Tag Archives: poverty

It’s not just a poverty issue

Banksy In Boston: Follow Your Dreams (CANCELLED)Ta-Nehisi Coates said:

The lives of black Americans are better than they were half a century ago. The humiliation of Whites Only signs are gone. Rates of black poverty have decreased. Black teen-pregnancy rates are at record lows – and the gap between black and white teen-pregnancy rates has shrunk significantly. But such progress rests on a shaky foundation, and fault lines are everywhere. The income gap between black and white households is roughly the same today as it was in 1970. Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University, studied children born from 1955 through 1970 and found that 4 percent of whites and 62 percent of blacks across America had been raised in poor neighborhoods. A generation later, the same study showed, virtually nothing had changed. And whereas whites born into affluent neighborhoods tended to remain in affluent neighborhoods, blacks tended to fall out of them.

This is not surprising. Black families, regardless of income, are significantly less wealthy than white families. The Pew Research Center estimates that white households are worth roughly 20 times as much as black households, and that whereas only 15 percent of whites have zero or negative wealth, more than a third of blacks do. Effectively, the black family in America is working without a safety net. When financial calamity strikes – a medical emergency, divorce, job loss – the fall is precipitous.

And just as black families of all incomes remain handicapped by a lack of wealth, so too do they remain handicapped by their restricted choice of neighborhood. Black people with upper-middle-class incomes do not generally live in upper-middle-class neighborhoods. Sharkey’s research shows that black families making $100,000 typically live in the kinds of neighborhoods inhabited by white families making $30,000. “Blacks and whites inhabit such different neighborhoods,” Sharkey writes, “that it is not possible to compare the economic outcomes of black and white children.”

Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated. Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society. Now we have half-stepped away from our long centuries of despoilment, promising, “Never again.” But still we are haunted. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us.

The high point of the lynching era has passed. But the memories of those robbed of their lives still live on in the lingering effects. Indeed, in America there is a strange and powerful belief that if you stab a black person 10 times, the bleeding stops and the healing begins the moment the assailant drops the knife. We believe white dominance to be a fact of the inert past, a delinquent debt that can be made to disappear if only we don’t look.

Be sure to read the whole article at http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631

Image credit: Banksy in Boston, Chris Devers

Notes from the UNI Education Summit

Notes from the UNI Education Summit in Cedar Falls, Iowa a couple of weeks ago…

Jonathan Kozol

Jonathan Kozol (wow, was he wonderful to listen to…)

  • I try to be bipartisan but former Iowa U.S. Senator Tom Harkin has talked with me for years about the damage that testing is doing to children.
  • I’m glad there are so many educators here; I always feel safer in a room of teachers!
  • Teachers have been taking quite a beating lately. In many states they’ve become a scapegoat for all of the evils and injustices of society. But teachers are my heroes.
  • Teachers, particularly those who teach in our most disadvantaged communities, need to be protected.
  • I said to an African-American Boston minister after the Philadelphia disappearances, “How can I be of use?” He said, “You’ve had a wonderful education. I’d like you to put it to use for our children.”
  • The city department of education sent me out as a substitute. My first day was in kindergarten. I was absolutely terrified! Ultimately I survived. I’ve been working with low-income children, mostly Black and Hispanic, ever since. I’m currently working with children, families, and schools in the South Bronx in New York City.
  • I’ve written several books about those children. The sum of it all is that, almost everywhere I go, those funding inequalities are still with us. It’s sad that there is such thing as a ‘poor school’ in America, the wealthiest nation on Earth.
  • The rich districts can go way above foundational funding. In wealthy neighborhoods in cities, parents are holding fundraisers that earn as much as $1 million in a single night to add to their school’s budget.
  • Poverty is poverty, whether in cities or rural areas. The traumatic effects apply to children everywhere. But for minority children in concentrated neighborhoods of poverty, it goes to new levels. 
  • We see hyper-segregation of Black and Hispanic children in every city, large or small. Textbooks sugar coat realities a bit. The media does this too. They indicate that racial isolation is primarily a thing of the past. In reality the very opposite is true. These children are more isolated intellectually and separated physically than any time since 1968.
  • Every year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, white politicians who have never lifted a finger to solve inequity and segregation visit some urban school and give their version of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. I still believe that Brown v. Bd. of Education was essentially correct. Isolation sends terrible messages to our youth.
  • Langston Hughes’ poem, What happens to a dream deferred? I was in Baltimore 8 days ago. 
  • There’s another kind of inequality: rich preschool education. I ask kindergarten teachers in impoverished neighborhoods how many of their children have had real, developmental pre-K for a couple of years beforehand (the kind that wealthy or middle class kids get). They say maybe 40%. The most exclusive pre-Ks in New York City cost $35,000 per child. They’re known as the ‘Baby Ivys.’ There’s not even a pretense at meritocracy.
  • When test scores come out, guess who does well and guess who gets blamed?
  • Could we take the billions of dollars that are going to testing companies and put it into rich, developmental pre-K? This should be a rich entitlement of childhood here in America, along with necessary wrap-around services. Instead of castigating poor parents, help them get the skills they need.
  • Virtually every sector of the population has to take standardized exams. Like in other states, here in Iowa high stakes exams start in 3rd grade. In wealthy neighborhoods in New York, there are strong parent movements to opt out their kids from the exams. The wealthy parents aren’t scared, but the poor people are.
  • In affluent communities, standardized testing takes a lesser toll. The kids easily score fairly well. Parents aren’t frightened of the test. Their concern is whether their children get into their first choice of college.
  • Principals of poor schools are the ones that are running scared. Teachers are obliged to write on the board the specific skill (and number) that they’re teaching. In New York City, it’s very prescriptive. Poor schools are told not to wander too far from the standards, there’s little time for student questions and critical thinking. “Curiosity is nice, but it’s not going to be tested.” Neither will delighted learning, which may indeed be a distraction. Delight and curiosity can get you way off track from the standards.
  • Endless, run-on sentences full of ‘ands’ and ‘buts’ – second graders are almost as good as William Faulkner – at the end, there’s usually hidden treasure and good teachers know how to unlock that. Test-driven teachers usually cut them off and they never reach the hidden treasure.
  • Once we lock a child's spirit into sileng stone, he may never dare again to speak with authenticity - Jonathan KozolOnce we lock a child’s spirit into silent stone, he may never dare again to speak with authenticity.
  • Teachers in these schools are usually told they have to teach reading from standardized materials. Not all of these books are bad. I’m not a fanatic hippie type who thinks that phonics are a form of oppression. Neither are phonics the cure to all of the ills of society (e.g., the lady I met that I now call the Phonics Fanatic of Phoenix!). I hate the emphasis that many urban teachers have to place on decoding, not on the content of what they’re reading (e.g., scripted teaching methods). What happens to many of these children is that they lose the beauty of reading real books, books that are a joy to read. The only reason to read is for the joy it gives you, not to get a number plastered on your forehead. I majored in Elizabethan poetry. Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse is right up there with Hamlet!
  • Learning for its own sake, immersing oneself into the joy and beauty of learning… in many inner-city and/or test-driven schools, this is being lost. There’s no time for orchestra or school plays (but there is in suburban schools). For poor kids who have less aesthetic beauty in their physical neighborhood, we owe it to them to have art and music in school.
  • Many teachers in poor schools are warriors for justice. They represent the best of America.
  • If you do teach in those neighborhoods, don’t assume that children are empty vessels waiting to be filled. Bring out the beauty that’s in their souls. Let their dreams and longings be the starting point for lesson plans, not something that’s cordoned off or relegated to 20-minute enrichment.
  • There’s usually a reason that parents can’t come to school, they’re dealing with their own chaos. Instead of demonizing them, find a way to reach them.
  • Children need beauty in their lives. Other than their family, the teacher is the only adult in their lives that’s around regularly. If you don’t give them happiness, who will?
  • “Mr. Kozol, the whole schools is talking about how quietly your children file down the hallways.” – our way of subverting the system so they would leave us alone and we could have fun without being bothered
  • Teachers often are afraid in poor neighborhoods. In 25 years, I’ve never been touched. I think it’s more psychological than physical. I think it’s the fear of those communities’ suffering and the challenge to their conscience.
  • Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) may have been the biggest hero that kids have ever had. He was a wonderful listener to children. He went with me to the South Bronx. On the #6 train in NYC, it’s only about seven stops from the richest to the poorest neighborhood in the city. Sanitation workers embraced him. Children said ‘welcome to my neighborhood, Mr. Rogers.’
  • The dreams and innocence of children will outlive us all. Life goes fast, my friends, use it well.
How do you measure 'richness' in education? Not with bubbles...

Dr. Mark Grey, Iowa’s (Rapidly) Changing Populations

  • Anthropology professor at UNI, directs the New Iowans Center
  • The context in Iowa is changing rapidly
  • Global events are having local consequences
  • Issues we used to consider secondary or tertiary (religion, language, ethnicity) have become primary
  • Two fundamental shifts
    • The Latino Boom, 1993-2008 (plus smaller populations of Bosnians and other refugees)
    • Today = Microplurality
      • many smaller, ethnically and linguistically distinct populations
      • e.g., 50 langages at Marshalltown HS, 100+ languages in Des Moines Public Schools
      • 180 estimated languages in Iowa now
  • 1990 = only a few Latinos; in 25-30 years, maybe over 400,000 (~12% of total)
  • One-third of Iowa counties reached their peak population in 1900; another one-third in 1950 or so
  • Iowa overall v. Latino median age difference = 15.4 years
  • Brain drain – we lose about half of our college graduates to other states
  • Birth rates in Iowa are less than 2.0; need 2.1 to replace the existing population
  • Four impacts on population = birth rates, death rates, length of life, migration (we have no idea what this will look like)
  • African-American population (including African refugees)
    • 2020 = 125,000; 2040 = 185,000+
  • Asian / Pacific Islander population
    • 2020 = 75,000; 2040 = 110,000+
  • Native-American population will stay fairly stable (but they’re incredibly diverse; numerous tribal affiliations)
    • 2020 = 11,000; 2040 = 13,000
  • Microplurality
    • Growing non-Latino populations in the Heartland
      • Southeast Asia (Hmong, Vietnamese, Burmese, etc.), East Asia (Chinese), former Soviet Union, ultra-Orthodox Jewish (Israel and East Coast), African (Sudan, Somalia), Central Pacific (Marshall Islands, Paulau), Ukrainian Pentecostals, Bhutanese from Nepali refugee camps, African-Americans from Chicago and Detroit, Iraqi refugees, and many more…
    • Iowans take pride in their acceptance of refugees – we have the only state-level office dedicated to refugee resettlement?
    • Sponsorship of refugees dropped to an absolute trickle after 9/11
    • African refugees are pouring into our state – usually they are secondary migrants (first stop was another U.S. location)
    • This is a legal workforce
    • In many districts, multiple languages but they only have a small handful of children that speak each language
  • We have labor vacuums – most local kids aren’t going to pack meat or eggs
  • University research and policy in an era of advocacy philanthropists and agenda-setting organizations
  • Foundations such as Gates and Lumina are bigger, more influential, more strategic, and directly involved in shaping federal and state education policy (K-16)
    • They spawn dozens of smaller groups, which then unapologetically stake out their spots at the capitol building (e.g., Complete College America)
    • Not a great concern for change supported by research – more concerned with ideology – simple slogans, with recipes for implementation
    • Quick to claim causation, but they ignore competing evidence
  • We have to face up to this brave new world
    • Recognize the role of these philanthropies and organization
    • Embrace methods that advocate and direct
    • Debate and criticize these approaches in public forums
    • Find ways to communicate complex information in simple ways
    • Can’t shy away from work with policymakers, have to co-opt their methods (e.g., social media)
  • See Rick Hess’ public presence list

 David Drew, Reforming STEM Education in America

  • What’s driving the emphasis on STEM? 
    • Shift to high-tech and service economy – what’s required for jobs has changed
    • Our nation doesn’t seem to be doing well on international measures of STEM achievement
  • False myths that undermine education reform
    • Restoring American K-12 education in its previous glory
    • the aptitude excuse (e.g., girls, poor kids, students of color can’t do math & science)
    • curriculum reform – the teacher is more important the curriculum – curriculum is important but it isn’t going to save us
    • finding new teachers – we need to do a better job of preparing AND retaining classroom educators
  • Compared to students in high-achieving countries, American students believe strongly that mathematical talent is innate and believe less strongly that effort makes much difference – Anne C. Lewis

What kind of learning environments do high-poverty minority students deserve?

Paul Thomas says:

The public narrative around KIPP is based on embracing an authoritarian and highly structured model for high-poverty and minority students. Public schools have failed high-poverty and minority students in terms of disproportionate discipline and academic policies, including expulsion, suspension, failure, and retention; it appears by the evidence that KIPP and other “no excuses” charter schools mirror those failures instead of alleviating them. The school-to-prison pipeline and the school-as-prison dynamic are key elements of the larger mass incarceration era; KIPP’s association with strict discipline, high attrition, and selectivity are problematic for those of us who wish to break those cycles.

Public and charter schools are experiencing an increase in segregation of students by race and class; KIPP appears to be a part of that troubling pattern, again not a solution.

[In] Sarah Carr’s Hope Against Hope, … she details how KIPP and the other “no excuses” charters do in fact practice the sort of discipline policies about which I am critical: (1) a strict discipline code that includes SPARK (Carr, p. 11) and SLANT (making and maintaining eye contact, shaking hands, and other highly regimented behavior demands on students), (2) the Bench as as shaming discipline technique (Carr, p. 23), (3) a demanding culture that stresses “no excuses” for teachers and students (Carr, pp. 42-43), focusing almost exclusively on minority students from poverty (and not being implemented in white or affluent schools), and (4) depending so heavily on structure and external rewards that students falter once they enter college and have those elements removed (Carr, p. 188).

KIPP, specifically in its relationship with Teach for America (see Waiting for “Superman” and Carr), contributes directly and indirectly to several harmful and inaccurate claims about teaching and education: teaching quality is primarily a function of being demanding and not of experience or expertise (although this appears true only when dealing with high-poverty minority students since white and affluent students tend to have experienced and certified teachers).

via http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/criticizing-kipp-critics

Education is and always has been a civil rights issue

Alan Aja said:

Education is and always has been a civil rights issue. Children of color deserve far better than they are getting now. There is no halcyon era in the past when our schools were doing just dandy in this regard. But there was a time when we had a societal awareness that poverty was a pervasive and pernicious source of educational problems. There was a time when federal funds were not awarded based on competition between states, but on the needs of their students. There was a time when the Federal government promoted – even mandated – desegregation, rather than promoting semi-private charter schools that accelerate it.

via http://www.livingindialogue.com/civil-rights-or-civil-wrongs-a-closer-look-at-the-common-core

Three central problems plague public education in the United States

Arthur Camins says:

The biggest problem with education is the U.S. is not test scores. Rather, three central problems plague public education in the United States. The most dramatic is inequity. There are vast inequities in educational resources and in the conditions of students’ lives, resulting in persistent race- and class-based disparities in educational outcomes.

Second, we are far too focused on a narrow range of outcomes – reading and math test scores – and not enough on a broader range of subject matter or essential domains, such as critical thinking, creativity and collaborative skills. Third, we gravitate toward partial quick solutions, rather than thinking systemically and having the patience to allow strategies time to develop, take hold, and be refined.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2013/12/04/arthur-camins-on-international-test-scores

PISA, American schools, and poverty

Jonathan Lovell says:

in a somewhat more nuanced study in January of this year entitled “What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?” economists Martin Carnoy and Richard Rothstein come to a similar conclusion:

“The share of disadvantaged students in the U.S. sample was the largest of any of the [post-industrial] countries we studied. Because test scores in every country are characterized by a social class gradient—students higher in the social class scale have better average achievement than students in the next lower class—U.S. student scores are lower on average simply because of our relatively disadvantaged social class composition. . . [I]f we make two reasonable adjustments to the reported U.S. average, our international ranking improves. The first adjustment re-weights the social class composition of U.S. test takers to the average composition of top-scoring countries. The other re-weights the distribution of lunch-eligible students by the actual intensity of such students in schools. These adjustments raise the U.S. international ranking on the 2009 PISA test from 14th to 6th in reading, and from 25th to 13th in mathematics. While there is still room for improvement, these are quite respectable showings”

To put it succinctly, the “achievement gap” between American students and their foreign counterparts is largely a red herring.

via http://jonathanlovell.blogspot.com/2013/07/aliterate-readers-and-complex-texts.html

Giving the powerful a pass

the “no excuses” mantra focuses the public and political gaze where the powerful want it—on the families, children, and institutions overburdened by poverty and not on the powerful who have the resources and influence to shape the inequity upon which they feed

Paul Thomas via http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/10353-what-really-determines-student-performance