What poor children need in school

Oct 19, 2013 by

Black-studentsBy Jack Schneider and Heather Curl –

Most educational policy elites, whether in government or in the nonprofit sector, mean well. They pursue careers in education, rather than in business, because they want to help children, and because they believe in the power of schools to promote opportunity. Certainly there are exceptions to the rule; entrepreneurial third-parties, for instance, are often more interested in making a buck than in making a difference. On the whole, however, education is a field of good intentions.

Yet policymakers tend to come from a relatively privileged slice of American society. And they tend to possess a set of beliefs and assumptions distinct to their background. This is not, in every instance, a significant problem. Effective budgeting practices, for example, are likely to look the same regardless of a person’s upbringing and experience. But in most cases, the fact that decision-makers inhabit a different world from students—and particularly, poor students—is a matter of great significance.

The primary way this translates into practice is through the belief that the poor need only better jobs to lead better lives. Teach them how to read, write, and compute, policymakers insist, and they will have access to higher-paying and higher-status careers. In short, they believe that the problem of poverty is a problem of dollars and cents. And in part it is. But the problem is also much greater than that.

Poverty limits opportunity in all senses. It restricts career paths, as policymakers recognize. But it also denies young people equal time, resources, and exposure to discover their interests and foster their passions. It constrains lives.

Schools, of course, did not create this problem. But they do exacerbate it. Over the past decade, well-intended policymakers concerned with closing the achievement gap have promoted policies and practices that reduce learning to something easily quantified. Consequently, high-poverty schools have had their missions curtailed dramatically.

via What poor children need in school.

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