Archives for category: Poverty

We can be grateful that Peter Greene has accepted the burden of reading the reports that pour forth come D.C. think tanks, saving the rest of us the trouble. Of course, when we read Peter’s analysis, we often end up reading the report anyway to find out if it is as bad as he says.

 

Here Peter analyzes a study produced by the Brookings Institution on the crucial importance of character, drive, and prudence. Peter titles this post “Poor Kids Suck,” because they get worse academic results, which presumably means they are lacking character, drive, and prudence.

 

Peter writes:

 

When it comes to slick-looking research of questionable results in fields outside their area of expertise, you can always count on the folks at Brookings. They have a new report out entitled The Character Factor: Measures and Impact of Drive and Prudence, and it has some important things to tell us about the kinds of odd thoughts occupying reformster minds these days.

 

The whole report is thirty-five pages long, but don’t worry– I’ve read it so that you don’t have to. Fasten your seatbelts, boys and girls (particularly those of you who can be scientifically proven to be character-deficient)– this will be a long and bumpy ride.

 

Character Is Important

 

Yes, some of this report is clearly based on work previously published in The Journal Of Blindingly Obvious Conclusions. And we announce that in the first sentence:

 

A growing body of empirical research demonstrates that people who possess certain character strengths do better in life in terms of work, earnings, education and so on, even when taking into account their academic abilities. Smarts matter, but so does character.

 

In all fairness, the next sentence begins with “This is hardly a revelation.” That sentence goes on to quietly define what “character” means– “work hard, defer gratification, and get along with others.” But we push right past that to get to Three Reasons This Field of Study Is Now a Thing.

 

1) There’s concrete evidence to back it up, a la Duckworth et. al.
2) That evidence suggests that character is as important as smartness for life success
3) Given that importance, policymakers ought to be paying more attention to “cultivation and distribution of these skills.”

 

The report brings up the marshmallow study, to introduce the importance of deferred gratification among four-year-olds.

 

There has been some great research in the last forty years to parse out what this hoary old study might actually mean and might actually miss. I like this one in particular from Rochester, because it finds a huge difference factor in the environment. Some researchers behaved like unreliable nits, while others proved true to their words, and the result was a gigantic difference in the children’s wait time. This is huge because it tells us something extremely important–

 

It’s much easier to defer gratification till later if you can believe that you’ll actually get it later. If you believe that deferring gratification means giving it up entirely– you are less likely to defer. Brookings does not include the new research in their report.

 

Brookings concludes this section with

 

Drive and prudence contribute to higher earnings, more education, better health outcomes
and less criminal behavior.And as long as we’re just making stuff up:

 

We can also easily imagine that they are important for marriage, parenting, and community involvement.

 

Plus, we can imagine that they give you better hair, firmer muscle tone, and fresher smelling breath. Plus, you probably won’t get cancer. But as unsupported as these suppositions are, they are still a critical part of the foundation for what comes next.

 

Yes, Rich People Really Are Better

 

Brookings now bravely turns to the question of how class is related to these character strengths. And I can’t accuse them of burying the lede:

 

If character strengths significantly impact life outcomes, disparities in their development may matter for social mobility and equality. As well as gaps in income, wealth, educational quality, housing, and family stability, are there also gaps in the development of these important character strengths?

 

This is followed by some charts that suggest that poor kids do worse on “school-readiness measures of learning-related behavior.” Another chart shows a correlation between income and the strengths of persistence and self-control through the school years.

 

Here is the good news! Peter writes:

 

Brookings, who don’t always seem to get all of the reformster memos, go a page too far now by suggesting (with charts!) that their prudence and drive measures (which would be a half-decent band name) are as good a predictor of success as cognitive/academic measures. Which means that we can totally scrap the PARCC and the SBA tests and just check to see if the kid is able to sit still and wait fifteen minutes for a marshmallow. I will now predict that this is NOT the headline that will be used if leading reformster publications decide to run this story.

 

Bottom line:

 

Best case scenario– we’ve re-demonstrated that people who come from a high socio-economic background tend to be successful in school, and those who don’t, don’t. Staple on some tautologies as a side show and call it an insight.

 

Or maybe this is a report that buttresses old farts everywhere by suggesting that since if your kid can’t learn to sit still, he probably lacks character and is likely to fail at life.

 

And remember up above when we decided to call these “character strengths.” That meant these behaviors are deeper than simple learned behaviors, but not quite genetically hardwired. So we’re stopping just short of saying that poor kids are born with a lack of character.

 

But at worst– at worst– this is codified cultural colonialism. This is defining “success” as “making it in our dominant culture, which we will define as normal for all humans.” And then declaring that if you want to make it as (our version of) a normal human, you must learn to adopt our values. This is going to Africa and saying, “Well, of course these people will never amount to anything– they don’t wear trousers.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greta Callahan’s article about teaching kindergarten in Minneapolis went viral. She wrote her article in response to one that appeared in the same paper asserting the “worst teachers are in the poorest schools.” She teaches in one of the poorest schools, and she tells her story.

 

To those who parrot the false claim that low test scores are caused by “bad teachers,” she offers a counter-narrative. She explains the burdens suffered by her students and the stress of being evaluated by a rubric that makes no sense.

 

Let’s start with what it means to be a “good teacher.” As the article says: “The district uses three different tools to evaluate teachers: classroom observations, a student survey and student achievement data.” Let’s put that into the perspective of a Bethune kindergarten teacher.

 

• Classroom observations: We have four per year. The teacher receives points based on standardized criteria; the feedback is generally helpful. But these observations also involve the observer walking up to students and asking what they are doing. Even my 5-year-olds, who may have just started school, get asked this question. The student is supposed to regurgitate the “I can” statement that correlates to “Focused Instruction.” The usual response, though, is something along the lines of “math” or “Jaden took my crayon!”

 

If you were in my room, observing an observation, you would laugh. I promise.

 

• Student surveys: I administer a student survey once a year. My 5-year-olds have to circle their responses (even though they can’t read) to questions about their teacher and school. Have you been around a 5-year-old? They are adorable, spacey, loud and unfocused — and under no circumstances does this student survey make sense for them or to them.

 

• Student achievement data: Two to three times a year, our students are pulled out of our classrooms and tested by a stranger from the district. When she asks our kids to go into a separate room with her and gives them a test, most of them shut down. It’s intimidating to them. Some are asked to take this test in the middle of breakfast; others are tested right after recess. The inconsistency of when our children are tested creates a test that isn’t being measured consistently or accurately, in my opinion.

 

These are the “achievement data” that are referenced in the article. The scores are often low and rarely reflect the students’ actual achievements. My fellow teachers and I have plenty of conflicting and affirming evidence to support our students’ actual achievements, growth and knowledge. But this evidence is not considered when determining the effectiveness of a teacher.

 

Recruiting and retaining teachers at a high-poverty school present unusual challenges:

 

The retention rate of teachers at my school and others like it will not go up unless we have more incentive to stay — and more assistance to attempt to give our students an even chance.

 

At Bethune, many of our students are what most Americans would define as starving. At least a third are HHM (homeless/highly mobile), see violence in their homes or neighborhoods regularly and come to school with baggage many of us couldn’t imagine, let alone at age 5. Yet they are expected to meet the standards of kindergartners at upwardly mobile neighborhood schools like Burroughs and Hale. As far as the tests are concerned, a teacher is a teacher and a student is a student.

 

There are plenty of reasons why a teacher might not want to teach in a school like Bethune. Say, physical safety. Within the last two weeks, I have been slapped so hard in the face by a student that I had to seek emergency care; have been threatened by a student who said he was going to go home, come back and hurt me, because I wrote him up for hurting one of my kindergartners, and have broken up numerous fights. My fellow teachers and I have had parents threaten our safety more times than I can count — threats delivered on school property, in front of students. And, lest anyone be misinformed, there is no combat pay for working at a school like mine.

 

My children are happy to come to school and they are eager to learn. But sometimes they just lose it. A student will throw a chair across the room, or scissors at other students, or kick and punch me. It takes time, love and energy to find out why they are doing this. Many are imitating behaviors they see at home. Sometimes they have bottled-up feelings about something they have experienced and don’t know how to handle their anger. So, I teach them. I love them. I’m consistently there for them. I report their situation to Hennepin County all too often.

Many of our children do not have someone who will look over their work with them at night or take them to an activity. Our parents are generally very young and trying their best. It takes a village, but our village is poverty-stricken in every imaginable way.

 

Please read Greta Callahan’s article. She says succinctly what most teachers experience and know: Teaching is hard work. Low scores are caused not by “bad teachers,” but by terrible life circumstances that harm children and families. Of course, teachers should be evaluated, but not in the idiotic way she describes. Teachers who flounder need help and peer assistance. If they can’t teach, after sustained efforts to help them, they should leave teaching. But the narrative of “bad teachers cause low scores” is wrong. It ignores the effects of the single biggest blight on our society: growing poverty and inequality.

 

Alan Singer, professor of teacher education at Hofstra University in Néw Tork, has written a stunning brief history of the school-to-prison pipeline. He looks at the role of schools in this process.

He writes:

“Since the early 1970s, the United States prison population has quadrupled to 2.2 million. It is the largest prison population in the world. According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, China is number two at 1.7 million people, Iran is number 8 at 217,000 people, and the United Kingdom is number 17 at 85,000. Fourteen million people are arrested every year and over two million are sent to jail. Approximately 65 million people in the United States, or more than twenty-five percent of the adults population, has a criminal record.

“The U.S. incarceration rate is five to ten times the size of other democratic countries. It is over 700 prisoners for every 100,000 people compared to 149 for England and Wales, 143 for Spain, 102 for France, 90 for Italy, 81 for Germany, and 57 for Sweden.

“Meanwhile, more than half of state prisoners are in jail for nonviolent crimes. Mass incarceration has destructive impact on families, communities, and state and local budgets. It cost $80 billion a year to keep all these people in prison and more than $250 billion to pay for all the additional police and court expenses. According to the human rights group Human Rights Watch, while prison should be a last resort, in the United States “it has been treated as the medicine that cures all ills.”

“In 2000, over two million American children had a parent in prison. I saw the impact of this on young people at a conference at the City University of New York. Eight students who attend a school for teenagers already involved in the criminal justice system discussed how they grew up in families where parents were incarcerated and its impact on them as children.”

What role do schools play? He writes:

“There is a lot of talk about how schools can transform society. The Bush administration’s education policy declared “No Child Left Behind,” but of course many children are still left behind. Barack Obama demanded that schools lead his “Race to the Top,” but it is not clear what direction he wants the schools and students to run. The reality is that schools reflect and reinforce society; they do not transform it. In the United States dating back to the 1920s high schools were organized on factory models to prepare working class immigrant youth for the tedium of factory work and harsh discipline.

“Since the 1970s factory jobs in the United States have been shipped overseas. Companies do not need students prepared for factory work, so schools have evolved to perform a new social role. In inner city minority neighborhoods especially Black and Latino young people attend schools organized on the prison model where they are treated as if they were criminals.

“Students enter buildings through metal detectors. If the device goes off they are bodily searched. Armed police stand guard. Uniformed security crews that report to the police sweep the halls. Students are forced to sit in overcrowded uncomfortable classrooms doing rote assignments geared to high-stakes Common Core assessments. Stressed out teachers, fearful that they will be judged by poor student performance on these tests, use boredom and humiliation to maintain control of the classroom.”

This is a thoughtful and disturbing article. You should read it.

Iris Rotberg, Research Professor of Education Policy at George Washington Policy, critiques the endless search for the silver bullet that will close the test score gaps among children from low-income and high-income groups.

In 2009, a study claimed that attendance at a charter school in New York Cityfor several years would virtually close that gap. We now know, Rotberg shows, that this was an exaggeration and in fact, based on the latest state tests, untrue.

She predicts that Common Core will turn out to be yet another distraction.

“The supporters and opponents of the Common Core are now engaged in an escalating debate about whether the Common Core will strengthen U.S. education or, instead, become a dangerous intrusion by the federal government to control the content of the curriculum. Most likely, as in the case of previous reforms of curriculum standards, it will turn out to be irrelevant to any real change in the opportunities available to low-income students, and it is certainly unlikely to become the silver bullet that narrows the achievement gap.

“It is often assumed that the Common Core’s emphasis on reasoning will make it difficult to cram for and, therefore, test preparation will no longer be useful. That is the claim initially made by the College Board when cram courses were first used to prepare for university entrance exams (College Entrance Examination Board, 1965). The SAT, GRE, LSAT, and MCAT all emphasize inductive and deductive reasoning, yet affluent families figured out how to cope: They spent thousands of dollars on their children’s cram courses or tutors because they saw that the preparation was effective in raising test scores. If we continue to reward and punish teachers based on the test scores of their students—even if these scores are based on Common Core tests—educators in low-income communities will continue to have little choice but to narrow the curriculum to give more time for test preparation. Rather than reducing the achievement gap, the risk is that the Common Core test, like those that preceded it, will lead to fewer opportunities for children in high-poverty communities. And the rhetoric surrounding it will continue to detract attention from the policies needed to address the societal inequities that have led to the achievement gap.”

She concludes:

“It has been argued that to critique current policies is equivalent to saying that nothing can be done for low-income children. Just the opposite: we know that economic, social, and educational policies in areas of employment and wages, taxation, housing, health, school integration, school finance, and access to higher education can be effective in addressing the fundamental problems of poverty. Meanwhile, however, we can work to ensure that our current policies do not make matters worse for the most vulnerable students.”

Eleven national civil rights groups issued a joint statement to President Obama and Secretary Duncan calling for an end to the regime of test-based accountability.

Their statement was reminiscent of a similar one objecting to Race to the Top in 2010. At that time, Secretary Duncan did his best to bury the groups’ objections.

The statement was signed by:

Advancement Project, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Opportunity to Learn (OTL) Campaign, National Urban League (NUL), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), National Council on Educating Black Children (NCEBC), National Indian Education Association (NIEA) and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).

Their statement includes recommendations to improve the needed supports and services for children.

Number one is “1. Appropriate and equitable resources that ensure opportunities to learn, respond to students’ needs, prioritize racial diversity and integration of schools, strengthen school system capacity, and meaningfully support improvement.”

Among the needed resources are:

“Qualified, certified, competent, racially and culturally diverse and committed teachers, principals, counselors, nurses, librarians, and other school support staff, with appropriate professional development opportunities, including cultural competency training, and support and incentives to work with students of greatest need; and

Social, emotional, nutritional, and health services”

They write:

“The current educational accountability system has become overly focused on narrow measures of success and, in some cases, has discouraged schools from providing a rich curriculum for all students focused on the 21st century skills they need to acquire. This particularly impacts under-resourced schools that disproportionately serve low-income students and students of color. In our highly inequitable system of education, accountability is not currently designed to ensure students will experience diverse and integrated classrooms with the necessary resources for learning and support for excellent teaching in all schools. It is time to end the advancement of policies and ideas that largely omit the critical supports and services necessary for children and families to access equal educational opportunity in diverse settings and to promote positive educational outcomes.”

This is an important message from a local school board member–Damon Buffum– to the New York Board of Regents. To commend him for his straight talk and thoughtfulness, I add him to our honor roll as a champion of American education.

-

From: Damon Buffum (dbuffum)
Sent: Monday, October 13, 2014 11:27 AM
To: Norwood; Regent Bendit; Regent Bennett; Regent Bottar; Regent Brown; Regent Cashin; Regent Cea; Regent Cottrell; Regent Dawson; Regent Finn; Regent Phillips; Regent Rosa; Regent Tallon; Regent Tiles; Regent Tisch; Regent Young
Cc: Damon Buffum (dbuffum) (dbuffum@cisco.com)

Subject: Times Union article Re: Common Core Divides State’s Regents Board

Hello New York State Board of Regents -

My name is Damon Buffum and I’m a Board of Education member in the Fairport Central School District (Monroe County). I’m also a District Resident, father, grandfather and high tech Engineering Manager with Cisco Systems. The comments in this email are my own and don’t represent the opinions or policy of the Fairport BoE or Cisco Systems.

I wanted to comment on the recent article in the Albany Times Union regarding education policy and the views of the state Regents. First, thanks for your efforts. I know from my experience on the Fairport BoE, the time commitment to education in New York is immense and I can only imagine the time and dedication required to fulfill your roll on the state Regents Board. The main purpose of the note however, is to strongly support the views that Regent Rosa expresses in her comments in this article. She states, “They are using false information to create a crisis, to take the state test and turn it on its head to make sure the suburbs experience what the urban centers experience: failure”. I couldn’t agree more. In representing the Fairport education system I can firmly state that we have no crisis in the Fairport education system.

It’s disturbing to me to listen to Governor Cuomo, Commissioner King and the Board of Regents decry, universally, that New York schools are failing our children, that we spend more money than any other state and that our state government is providing more funding to public education that ever before. All of these statements have context, but are ultimately not true. I believe that you understand this. I do consider it a fact that we have certain districts that are in crisis, but I’ve also done personal analysis and know that there is a DIRECT link of education performance (whatever academic metric you chose) and student poverty. This is not a vague connection, but a direct connection. To divert attention away from this link to poverty and broadly paint this as a nationwide or statewide education failure is both misleading and incorrect. Using our sparse and valuable resources to attack this problem through inappropriate curriculum for early grades, over testing and data collection, high stakes testing, curriculum changes and the need for increased (overwhelming) investment in technology, new text books, teacher development is irresponsible and wasteful. I won’t go into the associated, unquantified, costs to these reform policies, but I have a firm belief that these are moving New York education in the wrong direction and will ultimately cost our state dearly in terms of an educated workforce and a healthy economy. We sadly do have a crisis in many urban and rural communities. We have a poverty crisis, a social structure crisis, a health crisis and economic opportunity crisis. These are the FUNDAMENTAL issues that have to be recognized and dealt with. A child spends roughly 17% of their time in schools. The best teachers, curriculum and tests won’t fix a problem if 83% of a child’s time is being impacted by other areas that are in crisis. This is where Governor Cuomo should be focused. Schools and teachers can do amazing things, but the children have to be safe, fed, healthy and ready to learn.

In my home district, the Common Core and associated testing (3-8 state testing, field testing, SLO testing) have caused an immense distortion of our child-centric focus and ensuring the education of the whole child. I understand that the CCSS are only standards and not curriculum or a test, but it’s naïve to think that the immense quantity of time and impact of these tests to do not have a direct link to the curriculum, funding, focus and morale of our education system. I’ve personally toured every building in our District and spoken with administrators, staff and students. We have a 95% graduation rate, our kids have a healthy education experience that includes the arts, history, the sciences, athletics, robotics, community service, diversity and inclusion. We are proud of our kids and our schools. Again, for me personally, I consider the New York state reform agenda to be a direct attack on the education community we have.

I know that I haven’t told you anything that you haven’t heard or known already. However, I am asking you to get real here. Let’s recognize the REAL problems that we have in New York and start attacking those. We need to stop proclaiming ALL education systems as failures and support the best of what we have while addressing the gaps. We need to support these activities with funding – and giving support and then taking it away through the GEA is absurd. The current Common Core implementation in New York is creating chaos. We have our Superintendents divided in terms of impact, the states teachers union initiating a lawsuit around a testing gag order, multiple Districts adopting declarations against high stakes testing, tens of thousands of students and parents opting out of state tests, schools being closed and we have total political dysfunction. Our kids are paying the price for this as they only experience their education a single time. We entrust you with our state education policy. Please put our schools and kids first (above a political or corporate agenda) and put education back in the hands of educators.

Regards –

Damon Buffum

http://m.timesunion.com/local/article/Common-Core-divides-state-s-Regents-board-5067470.php

Richard Rothstein has written brilliantly for years about the importance of equity in education. He has written brilliantly about the interaction of race, class, and poverty, and its effects on educational outcomes. His book Class and Schools is a classic in the study of poverty and education. Recently, he has studied federal policy and segregation. In this post, he describes a new study that he has completed about how Ferguson, Missouri, became what it is today.

 

He writes:

 

  I’ve spent several years studying the evolution of residential segregation nationwide, motivated in part by a conviction that the black-white achievement gap cannot be closed while low-income black children are isolated in segregated schools, that schools cannot be integrated unless neighborhoods are integrated, and that neighborhoods cannot be integrated unless we remedy the public policies that have created and support neighborhood segregation.

 

When Ferguson, Missouri, erupted in August, I suspected that federal, state and local policy had purposefully segregated St. Louis County, because this had occurred in so many other metropolises. After looking into the history of Ferguson, St. Louis, and the city’s other suburbs, I confirmed these were no different. The Economic Policy Institute has now published a report documenting the basis for this conclusion, and the American Prospect has published a summary of the report in an article in the current issue.

 

Since a Ferguson policeman shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, we’ve paid considerable attention to that town. If we’ve not been looking closely at our evolving demographic patterns, we were surprised to see ghetto conditions we had come to associate with inner cities now duplicated in almost every respect in a formerly white suburban community: racially segregated neighborhoods with high poverty and unemployment, poor student achievement in overwhelmingly black schools, oppressive policing, abandoned homes, and community powerlessness.

 

         Media accounts of how Ferguson became Ferguson have typically explained that when African Americans moved to this suburb (and others like it), “white flight” followed, abandoning the town to African Americans who were trying to escape poor schools in the city. The conventional explanation adds that African Americans moved to a few places like Ferguson, not the suburbs generally, because prejudiced realtors steered black homebuyers away from other white suburbs. And in any event, those other suburbs were able to preserve their middle class environments by enacting zoning rules that required only expensive single family homes.

 

         No doubt, private prejudice and suburbanites’ desire for homogenous middle-class environments contributed to segregation in St. Louis and other metropolitan areas. But these explanations are too partial, and too conveniently excuse public policy from responsibility. A more powerful cause of metropolitan segregation in St. Louis and nationwide has been the explicit intents of federal, state, and local governments to create racially segregated metropolises.

 

         Many of these explicitly segregationist governmental actions ended in the late 20th century but continue to determine today’s racial segregation patterns; ongoing segregation is not the unintended by-product of race-neutral policies. In St. Louis these actions included zoning rules that classified white neighborhoods as residential and black neighborhoods as commercial or industrial; segregated public housing projects to replace integrated low-income areas; federal subsidies for suburban development conditioned on African American exclusion; federal and local requirements for and enforcement of property deeds and neighborhood agreements that prohibited re-sale of white-owned property to or occupancy by African Americans; tax favoritism for private institutions that enforced segregation; municipal boundary lines designed to separate black neighborhoods from white ones and to deny necessary services to the former; real estate, insurance, and banking regulators who tolerated and sometimes required racial segregation; and urban renewal plans whose purpose was to shift black populations from central cities like St. Louis to inner-ring suburbs like Ferguson.

 

         Governmental actions in support of a segregated labor market supplemented these racial housing policies and prevented most African Americans from acquiring the economic strength to move to middle class communities, even if they had been permitted to do so.

 

         White flight certainly existed, and racial prejudice was certainly behind it, but not racial prejudice alone. Government turned black neighborhoods into overcrowded slums and then white families came to associate African Americans with slum characteristics. White homeowners then fled when African Americans moved nearby, fearing their new neighbors would bring slum conditions with them.

 

That government, not mere private prejudice, was responsible for segregating greater St. Louis was once conventional informed opinion. A federal appeals court declared 40 years ago that “segregated housing in the St. Louis metropolitan area was … in large measure the result of deliberate racial discrimination in the housing market by the real estate industry and by agencies of the federal, state, and local governments.” Similar observations accurately describe every other large metropolitan area. This history, however, has now largely been forgotten.

 

When we blame private prejudice and snobbishness for contemporary segregation, we not only whitewash our own history but avoid considering whether new policies might instead promote an integrated community. The federal government’s response to the Ferguson “Troubles” has been to treat the town as an isolated embarrassment, not a reflection of the nation in which it is embedded. The Department of Justice is investigating the killing of teenager Michael Brown and the practices of the Ferguson police department, but aside from the president’s concern that perhaps we have militarized all police forces too much, no broader inferences from the August events are being drawn.

 

The conditions that created Ferguson cannot be addressed without remedying a century of public policy that segregated our metropolitan landscape. Remedies are unlikely if we fail to recognize these policies and how their effects have endured.

Jeannie Kaplan reports here on Jonathan Kozol’s recent visit to Denver. Denver is a city that has become totally devoted to corporate style “reform” for a decade. Now the corporate reformers own the entire school board plus they have a U.S. Senator Michael Bennett.

Kaplan shows how Kozol’s message explains corporate reform, now deeply embedded in Denver:

“THE SHAME OF THE NATION shows how the business model has become the blueprint for education “reform.” Education “reformers” use business jargon to describe their activities: “rewards and sanctions,” “return on investment,” “time management,” “college and career ready,” “maximizing proficiency,” “outcomes,” “rigorous,” “managers and officers,” “evaluation,” “accountability,” “portfolios of schools” (like a portfolio of stocks – get rid of the losers, keep the winners).

“Mr. Kozol describes the infiltration of business into education this way:

“Business leaders tell urban school officials…that what they need the schools to give them are “team players.”…Team players may well be of great importance to the operation of a business corporation and are obviously essential in the military services; but a healthy nation needs it future poets, prophets, ribald satirists, and maddening iconoclasts at least as much as it needs people who will file in a perfect line to an objective they are told they cannot question.” (p. 106)

“Here is how Denver Public Schools has adopted this business tenet. Every email sent by a DPS employee is signed and sent with the statement at the bottom, My name is Jeannie Kaplan, I’m from Youngstown, Ohio… and I play for DPS!

“Further business verbiage: In DPS principals are no longer principals but building CEOs or building managers. At the district level there is a chief executive officer, a chief financial officer, a chief operating officer, a chief academic officer, a chief strategic officer, and within the school buildings themselves there are managers for everything under the sun. You get the picture. And with all of these managers and officers DPS has witnessed increases in facility and resource imbalances and increases in segregation while academics have remained stagnant. Corporate reform is a failure in the United States. But politics, money and lies will not allow it to go quietly into the night, and Denver’s students and communities are paying the price.”

Kozol’s message is the opposite if corporate reform:

“We now have an apartheid curriculum . Because teachers and principals in the inner city are so test driven, inner city children who are mostly students of color are not allowed to have their voices heard through stories and questions, while white students are given that flexibility, opportunity and creativity.

“Test preparation is driving out child centered learning. Testing mania has become a national psychosis, driven by business.

“Racial isolation/segregation which does terrible damage to young people, is on the rise. In SHAME, education analyst Richard Rothstein points out how important it is for children of color to become comfortable in the majority culture and how devastating this new segregation is in the long term: “It is foolhardy to think black children can be taught no matter how well, in isolation and then have the skills and confidence as adults to succeed in a white world where they have no experience.” (p. 229). That Tuesday night Mr. Kozol referred to the new segregation as a “theological abomination.”

“And finally, of course, Mr. Kozol believes small class size, enriched curricula, and equitable resources and facilities would offer an equitable education for all children. This recent article in the Huffington Post clearly and disturbingly describes the safety and health hazards brought into Chicago public schools because business has invaded public schools. Bugs, moldy bread, trash left for days, leaks left unfixed. You can bet the East coast decision makers who are driving this “reform” did not attend schools under these conditions.”

How many times have you heard people like Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Joel Klein (remember him?) and other so-called reformers say that poverty doesn’t matter, that poverty is an excuse for poor teaching?

I have always believed that poverty imposes tremendous burdens on students and their families: hunger, homelessness, lack of medical care, illness, etc.

The best evidence of the difference that poverty makes is SAT scores. The poorest kids have the lowest scores, the most affluent have the highest. The difference from bottom to top is nearly 400 points. To be exact, it is 398 points.

The Wall Street Journal suggests a new name for the SAT: the Student Affluence Test.

What does the SAT measure? Family income and family education.

Those with vast resources of their own probably think that poverty is a personal defect rather than the inevitable result of an inequitable tax system.

Robert Reich clearly explains the importance of poverty on educational achievement.

He writes (see his article for the links to sources):

“American kids are getting ready to head back to school. But the schools they’re heading back to differ dramatically by family income.

“Which helps explain the growing achievement gap between lower and higher-income children.

“Thirty years ago, the average gap on SAT-type tests between children of families in the richest 10 percent and bottom 10 percent was about 90 points on an 800-point scale. Today it’s 125 points.

“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.”

Because property taxes supply about 42% of school funding, schools in poor neighborhoods never have the resources of SCHOLS in affluent communities. Many states cut their school budgets since the Great Recession of 2008-09 and never restored what they cut. In poor communities, the schools must make do with larger classes, a narrowed curriculum, and often no arts or librarians, and not enough social workers, guidance counselors, psychologists, teaching assistants, and other support staff. And of course, despite their tight budgets, they must spend more on testing and test preparation.

Reich points out, “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.”

“As a result of all this, the United States is one of only three, out of 34 advanced nations surveyed by the OECD, whose schools serving higher-income children have more funding per pupil and lower student-teacher ratios than do schools serving poor students (the two others are Turkey and Israel).

“Other advanced nations do it differently. Their national governments provide 54 percent of funding, on average, and local taxes account for less than half the portion they do in America. And they target a disproportionate share of national funding to poorer communities.

“As Andreas Schleicher, who runs the OECD’s international education assessments, told the New York Times, “the vast majority of OECD countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.”

The U.S, under the complementary policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, pretends that more and more testing will improve achievement, but after nearly 15 years of high-stakes accountability, it should be obvious that these policies have failed.

The U.S., encouraged by President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and a bipartisan mix of governors and legislatures, imagines that school choice–charters and vouchers–will close the achievement gaps and compensate for the unequal funding of schools in poor and affluent neighborhoods. No other nation in the world is pursuing so foolish a path. If anything, school choice exacerbates segregation, and there is no evidence that it leads to better education for the nearly one-quarter of the nation’s children who live in poverty. Advocates of choice point to anecdotes, to one school, or one charter chain, to show that they did get higher test scores, but no one can identify an entire school district where choice has obliterated the effects of poverty. Even the anecdotal evidence of a successful charter, charter chain, or voucher school has to be carefully scrutinized for attrition and other statistical legerdemain.

One need not be cynical to conclude that choice through charters and vouchers has become a means by which wealthy and powerful policy elites change the subject and avoid talking about inequality of resources. To quote Reich, “Money isn’t everything, obviously. But how can we pretend it doesn’t count? Money buys the most experienced teachers, less-crowded classrooms, high-quality teaching materials, and after-school programs.”

There is no way around the conclusion that poor kids need what affluent kids expect and get: smaller classes, experienced teachers, well-resourced classrooms, beautiful facilities, after-school programs, medical care, and a full curriculum.

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