions, nearly 30 percent of students live in households under the federal poverty line, it reported. Those same divisions saw their state aid drop by an average of $1,490 per student — or about 21 percent — during the four-year cycle between 2008-09 and 2012-13. In contrast, school divisions with the most affluent student bodies saw their state aid drop by $511 per student on average — or about 11 percent — during the same period, according to the Commonwealth Institute.

Lynchburg Superintendent Scott Brabrand is adamant all children can succeed in school, but said some may need more instruction time and one-on-one attention — which carries a cost. “As we ask schools to achieve higher standards with less support, we’re going to have to have these conversations if we want to see strong outcomes for all kids, regardless of economic background,” he said. “We’ve got to be sure we’re giving our kids the necessary supports … You can’t cut systems with large numbers of kids in poverty and expect them to do better.” Like many school divisions, Lynchburg’s state aid and overall operating budget still lags behind the pre-recession peaks reached in 2008-09.

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Can Ed Tech Lift a Small Town Out of Poverty?


Reposted from the Hechinger Report:

Unlike many school districts with technology programs, Piedmont has a broader goal than creating high-tech classrooms. The district hopes to resuscitate a dying rural town, according to Matt Akin, the superintendent of Piedmont City Schools. “That’s always been the bigger picture,” Akin said. “What can we do to revive a community?”

It’s an ambitious goal for a district of 1,240 students in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, about 15 miles west of the Georgia border. In recent years, several major factories have shut down operations in Piedmont and relocated elsewhere, taking hundreds of jobs with them. The modest downtown area is lined with abandoned buildings and empty storefronts, with a few businesses, like a café and a clothing store, clustered together on the main street.

“Technology allows people in rural areas to reap the benefits of a rural lifestyle, while not sacrificing access to learning opportunities,” said Karen Cator, president of Digital Promise, a nonprofit that helps schools integrate technology. In rural areas, access to technology helps students become “digitally literate,” she added. And it’s not just about formal education. “If you’re in a rural area, it doesn’t mean you have less varied interests than students in other parts of the country,” Cator said. “If you have access to technology, it’s much easier to … pursue your interest, whether it is computer coding or technology or photography.”


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