There is a better way than the test and punish approach to achieving equity in our educational system. School grades, student retention, student achievement gain scores for teacher evaluations have narrowed the curriculum and resulted in test driven instruction. They do not improve student achievement.
What are the alternatives? Many analysts report that solutions must be community based. Educational, economic, and social factors are intertwined. Improving schools takes the support of the entire community. How this can be accomplished is beginning to emerge.
The mission of A Broader and Bolder Approach to Education is to mitigate the effects of poverty related disadvantages for teaching and learning. It emphasizes early childhood education, health care, nutrition supports, and school based wrap around services. They provide some specifics and give us a checklist to use in our discussions.
A summary of their policy guidelines includes:
IMPROVE OUT OF SCHOOL FACTORS:
- Coordinate early childhood education and after school and summer enrichment programs with school programs to supplement school learning.
- Incorporate health clinics and wellness into standards and practice in high risk student populations.
- Provide access to healthy food in schools without stigma.
IMPROVE IN SCHOOL FACTORS:
- Funding Equity: Federal resources should be commensurate with student needs.
- Accountability: Include culturally sensitive project and proficiency based assessment; master teacher inspection systems to strengthen schools; and opportunity dashboards.
- Teacher and Principal Quality: Shift emphasis to make at risk schools more attractive and less punitive to quality teachers. Weed out weak teachers.
- Require transparent oversight to reduce conflict of interest, curtailing push out policies
- Structure better district and charter collaboration to promote innovation
- Offer incentives to address racial, and social segregation and concentrated poverty to increasse diversity in school programs.
- Provide evidence of the needs and capacities of communities.
- Develop tangible outcomes and evidence of learning.
Their report cites a number of comprehensive studies of the impact of poverty on student achievement. These are summarized and links are provided below.
The Iceberg Effect: National Superintendents Roundtable and Horace Mann League report on international comparisons based on Economic Equity; Less Social Stress; Support for Families; Support for Schools; Student Outcomes and System Outcomes. The U.S. ranks high in System Outcomes that include average years of schooling, high school diplomas, college graduates, and high achieving science students. U. S. Student Outcomes indicate that achievement levels are good for fourth grade but not for 8th grade reading.
For Each and Every Child: Equity and Excellence Commission Ten million of our poorest children …are consigned to the lowest performing teachers, the most run down facilities, and academic expectations and opportunities …lower than for other students.
Opportunity, Responsibility, and Security: Brookings Institute Poverty is changing and policies must change as well. We must improve the quality of families and the quantity and quality of work. and improve education by investing in preschool and post secondary education, include socio-emotional and character development, modernize the organization and accountability of education and close resource gaps.
Whither Opportunity: Improve the quality of preschool education, orderly and safe school environment, intense focus on improving instruction, frequent assessment and intervention, extension of time in school
Let’s start speaking with lists: early childhood education, community support, school diversity and equity, and charter school accountability. How do our communities measure up? What are we doing to make positive change happen? Here in Gainesville we have a few people determined to engage all parts of our community. We would like to hear your stories about how you are engaging your community in ways to strengthen our public schools.