Recently, a commenter on this blog wrote that he finally understood why some schools are succeeding and others are failing. He said he realized that children in affluent communities have well-resourced and successful schools, while children in impoverished communities have terrible schools. I tried for the umpteenth time to explain to him that he was reaching the wrong conclusion. The only measure he was using was test scores, which reflect family income. I suggested he consider that the schools in poor communities did not get the same resources as those in affluent communities. The schools he called “failing” very likely have dedicated teachers who are working hard despite large classes and inadequate support. The problem is not the schools, but society’s refusal to pay the cost of making every school a good school.

Peter Greene explains the point in more detail in this post about the Journey for Justice Alliance.

He begins:

“If you’re not regularly exposed to the problem, you might think that finding the ways in which non-white non-wealthy students are shortchanged would require deep and nuanced research. As it turns out, finding the ways in which education fails to serve those students requires no more careful research than finding the nose on the front of your face.

“The Journey For Justice Alliance is based in Chicago, but it’s an alliance of grassroots community, youth, and parent-led organizations in 24 cities across the country. They are working and organizing for community-driven alternatives to the privatization of and dismantling of public school systems. They’re the folks behind the #WeChoose movement (as in “we choose education equity, not the illusion of school choice.” Look at their member groups and you’ll find honest-to-goodness community grass roots organizations, not just one more astroturf group funded by Gates, Walton, et al. Their director, Jitu Brown, is one of the most powerful speakers for education and equity it has ever been my pleasure to hear.

“Last spring they issued a report– “Failing Brown v. Board”– that looks at the gap between the schools that serve primarily wealthy white families and those that serve non-wealthy families of color. Their findings are not encouraging.

“The report says: The fact is, public schools in Black and Latino communities are not “failing.” They have been failed. More accurately, these schools have been sabotaged for years by policy-makers who fail to fully fund them, by ideologues who choose to experiment with them, by “entrepreneurs” who choose to extract public taxpayer dollars from education systems for their own pockets.

“The report also rejects the notion that money doesn’t matter, or that somehow the children and their families are responsible. And they know what successful, fully-resourced schools look like

They offer a culturally relevant, engaging and challenging curriculum, smaller class sizes, more experienced teachers, wrap-around emotional and academic supports, a student-centered school climate and meaningful parent and community engagement. These are the hallmarks of what Journey for Justice calls sustainable community schools.

“J4J performed a fairly simple piece of research– looking at course offerings in various schools across twelve cities. They acknowledge that such a comparison isn’t perfect, that schools may offer courses that are never actually taught, that the course offering list doesn’t tell you about the quality of those courses. But the findings are still pretty stark.”

In every pairing of black and white schools, “majority white schools offered both more academic subjects and more “enrichment” subjects in the arts than majority Black and/or Brown schools. Majority white schools offered more foreign languages, more high-level math options, more AP courses. The range of offerings in arts, music, dance and theater was far greater in majority white schools…

“Charter fans are going to say, “See? That’s why we need to build more charters, so we can get some of those children of color out of there,” but why should those children have to sacrifice the other big benefit that majority white schools enjoy– a school in their own community that they can attend with their neighbors? And why do we need a complicated web of privatized schools to fix the problem. We know how to fix the problem, as witnessed by the fact that politicians and leaders have fixed the problem for each of the affluent majority white schools.

“It’s like you have twenty kids in a cafeteria, and ten sit down with a steak dinner and the other ten get bowls of cold oatmeal, and when someone complains about it, a bunch of folks pop up to propose some complex system by which one of the oatmeal kids will be sent out to a restaurant across town. No! Just get back out in the kitchen and use the same tools and supplies that you demonstrably already have to make steak dinners for the rest of the kids.”