All around the country, low-income children are consistently denied the quality of education needed to provide them with the skills to think critically, communicate effectively and solve problems successfully.
Here are the top five things that I think deserve our attention this school year.
- Accountability for all adults. District administrators, school-based staff, faith and community-based agencies, family members, community police officers and policymakers need to agree that it’s everyone’s responsibility to engage low-income children and their families in learning.
- Poverty. If we’re serious about eliminating poverty, we must first educate children whose families have entrusted educators to do their jobs. We must have compassion for those parents who are sending their children to the same schools that failed them.
Modeling success. Einstein is quoted as saying, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” Schools of all types have shown success in closing the academic achievement gaps between poor and wealthy students.
Rather than continue the barrage of attacks against each other, staff in chronically underperforming schools (regardless of type) should learn about and model evidence-based improvements. If not, families of students in any underperforming school should receive notification about the option to have their child transferred into a higher-performing school. No more excuses!
Family education and empowerment. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) mandates the active engagement and consultation of families in district and state education plans. Title I funds can be used to educate families about their right to offer input about the creation of state report cards, provide professional development about understanding data and/or offer creative ways to help families reinforce learning at home.
Since many state waivers expire (or are expiring in 2016), families should pay particular attention to the states’ focus areas and progress on developing and implementing a plan that will be sent to the US Department of Education. While 2016-17 is a transition year, new, state plans will be effective in the 2017-18 school year.
- Challenging academic standards. There is so much diversity in culture, language and learning styles that students must be held to higher academic standards at schools in order to rise above the plethora of mediocrity that shrouds their low-income communities.
If, as stated by Nelson Mandela, “poverty was created by man” then, it can be eradicated by humans who care enough to want what is best for all children. Equal educational opportunity is not only good for some, it is good for all…including those in poverty.
We will see the benefits of a better-educated community in increased taxes, added homeowners and improved neighborhoods only if we make the decisions that will positively affect impoverished children and their families.